[OPE-L:7417] Colonial Attitudes in Israel (LE MONDE DIPLOMATIQUE)

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Sat Jul 13 2002 - 10:22:57 EDT


Colonial Attitudes in Israel (LE
>  MONDE DIPLOMATIQUE)
>
>  Le Monde diplomatique
>
>
>
-----------------------------------------------------
>
>     July 2002
>
>                     COLONIAL ATTITUDES IN ISRAEL
>
>                     Camp David's thwarted peace
>
>
_______________________________________________________
>
>     President Bush has urged the Palestinians to
>  replace Yasser
>       Arafat as a condition of US support for their
>  statehood.
>      This call underscores the failure of the Oslo
>  accords. As
>      Israel tightens its hold on the West Bank and
>  Gaza, peace
>      has never seemed more distant. Yet two years ago
>  Israelis
>      and Palestinians seemed close to agreement: the
>  Camp David
>        summit in July 2000 could have been considered
>  as one
>      further step in the long negotiations between
>  the Israelis
>        and Palestinians. Instead it was dismissed as
>  a total
>          failure, with Arafat responsible for that
>  failure.
>
>                                                   by
>  ALAIN GRESH
>
>
_______________________________________________________
>
>       When, a few decades from now, historians return
>  to the
>       Israeli-Palestinian conflict of the 1990s they
>  will
>       undoubtedly agree on at least one point. The
>  Camp David
>       summit - a two-week conclave (11 to 25 July
>  2000) to
>       which President Bill Clinton invited the
>  Israeli prime
>       minister, Ehud Barak, and the president of the
>       Palestinian Authority (PA), Yasser Arafat -
>  marked the
>       start of the Middle East's long descent into
>  the inferno.
>       As historians decipher the reports on the
>  summit
>       published by the international media, they will
>  probably
>       warn their students that there would be little
>  truth in
>       history if it was based exclusively on
>  information from
>       the press.
>
>       For months there was a one-sided version of the
>  summit:
>       Arafat had rejected Barak's "generous offer"
>  and refused
>       the creation of a Palestinian state on 95%,
>  even 97%, of
>       the West Bank and the whole of the Gaza Strip,
>  with its
>       capital in East Jerusalem. His obstinate
>  demands for
>       millions of Palestinian refugees to be given
>  the right to
>       return to Israel had wrecked all hope of a
>  historic peace
>       treaty between Israelis and Palestinians.
>
>       One of the prime merits of the book by Charles
>  Enderlin,
>       Le RÍve Brisť (1), is that it firmly
>  contradicts this
>       version of events. Enderlin has been the
>  Jerusalem
>       correspondent for the France 2 television
>  channel for
>       more than 20 years. As the peace negotiations
>  continued,
>       he filmed the main protagonists, on the
>  understanding
>       that material would not be released before the
>  end of
>       2001. He had access to many of their personal
>  notes,
>       which he has put into perspective, drawing on
>  his
>       exceptional knowledge of the area and its
>  history. The
>       result, which is corroborated by other accounts
>  (2),
>       throws new light on the failure of the Oslo
>  process.
>
>       At the end of May 1999 Ehud Barak and the
>  Labour party
>       defeated Binyamin Netanyahu's right-wing
>  coalition,
>       ending its three years in power. Just after the
>       elections, Saeb Erekat, one of the leading
>  Palestinian
>       negotiators, warned his new Israeli
>  counterparts that
>       there was very little room for manoeuvre.
>  Palestinians
>       had lost all hope of peace. Over the last few
>  years they
>       had been stifled and humiliated.
>
>       Admittedly the Palestinians had been able to
>  elect the
>       PA, and the Israeli army had evacuated the main
>  West Bank
>       towns, with the notable exception of Hebron.
>  But living
>       conditions had constantly deteriorated. Travel
>  inside the
>       territories was increasingly difficult, with
>  new
>       checkpoints and humiliating searches - worse
>  than before
>       the signing of the 1993 Oslo accords. The
>  standard of
>       living plummeted and the settlements continued
>  their
>       inexorable advance, with more Arab land being
>  confiscated
>       every day. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners,
>  held since
>       1993, remained behind bars. May 1999 was
>  supposed to mark
>       the end of the period of transition to
>  autonomy, with the
>       setting up of a Palestinian state. But the
>  timeframe had
>       slipped and none of the major issues still
>  outstanding -
>       borders, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees,
>  security and
>       water - had been addressed.
>
>       The Palestinian leadership therefore welcomed
>  Barak's
>       election victory, even if there was some
>  anxiety about
>       this relative newcomer to politics. As chief of
>  staff,
>       Barak had opposed the original 1993 Oslo
>  accords and two
>       years later, as minister of the interior, he
>  had voted
>       against the agreement known as Oslo II
>  (September 1995),
>       which provided for the withdrawal of the
>  Israeli army
>       from the main Palestinian towns. Once in power
>  he lost
>       the Palestinians' trust within just a few
>  months.
>
>       Barak took the immediate start of negotiations
>  on the
>       final status of the West Bank and Gaza as an
>  excuse for
>       delaying the implementation of the commitments
>  made by
>       his predecessor and the hand-over of new
>  territory to the
>       PA. His decision to comply - only partially -
>  came too
>       late. Moreover he failed to honour his own
>  promises to
>       evacuate villages in the outskirts of Jerusalem
>  - Abu
>       Dis, al-Azzaria and Sawahra - even though the
>  Israeli
>       government and parliament had voted for this
>  concession.
>
>                           'Dear brothers'
>
>       For reasons that had nothing to do with
>  tactics, Barak
>       was clearly attached to the settlements. One of
>  the first
>       things he did, after the election, was to visit
>  the
>       extremist settlers of Ofra and Beit El,
>  addressing them
>       as his "dear brothers" (3). On 31 March 2000 he
>  spoke to
>       the settlers in Hebron, a group of fanatics
>  implanted in
>       the centre of the Arab town who terrorised its
>       population. He affirmed the right of Jews to
>  live in
>       Hebron in safety, protected from any attacks.
>  Under the
>       Barak government building in the settlements
>  continued at
>       a faster pace than under Netanyahu.
>
>       Worse still, Barak neglected the Palestinian
>  issue for
>       months and gave priority to negotiations with
>  Syria. He
>       later attempted to justify this approach: "I
>  always
>       supported Syria first reaching peace with Syria
>  would
>       greatly limit the Palestinians' ability to
>  widen the
>       conflict. On the other hand, solving the
>  Palestinian
>       problem will not diminish Syria's ability to
>       existentially threaten Israel" (4). He
>  appointed Oded
>       Eran to lead negotiations with the
>  Palestinians. But he
>       did not listen when Eran told him that the
>  Palestinian
>       problem was central to the Israeli-Arab
>  conflict and no
>       solution to the conflict with Syria would be
>  found nor
>       any agreement reached until it was settled.
>
>       Once more Barak would take no advice and again
>  he failed.
>       Enderlin's account provides details of Barak's
>  personal
>       responsibility in this fiasco. Dennis Ross, the
>  US Middle
>       East coordinator, who can hardly be suspected
>  of pro-Arab
>       sympathies, once complained that whereas the
>  Syrians had
>       made progress on all fronts, Barak had made
>  none.
>
>       By the time talks with the Palestinians resumed
>  in spring
>       2000, Barak had wasted almost a year. His
>  government
>       majority had disintegrated and the suspicion of
>  the
>       Palestinians - both the PA and public opinion -
>  had
>       increased. Barak decided to force the issue and
>  organise
>       a summit meeting to settle all outstanding
>  issues. Was
>       his offer sincere, or did he aim to trap the
>  PA, making
>       it responsible for failure? The Palestinian
>  leadership
>       had serious misgivings. It explained that
>  preparatory
>       talks were needed to ensure that a meeting
>  between Barak
>       and Arafat was truly productive, warning that a
>  hastily
>       organised summit could lead to disaster. The
>  warning went
>       unheeded.
>
>       Barak convinced Clinton, nearing the end of his
>  term as
>       president, that he could crown his career with
>  a
>       spectacular success. The two men met for the
>  first time
>       on 15 July 1999 and, according to Enderlin, it
>  was love
>       at first sight. Clinton could not conceal his
>  admiration
>       for Barak, going so far as to say that he was
>  "eager as a
>       kid with a new toy". Their affinity influenced
>  the course
>       of events at Camp David. Despite his efforts,
>  Clinton
>       always felt closer to Barak. It required little
>  effort on
>       his part to understand, accept and defend
>  Israeli
>       positions.
>
>       In his book Enderlin devotes a long chapter to
>  the Camp
>       David meeting. He describes the life of the
>  summit, its
>       participants, the discussions within each of
>  the three
>       delegations. But should it really count as a
>  summit?
>       Barak refused to negotiate directly with
>  Arafat, whom he
>       never met alone. Two years later he tried to
>  justify this
>       attitude: "Did Nixon meet Ho Chi Minh or Giap
>  [before
>       reaching the Vietnam peace deal]? Or did De
>  Gaulle ever
>       speak to [Algerian leader] Ben Bella?" (5). But
>  neither
>       Nixon nor De Gaulle had demanded a summit
>  meeting with
>       their adversaries. Barak's obvious disdain for
>  Arafat
>       merely fuelled Palestinian suspicions.
>
>       Enderlin's account confirms that Arafat was
>  never offered
>       a Palestinian state controlling more than 91%
>  of the West
>       Bank. Nor was his full authority over the Arab
>  districts
>       of Jerusalem and the Haram al-Sharif (the
>  precinct on
>       which al-Aqsa mosque is built) recognised.
>  Contrary to
>       claims by several Jewish organisations, the
>  Palestinian
>       negotiators never demanded the return of 3m
>  refugees to
>       Israel. The figures mentioned during the talks
>  varied
>       from a few hundred to several thousand
>  Palestinians, whom
>       Israel would allow to return.
>
>       Arafat had already made clear to Clinton at a
>  meeting in
>       Washington on 15 June 2000 that he recognised
>  the
>       existence of UN Resolution 194 (of 11 December
>  1948, on
>       refugees' right to return to their homes) but
>  said that a
>       balance had to be struck between Israel's
>  demographic
>       concerns and Palestinian demands. According to
>  Robert
>       Malley and Hussein Agha, the refugee problem
>  "was barely
>       discussed between the two sides" (6) at the
>  summit. At
>       the subsequent press conference, Barak
>  attributed its
>       failure to disagreement on Jerusalem, before
>  changing
>       tack and highlighting the refugee problem.
>
>       So Camp David ended without agreement. This was
>  not the
>       end of the world. Progress had been achieved
>  and taboos
>       shattered. For the first time the Israelis had
>  considered
>       sharing Jerusalem in some way. The Palestinians
>  had
>       accepted that certain territories on the West
>  Bank or in
>       East Jerusalem, where there were large
>  concentrations of
>       settlers, could be annexed by Israel.
>
>       But instead of building on these advances,
>  Barak put all
>       the blame for the summit's failure on Arafat.
>  Above all
>       he resuscitated an old right-wing slogan that
>  he had no
>       valid opposite number on the Palestinian side.
>  The claim
>       was taken up by journalists and the media, and
>  gained
>       credence. Barak then threw all his energy into
>  revealing
>       what he called "the true face of Arafat". He
>  stopped
>       negotiating for a solution, preferring to
>  demonstrate
>       there was no solution.
>
>       But negotiations did continue, particularly at
>  Taba,
>       Egypt, in January 2001. They brought the
>  positions of the
>       two parties closer on most of the issues under
>       discussion, particularly territory and sharing
>  of
>       sovereignty in East Jerusalem. Arab quarters
>  would be
>       integrated in the Palestinian state and Israel
>  would
>       annex Jewish neighbourhoods. The Israeli
>  delegates even
>       made novel proposals on the refugee question
>  (7). But it
>       seems unlikely that these offers reflected
>  Barak's own
>       position, for he never endorsed them.
>
>                      'The true face of Arafat'
>
>       Menahem Klein, an advisor to the former Israeli
>  foreign
>       minister, Shlomo Ben Ami, recently confirmed
>  this view.
>       According to Klein, Barak told him that he had
>  sent a
>       delegation to Taba solely to reveal "the true
>  face of
>       Arafat" and not to conclude an agreement (8).
>  Barak
>       succeeded in convincing Israeli public opinion
>  that it
>       was a case of "us or them", dealing a fatal
>  blow to the
>       peace camp. The Israeli peace campaigner, Uri
>  Avnery,
>       rightly called Barak "a peace criminal".
>
>       The aim is not to exonerate the Palestinian
>  leaders of
>       all blame, and Enderlin is careful to avoid
>  this mistake.
>       Arafat was often indecisive, incapable of
>  taking drastic
>       measures. He totally underestimated the risk of
>  the right
>       winning the elections in February 2001 and
>  invested quite
>       unjustified trust in the Bush administration.
>  Above all
>       he could not understand the undercurrents of
>  Israeli
>       opinion and failed to draw up a clear
>  programme,
>       particularly after the second intifada started.
>
>       Enderlin rejects outright the idea that the
>  Palestinian
>       leadership planned the uprising. Georges
>  Malbrunot, a
>       fellow journalist, seconds this view in a
>  well-researched
>       book on the intifada (9). According to him, on
>  31 July
>       2000, well before the start of the uprising,
>  Erakat told
>       all the Israeli heads of security that Camp
>  David had
>       failed, but its achievements had to be
>  protected.
>       Negotiations were continuing and there was a
>  real chance
>       of success. He added that in the coming weeks
>  they would
>       have to prevent any friction that might trigger
>  violent
>       confrontation.
>
>       But it was already too late. The PA was faced
>  with the
>       revolt of the Palestinian rank and file who
>  demanded an
>       immediate end to 35 years of occupation. It is
>  perhaps
>       worth remembering that several weeks later the
>  intifada
>       became a military operation, in response to
>  Israeli army
>       reprisals. Malbrunot recalls the scale of
>  repression:
>       "Israeli soldiers killed 204 Palestinians
>  between 28
>       September and 2 December, including 73 youths
>  aged less
>       than 17 and 24 members of the security forces.
>  The
>       Palestinian leaders all agreed that they could
>  not afford
>       to lose 10 children a day and that the human
>  cost was too
>       high. They must find another strategy" (10).
>
>       By now the Oslo accords were defunct. The
>  causes of their
>       demise and the personal responsibility of the
>  various
>       players have been the subject of endless
>  debate. Above
>       all, the peace was lost because the occupying
>  power - the
>       Israeli government and a large part of public
>  opinion -
>       was incapable of treating the Palestinians as
>  equals. The
>       Israelis always put their own rights before
>  Palestinian
>       rights to dignity, freedom, security and
>  independence. If
>       progress is to be made in the future they will
>  have to
>       break with this colonialist attitude, now
>  defended by
>       Barak.
>
>       In a recent interview Barak supported Sharon's
>  strategy
>       of terror and in particular this April's
>  Operation
>       Defensive Wall, but claims he would have acted
>  "more
>       forcefully and with greater speed, and
>  simultaneously
>       against all cities" (11). Barak shows his true
>  colours in
>       his references to the Arabs. "They are products
>  of a
>       culture in which to tell a lie ... creates no
>  dissonance.
>       They don't suffer from the problem of telling
>  lies that
>       exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is
>  seen as an
>       irrelevant category."
>
>       This simplistic view, levelling accusations at
>  an entire
>       culture, is reminiscent of the racist
>  obsessions of the
>       French authorities in Algeria, advocated by
>  Camille
>       Brunel, a French colonialist writing at the
>  beginning of
>       the 20th century. He wrote: "A French officer
>  pardoned an
>       Arab rebel who had deserved death a hundred
>  times. The
>       Arab said: 'I am in debt to you. To show my
>  gratitude, I
>       shall give you a piece of advice that you must
>  never
>       forget as it will always be useful when dealing
>  with my
>       people. Never trust an Arab, not even me'"
>  (12).
>
>  ____________________________________________________
>
>       (1) Charles Enderlin, Le rÍve brisť. Histoire
>  de l'ťchec
>       du processus de paix au Proche-Orient.
>  1995-2002, Fayard,
>       Paris, 2002, 366 pages. Unless otherwise
>  indicated all
>       quotes are taken from the book.
>
>       (2) See, in particular, Robert Malley and
>  Hussein Agha,
>       New York Review of Books, 9 August 2001. Amnon
>  Kapeliouk
>       was one of the first writers to contradict the
>  dominant
>       line on Camp David. See "Camp David dialogues"
>  and
>       "Conducting catastrophe", Le Monde diplomatique
>  English
>       edition, respectively September 2000 and
>  February 2002.
>
>       (3) Michel Warschawski, Sur la frontiŤre,
>  Stock, Paris,
>       2002.
>
>       (4) New York Review of Books, 13 June 2002.
>
>       (5) Ibid.
>
>       (6) Ibid, quoting from Robert Malley, who took
>  part in
>       the summit as one of Clinton's presidential
>  advisors.
>
>       (7) See "The Middle East: how the peace was
>  lost" and
>       "The Middle East: how the war cannot be won",
>  Le Monde
>       diplomatique English edition, September 2001.
>
>       (8) Ha'aretz, Tel Aviv, 2 May 2002.
>
>       (9) Georges Malbrunot, Des pierres aux fusils.
>  Les
>       secrets de l'Intifada, Flammarion, Paris, 2002.
>
>       (10) Ibid.
>
>       (11) New York Review of Books, 13 June 2002.
>
>       (12) Quoted by Alain Ruscio, Le Credo de
>  l'homme blanc,
>       Complexe, Bruxelles.
>
>
>
>
>                                     Translated by
>  Harry Forster
>
>
>
>  ____________________________________________________
>
>         ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 1997-2002 Le Monde
>  diplomatique
>
>     <http://MondeDiplo.com/2002/07/02peace>
>
>
>  Document: Labor Camps in Palestine (1948)
>  http://al-awda.org/labor_camps.htm
>  West Bank and Gaza Emergency Relief Fund:
>  http://al-awda.org/wb_fund.htm
>  Write your representative today!:
>  http://congress.cfl-online.org
>



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