Launched in 1993 after an agreement at Oslo, the Middle East peace process collapsed in bloodshed after seven fitful years marked by escalating Arab rejectionism and terror. This new and expanded edition, drawn like the first from the pages of Commentary, takes note of a much larger hard reality, brought home to Americans by the mass-murder attacks of September 11, 2001, and since then to the West as a whole by the unrelenting jihadist campaign against democratic civilization. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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THE MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS
ENCOUNTER BOOKS David Bar-Illan
Copyright © 2002 Neal Kozodoy.
All rights reserved.
Israel's New Pollyannas
Until recently, it was not difficult to define the main obstacle to a peace agreement between Arabs and Israelis: the very minimum the Syrians and Palestinians could accept exceeded the maximum Israel could give.
In practical terms, this meant that since Hafez al-Assad's Syria could accept no less than what Anwar Sadat's Egypt had receivedevery inch of land lost to the Israelis in warand since Israel could not afford to relinquish all this land (which would bring the border to within yards of the Sea of Galilee), an agreement with Syria was impossible.
Similarly, no Palestinian leader could accept anything less than total Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines (usually described as the 1967 bordersthat is, the borders until the Six-Day war in June of that year) and the establishment of a Palestinian state with the eastern half of Jerusalem as its capital, while no Israeli government could allow this to happen. Ergo, the prospects of a Palestinian-Israeli agreement were nonexistent.
All the procedural argumentsfor instance, the Arabs' insistence on an international conference to decide the issue rather than direct talks between the partieswere merely a function of these differences. The Arabs, correctly assuming that Israelno matter who was in the governmentwould not deliver their minimaldemands, saw in a UN-sponsored conference a venue in which the world tribunal would impose an unpalatable settlement on Israel.
That is why the Madrid conference of 1991 was considered a small miracle. Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Palestinians actually sat down to negotiate in bilateral, direct talks. This, despite the fact that the then-Israeli government was a hawkish Likud-led coalition, headed by the stubborn Yitzhak Shamir, and that to expect it to bend to Palestinian demands for sovereignty in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, or to accept Syrian claims to all of the Golan Heights, was ludicrous.
But the meeting took place at least partly because it was conceived in deception. In secret private letters, the Bush administration was able to convince each participant that the U.S. would support its position. Thus, Syria was promised not only that the American (and Soviet) sponsors of the talks would play an important mediating role when it mattered, but that Washington saw "the return of territories according to UN Resolutions 242 and 338"a formula which to the Arabs translated into total withdrawalas applicable to the Golan.
Similarly, the U.S. assured the Palestinians that it was still committed to the general outline of the Rogers plan of 1969, which called for virtually complete Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines, and that it considered the Israeli annexation of the eastern part of Jerusalem illegal. In the eyes of the U.S., the Palestinians were reminded, east Jerusalem was still "occupied territory." (As it happens, even west Jerusalem has not been recognized by the U.S. as part of Israel.) The message was unmistakable: the U.S. would support the establishment of a Palestinian homeland in the territories with east Jerusalem as its capital. Indeed, for the first time since 1967, an American administration refused Israel's request to say that it actively opposed a Palestinian state.
To assuage Israel's fears of American support for a Palestinian state, however, the Bush administration did specifically agree to exclude the PLO from the negotiating process, and to insist on a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, thus eliminating any semblance of a separate, independent Palestinian entity. Israel also received a commitment that only inhabitants of the territories could become delegates to the talks. That is, neither residents of Jerusalem nor members of the Palestinian "diaspora" would be eligible.
Furthermore, Israel was assured that the U.S. stood by President Gerald Ford's commitment to "give weight" to Israel's security concerns in the Golan Heights, that the Jerusalem question would be raised only at a later stage of the negotiations, and that the negotiations would be based on the formula worked out at Camp David in the 1978 talks leading up to the breakthrough agreement between Israel and Egypt. This last meant an interim period of Palestinian autonomy for five years, with negotiations for a permanent solution beginning after the third year. All options would be left openincluding the possibility of an Israeli demand for sovereignty over the territories.
* * *
These assurances to the various parties were clearly irreconcilable. Charitably, they were white lies intended to get everyone together in the hope that differences would be ironed out at the negotiating table. A more cynical interpretation would characterize them as a stratagem designed to create an irresistible momentum which would force Israel to yield to the prevailing world demand for total withdrawal. Either way, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir did not appreciate their import. When asked about the American assurances to the Arabs, he said Israel was not bound by American promises. All that mattered was that the talks were bilateral and direct, and that the U.S. would not interfere.
But conflicting promises have a way of exploding. On the very first day of the Madrid conference, the Palestinian representatives, who were supposed to be included in the Jordanian delegation, were allotted the same space at the table as the other delegations and allowed a separate time slot for their addresses. Armed with American support for them as a distinct delegation, they stalled the negotiations for months until the Israelis yielded. Washington also allowed Faisal Husseini, a resident of Jerusalem and a member of Yasir Arafat's Fatah organizationand therefore doubly ineligible for participationto head an "advisory team" attached to the delegation. He and the team's spokeswoman, Hanan Ashrawi, promptly became the most sought-after stars of the peace talks. The Jordanian delegation faded into the background.
In addition, the Bush administration circumvented the ban on the PLO by letting senior PLO figures enter the U.S. for post-Madrid negotiations in Washington. Setting up shop in the delegates' hotel, they were ostentatiously consulted by the official Palestinian participants before and after every session. The commitment to exclude "diaspora" Palestinians was also broken, when Mohammad Khalaj, a member of the Palestine National Council who lives in America, was included in the negotiations on refugees at the multilateral talks on regional problems. And the final obliteration of the American commitment to exclude the PLO and Jerusalem residents came when Israel (now led by Yitzhak Rabin) agreed, as part of the deal with the U.S. (now led by Bill Clinton) following the expulsion of 400 Hamas agitators, to the formal recognition of Husseini as head of the Palestinian delegation.
* * *
But far more disturbing than the American manipulations were those practiced by the Israeli government itself. For some three years, the Syrians had been spreading the word that Assad had had a change of heart. Having lost the sponsorship of the Soviets, he purportedly now realized that he would never achieve strategic parity with Israela euphemism for a military capability which would enable him to vanquish Israel on his own. Forced to get closer to the West to survive, and aware that the West wanted peace, he was ready to sign an agreement with Israel.
This line was startlingly similar to the argument made in 1990 by Saddam Hussein and his supporters in the West and in Israel. (Among those convinced at the time that Saddam was so eager to curry favor with the West that he would be a natural candidate for a peace treaty with Israel was Ezer Weizman, now Israel's President.) That Saddam himself proved the fallacy of the argumenthe not only betrayed his promises but started a war in the Gulf without Soviet backingseemed to be forgotten.
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who weeks before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait had assured Israel of Saddam's benignity, was credited both with persuading Assad of the advantages of peace and with convincing the U.S. that the Syrian dictator was sincere. As Egypt had discovered in the late 197s, lost land (in Egypt's case, the Sinai peninsula) could be retrieved from Israel more easily through peace than by war. And Assad, a reputed pragmatist who had repeatedly vowed to destroy Israel if it took 200 years, now saw that sitting with Israel at the negotiating table made sense. True, to mitigate an implied recognition of the Jewish state, the Syrians insisted on calling the negotiations an international conference, but in reality they agreed to participate in strictly bilateral talks.
The Syrians at first found the role of peace partners a little unnatural. But eager to get their country off the State Department list of states that sponsored terrorism, they even chimed in with a confidence-building measure, allowing the gradual emigration of Syrian Jews provided they did not go to Israel. And as soon as the Israeli delegation, under the Labor government, announced Israel's readiness to withdraw from the Golan Heights, they switched from displays of cold fury to smiles and handshakes. These prompted the new Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, to proclaim that the developments in Damascus were nothing short of sensational.
What the Syrians made clear, however, was that they expected the negotiations to bring nothing less than full Israeli withdrawal not only from the Golan Heightssmall in area but strategically vital for the defense of Israel's northbut from all areas occupied by Israel in 1967 and 1982. This meant the complete evacuation of Judea, Samaria, Gaza, east Jerusalem, and Israel's security belt in southern Lebanon.
Nor was Syria willing to sign a full-fledged peace treaty in return. It interpreted UN Resolution 242 to mean that Israel must withdraw from all captured territory on all fronts (a transparently false reading), and that in return Israel was entitled to nothing more than an end to the state of belligerency that would not include a peace treaty and normalization of relations.
Though aware of the Syrian position, Rabinwho a day before the Israeli election had said that anyone abandoning the Golan Heights would be guilty of forsaking Israel's securitypredicted that "within months" Israel and Syria would sign on the dotted line. Members of the cabinet, including Police Minister Moshe Shahal who was known for his closeness to Rabin, openly advocated relinquishing the entire Golan.
To be sure, Rabin himself kept stressing that he would consider withdrawing only on the Golan Heights, not from them. But he kept all options open by allowing that the extent of withdrawal depended on the quality of peace Syria was prepared to offer. This was generally understood to mean that for a full-fledged peace treaty, which would include an exchange of ambassadors and a free flow of people and goods between the two countries, Rabin would forfeit Israeli sovereignty in the Golan and effect a gradual but complete withdrawal. In that case, leaks from government offices averred, to ensure against Syrian aggression, Rabin would insist that the area be demilitarized and the U.S. station troops between Syrians and Israelis.
Rabin's "you tell me first what kind of peace you want and I'll tell you how much land I'll give" created the impression that the Syrians had not made their position clear. Yet soon after the resumption of negotiations under the Labor government, the Syrian delegation submitted a document summarizing its position. It indicated that Damascus had not budged an inch from its insistence on total Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines on all fronts, and that in return it was willing to commit to no more than a state of nonbelligerency.
This document so disappointed the Israeli government that it asked the Syrian delegation not to publish it, a request that may have constituted a historic first: a democratic government asking a dictatorial regime to keep an exchange secret for fear that the information would adversely affect public opinion. To this day, the only open source of the document's contents is the Arab press to which it was leaked by the Syrians. Israel has yet to release it.
* * *
This, however, was a relatively minor episode in a much more elaborate effort by the Israeli governmentone in which the press collaboratedto sell Assad not only as a leader who needed and wanted peace but as a man of honor. The evidence for this, said ministers and columnists, was there for all to see: the 1974 separation agreement on the Golan Heights, which had been observed by Syria for twenty years (with the exception of a few forays by terrorists, for which the Syrians were not held responsible). Assad might be a ruthless dictator, but his signature on a contract would be binding.
Forgotten were a few pertinent facts. The reason the Syrians have been careful not to provoke the Israelis on the Golan Heights is that the Israeli army there is within striking distance of Damascus. In Lebanon, where Israeli retaliation can hurt only Hezbollah cadres, Palestinian terrorists, and Shiite villagers, Syria's scruples about agreements have seemed to disappear.
Indeed, Assad's record of broken agreements easily matches that of other Middle Eastern dictators. In 1983, he broke a pledge he had made to the Reagan administration (via the Saudis) that he would accept the Israeli-Lebanese peace treaty and withdraw his troops from Lebanon. He did the opposite: as soon as Israel began to get out, he poured more troops into Lebanon. He completed the effective annexation of the country in 1990, after having joined the anti-Iraq coalition and being rewarded by the Bush administration with carte blanche in Beirut. And recently his Foreign Minister, Farouk al-Sharaa, declared that Lebanon and Syria were "like one country."
Assad is also in violation of the Saudi-sponsored Taif agreement, endorsed by all the Arab states, which stipulates the withdrawal of Syrian troops and the restoration of Lebanese sovereignty. September 1993 marks precisely a year since Syrian troops were supposed to have left Beirut.
Even more puzzling is the current Israeli government's support of the notiona favorite of European and American diplomatsthat Assad is pursuing peace. Hezbollah, the Iranian-financed organization whose almost daily attacks on Israeli targets finally led to the retaliatory strikes of late July, trains its 3,000-5,000 highly motivated fighters in Syrian camps, under Syrian supervision, in Lebanon's Bekaa valley. It is equipped with Syrian arms, including potent Sager missiles, and Iranian arms brought through Damascus. The organization could not have mounted a single major operation against Israel without Syrian approval. Yet as soon as Labor came to power, Hezbollah became an "Iranian organization" operating independently. Indeed, it was only after the cease-fire ending the fighting in late July that Syria's role in "standing behind" Hezbollah was alluded to by Rabin (which did not prevent him from praising Assad a few days later).
Ignored, too, has been Syrian sponsorship of the Palestinians who openly call for the destruction of the Jewish state by force of arms. Last year, Syria held a conference of the ten "rejectionist" groupsamong them Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the radical PLO factionsin Damascus, where many of these organizations have their headquarters. Syria also directs the operation of Radio Al Quds, beamed to the administered territories, which incites Palestinians against the "traitors" in their midst who negotiate with Israel. Unlike their Israeli apologists, the Syrians are quite frank about supporting the "armed struggle" as long as Israel occupies "Arab land." And they have flatly rejected Israeli demands to disarm Hezbollah and the Palestinians in southern Lebanon. In the peace talks the Syrians have rejected all Israeli suggestions to discuss a truce in Lebanon.
Nor has Assad slowed down the feverish pace of Syrian arming. Having replenished and modernized all branches of its armed forces, Syria surpasses Israel in virtually all major classes of military equipment, let alone in the number of troops. In April, Syria began to manufacture Scud-C missiles in factories near Hama and Aleppo.
Excerpted from THE MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS. Copyright © 2002 by Neal Kozodoy. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The dictionary defines autopsy as `an examination and dissection of a dead body to determine the cause of death'. Quite appropriate therefore that this book is titled an autopsy of the Mid-East Peace Process. Few in the Mid-East or the international arena now give credence to the evaluation that the `peace process' is still functional. This book is of considerable value in that it examines how the so-called `peace process' actually died. This is not a `play on words' but an actual investigation into what went wrong and why. The basic premise for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian/Arab world was allegedly `land for peace'. This book scrutinizes how this principle was actually just a facade. The most far reaching concessions ever offered by any Israeli leader only resulting in the Palestinian `intifadas' that are analysed here and which `grace' our television screens almost on a daily basis. The book scrutinises the previously unheard of offers by former Israeli PM Ehud Barak in relation to ceding some 98% of the `West Bank' and Gaza towards a Palestinian state, a deal on `settlements' and `refugees' plus an agreement to `share' Jerusalem. Investigated too are the failure of Yasser Arafat & the Palestinian Authority to accept this as even a basis for negotiation, their violation of previous agreements and the reneging of their promise to resolve all disagreements through negotiations. The authors themselves show that even despite agreed Israeli withdrawals peace was not forthcoming, the PLO not even amending it's Covenant calling for the destruction of the Jewish state. The book outlines a statement through Jordanian Television by Yasser Arafat on the very same day as he appeared in 1993 on the White House lawn with Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Bill Clinton and co., shaking hands and making his promises of peace. The book (on page 22) declares that Arafat, in his public statement in Arabic on Jordan Television, stated that he had no intent to halt terrorism, or any peaceful co-existence with Israel. Instead he described the agreement, in fact the whole `peace-process', was in the context of the `1974 plan', known by the whole Arab world as the `plan of phases' for the destruction of Israel. Perhaps this should have opened everyone's eyes to the real intent and agenda behind the scenes, but clearly not so. This book provides a number of essays by very learned people including Efraim Karsh, David Bar-Ilan, Dore Gold, Daniel Pipes and others, that investigate how Arafat duped the whole world into believing that he was pursuant of a peaceful co-existence with the Jewish people and the State of Israel. This book also explores the regional & international consequences of the failure of the Mid-East `peace-process' in light of September 11th. This becomes even more relevant in few of recent developments appertaining to Iraq. Also explored and discussed are the future, potential conventional and nuclear conflicts between Israel and the Arab world, also weighed against the possible existence of a Palestinian `state' in Israel's very heartland. A very illuminating, thought-provoking read and a handy reference book for the days ahead which we must all watch with interest.