It's very difficult to get any admission of error from him. Maybe his choice of people. That, yes. Maybe in some nuance of human relations. But about the lines of his grand scheme? No. No way. Today, too, Ehud Barak is completely sure of himself. He goes straight into the comparison of his Camp David plan with Ben-Gurion's partition. His Camp David compared to Levi Eshkol's waiting period before the Six-Day War.
And he brings up all the well-known intellectual fervor to prove, with evidence, that he wasn't the one who caused the current war, he was the one who made sure the war didn't descend into tragedy. After all, he saw the iceberg coming years in advance. He was the one who warned Israel was about to crash into it. And he's the one who turned the wheel at the last minute. Because of him, the crash into the iceberg was only a glancing blow, so it didn't end in catastrophe.
The defining moment for Ehud Barak came in the Yom Kippur War. The basic question that he asked himself during his entire political career was how not to be Golda. How to block the great historical evil standing in the doorway. He regards his two great moves of the summer of 2000, the withdrawal from Lebanon and Camp David, from that perspective. They were meant to prevent tragedy.
It wasn't the withdrawal from Lebanon that led to the outbreak of the Palestinian terror, says Barak. On the contrary, the withdrawal from Lebanon is what enabled Israel to deal with the Palestinian terror; if not for the withdrawal, half the standing army would have been pinned down in Lebanon to this day; if not for that withdrawal, the Hezbollah would have easily found the excuse to use its rockets against a million Israeli civilians; if not for the withdrawal, Israel would have had to call up more than 100,000 reservists last month and take the risk of a front with Syria.
It wasn't Camp David that made Arafat turn to violence, claims Barak. On the contrary, the Camp David summit made it possible for Israel to deal with Arafat's violence, which was anticipated in advance. The intifada was the inevitable result of the occupation and Oslo's failure, he believes. It was the inexorable result of the confrontation over the third redeployment. But if not for Camp David, the intifada would have found Israel divided within and lacking any foreign support, trapped in a position of strategic inferiority.
Camp David is the Archimedes point for Barak the mathematician. Almost systematically, he tends to erase from his mind the concessions he made - under fire - between September and December 2000. He's vague on the Clinton framework, and rejects the Taba papers entirely. There was no record, he claims, no record, nothing was achieved. All that happened at Taba was that it finally proved that the Palestinians were not ready to give up the right of return. Those who claim otherwise are packaging things that weren't there, in creative wrappers.
But Camp David is not only the point of departure for Barak's understanding of the past, it's also the point of departure for any solution in the future. The former prime minister rejects the Saudi plan and is vehemently opposed to the Peres-Abu Ala understandings. He is not ready to commit to the Clinton parameters and is sarcastic about Ben-Eliezer's and Ramon's plans. As far as he's concerned, the only practical program the Labor Party must adopt is his plan.
And what is Barak's new plan? Other than the anti-terrorist rhetoric, Barak is proposing a two-pronged policy. One part is readiness for negotiations on the basis of the Camp David summaries: a demilitarized Palestinian state on 100 percent of the Gaza Strip and 92 percent of the West Bank, plus a Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem and a special regime for the Old City and the Temple Mount. Barak claims that Israel has to stick to two principles he formulated in a letter to Clinton: No Israeli prime minister, he wrote, will sign an agreement that gives sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the Palestinians. I, he wrote, will never sign a document that agrees to a single Palestinian reaching Israel on the basis of the right of return.
The second part of Barak's plan is unilateral separation. Lacking a partner (Barak reiterates his comparisons of Arafat to Saddam Hussein and Milosevic), Israel must build a fence that surrounds seven settlement blocs taking up 12 percent of the West Bank. It should also take another 12 percent in the Jordan Valley and vital early warning positions like Mt. Ba'al Hatzor and Mt. Eibal. Barak thinks the IDF should remain free to act against terror everywhere, including Area A. The settlement blocs should not be annexed to Israel, and the evacuation of the 36,000 settlers remaining outside the fences should be done gradually. Israel should oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state without a framework agreement that ends the conflict.
That's the only plan, he believes. If Israel doesn't adopt his plan, he warns, within months it will face a choice between a dangerous international plan or a reality full of blood threatening to deteriorate into all-out war.