Many ofªcials and an-
alysts have inaccurately portrayed the Israeli-Palestinian-U.S. summit at Camp
David in July 2000 and subsequent negotiations. Based on this inaccurate por-
trayal, a number of observers have argued that a negotiated settlement to the
Israeli-Palestinian conºict is not possible at this time. This article addresses the
inaccuracies of this dominant narrative and offers a different understanding of
Israeli-Palestinian relations in 2000 (and January 2001) that, in turn, suggests
that the door to Israeli-Palestinian political talks is open.
After the Camp David summit, Israel and some U.S. ofªcials told a story
about what happened that was widely accepted in Israel and the United States.
According to this dominant version of the events at Camp David, Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Barak made a generous offer to the Palestinian negotiators who
rejected it without even putting forth a counterproposal. At Camp David,
Barak offered a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and more than 90 percent of
the West Bank, a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, shared control of the
Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem’s Old City, and a commitment to
withdraw many Israeli settlements from the West Bank. The Israeli version
continues that Palestinian leaders rejected Barak’s offer and the diplomatic
route to a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conºict. Instead, they tried to
destroy Israel by pressing throughout the Israeli-Palestinian talks for the re-
turn of millions of Palestinian refugees to Israel and by launching the second
intifada, or uprising, in September 2000.1
Visions in Collision Jeremy Pressman
What Happened at Camp David
International Security, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Fall 2003), pp. 5–43
© 2003 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Jeremy Pressman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Con-
necticut, Storrs, Connecticut.
I would like to thank Boaz Atzili, Michal Ben Josef-Hirsch, Robert Blecher, Waleed Hazbun, Scott
Lasensky, Sarah Kenyon Lischer, Stephen Van Evera, Cory Welt, Amos Zehavi, and the anony-
mous reviewers for helpful comments on previous drafts. An earlier version of this article was pre-
sented at the 2002 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in Boston,
Massachusetts. I am grateful for the support of the Belfer Center for Science and International
Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
1. The Israeli version refers to the recounting of events since the end of the Camp David summit by
Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister, and his senior negotiators such as Shlomo Ben-Ami and
Gilead Sher; it is also reºected in ofªcial statements by the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs and
the Israel Defense Forces. The U.S. version is similar to the Israeli one and refers to events as seen
by President Bill Clinton, U.S. special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross, Assistant Secretary of
The Palestinian version of the Camp David summit, other high-level Israeli-
Palestinian talks, and the outbreak of the second intifada has been far less
inºuential in Israel and the United States. According to Palestinian negotiators,
Israel’s offer at Camp David did not remove many of the vestiges of the Israeli
occupation in terms of land, security, settlements, and Jerusalem. Despite Is-
rael’s intransigence, these negotiators continued, the Palestinian Authority
(PA), the governing entity of the semiautonomous Palestinian areas in Gaza
and the West Bank, preferred negotiations to violence. They argued that the PA
did not launch the intifada. Rather it was caused by factors under Israel’s con-
trol, including: frustration from continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian
lands despite the 1993 and 1995 Oslo peace agreements; the visit of Ariel
Sharon, leader of Israel’s Likud opposition, to the Temple Mount/Noble Sanc-
tuary on September 28, 2000; and the heavy-handed response of Israeli forces
to the resulting Palestinian protest.
In this article I argue that neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian version of the
events at Camp David and subsequent talks is wholly accurate. The Pales-
tinian version, however, is much closer to the evidentiary record of articles,
interviews, and documents produced by participants in the negotiations, jour-
nalists, and other analysts. Israel did make an unprecedented offer at Camp
David, but it neglected several elements essential to any comprehensive settle-
ment, including: the contiguity of the Palestinian state in the West Bank, full
sovereignty in Arab parts of East Jerusalem, and a compromise resolution on
the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Moreover, despite Israeli conten-
tions, Palestinian negotiators and much of the Palestinian nationalist move-
ment favored a genuine two-state solution and did not seek to destroy Israel
either by insisting on the right of return or through the second intifada.
The Palestinian version has two shortcomings. First, the PA did not give
credit to Israel for the evolution in its negotiating position from the Camp Da-
vid summit to the talks in Taba, Egypt, in January 2001 on issues such as the
territorial contiguity of the West Bank and Palestinian sovereignty in East Jeru-
International Security 28:2 6
State for Near East Affairs Martin Indyk, and major U.S. newspapers such as the New York Times.
The Palestinian version describes events in the eyes of negotiators such as Mohammed Dahlan,
Akram Haniyah, and Ahmed Qorei; it is also reºected in ofªcial statements of the Palestine Libera-
tion Organization and the Palestinian Authority, the governing entity of the semiautonomous Pal-
estinian areas in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as Robert Malley (a member of President
Clinton’s National Security Council staff) and Deborah Sontag (writing for the New York Times).
These labels are not absolute: Israelis may support the Palestinian version and vice versa. This il-
lustrative list also does not capture the internal disagreements among ofªcials who worked to-
gether on the same team.
salem. By the time of the Taba negotiations, Israel was much more cognizant of
the compromises that it would need to make to end the occupation. Second,
the Palestinian explanation for the outbreak of the second intifada was accu-
rate in part. It neglected two crucial elements, however: the role of Palestinian
militants in escalating the conºict and PA unwillingness to attempt to deci-
sively rein them in.
The dominance of the Israeli/U.S. version of events is not surprising given
the power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel and the United
States alone—but especially together—have more power and leverage at the
bargaining table than the Palestinians. They also have a signiªcant edge in the
public relations battle over rhetoric, images, and symbols.2
In addition to substantive Israeli-Palestinian disagreements, the misjudg-
ments and procedural errors made by all three parties signiªcantly reduced the
likelihood of a successful deal in 2000–01. A number of factors combined to un-
dermine the drive toward peace, including: Israeli and Palestinian mixed mes-
sages; the absence of a Palestinian public relations campaign to explain the
failure of the Camp David summit; Israeli/U.S. misunderstanding of the Pales-
tinian bottom line on the core issues of Jerusalem, refugees, and territory; and
several U.S. decisions about the conduct and the timing of the summit. By
being mindful of these and other mistakes in future talks, the parties will give
negotiators a better chance of success.
One important caveat is that this article is an assessment of diplomatic meet-
ings that did not result in a signed agreement. As is common in bargaining sit-
uations, the positions shifted as both parties sought the best deal possible. At
Camp David, the parties took an all-or-nothing approach: “Nothing was con-
sidered agreed and binding until everything was agreed.”3Most proposals
were verbal, not written.4Therefore, the details about positions on speciªc is-
sues at the Camp David summit and subsequent negotiations are vaguer than
if the talks had resulted in a signed agreement.
In the ªrst section, I describe the three proposals for resolving the Israeli-
Palestinian conºict: the Israeli proposal at Camp David, the U.S. framework
known as the Clinton plan, and the ideas discussed at Taba. In the second sec-
Visions in Collision 7
2. This imbalance is also reºected in the structure of this article in that it devotes more space to the
3. Gilead Sher, “An Israeli View: Comments on the Negotiating Strategies of Israel and the Pales-
tinians,” June 17, 2002, edition 22, http://www.bitterlemons.org/previous/bl170602ed22.html.
4. Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, “Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors,” New York Review of
Books, August 9, 2001, p. 62.
tion, I describe the Israeli/U.S. explanations for the failure of Camp David, the
breakdown of negotiations, and the Palestinian turn to violence. The third sec-
tion assesses these claims. In the fourth and ªfth sections, I do the same for the
Palestinian version of events, ªrst presenting it as told and then analyzing
the claims. In the sixth section, I describe procedural errors that undermined
the negotiations. I conclude with a discussion of the impact of the inaccurate
narratives on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.
The Camp David Summit, the Clinton Plan, and the Taba Talks
Israeli, Palestinian, and U.S. delegations met at Camp David, in Maryland, on
July 11–25, 2000. The summit was convened to conclude the ªnal status talks—
that is, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, se-
curity arrangements, borders, and other issues that were set out as the ªnal
stage of negotiations in the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles.
At the summit, Israel offered to establish a sovereign Palestinian state encom-
passing the Gaza Strip, 92 percent of the West Bank, and some parts of Arab
East Jerusalem.5In return, it proposed the annexation of Jewish neighborhoods
(settlements) in East Jerusalem. Israel also asked for several security measures,
including early warning stations in the West Bank and an Israeli presence
at Palestinian border crossings. In addition, it would accept no more than a
token return of Palestinian refugees under a family reuniªcation program.6
The summit concluded without Israel and the Palestinian Authority reaching
After the failure of the summit, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators continued
to meet in small groups in August and September 2000. The United States was
about to present its own plan for resolving the conºict when the second inti-
fada began on September 28–29, 2000. As a result of the intifada, President Bill
Clinton did not put forth the U.S. plan to Israeli and Palestinian negotiators
until December 23, 2000.
The Clinton plan proposed the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state
in the Gaza Strip and 97 percent of the West Bank.7As for East Jerusalem,
International Security 28:2 8
5. Israel offered the Palestinians 91 percent of the West Bank plus the equivalent of 1 percent of the
West Bank in land from pre-1967 Israel.
6. Palestinian refugees from 1948 include those expelled and their descendants. As of June 30,
2003, there were just under 4.1 million Palestinian refugees registered with the United Nations Re-
lief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. See “UNRWA in Figures,” August
7. The ªgure of 97 percent is based on a Palestinian state in 94–96 percent of the West Bank plus
the equivalent of 1–3 percent of the West Bank in land from pre-1967 Israel. For instance, the Pales-
Clinton stated, “The general principle is that Arab areas are Palestinian and
that Jewish areas are Israeli.” With regard to the holiest parts of Jerusalem’s
Old City, the Palestinians would be sovereign over the Temple Mount/Noble
Sanctuary and the Israelis over the Western Wall. On security, Clinton men-
tioned Israeli early warning stations, a “nonmilitarized” Palestinian state, and
an international force for border security. The plan called for a number of mea-
sures to address issues involving Palestinian refugees, including: the right of
return to the Palestinian state, ªnancial compensation, and an Israeli acknowl-
edgment of the suffering caused to the Palestinians in 1948.8Both Israel and
the PA accepted the Clinton plan.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met for the last time at Taba on January
21–27, 2001. According to most accounts, they used elements of the Clinton
plan as a basis for the talks and made signiªcant progress toward a ªnal agree-
ment. The main summary of the discussions was written after the fact by the
European Union envoy, Miguel Moratinos.9At the end of the Taba talks, Israel
and the PA issued an upbeat communiqué: “The sides declare that they have
never been closer to reaching an agreement and it is thus our shared belief that
the remaining gaps could be bridged with the resumption of negotiations fol-
lowing the Israeli elections.”10 In February 2001, Ariel Sharon defeated Ehud
Barak in the Israeli elections, and Sharon’s new government chose not to re-
sume the high-level talks.
The Israeli/U.S. Version of the Failure of Negotiations
Israel, some U.S. government ofªcials, and much of the Israeli and U.S. media
drew ªve major conclusions from Palestinian conduct in 2000–01, each of
which became public relations mantras.11 First, Barak made a generous offer at
Visions in Collision 9
tinian state might be composed of 94 percent of the West Bank and 3 percent of swapped land for a
total of 97 percent.
8. For one version of the Clinton plan, see Bill Clinton, “Proposals for a Final Settlement,” Journal
of Palestine Studies, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Spring 2001), pp. 171–173. The issue also lists the citations for
several other publications where the Clinton plan is reproduced, including “Clinton Minutes,”
Ha’aretz, December 31, 2000, pp. 1, 3.
9. The Moratinos summary was published in Akiva Eldar, “The Peace That Nearly Was at Taba,”
Ha’aretz, February 14, 2002, pp. 4, 9.
10. “Israeli-Palestinian Joint Statement at Taba,” January 27, 2001, http://mondediplo.com/
11. For examples of the ofªcial Israeli version on many of these points, see “Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-
Finding Committee: First Statement of the Government of Israel,” December 28, 2000, http://
www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0jcb0; and “Sharm El-Sheikh Fact-ªnding Committee: Second
Statement of the Government of Israel,” March 20, 2001, http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/
Camp David, and the Palestinian negotiators turned it down. Second, the Pal-
estinians never put on the table a counterproposal to the Israeli offer. Third, the
rejection of Barak’s offer proves that the Palestinians do not accept Israel’s
right to exist. Fourth, Palestinian violence in the context of the second intifada
conªrms the Palestinian desire for war and bloodshed, not negotiations and
compromise. Fifth, the Palestinians seek Israel’s destruction through the right
palestinian rejection of barak’s generous offer
According to the Israeli/U.S. version, each time Israel and/or the United
States put forward a pathbreaking plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conºict,
the Palestinians rejected it. Barak put the problem succinctly: “[Arafat] missed
every opportunity presented to him to achieve a permanent peace for his peo-
ple.”12 From the Israeli perspective, the Palestinians rejected three generous
proposals: the Israeli offer at Camp David (July 2000), the Clinton plan (De-
cember 2000), and the Israeli offer at Taba (January 2001).
On the ªrst anniversary of the 2000 Camp David summit, Deborah Sontag
wrote an investigative piece on why it failed with details from many of the
participants. The article suggested that Israeli and U.S. missteps were an im-
portant factor. This assessment contrasted sharply with the dominant narrative
that placed nearly all the blame for the summit’s failure on Yasir Arafat’s in-
transigence on key issues.13
According to Barak, Clinton took strong exception to Sontag’s analysis:
“What the hell is this? Why is she turning the mistakes we [i.e., the United
States and Israel] made into the essence? The true story of Camp David was
that for the ªrst time in the history of the conºict the American president put
on the table a proposal, based on UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338
[of 1967 and 1973], very close to the Palestinian demands, and Arafat refused
even to accept it as a basis for negotiations, walked out of the room, and delib-
erately turned to terrorism. That’s the real story—all the rest is gossip.”14 Like
Barak and other Israeli participants at Camp David, the former president had
International Security 28:2 10
12. Ehud Barak, “Israel Needs a True Partner for Peace,” New York Times, July 30, 2001, p. 17. See
also Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Answers to Frequently Asked Questions,” updated Au-
gust 2002, http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0i9o0.
13. Deborah Sontag, “Quest for Mideast Peace: How and Why It Failed,” New York Times, July 26,
2001, p. A1.
14. Benny Morris, “Camp David and After: An Exchange (1. An Interview with Ehud Barak),”
New York Review of Books, June 13, 2002, pp. 42–45 at p. 42.
no doubt that Arafat was responsible for turning down the Israeli offer for a
two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conºict.
As Israeli and many U.S. ofªcials portrayed the situation, both the Israeli of-
fer at Camp David and the Clinton plan were groundbreaking. In a statement
at the close of the Camp David summit, President Clinton told reporters that
Barak “showed particular courage, vision, and an understanding of the histori-
cal importance of this moment.” This positive assessment stood in sharp relief
to his faint praise for Arafat: “Arafat made it clear that he, too, remains com-
mitted to the path of peace.”15 In the words of New York Times columnist
Thomas Friedman, Barak offered the “unthinkable” and the “unprece-
dented.”16 Clinton and Barak, Friedman later wrote, described “a historic
compromise proposal that would have given Palestinians control of 94 to 96
percent of the West Bank and Gaza—with all the settlements removed, virtu-
ally all of Arab East Jerusalem, a return to Israel of a symbolic number of Pales-
tinian refugees and either the right of return to the West Bank and Gaza or
compensation for all the others.”17
In the view of Israeli and U.S. ofªcials, every deal failed because of Arafat’s
rejectionism. One year after Camp David, Barak said that he became prime
minister “either to unmask Arafat” or to see if Arafat was a “Palestinian Sadat”
who could end the Israeli-Palestinian conºict.18 For Barak, Arafat was no
Anwar Sadat, the late president of Egypt who signed a historic peace treaty
with Israel in 1979: “At Camp David, Mr. Arafat well understood that the mo-
ment of truth had come and that painful decisions needed to be made by both
sides. He failed this challenge.”19 Former U.S. special envoy to the Middle East
Dennis Ross described how Arafat scuttled the Clinton plan as well, despite
the delayed but ofªcial Palestinian acceptance: “Arafat came to the White
House on January 2 . Met with the president, and I was there in the Oval
Ofªce. He said yes, and then he added reservations that basically meant he re-
Visions in Collision 11
15. “President William J. Clinton Statement on the Middle East Peace Talks at Camp David,” July
25, 2000, http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/mid027.htm.
16. Thomas Friedman, “The Best of Enemies,” New York Times, February 16, 2001, p. 19; and
Thomas Friedman, “Arafat’s War,” New York Times, October 13, 2000, p. 33. See also William Saªre,
“Hamas vs. Abbas,” New York Times, May 1, 2003, p. 35.
17. Thomas Friedman, “It Only Gets Worse,” New York Times, May 22, 2001, p. 19.
18. Ehud Barak interviewed by Lally Weymouth, “Barak: Die or Separate,” Newsweek, July 23,
2001, p. 28. See also Ron Pundak, “From Oslo to Taba: What Went Wrong?” Survival, Vol. 43, No. 3
(Autumn 2001), pp. 31–45 at p. 39.
19. Barak, “Israel Needs a True Partner for Peace.” See also Shimon Peres, “Why Security Must Be
Globalized,” New York Times, June 16, 2002, p. 13; and interview with Israeli negotiator Oded Eran,
CNN Morning News, July 26, 2000, http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0ho30.
jected every single one of the things he was supposed to give.”20 Later that
month, the same fate befell Taba, the ªnal effort to save the Oslo process,
which began with the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian declaration of princi-
ples on September 13, 1993. Former Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Shlomo
Ben-Ami explained: “At Taba, too, they didn’t budge. A dream proposal is on
the table, but the Palestinians are in no hurry.”21
absence of a palestinian counterproposal
In the eyes of Israeli and some U.S. negotiators, the Palestinians not only re-
jected the historic Israeli offer at Camp David, but they also presented no
counterproposals. According to this view, Arafat and members of the Palestin-
ian negotiating team refused to play a constructive role and build on the posi-
tive elements of Israeli and U.S. proposals. Nor did they show any ºexibility or
willingness to compromise on key issues.22
Both during and after the 2000–01 negotiations, Israeli and U.S. ofªcials have
stressed the absence of Palestinian ideas on settling the conºict. According to
Barak, “[Arafat] did not negotiate in good faith; indeed, he did not negotiate at
all. He just kept saying ‘no’ to every offer, never making any counterproposals
of his own.”23 This was true, according to Ben-Ami, even in the face of Israeli
concessions: “The whole time [at Camp David] we waited to see them make
some sort of movement in the face of our far-reaching movement. But they
didn’t.”24 Ross attributes similar thoughts to Clinton after Camp David: Arafat
had “been here fourteen days and said no to everything.”25
palestinian refusal to accept israel’s right to exist
For Israel, the Palestinian failure to respond positively to its historic offer
reºected an even deeper problem: The Palestinians, led by Arafat, did not rec-
International Security 28:2 12
20. Dennis Ross interviewed by Brit Hume, “Transcript: Dennis Ross, Former U.S. Special Envoy
to the Middle East,” FOX News Sunday, April 21, 2002, http://www.foxnews.com/story/
0,2933,50830,00.html. See also Raviv Drucker, Harakiri (Tel Aviv: Yedioth Ahronoth Books, 2002),
pp. 379–380; Sher, “An Israeli View”; Sher (summary of remarks prepared by Liat Radcliffe), “The
Brink of Peace? An Inside Look from Camp David to Taba,” Peacewatch, No. 318, April 18, 2001,
http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/watch/Peacewatch/peacewatch2001/318.htm; and Shlomo
Ben-Ami interviewed by Ari Shavit, “End of a Journey,” Ha’aretz (magazine), September 14, 2001,
pp. 10–15, 29.
21. Ben-Ami interviewed by Ari Shavit, “End of a Journey,” p. 29. See also Barak, “Israel Needs a
True Partner for Peace,” p. 17.
22. Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “The Conclusion of the Camp David Summit: Key Points,”
July 25, 2000, http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0hnm0.
23. Quoted in Morris, “Camp David and After,” p. 42.
24. Ben-Ami interviewed by Shavit, “End of a Journey,” p. 14.
25. Dennis Ross, “Camp David: An Exchange,” New York Review of Books, September 20, 2001, p. 9.
ognize Israel’s right to exist, a sine qua non for a negotiated settlement. At best,
they consider a two-state solution as just another stage in the conºict, one that
would ultimately improve their ability to destroy all of Israel. Barak was ada-
mant on this point: “What they [Arafat and his colleagues] want is a Palestin-
ian state in all of Palestine. What we see as self-evident, [the need for] two
states for two peoples, they reject.”26 In the negotiations, Barak saw “that at the
deepest level Arafat does not accept the moral and juridical right of the State of
Israel to exist as a Jewish state. That...Arafat’s obsession is not to establish
Palestinian sovereignty in part of the land but ‘to correct the injustice of
1948’—in other words, to destroy the State of Israel.”27
Other Israeli ofªcials echoed Barak’s charge. “[Arafat] doesn’t accept the
idea of two states for two peoples,” said Ben-Ami, “He may be able to make
some sort of partial, temporary settlement with us—though I have my doubts
about that, too—but at the deep level, he doesn’t accept us. Neither he nor the
Palestinian national movement accept us.”28 Given this view of the Palestinian
position, the talks were doomed. As one Israeli journalist put it, “Arafat be-
lieves that to compromise in areas such as Jerusalem and refugees would mean
accepting Israel’s moral legitimacy. This he will never do, and this is why
Camp David and Taba had to fail.”29
war and bloodshed versus negotiations and compromise
The second intifada and the unwillingness of the Palestinian Authority to stop
it, argue Israelis and some U.S. ofªcials, are proof that at minimum the Pales-
tinians reject a negotiated resolution to the conºict—if not Israel’s right to ex-
ist. The Palestinian leadership planned and initiated the second intifada.
Pursuing a negotiated settlement and engaging in a massive wave of terrorism
Israelis have little doubt in their belief that Arafat and the Palestinians
wanted to use violence after the failure at Camp David. According to Barak:
“We know, from hard intelligence, that Arafat intended to unleash a violent
confrontation, terrorism.”30 The intifada, says Barak, “was preplanned, pre-
prepared. I don’t mean that Arafat knew that on a certain day in September [it
Visions in Collision 13
26. Morris, “Camp David and After,” p. 42.
27. Ehud Barak interviewed by Ari Shavit, “Eyes Wide Shut,” Ha’aretz (magazine), September 6,
2002, pp. 8–12, 14, at p. 11.
28. Ben-Ami interviewed by Shavit, “End of a Journey.” See also Sher, “An Israeli View.”
29. David Makovsky, “Taba Mythchief,” National Interest, Spring 2003, pp. 119–129 at p. 128.
30. Morris, “Camp David and After,” p. 43. See also Martin S. Indyk, “Is Yasser Arafat a Credible
Partner for Peace?” testimony before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, Special Over-
sight Panel on Terrorism, 107th Cong., 2d sess., June 6, 2002.
would be unleashed]. ...Itwasn’t accurate, like computer engineering. But it
was deªnitely on the level of planning, of a grand plan.”31 Gilead Sher, an Is-
raeli negotiator, agreed: After Camp David and into the fall of 2000, “Arafat
sought the appropriate timing and excuse to introduce an additional element
into the arena: violence.”32
To the Israeli government, the launching of the second intifada was a rejec-
tion of the Oslo process because the Oslo agreements committed Israel and the
PA to resolve their differences through negotiations, not the use of force.33 The
Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) characterization of the uprising captures this senti-
ment: “The disturbances . . . show that the Palestinian Authority sees the use of
unbridled violence as a legitimate and effective means of advancing their ob-
jectives. In this way the Palestinians have undermined the basic concept of the
peace process, which was not resorting to violence as a means to achieve politi-
cal goals.”34 According to another ofªcial Israeli version, “Israel had sought to
resolve differences with the Palestinians at the negotiating table, yet the Pales-
tinian Authority was unwilling to abandon its strategy of armed struggle.”35
Friedman supported these assessments, suggesting that the intifada be called
“Arafat’s War”: “This explosion of violence would be totally understandable if
the Palestinians had no alternative. But that was not the case....[The violence]
came in the context of a serious Israeli peace overture, which Mr. Arafat has
chosen to spurn. That’s why this is Arafat’s war.”36 Thus, had Arafat been seri-
ous about a negotiated settlement, he would have reined in the militants and
the destruction of israel through the right of return
Israeli negotiators also came to believe that in addition to attacking Israel di-
rectly through terrorism, the Palestinians planned to use a ªnal settlement of
the Palestinian refugee issue as a second avenue for eliminating the Jewish
International Security 28:2 14
31. Morris, “Camp David and After,” p. 43.
32. Sher, “An Israeli View.” For a view from the Israeli right, see Dore Gold, “Only Buffer Zones
Can Protect Israel,” New York Times, February 27, 2002, p. 21.
33. See article 15 of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles (Oslo 1) and article 31 of the
Oslo 2 agreement. Oslo 1 and 2 are available at http://www.mideastweb.org/meoslodop.htm and
34. “Overview of the Violence in the Territories, 29 September–9 November 2000,” http://
35. Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Answers to Frequently Asked Questions: Palestinian Vio-
lence and Terrorism—The International War against Terrorism,” January 2002. For the August 2002
version, see http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0i9o0.
36. Friedman, “Arafat’s War.” See also Ross, “Camp David: An Exchange.”
state. By forcing Israel to accept 4 million Palestinian refugees, the Palestinians
could permanently change Israel’s demographic balance, making Jews a mi-
nority in their own state. With a Palestinian majority, Israel’s Jewish identity
could be eliminated through democratic means.
The Israeli/U.S. version suggests that refugees are a vital tool in the Palestin-
ian plot against Israel. Barak called the right of return “a euphemism for the
elimination of Israel.”37 New York Times columnist William Saªre shared this
conclusion: “By ºooding Israel with ‘returning’ Palestinians, the plan in its
promised ªnal phase would drive the hated Jews from the Middle East.”38 The
Palestinian leadership “do[es] not want, merely, an end to the occupation—
that is what was offered back in July–December 2000, and they rejected the
deal. They want all of Palestine and as few Jews in it as possible. The right of
return is the wedge with which to prise open the Jewish state.”39
Evaluating the Israeli/U.S. Version
The ªve claims made by Israeli and some U.S. ofªcials to explain the failure of
the Israeli-Palestinian talks and the outbreak of the second intifada are seri-
ously ºawed. Moreover, they lead to unwarranted conclusions about the rea-
sons for failure and the likelihood of an eventual comprehensive agreement.
Contrary to these claims, I argue that the 2000–01 negotiations laid the ground-
work for progress toward a settlement.
rejecting barak’s generous offer
The Israeli offer at Camp David, the Clinton plan, and the Israeli proposals at
Taba all broke new ground for Israel and the United States. In each case, the
Palestinian negotiators accepted some signiªcant points and also broke new
ground. They did not reject the Israeli/U.S. proposals in toto.
At Camp David, the Israeli offer was unprecedented, but it was neither as
generous nor as complete as Israel has since suggested. With the Clinton plan,
Visions in Collision 15
37. Barak interviewed by Weymouth, “Barak: Die or Separate.” See also Morris, “Camp David and
38. William Saªre, “Not Arafat’s Fault?” New York Times, July 30, 2001, p. 17.
39. Benny Morris, “Peace? No Chance,” Guardian (magazine), February 21, 2002, pp. 2, 4 of G2. See
also Thomas Friedman, “Nine Wars Too Many,” New York Times, May 15, 2002, p. 23; Akiva Eldar,
“How to Solve the Palestinian Refugee Problem,” Ha’aretz, May 29, 2001, p. 4; Ari Shavit, “The
Right of Return at Taba,” Ha’aretz, July 11, 2002, p. 5; Ari Shavit, “The Security Umbrella of Vic-
tory,” Ha’aretz, August 8, 2002, p. 5; and Uzi Benziman, “Rolling to Where?” Ha’aretz, March 31,
2002, p. 5.
Israeli and U.S. negotiators correctly noted that Palestinian ofªcials had seri-
ous reservations about proposals for the West Bank, Palestinian refugees, and
the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary. In explaining the failure of the diplomatic
route, however, they did not highlight the signiªcant Israeli reservations about
the Clinton plan on many of the same issues. The Taba talks were serious, and
important developments took place. The Palestinians did not reject another
an incomplete offer at camp david. At Camp David, Israel made a major
concession by agreeing to give Palestinians sovereignty in some areas of East
Jerusalem and by offering 92 percent of the West Bank for a Palestinian state
(91 percent of the West Bank and 1 percent from a land swap). By proposing to
divide sovereignty in Jerusalem, Barak went further than any previous Israeli
Nevertheless, on some issues the Israeli proposal at Camp David was not
forthcoming enough, while on others it omitted key components. On security,
territory, and Jerusalem, elements of the Israeli offer at Camp David would
have prevented the emergence of a sovereign, contiguous Palestinian state.
These ºaws in the Israeli offer formed the basis of Palestinian objections.
Israel demanded extensive security mechanisms, including three early
warning stations in the West Bank and a demilitarized Palestinian state. Israel
also wanted to retain control of the Jordan Valley to protect against an Arab in-
vasion from the east via the new Palestinian state. Regardless of whether the
Palestinians were accorded sovereignty in the valley, Israel planned to retain
control of it for six to twenty-one years.40
Three factors made Israel’s territorial offer less forthcoming than it initially
appeared. First, the 91 percent land offer was based on the Israeli deªnition of
the West Bank, but this differs by approximately 5 percentage points from the
Palestinian deªnition. Palestinians use a total area of 5,854 square kilometers.
Israel, however, omits the area known as No Man’s Land (50 sq. km near
Latrun),41 post-1967 East Jerusalem (71 sq. km), and the territorial waters of the
International Security 28:2 16
40. This is not to say that Israel’s position was six to twenty-one years. Rather, Ze’ev Schiff,
Ha’aretz’s senior military correspondent, claimed that it was twenty-one years; Jerome Slater, an
American academic, claimed six to twelve. Ze’ev Schiff, “Drawing a New Red Line,” Ha’aretz, Jan-
uary 5, 2001, p. A4; and Jerome Slater, “What Went Wrong? The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian
Peace Process,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 116, No. 2 (Summer 2001), pp. 171–199 at p. 183. At
Camp David on July 16, 2000, Charles Enderlin quoted Gilead Sher as proposing twenty years dur-
ing which Israel would gradually withdraw from the valley. Enderlin, Shattered Dreams: The Failure
of the Peace Process in the Middle East, 1995–2002 (New York: Other Press, 2003), pp. 208, 213.
41. The land was designated as such in the 1949 Israeli-Jordanian armistice talks.
Dead Sea (195 sq. km), which reduces the total to 5,538 sq. km.42 Thus, an Is-
raeli offer of 91 percent (of 5,538 sq. km) of the West Bank translates into only
86 percent from the Palestinian perspective.
Second, at Camp David, key details related to the exchange of land were left
unresolved. In principle, both Israel and the Palestinians agreed to land swaps
whereby the Palestinians would get some territory from pre-1967 Israel in ex-
change for Israeli annexation of some land in the West Bank. In practice, Israel
offered only the equivalent of 1 percent of the West Bank in exchange for its an-
nexation of 9 percent. Nor could the Israelis and Palestinians agree on the terri-
tory that should be included in the land swaps. At Camp David, the
Palestinians rejected the Halutza Sand region (78 sq. km) alongside the Gaza
Strip, in part because they claimed that it was inferior in quality to the West
Bank land they would be giving up to Israel.43
Third, the Israeli territorial offer at Camp David was noncontiguous, break-
ing the West Bank into two, if not three, separate areas. At a minimum, as
Barak has since conªrmed, the Israeli offer broke the West Bank into two parts:
“The Palestinians were promised a continuous piece of sovereign territory ex-
cept for a razor-thin Israeli wedge running from Jerusalem through from [the
Israeli settlement of] Maale Adumim to the Jordan River.”44 The Palestinian ne-
gotiators and others have alleged that Israel included a second east-west sa-
lient in the northern West Bank (through the Israeli settlement of Ariel).45 If
true, the salient through Ariel would have cut the West Bank portion of the
Palestinian state into three pieces.
Thus, at Camp David, the total Palestinian land share of the West Bank
would have been closer to 77 percent for the ªrst six to twenty-one years. Israel
Visions in Collision 17
42. Applied Research Institute–Jerusalem, “The Withdrawal Percentages: What Do They Really
Mean?” January 2001, http://www.poica.org/casestudies/Withdrawal-Percentages1-1-2001/
43. Clyde Haberman, “Israeli Cabinet Rules Out Idea of Exchange of Territory,” New York Times,
July 16, 2001, p. 6.
44. Morris, “Camp David and After,” p. 44. Enderlin, Shattered Dreams, p. 201, quoted Clinton as
noting this line.
45. The map produced by Palestinians at the Orient House, the unofªcial headquarters of the Pal-
estine Liberation Organization in Jerusalem, after the Camp David summit included two divisions
(and thus the Palestinian share of the West Bank would have been in three parts). The map was in-
tended to be a reconstruction of what Israel had proposed at the summit. See http://www.
orienthouse.org/dept/images/Maps/ecartediplo.eng.html. Amira Hass echoed this charge in
“The Compromise That Wasn’t Found at Camp David,” Ha’aretz, November 14, 2000, p. 4. This
second salient through Ariel could have been a single salient under Israeli sovereignty. It also
could have been a combination of two elements: an Israeli salient from pre-1967 Israel to Ariel
combined with Israeli control of the neighboring Jordan Valley.
planned to annex 9 percent of West Bank territory while giving the Palestinians
the equivalent of 1 percent from pre-1967 Israel. Israel proposed retaining con-
trol of 10 percent or more of the Jordan Valley and did not include roughly
5 percent annexation in the total (e.g., Latrun and parts of East Jerusalem).
Although Barak received signiªcant credit for proposing to divide Jerusa-
lem, he did not offer full Palestinian sovereignty in all the Arab neighborhoods
and villages of East Jerusalem. Israel offered full Palestinian sovereignty in
outlying areas of East Jerusalem, including Abu Dis, al-Aysawiyah, Shu’fat,
Bayt Hanina, Qalandiya, al-Thuri, Umm Tuba, al-Sawahirah al-Gharbiyah,
Kafr Aqb, and Samir Amis.46 Israel offered only Palestinian functional auton-
omy, not Palestinian sovereignty, in core Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusa-
lem, including al-Shaykh Jarrah, al-Suwwanah, al-Tur, Salah-al-Din Street, Bab
al-Amud (Damascus Gate), Ra’s al-Amud, and Silwan.47 When combined with
uncertainties about the future disposition of the Old City of Jerusalem, this
meant that Israel would retain signiªcant sovereign rights in Arab areas of
The distinction between sovereignty and functional autonomy in Jerusalem
and the issue of Israeli east-west salients running through the West Bank speak
directly to the history of relations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. For
Israelis, control of a single, thin road that stretched across the West Bank might
have seemed nonthreatening and not like a border at all. Yet given Israel’s re-
peated closures of Palestinian areas, extensive use of checkpoints, and empha-
sis on asserting every right in past agreements, the Palestinians probably
feared that narrow salients or even individual roadways could very quickly
become permanent divisions. Barak’s later claim, for instance, that “Palestinian
territorial continuity would have been assured by a tunnel or bridge” might
sound hollow given such promises as the long-delayed travel corridor linking
the Gaza Strip and West Bank for Palestinians.48 The same held true for Jerusa-
International Security 28:2 18
46. Yossi Beilin, then the Israeli minister of justice, concurred and also added Qalandiya. See re-
port on an interview with Beilin by Walid Abu-al-Zuluf and Mahir al-Shaykh, al-Quds (Jerusalem),
August 2, 2000, pp. 1, 22, in Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), August 4, 2000. One Is-
raeli media account mentioned al-Ram and Anata in this category. See Ben Kaspit, “Jerusalem’s
Partition Plan,” Ma’ariv, July 27, 2000, p. 2, in FBIS, July 31, 2000.
47. Akram Haniyah, “Camp David Papers,” al-Ayyam, August 3, 2000, 4th installment, in FBIS,
August 28, 2000. An abridged version of Haniyah’s writings appear in “The Camp David Papers,”
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Winter 2001), pp. 75–97. An Israeli account added Jabal al-
Mukabbir and described the proposed Palestinian powers as “local administrative rights, such as
autonomy.” Kaspit, “Jerusalem’s Partition Plan.” See also Robert Malley, “Fictions About the Fail-
ure at Camp David,” New York Times, July 8, 2001, p. 11.
48. Morris, “Camp David and After,” p. 44.
lem: Functional autonomy is not the same as sovereignty, and that distinction
could come back to haunt Palestinians in the future.
At Camp David, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators made little progress on
the right of return for Palestinian refugees. It was not a central focus of the
talks at the summit. According to one Palestinian negotiator, “The refugee is-
sue did not budge one inch at Camp David.”49
Although the Israeli offer at Camp David was not generous or complete, on
two issues the Palestinian representatives could have been more constructive.
First, the Palestinians rejected several compromise formulas for the Temple
Mount/Noble Sanctuary, in part because the Palestinian delegation claimed
that it did not have the authority to make such compromises on behalf of all
Arabs and Muslims. In addition to supporting compromise formulas on the
Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary as a whole, Israel asked for a “prayer corner”
on the site, which the Palestinians rejected.50 In post-summit talks, Ben-Ami
suggested that in exchange for Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple
Mount/Noble Sanctuary, the Palestinians would agree not to excavate on the
site “because [it] is sacred to the Jews.”51 The Palestinians refused. Palestinian
opposition is not surprising given the claim by some Palestinians that Jews
have no tie to the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary; Arafat has asserted that
there never was a Jewish temple on the site.52 The historical inaccuracy of such
claims undermines Palestinian credibility.53
Second, the Palestinians could have framed the summit and its contents
more constructively. They rightly noted many of the shortcomings of U.S. and
Israeli proposals, but they did too little to recognize the Israeli concessions. For
example, they did not acknowledge that Barak had come much closer to the
Palestinian position on Jerusalem than previous Israeli leaders.
Visions in Collision 19
49. An interview with Muhammad Dahlan, “A Palestinian View—Nothing Tangible Was on the
Table,” July 15, 2002, edition 26, http://www.bitterlemons.org/previous/bl150702ed26.html.
Yossi Beilin, who was not at Camp David, concurs in Madrikh Le-Yonah Petsuah [Manual for a
wounded dove] (Tel Aviv: Yedioth Ahronoth Books, 2001), p. 130.
50. Kaspit, “Jerusalem’s Partition Plan.” The prayer corner is also mentioned by Slater, “What
Went Wrong?” p. 186.
51. Ben-Ami interviewed by Shavit, “End of a Journey,” p. 15.
52. Enderlin, Shattered Dreams, pp. 281–282; Akram Haniyah, “Camp David Papers,” al-Ayyam,
August 6, 2000, 5th installment, and August 10, 2000, 7th installment, in FBIS, August 28–29, 2000;
Janine Zacharia, “Ross to ‘Post’: Palestinians Missed Historic Opportunity,” Jerusalem Post, January
19, 2001, pp. A1, A14; and Morris, “Camp David and After.”
53. For more on the connection between Jerusalem and the ancient Jewish Temple, see Israel
Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel
and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (New York: Free Press, 2001).
After Camp David, the United States explicitly tested the Palestinian com-
mitment to a diplomatic resolution of the conºict. In response to a Palestinian
request for greater U.S. involvement, Washington’s message was explicit.
According to Ross: “If you want us to do something, you have to demonstrate
to us that you’re prepared to be serious and you’re prepared to work these is-
sues out.” The Palestinians passed this U.S. test by initiating a private channel
with Israeli negotiators in August and September 2000 that focused on Jerusa-
lem and security issues.54
mutual reservations to the clinton plan. Israeli and U.S. ofªcials point
to the Palestinians’ response to the Clinton plan as further proof of Palestinian
rejectionism. Their charge that the Palestinians said yes but offered reserva-
tions that vitiated the plan is largely true.
The Israeli/U.S. view omits the other half of the story, however: Israel also
had serious reservations that undermined the Clinton plan. If the expression of
major qualms was tantamount to rejection, Israel too rejected this plan. Indeed,
Barak presented Clinton with a twenty-page document of reservations, later
implying that two of his major reservations concerned Palestinian sovereignty
over the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary and the right of return.55 In early
January 2001, Barak publicly stated that he would not accept Palestinian sover-
eignty over the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, even though the Clinton plan
called for Palestinian sovereignty only over the Noble Sanctuary (the Haram).
In a speech to the Israel Policy Forum on January 7, 2001, Clinton used paral-
lel language to sum up the standing of his plan. He stated, “Both Prime Minis-
ter Barak and Chairman Arafat have now accepted these parameters as the
basis for further efforts. Both have expressed some reservations.”56
productive discussions at taba cut short. The talks at Taba demon-
strated that Israel and the Palestinian Authority were committed to the Clinton
plan and, more generally, to a negotiated solution to the conºict. Several im-
International Security 28:2 20
54. Dennis Ross, “From Oslo to Camp David to Taba: Setting the Record Straight,” August 8, 2001,
55. Barak interviewed by Shavit, “Eyes Wide Shut,” p. 11. See the main elements of Israel’s reser-
vations to the Clinton plan in Gilead Sher, B’Merchak Negia [Just beyond reach] (Tel Aviv: Yedioth
Ahronoth Books, 2001), pp. 372–374. In a private interview, one U.S. diplomat noted differences in
how the Israeli government and the PA handled their responses to the Clinton plan. Israel quickly
accepted the plan and presented its serious reservations separately. The PA responded more slowly
and coupled its acceptance with the presentation of signiªcant reservations.
56. Bill Clinton, “Speech on Middle East Policy,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Spring
2001), pp. 173–175 at p. 174.
portant disagreements lingered, but with more time the two parties might
have bridged the remaining gaps.
According to most sources, the Israelis and Palestinians saw the Clinton plan
as the framework for the Taba talks. In their concluding communiqué, the
negotiators noted that the “two sides took into account the ideas suggested by
President Clinton together with their respective qualiªcations and reserva-
tions.”57 According to U.S. negotiator Ross, “What was done in Taba was basi-
cally to focus on the Clinton ideas.”58 The Moratinos summary of Taba
frequently mentions the Clinton plan and its ideas. On the issue of territory,
Moratinos notes, “The Clinton parameters served as a loose basis for the dis-
cussion, but differences of interpretations regarding the scope and meaning of
the parameters emerged. The Palestinian side stated that it had accepted the
Clinton proposals but with reservations.”59 David Makovsky, an Israeli jour-
nalist, challenged this assessment, citing in particular statements by Palestin-
ian negotiator and then-speaker of the legislature Ahmed Qorei (a.k.a. Abu
Ala) that the Palestinians “refused to accept the Clinton initiative as a basis for
The talks at Taba did not bridge all the gaps separating the Israelis and Pal-
estinians. For instance, neither side accepted the exact parameters of the
Clinton plan for the territorial division of the West Bank. The majority of the Is-
raeli delegation favored retaining control of 8 percent of the West Bank. One Is-
raeli map proposed annexing 6 percent and leasing an additional 2 percent
from the new Palestinian state.61 Part of Arafat’s hesitancy in endorsing the
Clinton plan was based on the belief that Israel wanted 8 percent, not 4–6 per-
Visions in Collision 21
57. “Israeli-Palestinian Joint Statement at Taba.”
58. Ross, “From Oslo to Camp David to Taba.” Ross, however, was not at the Taba talks.
Menachem Klein, a professor at Bar Ilan University and an adviser to the Israeli delegation to the
Camp David summit, agrees. See Klein, Shovrim Tabu: ha-maga’im le-hesder keva bi-Yerushalayim,
1994–2001 [Shattering a taboo: The contacts toward a permanent status agreement in Jerusalem,
1994–2001] (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 2001), p. 75.
59. Eldar, “The Peace That Nearly Was at Taba,” p. 4.
60. Qorei’s statement to al-Ayyam on January 29, 2001, and in Sher, B’Merchak Negia, p. 398, are
cited in Makovsky, “Taba Mythchief,” p. 122. See also Sher, B’Merchak Negia, p. 406.
61. See section 1.1 of the Moratinos summary in Eldar, “The Peace That Nearly Was at Taba,” p. 4.
See also Enderlin, Shattered Dreams, pp. 341–343, 352; and David Matz, “One Effort to Understand
One Negotiation,” University of Massachusetts, Boston, December 2002. Matz interviewed seven-
teen of the twenty-eight negotiators and professional staff who had been at Taba. Ben-Ami pre-
sented a different map to the Palestinians with 5 percent Israeli annexation. Israel’s 8 percent ªgure
may have been Barak’s bottom line, or it may have been a bargaining tactic. See Drucker, Harakiri,
p. 400; and Sher, B’Merchak Negia, p. 404.
cent of the West Bank.62 The Palestinians presented a map showing a 3 percent
Israeli annexation, but continuing differences over the deªnition of the West
Bank clouded the issue. The Palestinian ªgure included Israeli annexation of
Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and parts of the Latrun salient. Thus
what was 3 percent to Palestinians was only 2 percent to Israelis. Israeli repre-
sentatives believed that Israel would be unable to annex 150,000 West Bank set-
tlers and thereby minimize settler withdrawals.63
Most analysts believe that with more time or another meeting (and without
an Israeli election for prime minister on February 7, 2001), the two sides could
have compromised on these issues as well.64 Ariel Sharon won the election,
and his government chose not to continue the government’s high-level talks
with the Palestinians.
lack of a palestinian response
According to Israeli and some U.S. ofªcials, the Palestinian negotiators never
produced a comprehensive draft framework and were often, especially at
Camp David, in a reactive mode. From the Palestinian perspective, however,
the PA had already accepted the compromises embedded in the international
frame of reference for the conºict. Furthermore, the Palestinians made several
central concessions to Israel during the talks.
To understand the differences on this issue, one has to recognize the interna-
tional frame of reference used by the Palestinians. The Palestinians have long
argued that the basis for an agreement with Israel is embodied in UN Security
Council resolutions 242 and 338 and UN General Assembly resolution 194
(1948). Resolution 242 calls for Arab acceptance of Israel in exchange for terri-
tories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war; this is the principle of land for peace.
Palestinians cite resolution 194 as the basis for the right of return. By invoking
these UN resolutions, Palestinians believe they have put forward a proposal
for a ªnal and complete settling of the conºict.65
Moreover, starting with Camp David, important Palestinian concessions cut
across a range of permanent-status issues. The Palestinians agreed that Israel
International Security 28:2 22
62. Enderlin, Shattered Dreams, p. 343.
63. Drucker, Harakiri, p. 400.
64. Eldar, Enderlin, Alain Gresh (Le Monde), Matz, and Pundak all believe that, based on what
transpired at Taba, an agreement could have been attained with more time. Makovsky claims that
the parties were still far apart.
65. See, for instance, Mustafa Barghouti, “Generous to Whom?” al-Ahram Weekly On-line, May 10–
16, 2001, http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2001/533/op2.htm.
could annex some settlement blocs (including Ariel in the north, some parts of
the Latrun salient, and the Etzion bloc near Bethlehem). They also agreed that
Israel could annex Israeli/Jewish neighborhoods (settlements) established in
East Jerusalem since 1967 such as Gilo, Neve Ya’acov, and Pisgat Ze’ev. Though
the two sides differed on the size and location of the swaps, the Palestinians ac-
cepted the principle of such swaps as compensation for West Bank territory to
be annexed by Israel.66 They also discussed Israeli security measures, agreeing
on the stationing of an international force in the Jordan Valley. They disagreed,
however, on whether the force would include Israelis.67 Furthermore, the Pal-
estinians at both Camp David and Taba had their own maps of proposed land
divisions of the West Bank.68
One problem with Israeli-Palestinian understandings of what constitutes a
compromise or concession is the gap between principles and implementation.
For instance, it became clear at Taba that although the two sides had agreed
that Israel could annex certain settlement blocs, the Israeli and Palestinian ter-
ritorial deªnitions of these settlement blocs were different. Israel wanted to
annex land that would allow for further settlement growth, while the Palestin-
ians opposed annexation of land for such growth, especially as it would mean
more Palestinian villages annexed by Israel.
This dilemma is well illustrated by the Taba discussions about Ma’ale
Adumim, a large settlement/suburb to the east of Jerusalem. Ofªcially, the Pal-
estinians said they did not want Israel to annex it. Unofªcially, however, they
would accept the proposal as long as Israel agreed not to annex the roads and
sparsely developed land between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim.69
Another problem involves the 1947 UN partition plan and the 1948 Arab-
Israeli War. Israel is currently sovereign in 78 percent of the total territory ap-
portioned under the 1947 UN plan. Palestinian acceptance of Israel concedes
Visions in Collision 23
66. For a brief review of Palestinian concessions at Camp David, see Malley, “Fictions About the
Failure at Camp David.” See also Hasan Asfour, “Right of Reply/Ben-Ami’s Occupation Syn-
drome,” Ha’aretz (magazine), October 19, 2001, p. 23. On Jerusalem, see Beilin, Madrikh Le-Yonah
Petsuah, p. 132.
67. Ben-Ami interviewed by Shavit, “End of a Journey,” p. 13. See Ross interviewed by Hume,
“Transcript: Dennis Ross”; and Morris, “Camp David and After,” p. 44. For Klein’s view, see Akiva
Eldar, “A Million Israelis, One Consultant, and a Researcher,” Ha’aretz, May 2, 2002, p. 4. At Taba,
on the issue of border control at the border of Palestine with Jordan, Israel still called for an Israeli
presence. See Sher, B’Merchak Negia, p. 403.
68. The Palestinians presented a map at Camp David. See Ben-Ami interviewed by Shavit, “End of
a Journey,” p. 15; and Enderlin, Shattered Dreams, p. 242. For a copy of the Taba map, see Enderlin,
Shattered Dreams; see also Drucker, Harakiri, p. 400; and Sher, B’Merchak Negia, pp. 405–406.
69. Matz, “One Effort to Understand One Negotiation.”
this amount of land to the Israeli state. Thus many Palestinians are reluctant to
part with much of the remaining 22 percent and, as a result, argue that de-
mands for further concessions on the West Bank are not legitimate.70 For many
Israelis, however, this uneven division of the land is a direct result of Arab and
Palestinian rejection of the 1947 UN partition plan. It is not Israel’s fault, they
contend, that only 22 percent of the land is now under negotiation, and there-
fore a call for further Palestinian concessions with regard to the division of the
West Bank is an acceptable Israeli demand.
the palestinians do not accept israel’s right to exist
Four indicators suggest that Israeli concerns about Israel’s future existence are
overstated. These indicators of Palestinian intent include the historical evolu-
tion of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian nation-
alist movement, the PA’s intensive negotiating approach at Camp David and
later, alternate explanations for Palestinian behavior that concerns Israel, and
polling data. Furthermore, Israeli existential concerns ignore Israel’s over-
whelming military power and inºuence.
The historical evolution of the Palestinian national movement has been
away from total victory and toward a compromise settlement. Palestinian lead-
ers have made risky decisions that go beyond negotiating for the sake of pleas-
ing U.S. diplomats, setting the stage for breakthroughs in 1988, 1991, and 1993.
In December 1988, in discussions facilitated by the United States after the Pal-
estinian declaration of statehood of November 15, the PLO emphasized its ad-
herence to UN resolutions 242 and 338, acceptance of Israel’s right to exist, and
condemnation of terrorism. In 1991, Palestinian leaders agreed to support the
Madrid conference, an Arab-Israeli peace conference sponsored by the United
States and the Soviet Union, even though Israel had vetoed an independent
Palestinian delegation. The PLO was not formally represented at the talks.71
Since 1993, PLO and then PA leaders have made signiªcant concessions
regarding the pace of territorial withdrawal and the framing of future Israeli-
Palestinian negotiations. Although opposition to Israeli settlements and sup-
International Security 28:2 24
70. See, for instance, PLO Negotiations Affairs Department, “Memorandum: Lessons Learned
Concerning U.S. Involvement in the Palestinian-Israeli Peace Process over the Last Seven Years,”
January 20, 2001, http://www.nad-plo.org/eye/news19.html; Asfour, “Right of Reply”; and Ben
Kaspit’s interview with Marwan Barghouti, “Assassinate Me. So What? You’ll Miss Me Yet: The In-
tifada Will Continue Even after Me,” Ma’ariv, November 9, 2001, pp. 2–3.
71. For more on the evolution of the Palestinian position, see Yezid Sayigh, Armed Struggle and the
Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement, 1949–1993 (New York: Oxford University Press,
port for Palestinian statehood were fundamental elements of the Palestinian
position, the PLO and PA leadership agreed to a process that called for neither
a halt to Israeli settlements nor guaranteed Palestinian statehood as the end-
point. The Palestinian evolution was apparent when Arafat and other Palestin-
ians leaders wrote op-eds in 2002 that endorsed a compromise solution.72
More important, some might wonder why the Palestinians would quibble
over details at the Camp David summit when they could get Gaza and 90 per-
cent of the West Bank as a launching pad for the elimination of Israel.73 Critics
of the PLO and PA have long decried Palestinian tactics of seeking to destroy
Israel in stages. Their rejection of the offer at Camp David is thus strong evi-
dence against this claim. Palestinian negotiators negotiated as if they expected
to abide by any agreements and live for the long term within the framework of
a two-state solution.
Two alternative explanations account for evidence that the PA seeks to de-
stroy Israel: domestic politics and bargaining strategy. Palestinian leaders may
pursue policies not because they want to destroy Israel, but because vocal and
often armed domestic political factions demand such policies and would not
support alternatives. Domestic political survival, especially in a highly frag-
mented actor such as the Palestinian entity, can easily trump negotiations and
peacemaking. In addition, negotiators achieve the best outcome when they
hold ªrm. Leaders do not make a concession until they must. If they show
signs of weakness or appear too eager to compromise, the other party will
pocket the concessions and offer nothing in return.
Domestic politics and bargaining strategy, for instance, can explain the Pal-
estinian Authority’s failure to imprison the entire leadership of Hamas and
disarm its members. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, so on one
level this suggests that the PA is complicit in Hamas’s objective. It may be,
however, that such a crackdown would result in a Palestinian civil war and
possibly the removal of the current PA leadership. PA leaders could face not
only Hamas and its supporters but also many secular-nationalist Palestinians
who believe that, in attacking Hamas, the PA was only doing Israel’s bidding.
At a minimum, the PA might want to avoid such a confrontation until it has
Visions in Collision 25
72. See Marwan al-Barghuthi, “Want Security? End the Occupation,” Washington Post, January 16,
2002, p. A19; Mohammed Dahlan, “Our Partners in Life in This Land,” Ha’aretz, January 31, 2002,
p. 5; and Yasser Arafat, “The Palestinian Vision of Peace,” New York Times, February 3, 2002, p. 15.
73. Stephen Van Evera brought this point to my attention. Ross agreed that Arafat’s behavior did
not ªt with a staged approach to Israel’s destruction. See interview with Ross, “From Oslo to
Camp David to Taba.”
made enough gains on the ªnal status issues to allow it to use those gains to
justify to the Palestinian public the end of the armed struggle and the disman-
tling of those organizations that continue to pursue it.
Confronting Hamas would be risky, as both Israelis and Palestinians were
well aware. The PA negotiators might want to use the possibility of a confron-
tation with Hamas as a bargaining chip to elicit concessions from Israel. As
with the domestic politics explanation, they do not take a position vis-à-vis
Hamas because they support the Islamists’ goals but rather because of what
the negotiators need or hope to get out of moving against Hamas.
Many Palestinians, like Israelis, support a two-state resolution to the conºict.
This support has been especially strong when the talks have been going well.
Public opinion is sensitive to the state of Israeli-Palestinian relations, so an-
swers to fundamental questions on which one might expect people to have
ªxed viewpoints can vary signiªcantly based on the state of the environment.74
Public support for extreme solutions such as the destruction of Israel coexists
with public support for a negotiated two-state solution. For example, in a De-
cember 2001 poll, 43.9 percent of Palestinians saw the goal of the second inti-
fada as the liberation of all of Palestine, including pre-1967 Israel; in another
poll, 73 percent supported Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation based on a Pales-
tinian state recognized by Israel.75 In late September 2002, 44 percent of Pales-
tinians said they preferred a two-state solution, a higher percentage than those
who supported either a single, binational state in Israel, the West Bank, and
Gaza “where Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal rights” (28.9 percent) or a
single, Palestinian state (10.4 percent).76
To this point, I have focused on Palestinian intentions. The entire debate
about Palestinian intentions, however, is less consequential than many Israelis
sometimes suggest because the Palestinians do not have the capabilities to
eliminate Israel. Israel is backed by the United States, the world’s only super-
power. In addition to possessing hundreds of nuclear weapons, Israel has a
massive qualitative conventional military advantage over not only the Pales-
International Security 28:2 26
74. Questions on fundamental issues include those that address whether the other side has a right
to exist in an independent state and whether force and violence are the best means to achieve one’s
75. Amira Hass, “Most Palestinians Want to ‘Liberate All of Historic Palestine,’” Ha’aretz, June 13,
2002, p. 2; and Deutsche Presse-Agentur, “Most Palestinians Favor Cease-Fire,” Ha’aretz, December
26, 2001. See also Danny Rubinstein, “Compromise Still Exists–In the Polls,” Ha’aretz, January 27,
76. An additional 12.6 percent thought there was no solution. The margin of error was 3 percent.
See question 12 in “On Palestinian Attitudes towards the Palestinian Situation and the Second An-
niversary of the Intifada,” Jerusalem Media & Communication Centre Public Opinion Poll No. 46,
September 21–25, 2002, http://www.jmcc.org/publicpoll/results/2002/no46.htm.
tinians but also the Arab states. The 2003 removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime
in Iraq has only increased Israel’s relative strength in the region. Therefore, the
long-held fear of an attack on Israel’s eastern front through the West Bank no
terrorism versus negotiations
The outbreak of the second intifada did not signal fundamental Palestinian op-
position to a negotiated settlement with Israel. Instead, it revealed major mis-
calculations both on the part of PA leaders as to what the uprising could
achieve for Palestinians and on the part of Israeli leaders as to the likely Pales-
tinian reaction to the use of overwhelming military force.
In the late 1990s, both sides began to prepare for the eruption of violence.
The situation in the West Bank and Gaza was tense: Some Palestinian leaders,
especially younger leaders such as Marwan Barghouti, leader of Fatah in the
West Bank,78 thought that the threat of force would push Israel to accept a gen-
uine two-state solution. Meanwhile, the IDF argued that Israel had been too
soft on the Palestinians in past confrontations such as the 1996 tunnel riots and
the May 2000 al-Nakba riots. If renewed ªghting broke out, the IDF was pre-
pared to use overwhelming force to quickly crush Palestinian resistance.79
More generally, in 2000 the Oslo process was behind schedule, and for many
Palestinians, their freedom of movement and economic standing had only
worsened since 1993. U.S. ofªcials pushed for the summit at Camp David in
part to act before a violent outbreak. On the Palestinian side, some leaders
thought that protest and violence would release the pressure building among
the Palestinian people as a result of increasing economic troubles, the growth
of Israeli settlements, and the delay in concluding the Oslo process and acquir-
Visions in Collision 27
77. For a related discussion, see Ze’ev Schiff, “Frozen in Place,” Ha’aretz, April 30, 2003.
78. Fatah, led by Arafat, is the dominant faction within the PLO. Fatah, a secular nationalist orga-
nization, is the reverse acronym for the Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine (Harekat
at-Tahrir al-Wataniyyeh al-Falastiniyyeh).
79. Ben Kaspit, “Israel Is Not a State That Has an Army but Rather an Army That Has a State At-
tached to It,” Ma’ariv, September 6, 2002, pp. 8–11, 32 of Rosh Hashanah supplement; Ben Kaspit,
“The Army Will Decide and Approve,” Ma’ariv, September 13, 2002, pp. 6–10 of the Sabbath sup-
plement; Yezid Sayigh, “Arafat and the Anatomy of a Revolt,” Survival, Vol. 43, No. 3 (Autumn
2001), pp. 47–60; Khalil Shikaki, “Palestinians Divided,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 81, No. 1 (January/
February 2002), pp. 89–105; Aluf Benn, “In Israel, Too Much to Leave to the Generals,” Washington
Post, August 18, 2002, p. B1; Jeremy Pressman, “The Second Intifada: Background and Causes of Is-
raeli-Palestinian Conºict,” Journal of Conºict Studies, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Fall 2003); and Menachem
Klein, “The Origins of Intifada II and Rescuing Peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” Foundation for
Middle East Peace Current Analysis, October 2, 2002.
In this environment, the decision by both the Israelis and the Palestinians
not to exercise restraint after Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount/Noble
Sanctuary and the initial Palestinian protests to the visit proved catastrophic.
Palestinian ofªcials asked Israeli and U.S. ofªcials to block the visit. As the
Mitchell report, commissioned in October 2000 by the United States in consul-
tation with the UN secretary-general to look at the origins of the intifada and
suggest ways to end it, concluded, Sharon’s visit “did not cause the ‘Al-Aqsa
Initifada.’ But it was poorly timed and the provocative effect should have been
foreseen; indeed it was foreseen by those who urged that the visit be prohib-
ited.”80 Israel responded to the Palestinian protests by immediately imple-
menting the IDF’s plan of using overwhelming force to crush the Palestinians.
The IDF’s lack of restraint led to greater bloodshed, more motivated and pro-
longed opposition, and an escalatory spiral.
As Israel’s response played out in the ªrst days, Arafat rebuffed PA ofªcials
who feared that the violence would worsen the Palestinian position. Instead,
he sided with Barghouti and others who felt the clashes would force Israel to
accept a fair two-state solution. Barghouti later called the ªghting the “intifada
of peace,” declaring that it was the only way to convince Israel to end its occu-
pation. As a result, the PA did not rein in the militants.81 A prominent Palestin-
ian pollster explained the motivation of the young generation of Palestinian
activists, “The failure to achieve a breakthrough at Camp David afªrmed these
younger leaders’ belief that the Palestinians could end the occupation on their
own terms only through armed popular confrontation.”82 The Mitchell report
emphasized the same factors in explaining the violence: “More signiªcant
[than Sharon’s visit] were the events that followed: the decision of the Israeli
police on September 29 to use lethal means against the Palestinian demonstra-
tors; and the subsequent failure...ofeither party to exercise restraint.”83
destroying israel through the right of return
For many Palestinian refugees, the right of return is driven by personal fac-
tors—they lost their homes, land, and livelihoods, and they want them back.
International Security 28:2 28
80. Report of the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee, full text of the report completed on April
30, 2001 and published on May 20, 2001, http://www.state.gov/p/nea/rls/rpt/3060.htm, p. 7.
81. On Arafat’s decision to capitalize on the violence, see Sayigh, “Arafat and the Anatomy of a
Revolt,” p. 49. See also Marwan Barghouti interviewed by Kaspit, “Assassinate Me. So What?”
p. 3. In this discussion, I do not address Hamas and the Islamist role in the early days of the second
82. Shikaki, “Palestinians Divided,” p. 97.
83. Report of the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee, p. 7.
Whether the effort to return is based on hatred for Israel or a desire for life be-
fore 1948, the practical implication is the same. Acknowledging Palestinians’
personal motivations, however, means that the confrontation with Israel is
about more than an anti-Semitic, irrational desire to throw the Jews into the
The Israeli assumption that Palestinians want to use the right of return to
eliminate Israel also reºects the difªculty in distinguishing bargaining strate-
gies and domestic political imperatives from this supposed objective. If the
right of return meant that 4 million Palestinian refugees could move to Israel,
the solution traditionally called for by the Palestinians, Israel would cease to
have a Jewish majority. Israel might exist but not as a Jewish state, so support
for the right of return and support for a meaningful two-state solution might
seem mutually exclusive. For that reason, however, the right of return is the
Palestinians’ best bargaining chip. Moreover, in terms of domestic politics, it is
a core issue for Palestinians and a difªcult one on which to sell a concession to
the Palestinian people—especially the more than 1 million Palestinians living
in the refugee camps in neighboring Arab states such as Jordan, Lebanon, and
Syria. Presenting compromises on the right of return becomes even more
difªcult unless these are balanced with signiªcant gains in other areas.
During the negotiations in 2000–01, both parties made important conces-
sions on the refugee issue, although those on the Palestinian side were more
profound. What becomes clear is that even if the parties were not on the verge
of an agreement, they had set forth and discussed the components of what
could one day be a robust solution to the refugee question. In short, they nego-
tiated and in doing so left a useful toolbox for future attempts to address the
right of return.
Israeli negotiators discussed mechanisms that would have increased Israeli
involvement in resolving the refugee question. Israel has long accepted a small
number of refugees under a family reuniªcation program. At Taba, Israeli rep-
resentatives considered accepting additional refugees beyond the existing fam-
ily reuniªcation program. Israel also considered agreeing to express some
regret for the creation of Palestinian refugees in 1948.84 When presenting his
Visions in Collision 29
84. In general, see Akiva Eldar, “How to Solve the Palestinian Refugee Problem”; and Akiva Eldar,
“Sir, If You Please, Tear Down Your House,” Ha’aretz, May 31, 2001, p. 4. See also the Clinton plan;
Yossi Beilin, “An Israeli View: Solving the Refugee Problem,” December 31, 2001, edition 5, http://
www.bitterlemons.org/previous/bl311201ed5.html; Eldar, “The Peace That Nearly Was at Taba”;
and Alain Gresh, “The Middle East: How the Peace Was Lost,” Le Monde, September 2001, http://
mondediplo.com/2001/09/01middleeastleader. Le Monde published what it claimed to be an Is-
plan, President Clinton told both parties, “I believe that Israel is prepared to
acknowledge the moral and material suffering caused to the Palestinian people
as a result of the 1948 war.”85
During the 2000–01 period, Palestinian negotiators moved away from de-
manding the unconditional right of return, focusing instead on a compromise
solution with ªve elements. First, there would not be an unconditional right of
return. To sell this idea to the Palestinian public, the PA’s approach has been to
separate the right of return from the implementation of return: that is, in ex-
change for Israel acknowledging the theoretical right of refugees to return even
to pre-1967 Israel, the PA would agree to signiªcant limitations on the manner
in which this right could be exercised. At Camp David, where little progress
was made on this issue, the Palestinians accepted that the right of return
should be implemented in a way that protected Israeli security and demogra-
phy, two key Israeli concerns. According to Ross, “Even though they were not
prepared to give up the principle of right of return, they were prepared to talk
about practical limitations on how it might be carried out.”86 Arafat later ech-
oed this remark: “We understand Israel’s demographic concerns and under-
stand that the right of return of Palestinian refugees, a right guaranteed under
international law and United Nations Resolution 194, must be implemented in
a way that takes into account such concerns.”87 Ben-Ami claims that at Taba
the Palestinian representatives said, “We have to establish the right of return
and then discuss the mechanisms.”88
According to one account, Palestinian negotiators may have even conceded
the right of return to pre-1967 Israel. David Matz, who interviewed the major-
ity of Taba negotiators, suggested that some Taba documents on refugees have
not been made public because “concessions were made for which the parties
would now prefer not to accept responsibility. The only issue that could gener-
ate this much heat would be a Palestinian concession on the right of return.”
International Security 28:2 30
raeli non-paper, “Private Response to Palestinian Refugees,” January 23, 2001, http://
mondediplo.com/focus/mideast/a3277. Barak told Shavit this was a “bad document” and was
“not a document of the State of Israel.” Le Monde also published “Palestinian Paper on Refugees,”
January 22, 2001, http://mondediplo.com/ focus/mideast/a3276. See also Drucker, Harakiri,
p. 397; and Matz, “One Effort to Understand One Negotiation.”
85. Clinton, “Proposals for a Final Settlement,” p. 172.
86. Ross, “From Oslo to Camp David to Taba.” See also Malley, “Fictions About the Failure at
Camp David”; Gresh, “The Middle East: How the Peace Was Lost”; and Hussein Agha and Robert
Malley, “Camp David and After: An Exchange (2. A Reply to Ehud Barak),” New York Review of
Books, June 13, 2002.
87. Arafat, “The Palestinian Vision of Peace.”
88. Ben-Ami interviewed by Shavit, “End of a Journey.”
The Palestinians, he continues, waived the right of return to Israel in exchange
for Israeli acceptance of “at least partial responsibilities” for the origins of the
The second element of compromise was that Israel would be only one of sev-
eral possible destinations for the 1948 refugees. At Camp David, Israel and the
United States did not support the possibility of Israel as a destination for Pales-
tinian returnees. In the Clinton plan, however, the president proposed ªve lo-
cations for resettling the refugees: (1) the new Palestinian state, (2) swapped
areas that had been part of pre-1967 Israel but were now to be annexed to the
Palestinian state, (3) host Arab countries, (4) third countries (e.g., Canada), or
(5) Israel. The right of return, however, would only apply to the new Palestin-
ian state and the swapped areas annexed to it. States in the other three catego-
ries—host countries, third countries, and Israel—would retain the sovereign
right to accept or reject Palestinian refugees.90
Third, the number of Palestinians allowed to return to Israel would be lim-
ited, and Israel would likely retain the right to decide whom to accept. As early
as talks in Stockholm, Sweden, in the spring of 2000, Palestinian negotiators
were open to the idea of a cap on the number of Palestinian refugees allowed
into Israel. Israel suggested 10,000–15,000 over a number of years. According
to Ben-Ami, “[the Palestinian negotiators] Abu Ala and Hassan Asfour didn’t
accept those ªgures, but they showed readiness to enter substantive talks
and to discuss numbers.” He adds, however, that after Stockholm Mahmoud
Abbas (aka Abu Mazen), then a senior Palestinian negotiator and secretary-
general of the PLO Executive Committee, was opposed to talking numbers.91
By the time of the Taba talks, both sides were discussing ªgures. Minister of
Justice Yossi Beilin, apparently without authorization from Barak, ªrst sug-
gested to a Palestinian team led by Nabil Sha’ath a total of 25,000 Palestinian
returnees to Israel over three years, which he later amended to 40,000 over ªve
years. The latter ªgure was to be over and above those Palestinians accepted
under Israel’s family reuniªcation program.92 The Moratinos summary men-
tions these ªgures, but states that the Palestinians did not present a number.
Visions in Collision 31
89. Matz, “One Effort to Understand One Negotiation.”
90. See Clinton, “Proposals for a Final Settlement,” pp. 172–173. See also Yossi Sarid, leader of
Meretz (a party to the left of Barak’s Labor Party), quoted in Gresh, “The Middle East: How the
Peace Was Lost.”
91. Ben-Ami interviewed by Shavit, “End of a Journey,” pp. 11–12.
92. Drucker, Harakiri, pp. 398–399. Beilin conªrmed the 25,000 ªgure in Yossi Beilin interviewed by
Akiva Eldar, “The Refugee Problem at Taba,” Palestine-Israel Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2 (2002), pp. 12–13.
The Palestinians did, however, discuss numbers at Taba. The highest Palestin-
ian ªgure in “various information papers that were passed around” was
150,000 refugees a year over a ten-year period for a total of 1.5 million.93 Moshe
Amirav, chairman of Barak’s team of experts on Jerusalem, said that the Pales-
tinians suggested 150,000 to 300,000 in total.94 Others have mentioned 200,000,
the same number of Palestinians in East Jerusalem who “would drop off the Is-
raeli demographic rolls” when the Palestinians assumed control of East Jerusa-
lem.95 Sha’ath reportedly mentioned this ªgure to Beilin at Taba; early in the
talks, Sha’ath told Beilin that the PA needed Israel to take the Palestinian refu-
gees from Lebanon, who numbered about 250,000.96 “The Ra’is [Arafat] told
me to return with a six-digit number,” Sha’ath said to Beilin. Beilin understood
this to mean 100,000.97 Amirav claims that Sha’ath and the late Faisal Husseini,
the Palestinian political representative in Jerusalem, told him that if Israel ac-
cepted 200,000 Palestinians, Arafat would have agreed.98
Fourth, both parties consented to the creation of a multibillion-dollar com-
pensation fund.99 Much of the funding for the plan would come from the
United States and West European states. The funding might be structured in a
way that offers ªnancial incentives to Palestinian refugees not to seek return to
Finally, the PA negotiators accepted that the agreement on refugees would
satisfy the Palestinian right of return in toto. The Palestinian negotiators were
not truly tested on this point because a complete agreement was never
reached. This is a key point because some Israelis argue that any acceptance of
the right of return or of UN resolution 194 opens Israel’s doors to millions of
The PA’s position has become even more conciliatory since the last talks at
Taba in early 2001. When the Palestinian Authority submitted an ofªcial docu-
ment on the core issues to the United States in June 2002, it did not base the ref-
International Security 28:2 32
93. Ben-Ami interviewed by Shavit, “End of a Journey.”
94. Moshe Amirav, “Soul of a Politician,” Ha’aretz, October 12, 2001, p. 19. Amirav teaches at the
University of Haifa.
95. Sontag, “Quest for Mideast Peace: How and Why It Failed,” p. A11; and Drucker, Harakiri,
p. 398. Beilin mentioned this in a later op-ed as well. See Yossi Beilin, “What Really Happened at
Taba,” Ha’aretz, July 15, 2002, p. 5.
96. Private discussion with Palestinian nongovernmental leader, April 2002; and Drucker, Harakiri,
97. Drucker, Harakiri, p. 398.
98. Amirav, “Soul of a Politician.”
99. See Ross interviewed by Hume, “Transcript: Dennis Ross”; and Eldar, “A Million Israelis, One
Consultant, and a Researcher.”
100. Shavit, “The Right of Return at Taba”; and Shavit, “The Security Umbrella of Victory,”
Ha’aretz, August 8, 2002.
ugee claim on the right of return. Instead, the document—given to Secretary of
State Colin Powell by Sha’ath—called for a “fair and agreed upon solution”
and referred speciªcally to resolution 194.101 In addition, some inºuential Pal-
estinian politicians have publicly called for changes in the Palestinian ap-
proach to the refugee problem that would make a resolution acceptable to
Israel more likely. On October 15, 2001, Sari Nusseibah, the PA’s political repre-
sentative in Jerusalem, told an Israeli audience at Hebrew University: “The
Palestinians have to realize that if we are to reach an agreement on two states,
then those two states will have to be one for the Israelis and one for the Pales-
tinians, not one for the Palestinians and the other also for the Palestinians.”102
In 2002, both Abbas (at the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria) and Sha’ath (at the
Rashadiyah refugee camp in Lebanon) warned refugees that returning to Israel
was not a desirable option.103 In 2003, a top Palestinian pollster found that only
10 percent of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and the occupied territo-
ries would seek to return to Israel if granted the right.104
The Palestinian Version of the Failure of the Negotiations
The Israeli version of the Camp David summit and the related talks has over-
shadowed the Palestinian version of the same events. Only a year after the
summit did the Palestinian version get much attention, and much of this was
due to efforts by non-Palestinians. Whereas early efforts such as Akram
Haniyah’s eight-part series in al-Ayyam, a Palestinian newspaper, or the Pales-
Visions in Collision 33
101. The document also calls for Israeli sovereignty in the Jewish Quarter and over the Wailing
(but not Western) Wall. For the text of the June 15, 2002 document, see http://www.mopic.gov.ps/
102. Sari Nusseibah, excerpts from a speech delivered at Hebrew University, October 15, 2001, as
quoted in Joel Greenberg, “Palestinian Offers Idea: Get Israelis on Our Side,” New York Times, Octo-
ber 17, 2001, p. 7. Nusseibah told the Associated Press that “the refugees should be resettled in a
future Palestinian state, ‘not in a way that would undermine the existence of the state of Israel as a
predominantly Jewish state.’” Quoted in Dan Perry, “Palestinians’ Jerusalem Envoy: Insisting on
Right of Return Was a Key Error,” Associated Press, October 23, 2001. For a discussion of the de-
bate as well as the claim that the Fatah youth organization endorsed Nusseibah’s position, see Sari
Hanaª, “Opening the Debate on the Right of Return,” Middle East Report, No. 222 (Spring 2002),
http://www.merip.org/mer/mer222/222_hanaª.html. See also “Ziyad Abu Zayad’s Statement of
Principles,” Ha’aretz, July 23, 2002, p. 4.
103. Akiva Eldar, “Marwan Barghouti’s New Year’s Wishes,” Ha’aretz, September 5, 2002, p. 4; and
Nabil Sha’ath interviewed by Akiva Eldar, “The Refugee Problem at Taba,” Palestine-Israel Journal,
Vol. 9, No. 2 (2002), p. 22.
104. Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) press release, “Results of PSR Ref-
ugees’ Polls in the West Bank/Gaza Strip, Jordan, and Lebanon on Refugees’ Preferences and Be-
havior in a Palestinian-Israeli Permanent Refugee Agreement,” July 18, 2003, http://www.pcpsr.
org/survey/polls/2003/refugeesjune03.html. See also James Bennet, “Palestinian Mob Attacks
Pollster,” New York Times, July 14, 2003, p. 1.
tinian submissions to the Mitchell Commission were largely overlooked, arti-
cles by Robert Malley and Deborah Sontag in the summer of 2001 received
considerable attention.105 Although not following the ofªcial Palestinian
line, they took exception to the dominant Israeli/U.S. narrative and thus
offered different approaches for understanding the failure of the negotiations
Palestinians did not view the Israeli offer at Camp David as generous.
Rather, many saw it as a façade behind which Israel was continuing its occupa-
tion of the West Bank and Gaza. For Palestinians, the intifada was not the re-
sult of Palestinian planning but rather of mounting frustration with the Israeli
occupation, Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, and the
harsh Israeli response to the Palestinian protests that it sparked.
negotiations to deepen the occupation
According to some Palestinian ofªcials, Israel wanted a settlement only if it al-
lowed for permanent Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. During
the Camp David summit at a July 19 meeting, Arafat warned Clinton: “I will
not give the occupation legitimacy so that it will continue.”106 Haniyah, editor
of al-Ayyam and a member of the Palestinian delegation, was one of the ªrst to
write publicly about this argument: “[At Camp David, the] Israelis came to
consolidate the gains of their war in 1967, and not to make peace that removes
the traces of this war. They came to reorganize and legitimize the occupation,
instead of searching for a language for dialogue on living and coexisting with
neighbors and partners.”107 According to another Palestinian observer, “Barak
wanted Camp David to serve as his exit strategy from a peace process that was
leading inevitably closer to ending the occupation.”108
International Security 28:2 34
105. Malley, “Fictions About the Failure at Camp David”; Sontag, “Quest for Mideast Peace”;
Agha and Malley, “Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors”; Akiva Eldar, “What Went Wrong at
Camp David—The Ofªcial Palestinian Version,” Ha’aretz, July 24, 2001, p. 4; and Lee Hockstader,
“A Different Take on Camp David Collapse,” Washington Post, July 24, 2001, p. A17. See also Gra-
ham E. Fuller, “Start with Palestinian Statehood,” Los Angeles Times, April 18, 2002, p. B15; Ewen
MacAskill, “The Real Deal,” Guardian, April 14, 2001, p. 20; and Robert Wright, “Was Arafat the
Problem?” Slate, April 18, 2002, http://slate.msn.com/?id?2064500.
106. Quoted in Haniyah, “Camp David Papers,” al-Ayyam, August 6, 2000, ªfth installment, in
FBIS, August 28, 2000.
107. Haniyah, “Camp David Papers,” al-Ayyam, August 3, 2000, fourth installment, in FBIS, Au-
gust 28, 2000. See also Negotiations Affairs Department of the PLO, “Camp David Peace Proposal
of July 2000: Frequently Asked Questions,” n.d., http://www.nad-plo.org/eye/news38.html;
Eldar, “What Went Wrong at Camp David—The Ofªcial Palestinian Version”; and Gideon Levy,
“Dahlan’s Complaint,” Ha’aretz (magazine), April 13, 2001, pp. 6–8.
108. Ghassan Khatib, “A Palestinian View—Camp David: An Exit Strategy for Barak,” July 15,
2002, edition 26, http://www.bitterlemons.org/previous/bl150702ed26.html. Khatib was not a
On the core issues, the Palestinians argued, the Israeli negotiating position at
the summit was designed to consolidate indeªnite Israeli occupation. Marwan
Barghouti explained: “We agreed to make do with 22% of historic Palestine. At
Camp David you tried to take from this small portion an enclave here, a bloc
there, the Jordan Valley, border crossings, Jerusalem. This is a state? This is a
solution? This is justice?”109 On security issues at Camp David, “Israel contin-
ued to demand measures that would have represented a perpetuation of the
military occupation.”110 On the land issue, the Israeli offer at Camp David, ac-
cording to Ahmed Qorei, “would have carved Israeli-controlled cantons out of
the West Bank and dashed any hopes for a viable, territorially contiguous Pal-
estinian state.”111 Moreover, “Israel’s [territorial] proposals would have trans-
formed the ‘end to Israeli occupation’ promised in 1991 into the wholesale
annexation by Israel of the areas most vital to the hoped-for Palestinian state
and the continued presence of Israeli soldiers on a large portion of the remain-
Many Palestinians assert that Israel rejects the idea of genuine Palestinian
self-determination and a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel. According to
Haniyah, “Arafat was aware that he was facing a plan, which aims at ªnishing
off the essence of Palestinian national rights. His calculations were correct.”113
Hassan Asfour, a senior negotiator, agreed about Israel’s intent: “Israel, mean-
while, has yet to recognize our right to establish an independent and sovereign
state according to the June 1967 borders. The sovereignty of any nation must
be genuine, practical and meaningful. I am doubtful whether Israel, at any mo-
ment during the negotiations, accepted such an interpretation.”114 Whereas the
Palestinians believed that resolutions 242 and 338 would serve as guiding prin-
Visions in Collision 35
member of the PAleadership during Camp David, but he was minister of labor in the PA when he
wrote this article.
109. Barghouti interviewed by Kaspit, “Assassinate Me. So What?” p. 3. See also Levy, “Dahlan’s
Complaint,” pp. 7–8; Tanya Reinhart, Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948 (New York: Seven
Stories Press, 2002); Khatib, “A Palestinian View—Camp David”; and “Preliminary Submission of
the Palestine Liberation Organization to the International Commission of Inquiry,” December 8,
2000, p. 10. For links to all the Palestinian submissions to the Mitchell Committee (the Interna-
tional Commission of Inquiry), see http://www.nad-plo.org/mitchel%20report%20docs/
110. Executive summary, “Third Submission of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the Sharm
el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee,” April 3, 2001, p. 8. See also Levy, “Dahlan’s Complaint,” p. 7;
and “Third Submission of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Find-
ing Committee,” April 3, 2001, pp. 48–49.
111. Hockstader, “A Different Take on Camp David Collapse.”
112. “Third Submission of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-
Finding Committee,” p. 48.
113. Haniyah, “Camp David Papers,” al-Ayyam, August 6, 2000, ªfth installment.
114. Asfour, “Right of Reply.”
ciples, “Israel’s attitude of lawlessness and its repeated acts of provocation
have eroded Palestinian conªdence that Israel stands by those principles.”115
In short, “Nowhere evident in the proposals [at Camp David was]...theprin-
ciple of self-determination.”116
the second intifada—planned or spontaneous?
The Palestinian version asserts that three factors caused the second intifada:
the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, which deepened
during the Oslo years and created an explosive situation at the popular level;
Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, which sparked Palestin-
ian protests; and Israel’s unrestrained response to the protests the next day.117
Throughout the Oslo process, Israel continued to expand settlements and
conªscate land. Despite expectations to the contrary, the quality of life for Pal-
estinians declined, fomenting a sense of “frustration and hopelessness.”118
Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary “came as the ªnal blow”;
to Palestinians his visit was “an inherently inºammatory political maneu-
ver.”119 It was the “spark” or “triggering event.”120
In the Palestinian version, Israel’s response the next day ignited the intifada:
“Still, the matter might not have led to a new uprising had the Israeli occupa-
tion forces acted with restraint on the next day.”121 Ghassan Khatib claimed
that the harsh response was planned by Israel: “Barak’s army and police then
activated a military plan to brutally shut down civilian protests against the
[Sharon] visit, killing tens of Palestinian demonstrators and decisively trans-
forming relations between the two sides from peaceful negotiations into
International Security 28:2 36
115. “Third Submission of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-
Finding Committee,” p. 24.
116. Ibid., p. 50.
117. One Palestinian document characterizes the Sharon visit and the harsh Israeli response to Pal-
estinian protest as the immediate cause of the intifada and the occupation and lack of progress to-
ward peace as the underlying cause. See PLO Negotiations Affairs Department, “The Palestinian
Uprising against Occupation,” fact sheet, n.d., http://www.nad-plo.org/fact_sheets_faq/faq1.
118. “Preliminary Submission of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the International Com-
mission of Inquiry,” p. 10. See also “A Crisis of Faith: Second Submission of the Palestine Libera-
tion Organization to the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee,” December 30, 2000.
119. “Preliminary Submission of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the International Com-
mission of Inquiry,” p. 10.
120. “A Crisis of Faith: Second Submission of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the Sharm
el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee.” See also Asfour, “Right of Reply.”
121. “A Crisis of Faith: Second Submission of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the Sharm
el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee.” See also Asfour, “Right of Reply”; and Mohammed Dahlan,
“We’ll Choose Our Leaders,” Guardian, July 2, 2002, p. 13.
bloody confrontation.”122 For the Palestinians, Israel alone is responsible for
the escalation of violence.
Evaluating the Palestinian Version
The evidence suggests that the Palestinian narrative of the 2000–01 peace talks
is signiªcantly more accurate than the Israeli narrative. At Camp David, Is-
rael’s position—whether intended or not—was arguably an extension of the
occupation under a different guise. The Palestinian narrative, however, over-
looks an important fact: By the time of the Clinton plan and the talks at Taba,
Israel had moved much closer to accepting the Palestinians’ minimum de-
mands. Over time, Israeli leaders seemed to gain a greater understanding of
what it would take to have a two-state solution and the end of the Israeli occu-
pation. The Palestinian explanation for the second intifada, based on the deep-
ening Israeli occupation in the 1990s, Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount/
Noble Sanctuary, and Israel’s harsh response to the resultant Palestinian pro-
tests is accurate as far as it goes, but it omits a crucial factor: the failure of the
PA to try to restrain Palestinian militants.
diplomacy to prolong the occupation
Israeli governments have generally been willing to defy Israeli public opinion
and offer concessions in pursuit of a diplomatic solution. In 1978–79, Israel’s
Likud-led government agreed to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula despite
the opposition of many of its own supporters. In mid-1993, Israeli Prime Min-
ister Yitzhak Rabin signed off on secret talks with the PLO in Oslo at a time
when much of the Israeli public opposed dealing with PLO terrorists. In No-
vember 1995, Rabin paid with his life for signing peace agreements with the
In 2000–01, Barak’s government grew increasingly aware of the concessions
needed on the core issues of land, security, and Jerusalem. As a result, its nego-
tiating position moved closer to the minimum Palestinian demands. Over
time, Israel increased the amount of land it was willing to give to the Palestin-
ians. At Camp David, its best offer was 92 percent, which included 91 percent
of the West Bank plus a land swap for 1 percent from pre-1967 Israel. The
Clinton plan called for 97 percent, which included 94–96 percent of the West
Visions in Collision 37
122. Khatib, “A Palestinian View—Camp David.”
Bank plus a land swap for 1–3 percent from pre-1967 Israel. At Taba, Israel put
forward two ªgures: 95 percent, and 94 percent but with an additional 2 per-
cent of the West Bank leased by Israel.123 Neither included land swaps.
As noted earlier, at Camp David, Barak hoped to have a presence in the Jor-
dan Valley for six to twenty-one years after the agreement, but by the time
of the Clinton plan, the ªgure was ªrmly six years.124 According to Ben-Ami,
Israel had dropped its call for Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley by Sep-
At Camp David, Israel made a major concession by agreeing to give Pales-
tinians sovereignty in some areas of East Jerusalem. In proposing to divide
Jerusalem, Barak went further than any previous Israeli leader, but stopped
short of offering full Palestinian sovereignty in all Arab areas of East Jerusa-
lem. By Taba, however, Israel was ready to accept Palestinian sovereignty in all
Arab areas of East Jerusalem, though the future of the Old City and the Temple
Mount/Noble Sanctuary, in particular, remained a sticking point.
In addition to speciªc changes in Israeli proposals from the Camp David
summit to the Taba talks, domestic political and bargaining explanations ac-
count for evidence that is sometimes cited as proof of Israeli intransigence. Just
before Camp David, Israel continued building settlements, skipped an agreed-
upon redeployment from West Bank land, and did not proceed with a pullback
from Abu Dis and two other villages on the outskirts of East Jerusalem as pre-
viously agreed. In addition, Barak issued his ªve no’s: no return to the 1967
borders, no division of Jerusalem, no total abandonment of settlements, no for-
eign army west of the Jordan River, and no right of return for thousands of
Palestinian refugees.126 Many Palestinians interpreted these actions and state-
ments as a sign that the Israeli government did not want to end the occupation.
Barak, however, was seeking to protect his domestic standing by convincing
the Israeli public that he would not cave easily; he wanted to appear to be a
tough bargainer to Palestinians as the two sides entered high-level talks. Dec-
ades ago, Thomas Schelling clearly captured the dilemma: “They all run the
risk of establishing an immovable position that goes beyond the ability of the
International Security 28:2 38
123. According to the Moratinos notes on the Taba talks, the ªgures were 94 percent (Israel) and
96.9 percent (Palestinians). Israel, he wrote, requested 2 percent under a lease arrangement. The
maps from Taba appear in Enderlin, Shattered Dreams, between pages 238 and 239.
124. Clinton, “Proposals for a Final Settlement,” p. 172.
125. Ben Ami interviewed by Shavit, “End of a Journey,” pp. 14–15.
126. Danna Harman and Janine Zacharia, “Barak Appeals for Public Support: Foreign Minister
Levy Opts Out of Summit Delegation,” Jerusalem Post, July 10, 2000, p. 1.
other to concede, and thereby provoke the likelihood of stalemate or break-
A majority of Israelis have come to accept the idea of a Palestinian state. In
late April 2002, 52 percent of Israelis supported a “regional conference based
on the establishment of two states for two peoples and on the basis of the
Saudi initiative calling for a full withdrawal from the territories in exchange
for peace with all the Arab countries.” Opposition stood at 39 percent.128 In
early December 2002, 58 percent of Israelis said they would favor the establish-
ment of a Palestinian state if “Israel and the Palestinians eventually reach a
stage of negotiations that is progressing toward a peace agreement.” Thirty-
seven percent said they would oppose the creation of such a state, which sug-
gests that outright rejectionism is in the minority.129
the second intifada—a premeditated uprising
The deepening of the Israeli occupation during the Oslo years, Sharon’s visit to
the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, and Israel’s massive use of force against
Palestinian protesters the following day caused the second intifada. But this
leaves out the role of both Arafat and other PA leaders as well as the Tanzim, a
Fatah paramilitary organization often said to be under Marwan Barghouti’s
control, in the escalation of the violence. This is a signiªcant omission. Had the
Palestinian Authority attempted to rein in the Palestinian militants, the escala-
tion would likely have been more limited.
Younger Palestinian militants within the secular-nationalist camp, including
Barghouti and Nasser Aweis, a senior Tanzim leader in the northern West
Bank, favored the use of violence to push Israel toward a two-state solution. In
this they differed with some senior Palestinian ministers and negotiators. The
Tanzim and the al-Aqsa Brigades, loosely organized local militias also associ-
ated with Fatah, have been central Palestinian players in the intifada. The
Sharon visit and the confrontations that followed provided an opportunity to
Visions in Collision 39
127. Thomas C. Schelling, The Strategy of Conºict (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
1960, reprinted 1980), p. 28.
128. The poll’s margin of error was 4.5 percent. Ma’ariv, April 26, 2002, pp. 12–13, of shabbat sup-
plement, in FBIS. The inclusion of the phrase “with all Arab countries” might have boosted the
support, given that this would appear to include an Israeli peace agreement with Syria and Leba-
non. In late July 2002, 61 percent of Israelis supported the establishment of a Palestinian state given
a lasting peace agreement and no Palestinian right of return to Israel itself. See Ephraim Ya’ar and
Tamar Hermann, “Majority In Favor of Left’s Stand on Peace, Targeted Liquidations,” Ha’aretz,
August 6, 2002, p. 4, margin of error 4.5 percent.
129. See Ephraim Ya’ar and Tamar Hermann, “The Majority Trusts Sharon When It Comes to Ne-
gotiation,” Ha’aretz, December 9, 2002, margin of error 4.5 percent.
pressure Israel through violence, an idea that had been ºoating around and for
which some militants had been preparing.
Arafat resisted the idea of reining in the militants because he thought he
could gain political advantages. Also, he recognized that there was signiªcant
domestic support for confronting Israel. It is doubtful that Arafat expected the
intifada to last for years and result in a signiªcant weakening of his interna-
At least three procedural decisions and miscalculations during the ªnal status
talks had the cumulative effect of undermining what were already bound to be
delicate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. First, Israeli and Palestinian leaders
ignored or did not realize the damaging impact that messages directed at one’s
home audience can have on the other side. Palestinian leaders often did not
present their position in a constructive light following negotiating setbacks;
sometimes they failed to present their public position at all. After Camp David,
the Palestinian leadership did not aggressively take to the airwaves to voice its
desire for a diplomatic resolution of the conºict and to note the compromises it
was willing to make—especially when others were charging that the Palestin-
ian position was rigid.130
Second, Israel and the United States did not correctly ascertain the minimum
Palestinian demands for a ªnal agreement. Israel confused misperceiving the
Palestinian bottom line on statehood with the absence of a bottom line. In other
words, when the Palestinians did not accept Israel’s offer at Camp David, Is-
rael (eventually) assumed that this was because the Palestinians would not ac-
cept any offer rather than assuming that Israel had simply made an insufªcient
Third, several U.S. decisions about the conduct and timing of the negotia-
tions did not have the desired impact. In general, Clinton administration
ofªcials focused more on the shortcomings and remaining gaps than on the
International Security 28:2 40
130. For more on this point, see Sayigh, “Arafat and the Anatomy of a Revolt,” pp. 53–54. Hassan
Abdel Rahman, the Palestinian representative to the United States, attended Camp David and said
that Arafat refrained from countering Clinton’s and Barak’s post-summit assertions because (1)
Arafat thought it would be a temporary phase of recriminations, and (2) he knew that he would
need to work with Clinton again and did not want to jeopardize his ties to the U.S. president by
engaging in a public spat with him over the details of the summit. See Abdel Rahman’s comments
in the sidebar to Wright, “Was Arafat the Problem?”
progress made by the diplomatic process. We will never know what would
have happened if, prior to Camp David, the United States had accepted Pales-
tinian suggestions and pushed for more high-level, presummit negotiations.
The United States also did not prepare its Arab allies such as Egypt, Morocco,
and Saudi Arabia to support Palestinian concessions at the summit.131 At
Camp David, the United States initially offered a compromise “non-paper” on
core issues, but strong negative reactions from Arafat and Barak led the United
States to pull the paper and thereafter refrain from seeking to deªne the
middle ground.132 Moreover, Israeli ideas were often “presented [to the Pales-
tinians] as U.S. concepts, not Israeli ones.”133 The Palestinians often knew
these were really Israeli ideas, and thus resented the attempted American
The United States was on the verge of presenting the Clinton plan to the two
parties in late September or early October 2000 when the intifada started; hav-
ing just met about some of the details, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were
on an airplane back to the region when the ªghting erupted.134 For two months
following the outbreak of ªghting, Barak convinced the Americans not to put
the Clinton plan on the table.135
These and other misjudgments suggest that largely procedural errors con-
tributed to the failure of the negotiations. Rectifying these errors in future talks
could help Israelis and Palestinians reach an agreement.
In 2000–01, Israeli and Palestinian representatives created many of the building
blocks for a future negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conºict.
Visions in Collision 41
131. Jane Perlez, “News Analysis: Falling Short of Peace,” New York Times, October 15, 2000, pp. 1,
12. Dennis Ross said that the United States refrained from lobbying Arab leaders before Camp
David at Barak’s request. See Jane Perlez, “U.S. Mideast Envoy Recalls the Day Pandora’s Box
Wouldn’t Shut,” New York Times, January 29, 2001, p. A4. See also Jane Perlez, “U.S. Regards Egypt
as Key to Peace Deal in the Mideast,” New York Times, August 27, 2000, p. 13. On July 18 and 19,
2000, Clinton lobbied some Arab leaders about Jerusalem from Camp David. See Haniyah, “Camp
David Papers,” al-Ayyam, August 8, 2000, sixth installment, in FBIS, August 29, 2000. The general
point was also mentioned in private discussions with a U.S. ofªcial and a Palestinian non-
governmental leader, April 2002.
132. Enderlin, Shattered Dreams, pp. 189–194; private discussions with U.S. ofªcial, October 2002;
and Haniyah, “Camp David Papers,” August 5, 2000, ªfth installment.
133. Agha and Malley, “Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors.”
134. Ross, “From Oslo to Camp David to Taba”; and private discussion with U.S. ofªcial, October
2002. See also Sontag, “Quest for Mideast Peace.”
135. Kaspit, “The Army Will Decide and Approve.”
The Israeli/U.S. narrative of the Camp David summit, the Clinton plan, and
the Taba talks, however, suggests the opposite conclusion: Despite the best ef-
forts of Israeli and U.S. ofªcials, the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian
people are not ready for peace with Israel. This dominant Israeli/U.S. narrative
has had a dramatic impact on the Israeli public and its views about the peace
process: “The groundless contention that former Prime Minister Ehud Barak
offered the Palestinians ‘almost everything’ and in return they set in motion a
wave of terrorism, has become the most widely accepted axiom in Israeli pub-
lic opinion.”136 Shaul Arieli, an Israeli closely involved with the negotiation
and implementation of the Oslo process, “believes the myth that ‘Barak gave
them almost everything and Arafat responded with terror’ has become one of
the deepest pits blocking the road back” to negotiations.137 The Israeli under-
standing of the failure at Camp David and the outbreak of the intifada has led
directly to the loss of hope for a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.
The Israeli conclusion, however, is based on ªve contentions that do not
hold up when assessed in light of the evidence from 2000–01. Israel’s offer at
the Camp David summit was not as generous or complete as Israeli and U.S.
ofªcials have claimed. The Palestinian Authority negotiated and made notable
concessions on the ªnal status issues. Many Palestinians favor a two-state solu-
tion, not the destruction of Israel. The second intifada was not a premeditated
Palestinian Authority effort to destroy Israel. The Palestinian Authority recog-
nized Israel’s existential concerns about the Palestinian right of return and dis-
cussed policies to address those concerns.
Looking at the same events, many Palestinians have concluded that Barak’s
government alone was responsible for the failure of the 2000–01 negotiations.
This conclusion, however, overlooks Palestinian decisions—especially those of
the Palestinian Authority—that helped cause the failure of the diplomatic pro-
cess. From the Camp David summit to the Taba talks, Israel’s proposals moved
closer toward Palestinian ideas. The Palestinian Authority and nationalist Pal-
estinian militant organizations made decisions that contributed to the outbreak
of the second intifada.
Although the negotiations of 2000–01 did not achieve their objectives, the
talks crystallized the outstanding Israeli-Palestinian differences. The record of
International Security 28:2 42
136. Gideon Levy, “The People’s War,” Ha’aretz, April 7, 2002, p. 5. See also Gideon Samet, “Out of
the Bloody Square,” Ha’aretz, August 7, 2002, p. 5; and Akiva Eldar, “There Is Not a Divine De-
cree,” Ha’aretz, February 18, 2002, p. 5.
137. Akiva Eldar, “They Just Can’t Hear Each Other,” Ha’aretz, March 11, 2003.
the talks gives diplomats time to think of ways to bridge the remaining gaps.
Israelis and Palestinians can study what further concessions would be needed
to achieve a two-state solution.
Different perceptions of the Camp David summit and after make for differ-
ent possibilities for the future. As long as Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and
the United States do not engage in high-level talks on land, security, Jerusalem,
and refugees, they are squandering an opportunity for a negotiated settlement.
Visions in Collision 43