Small World

Jewish World Review August 7 , 2000 / 6 Menachem-Av, 5760

In denial
Arafat Misses Shot At Peace, & Peres Loses

By Richard Z. Chesnoff -- WHEN THE official history of Camp David 2000 is written, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will go down as the man who blew it.

He was offered an independent Palestinian state on 90% of the West Bank and Gaza and shared control in Jerusalem. Instead of grabbing the deal, the aging ex-terrorist lived up to his reputation as the man who never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

He stubbornly demanded full sovereignty over more than half of Jerusalem - something the U.S. and Israel said was impossible. As a direct result, the talks collapsed and the Palestinians walked away with nothing. Or did they?

The fact is, according to some who participated in the Camp David talkathon, major barriers were broken during the more than two weeks of discussions. And while they were put on hold, major advances were made and major gaps breached - at least in principle.

Among the more notable: Israel's agreement to give up a significant portion of the West Bank and the Palestinians' agreement to allow israel to incorporate other settlements into Israeli territory.

The Israelis also agreed to recognize a demilitarized Palestinian state and to return a limited number of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel proper. The Palestinians agreed to accept compensation for other refugees and, once a deal is made, to proclaim they have no more claims against the Jewish state.

Israelis, especially Prime Minister Ehud Barak, were justifiably angry at Arafat for not having the guts to take the extra little stretch that would have resulted in a comprehensive deal. Ironically, the empty-handed Arafat returned to a carefully orchestrated hero's welcome.

Barak returned to a political maelstrom that may cost him his government and force new elections. He has a brief respite; the Knesset, Israel's parliament, is in recess until October.

Most important, both Israeli and Palestinian sides have indicated that they are continuing discussions in small, almost informal committee meetings. There's even talk of another Clinton-hosted summit after the U.S. political conventions.

Besides, there are dozens of specifics to be settled - not the least of them technical questions such as the sharing of the Holy Land's precious water supply. Fingers are crossed.

The danger is that Arafat will succumb to his radicals and go ahead with his plan to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state Sept. 13, before there's a full deal. He told a Saudi newspaper he would; he told reporters in Europe he was ready "to listen to the advice of friends."

President Clinton has warned him that it would have a profoundly negative effect on the peace process. His administration is pushing Europe, Japan, Egypt and Russia to do the same.

Meanwhile, one of the more tragic fallouts from the political storm in Jerusalem was this week's Israeli presidential elections. Opinion polls show that more than 54% of the Israeli voting public wanted veteran statesman Shimon Peres as their largely ceremonial head of state. He was also Barak's choice - and for that reason, he lost.

Israeli presidents are elected by the Knesset. And while the politicos there failed to topple the Barak government, they flexed their ire by defeating Nobel Prize laureate Peres and electing a little known right-wing moderate named Moshe Katzav.

The Iranian-born Katzav is a relatively decent fellow and a sterling success story of Israel's Mideastern immigrants. But Israel needed someone of Peres' stature - especially on the international scene.

I have disagreed with some of Peres' starry-eyed visions of Arab-Israeli peace prospects. But he is a historic figure, a man whose career of service to Israel goes back to the days of David Ben-Gurion. He deserved to be elected president, and the politicos who voted against him out of spite should hang their heads in shame.

JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist at the NY Daily News. His latest book is Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews and Committed the Greatest Theft in History.


07/25/00: Saddam's Cruel Drug Scam
07/17/00: Going For Broke: Barak and Arafat gamble on a future both sides will accept
07/13/00: Europe's Euro Takes a Dive, What a Shame!
05/31/00: Israel's Left Lebanon — Iran & Syria Must Go, Too
05/08/00: Justice is on Trial in Iran
05/02/00: French Still Duck War Guilt
04/17/00: Pope's Healing Touch Helps Mideast Some…
04/12/00: For Assad, Time's Running Out
03/22/00: Al Gore Leaves Voters Guessing on Foreign Policy
03/02/00: GOP Candidates Offer Little New on Foreign Policy
02/23/00: The Forest That Haunts Austrian Politics
01/26/00: Second look at Nazi loot
01/20/00: Foreign Policy: Do Candidates Even Have One?
01/03/00: Sudden Interest in WWII Justice Has Many Causes
05/20/99: Barak Can Deal From Strength
04/13/99: Is U.S. Right in Kosovo? Yes, We Can't Accept Genocide
02/10/99: King Hussein Was Truly Gentle Man of Peace . . .
01/19/99: Europe's Really Worried Now
12/30/98: Despite Critics, Nazi Loot Hunt Is Right & Proper
12/21/98: To Beat Saddam, Sustain the Raids
11/24/98: Iran's Meddling Is a New Danger for South Africa
11/05/98: Saddam's a ticking time bomb
10/29/98: Pollard's Release Is a Key to Peace Deal
10/15/98: Hawkish Sharon May Bring Home the Dove of Peace
10/07/98: Flake of Araby Won't Make Deal on Pan Am 103
8/25/98: Embarassed to be a journalist
8/24/98: Clinton Sent Right Message With Those Missiles . . .
8/17/98: Fair Settlement For Survivors of the Holocaust
7/27/98: When hopes collide with reality
7/22/98: A lesson about peace Auschwitz
7/15/98: What Hitler tried todestroy, the 'Net helped put back together
7/8/98: Love -- and leave -- thy neighbor
4/9/98: The US Navy's two faced Pollard policy
4/2/98: A breakthrough in Lebanon?
3/30/98: Full rights for all Israelis?
2/27/98: America's Schindler
1/30/98: A last chance for the Mideast?
1/11/98: The Moment for Restitution Has Arrived

© 2000, N. Y. Daily News