Thursday, April 25, 2002

The Unbelievable Account of the Offer that was Never Offered

A friend of mine who wished to take issue with my criticism of the widely promoted version of ‘Barak’s most generous offer’ (BMGO) sent along an interview recently granted (April 12, 2002) by Dennis Ross to a gentleman at Fox Television by the name of Hume. The document was sent along to me as another bit of evidence that Arafat bears responsibility for the present crisis because of his refusal to accept Barak’s MGO.

I do not have the time or patience to explain why anything coming out of Fox, which bears, of course, the ‘sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcript’, is suspect. Dennis Ross, who seems to be trying to make up for the not too lucrative years spent in public service by hiring himself out to a pro-Israeli think tank in D.C., has himself seriously damaged his own credibility. However, there are a few sentences in the interview that I do want to share with you. Hume, the interviewer starts out by pushing the thesis that there is no sense in future negotiations with Arafat. For this purpose, Hume opens by giving Ross an opportunity to go over the Camp David scenario. Ross’ first answer is amazing. “ Lets look at the terms (of the offer R.K). Let me spell out exactly what it was. It was something that we offered, by the way. There is a kind of imagery out there that Barak made an offer. It was a U.S. offer.”

How interesting! Here we are, a multitude of truth seekers, trying to evaluate the dimensions of the catastrophe that resulted directly from Arafat’s rejection of Barak’s MGO. And it turns out that there was never any such offer. ‘By the way,’ informs us DR, ‘it’s a kind of imagery.’
Now, the difference between a Barak offer or a Clinton offer is no slight matter. This is not a technicality. Why, and on what basis, was the public presented with the powerful image of a generous Israeli offer by a noble and innovative Israeli PM, when no such offer ever existed! Why has Dennis Ross remained quiet for so long and refused to share this ‘tidbit’ of information with the public which wants to figure out what really happened at Camp David?

Somebody out there is going to start taking me to task that this could not be the ‘whole’ story’ in the interview. I never said it was. I repeat: It turns out, according to the same interview, that it was a U.S. offer (and the plot thickens). The interview reads: “Hume asks: Barak accepted it? Ross answers: Barak was willing to accept it. Hume: Willing to accept it.” At this point, Ross starts to present yet another original and novel version of the U.S. offer (maybe we should call it Clinton’s most generous offer, ‘CMGO’)? Anyone acquainted with the vast material will recognize the gross inadequacies and the inconsistencies in the Ross version. But that is not the subject of this communication.

But there is an interesting episode here dealing with this Barak was ‘willing’ business. A careful reading informs us that Barak did not accept C’s MGO, but that he was willing to accept it. How and when and under what conditions was Barak willing to accept it? We can only guess (and I do not want to spend too much time on Fox and DR, who appears, interestingly enough in my text, with the title of a ‘Fox News contributor’). Working from the text we of the interview we do have, we could guess that maybe Barak said I am ‘willing’ if Arafat is willing.The interviewer missed up on asking as to whether Barak’s acceptance was unconditional. I have a penchant for believing that the Chair of the PA is no dumbbell. And if the circumstances were indeed those described here, Arafat might well have had every reason to believe that Barak was continuing to refuse to negotiate with him and the whole scene was designed to confront Arafat with an offer that did not allow for further negotiation.

Admittedly, it is hard to reconstruct the kind of closed, tricky diplomatic maneuvering of the kind that occurred at Camp David, especially as one senses that everything said in that framework was formulated so as to insure future deniability. At any rate, the Clinton (!) offer, as detailed by DR in the Fox interview, is presented tendentiously and simply distorts or evades many of the issues that were on the negotiating table – if there were any real negotiations. But Barak, my friends, according to this source, according to the passionately pro-Sharon network and according to Dennis Ross, never ever made any offer.

The ‘Catechism’

If you know and believe in the ‘catechism’ then you can justify Sharon’s war, even if you claim to have always been his fierce political enemy. The very simple catechism goes as follows: Arafat rejected Barak’s MGO because he refused to renounce far-reaching Palestinian demands inconsistent with a reasonable formula for the two state solution. Not content with his diplomatic blow to peace, Arafat returned to the territories where he initiated, organized and put into effect the El-Akseh Intifada aimed at extracting concessions from Israel that he failed to receive at Camp David. This proves that Arafat, adopted a ‘strategy of terror’ built around suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.

The Function of the ‘Catechism’

The ‘catechism’ is the cornerstone for the justification of Israeli military activity, including wide scale incursions into Palestinian civilian population centers with all the death and destruction that such operations entail. The difficulty with the Israeli case is simply that even if the ‘catechism’ is accepted as the latest version of divine truth, it does not and cannot justify Israeli policy and actions.

Even though the ‘catechism’ is an excellent public relations exercise and it has certainly helped Israel and its partisan supporters in the propaganda war, it is irrelevant for any serious political analysis. (This does not mean that the Israeli version regarding the failure at Camp David or regarding the causes for the El-Aksa Intifada should not be challenged. There is every reason to re-examine this and other issues at some later date). The function of the ‘catechism’ is to demonize Arafat and the Palestinians so as to prevent any rational evaluation of the clear and open political objectives of the two sides to the conflict. I tried to explain to my friend that whatever the merits of the Israeli version of recent history, the Israeli argument does not answer the main accusation against Sharon.

The Palestinian side has repeatedly reiterated its position that it is ready to resume negotiations from the point where they ended. Israel is not ready to resume negotiations from the point that they broke off. The simple truth is that it is Israel and Sharon’s policy that prevents the resumption of negotiations. This simple truth exposes the real motives of Israeli policy. Israeli ‘explains’ that it refuses to reveal its position before actual negotiations or to negotiate under the pressure of violence. But given public knowledge of Sharon’s politics, the subterfuge is rather flimsy. It is common knowledge that Sharon has rejected any chance for the resumption of negotiations at the point where they ended. Is there anyone who can deny that Sharon has always rejected the idea of peace without annexation. The ploy that Israel refuses to negotiate under the pressure of Palestinian violence is rather strange. By entering negotiations, Israel does not forfeit its right to legitimate self-defense nor is its military superiority impaired. At any rate, it is generally the weaker side that refuses negotiations until it has somewhat improved its position regarding the balance of forces. It is the weaker side that has cause to fear that it will be negotiating ‘out of weakness.’

Israel’s current refusal to negotiate a settlement of the conflict stems from its rejection of the basic principles of the two-state solution, accepted by the Palestinian Authority, the U.N. and the entire world community and almost accepted by Israel in the Taba talks (but not at Camp David). It is this refusal that blocks the road to peace. It is in the analysis of the basic policies of each side that we find the key to ascribing responsibility for the conflict and Israel bears that responsibility.
So there is cause to doubt the veracity of the account regarding ‘Barak’s MGO. There may not have been such an offer. But above and beyond the immediate history of the conflict and the conflicting accounts of that history, we face the basic political fact: Sharon’s policies block the path to peace and are destroying any hope for resolving the conflict.