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Barak’s offer at Camp David

Posted by Thomas Nephew on April 13th, 2003

Benny Morris interviewed Ehud Barak about the year 2000 Camp David negotiations for a New York Review of Books article. An excerpt:

But in the West Bank, Barak says, the Palestinians were promised a continuous piece of sovereign territory except for a razor-thin Israeli wedge running from Jerusalem through from Maale Adumim to the Jordan River. Here, Palestinian territorial continuity would have been assured by a tunnel or bridge:

The Palestinians said that I [and Clinton] presented our proposals as a diktat, take it or leave it. This is a lie. Everything proposed was open to continued negotiations. They could have raised counter-proposals. But they never did.

Barak explains Arafat’s “lie” about “bantustans” as stemming from his fear that “when reasonable Palestinian citizens would come to know the real content of Clinton’s proposal and map, showing what 92 percent of the West Bank means, they would have said: ‘Mr. Chairman, why didn’t you take it?'” (emphasis added)

This partly supports a Palestine Orient House map (via MidEast Web), showing two Israeli wedge-and-corridors through the West Bank: a northern one via Ariel and Shilo and a southern one via Maale Adumim and Shilo. A Israeli-controlled Jordan river corridor connects these two, resulting in at least three major Palestinian West Bank “islands” bounded by relatively narrow Israeli corridors or the Israeli “mainland.” Calling these “bantustans” is only a slight exaggeration (the South African bantustans were a bit more far-flung)– assuming for a moment that the Orient House maps accurately reflect Camp David discussions.

As noted, the Morris article suggests they at least got it partly right, by arguably describing the map’s southern corridor. Barak and the Palestine House maps thus seem to agree on one thing: the West Bank was to be gerrymandered, to preserve at least some of the Israeli settlements. The accuracy of descriptions like “razor-thin” (Barak) and “bantustan” (Arafat) is in the eye of the beholder.

Given the fluid situation at the summit described by most participants, it’s possible that the two versions of the West Bank refer to two different proposals floated at the summit; of course, it’s also possible one or the other (or both) are inaccurate in its details. But assuming (as I do) that Barak isn’t lying, the offer he described to Morris would have further subdivided a Palestine already split between the West Bank and Gaza — and preserved a string of galling settlements through the center of the West Bank.

I’m writing about this as part of an ongoing conversation with Gil “Israeli Guy” Shterzer, who took mild exception to my offhand description of the Barak offer as a “patchwork territory criss-crossed by Israeli roads and zones.” In his comments, Gil said, “I’ll take Barak’s word in any given time, especially when the countering is Arafat’s word, and we all know his credibility.”

Well, here is Barak’s word. It may not amount to the “criss-crossed patchwork” I described, but it’s not difficult to understand why Palestinians weren’t overjoyed by the idea. At any rate, I still hope the “People’s Voice” proposal gains support.

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