30/07/2010

The lessons of Camp David

Ten years ago already, Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were negotiating at Camp David. The failure of these talks is often pointed as a cause of the second intifada. It was indeed a great disappointment for all those who had bet on peace, and even more for the Palestinians, still without a state.

In an analysis entitled Il y a dix ans Camp David : une rétrospective (Ten years ago Camp David : A Retrospective), Bichara Khader revisits the events of July 2000 to put an end to a myth: Arafat refused Barak’s generous offer and would therefore be responsible for the failure of the Camp David summit. The « generous » proposal Barak was as follows. Israel should keep its major settlement blocks and would exchange those 10% of the West Bank against an equivalent in the Negev desert. Israel would also retain the eastern border along the Jordan River, as well as a temporary military control over some 10% of the rest of the West Bank. The « right of return » of Palestinian refugees is totally rejected, and Israeli sovereignty over the a united Jerusalem cannot be discussed. How Arafat could have accepted this proposal without losing the support of his people?

Ten years later, July 2010. Mahmoud Abbas is encouraged by the United States and Europe to engage in direct negotiations without preconditions with Benjamin Netanyahu. The position of the Palestinian Authority is nevertheless clear: no negotiations without stopping times of colonization. If he comes back on this decision, Mahmoud Abbas will lose the little credibility he still has internally. The peace process is in a deadlock, and again the responsibility seems to lie with the Palestinians.

The lessons of Camp David do not seem to have been assimilated, and the same scenario is repeated with the difference now that Mahmoud Abbas does not enjoy the aura of his predecessor. Since 2007, attempts of repeatedly failed negotiations have eroded his popularity. Although it still does not seem to understand it, Israel needs a strong partner to build peace. More neutral in the conflict that his neighbor across the Atlantic, the European Union has a role to play to try to balance the power between the parties.

Ten years later, the Palestinians are still stateless.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée