|ISRAEL'S TAKE ON THE TALKS|
July 25, 2000
One of Israel's lead negotiators assesses the progress and fallout from two weeks of talks at Camp David.
GWEN IFILL: Joining us is Oded Eran, a member of the Israeli delegation to the Camp David talks. Welcome.
ODED ERAN, Israeli Delegation: Good evening.
GWEN IFILL: In your opinion, why was no agreement reached?
ODED ERAN: I think that we discussed all the issues for several months, and we reached at Camp David with one issue, which is probably at the heart of the conflict, and that is the issue of Jerusalem. Not that on all the other issues there was full agreement, but I suppose that we could reach an agreement at Camp David once the issue of Jerusalem had been settled. Now, as it appeared in the statement by the President and the interview of the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister of Israel was willing to go deeper in touching the raw nerve of this issue and was willing to, and I quote the President, "be courageous, to have a vision," and that pertains mostly to the issue of Jerusalem. And I feel sad that this sort of attitude was not matched by the Palestinian delegation and by the Palestinian leader, and therefore, we couldn't reach an agreement.
GWEN IFILL: There was an agreement, as Secretary Albright just alluded to, that everything would have to be settled or nothing would be settled. Was there a possibility of a partial agreement? Is there some reason why that wasn't pursued?
ODED ERAN: It is possible, of course, to reach a partial agreement with deferring some of the issues to future negotiations, but I believe that most of the issues... all of the issues are known to us. There isn't anything that we were revealing that are not known to us today. And therefore, there was an historic opportunity here, after almost a year of negotiations, after the summit, or within the summit, given the dedication of the American President. He really invested two weeks or more into this effort. There was no point in deferring the issues or some of them, and I think that...
GWEN IFILL: Not even just to be able to claim some sort of victory?
ODED ERAN: It's not a question of victory, and especially when you miss the issue of Jerusalem or if you defer the issue of Jerusalem. This is the heart of the conflict. And so you could say, question, we solved three quarters or five eighths of the conflict, but if you leave the heart of the problem unsolved, the question is whether this would have been very positive attitude.
GWEN IFILL: Whether there's anything you could have really taken home and sold, for instance, domestically?
ODED ERAN: Well, we'll have to continue the talks. We'll have to continue the dialogue. We co-exist in this region. I am very disappointed, and the whole Israeli delegation is very disappointed that this opportunity was missed. And I'm reminded by that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. So it was another missed opportunity. But eventually... there's no solution by force. There's in solution by violence. We need to continue the dialogue, and eventually we'll come back to it.
GWEN IFILL: You think the Palestinians dropped the ball on this?
ODED ERAN: I think that they did not rise to the historical occasion that came our way.
GWEN IFILL: When you take this non-agreement home, what begins, a constructive debate about what's been on the table, or a debate between the extremes?
ODED ERAN: There is going to be a soul-searching debate in Israel. It already started by, as I said, we touched a raw nerve, both on the Palestinian side and on our side. The proposals, especially those that concern Jerusalem, obviously are going to and they have opened a serious, a deep debate in Israel, and I don't know on what side they come out, what will be the final results. I'm not so sure that all the results are necessarily positive. Obviously debating the issues internally on both sides and among ourselves is a positive and may lead to a constructive, but it may take us back.
GWEN IFILL: Is there anything on your par that you can take back and say to the Knesset, this much is off the table. We've basically agreed on this, and this is what we have to figure out?
ODED ERAN: Well, as the secretary of state said, there were no written documents.
GWEN IFILL: Nothing written?
ODED ERAN: Nothing written. There were ideas that came, mostly from the American side. Obviously one side reacted to them positively to some extent, as I feel was the Israeli attitude. And some sides tackled it differently. So there's nothing written.
GWEN IFILL: So are these peace talks now in hiatus? Are they in collapse? Will we look back on them one day as having set the foundation for a lasting peace?
ODED ERAN: They were a very important milestone in the attempt to solve the Middle East conflict. I don't know when we will have a second opportunity with the same magnitude as we just ended this morning. But as I said, the peace process or the dialogue between the two people, the Palestinian people and the Israeli people, must go on. We cannot leave under the conditions-- we cannot live under the conditions of terror and violence, not the Israeli people, not the Palestinian people. So eventually, and I cannot tell you right now this evening when, but I am certain that the only way to solve this conflict between us is by dialogue, through discussion of the issues between us. There has been a very serious setback today. I cannot underestimate it. But I'm not saying...
GWEN IFILL: Is the setback enough, do you think, to bring on violence do you think at home? What's the prospect of that?
ODED ERAN: There is a danger; there is a danger. I don't want to dismiss it, but I hope that the moderates, the ones who pursue the dialogue will prevail, and I'm sure that this is the only way.
GWEN IFILL: And the potential for a unified government - just before Ehud Barak came here, obviously, he had left behind a pretty much fractured coalition. Now what happens?
ODED ERAN: I think that when the Prime Minister arrives in Israel tomorrow night, he will start looking at the domestic, political situation. This is one of the possibilities, formation of a national unity government. The other possibility is reshaping the government - the existing government - with parties just left the government. These parties may say, well, now that Camp David is over we can come back. So I think that the Prime Minister will weigh all the options, and I wouldn't rule any one of them out.
GWEN IFILL: Oded Eran, thank you very much.
ODED ERAN: You're very welcome.