Barak's "generous offer" is an Urban Legend - Comment - Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper
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    • Irish Sensation
    • 14.12.05 | 01:16 (IST)

    The myths about Camp David, and particularly about Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's supposedly "generous offer," have become part of an urban legend by now, particularly among those many commentators, friends of Israel, and instant experts who feel constrained to relieve Israel of any culpability for the Camp David collapse or the intifada that followed. Five years later, whenever the subject of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict comes up in any public discussion or commentary, it is unfailingly asserted that the Palestinians, and specifically Yasir Arafat, acting out of pure cussedness or pure hatred for Jews, rejected an Israeli peace offer of unbelievable generosity, an offer that would have given the Palestinians a state on 90 or sometimes 95 or 97 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of Gaza, with all the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem as a capital. Had it not been for the Palestinians' turn to violence, so the myth goes, we would not now have Ariel Sharon in office, there would be a satisfactory peace, there would be no killings, and so on. What the myths ignore is, first and foremost, that Barak's offers both at Camp David and six months later at the final negotiating session at Taba, Egypt, were not generous by any objective measure. The offers went further than any previous Israeli proposal had, but, since Israel had never before put forth any proposals on the key, so-called final-status issues, this says nothing. In fact, what the supposedly generous offer would have given the Palestinians would have been a state in four pieces, three in the West Bank plus Gaza, with a capital made up of Palestinian neighborhoods not contiguous either to each other or to the rest of the state. The major Israeli settlements, housing fully 80 percent of the 200,000 West Bank settlers and 100 percent of the almost 200,000 additional settlers in East Jerusalem, would have remained in place; the 300-mile road network throughout the West Bank built to connect the settlements and accessible only to Israelis would have remained in place; the "state" left to the Palestinians would have been a mere colony of Israel non-viable and indefensible, without borders with any state but Israel, totally at Israel's mercy. Even a prison gives 95 percent of its space to the prisoners, while the prison walls, the cell doors, and occasional towers and other points of control constitute the controlling five percent. Under Barak's offer, the five percent (or three or ten percent) remaining in Israel's control made up of settlements, Israeli-only roads separating Palestinian from each other, checkpoints impeding movement, are basically a "matrix of control" which would have given Israel continued dominance over Palestine.

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    First published 00:00 13.12.05 | Last updated 00:00 13.12.05
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