|MIDDLE EAST SUMMIT|
July 6, 2000
Israeli and Palestinian leaders will meet at Camp David outside Washington next week for what many see as a "last-ditch" peace summit. Jim Lehrer leads a discussion assessing the meeting's chances for success.
|JIM LEHRER: The Camp David summit: Edward Djerejian was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the Bush administration, and has served as ambassador to Israel and Syria. He is now director of the James Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. Nitzan Horowitz is Washington bureau chief for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. And Khalil Jahshan is vice president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.|
|A summit of "final status issues"|
|JIM LEHRER: Mr. Ambassador,
Prime Minister Barak today said the chances of success at this summit
next week at Camp David are 50-50. What kind of odds would you put on
EDWARD DJEREJIAN: I think that's a good odds to put on this summit because I don't think this is a summit that has been prepared in a manner in which the substantive gaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians have been sufficiently narrowed whereby you can assume a great chance of success. But I think, Jim, what's very important to put into perspective is that this summit is being convened to try to establish a framework agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It is not one to hammer out agreement on all these highly contentious issues.
JIM LEHRER: It's just a way to... Just to agree on a way to proceed, is that right? Mr. Ambassador?
EDWARD DJEREJIAN: Yes, it's a way to proceed on some of the major issues, which are final-status issues: Jerusalem, the Israeli settlements, the borders, security and the right of return of Palestinian refugees. These are highly contentious issues, which are going to involve a great deal more negotiation by the parties and will also need to have an international effort put in place. For example, on the issue of Palestinian refugees, the issue of compensation resettlement will need a massive international effort.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Horowitz, why is there this kind of downbeat approach? Usually when people get together for big meetings like this, everybody's very optimistic and "I think we can work this thing out." Nobody's saying that at all, in fact quite the contrary.
NITZAN HOROWITZ: Yes, that's true. Well, you see, Jim, the thing is that after nine years after peace process, we finally arrive to the very hard-core issues of the conflict. And these are major decisions that must be taken now in the coming few months. Now, Arafat said that he is going to declare a Palestinian state in September. So Palestinians now are saying that, from now till September, maybe there will be even another summit. So for this summit for the coming week, they are still keeping their options, cards close to the chest and they are not revealing any positions. And there will still be a lot of negotiations to get an agreement.
JIM LEHRER: What is your understanding as to what Israel wants to come out of this summit next week at Camp David?
NITZAN HOROWITZ: Well, Israel, definitely Barak, would like to have a Palestinian declaration that the conflict is finished, is ended and that there is, let's say, regional peace. That's his most important goal. Israel would like to have a definition of the borders of the Palestinian... of the future Palestinian state, and Israel would like the Palestinians to agree on some modalities about Jerusalem and the refugees. If they can achieve that, it's a lot.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. And Mr. Jahshan, what is it that the Palestinians want to come out of this next week, as you understand it?
KHALIL JAHSHAN: Well, the Palestinians are probably as depressed as anybody else in terms of the prospects of that. As a matter of fact, the most recent public opinion just released yesterday in the West Bank shows that more than 68% do not expect a permanent status agreement to emerge by the end of this year. And more than 51-52% do not think that statehood will be declared the way Arafat has been promising the Palestinian people for a while.
But in general, what the Palestinians expect, at least the PA, the Palestinian Authority, the PLO that's negotiating these agreements, expects from that is some agreement, maybe a hybrid, a little bit beyond what Ambassador Djerejian mentioned earlier. I think the stage for a framework agreement has already passed. Of course the was supposed to be the deadline for that was supposed to be January and February of this year.
What is needed right now is some sort of a hybrid agreement, something beyond kind of a framework agreement plus, but a permanent status agreement minus -- something in between the two, but still tackling the fundamental issues that have been avoided. These are the issues that Ambassador Djerejian alluded to earlier, the refugees, the settlements, Jerusalem, the boundaries. These are issues that supposedly were supposed to be negotiated and resolved between May of 1996 and May of 1999. But because at the time, the presence of a government... the existence of a government in Israel that was not willing to proceed with these things, the Netanyahu government, they have been postponed and they remain unresolved to this day.
|Deadlines on all sides|
|JIM LEHRER: Mr. Ambassador,
help us in a general way to understand why it even matters that these
things be resolved now -- for instance, this deadline of September. What's
at stake? What's going to happen if they can't reach an agreement by then?
EDWARD DJEREJIAN: Well, Jim, I think that this summit is being called more for considerations of crisis management in the middle east, which is a very legitimate reason to have a summit, to avoid further violence in the Middle East in a few months' time. There are political calendars at work in the Middle East. One is the September 13th deadline established by Arafat, be it September or December, depending on what decision is made to declare the establishment of independent Palestinian state. Now, the Israelis have said if the Palestinians go and unilaterally declare a state, Israel, on its behalf, will take some unilateral actions, such as annexing certain land in the West Bank that it considers essential. Now, this is a formula for instability in the region. But these political calendars at work are very complex. I've just mentioned the Palestinian one. There's the Israeli one, the loss of coalition support for Prime Minister Barak. President Clinton, he's nearing the end of his administration, and would certainly like to have a Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement as part of his foreign policy record. So therefore, I think this is truly one of political considerations and avoiding a crisis in the region.
|Failure could lead to violence|
JIM LEHRER: Do you see it that way, Mr. Horowitz, that there's... that some terrible things could happen in the area if this thing isn't worked out?
NITZAN HOROWITZ: Yes, there is a great fear, at least in Israel, from break of violence and bloodshed if there is no agreement.
JIM LEHRER: Between whom and whom over what?
NITZAN HOROWITZ: Between Israelis and Palestinians... terrorism
JIM LEHRER: Where, I mean, on the West Bank?
NITZAN HOROWITZ: The West Bank and Gaza and all those places of confrontation. This is why there is really a heavy burden on both Arafat and Barak to reach an agreement, because otherwise, there is going to be bloodshed. And still, they will face the same problems, as President Clinton mentioned. I think that, you know, that the main thing here is that in this tiny piece of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, there are nine million people, five million Jews, four million Arabs. We live actually together, and we cannot afford a confrontation because there is just not enough room for that. And so, sooner or later, they will have to reach an agreement, and the sooner the better.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah, but sooner or later, if it's not sooner, people are going to die, is that what you're saying?
NITZAN HOROWITZ: I'm afraid so, yes.
JIM LEHRER: Is that right, Mr. Jahshan?
KHALIL JAHSHAN: Yes, I think the administration is right about that. Certainly what we have heard from them over the past couple of days, having had some meetings with both State and the White House...
JIM LEHRER: You have? You've been talking to them?
KHALIL JAHSHAN: Yes. ...the President feels that there is still a good chance for an agreement in spite of the seriousness of the remaining differences or gaps between the two parties. Number two, he feels that the negotiations thus far are taking place initially in Europe, in Stockholm and then later in the Middle East most recently, have kind of exhausted their usefulness, that the teams themselves cannot make the type of decisions that need to be made at higher level -- henceforth, the need for the summit. Three, He feels that time is not on anybody's side. He feels that there are some time constraints on the Israeli side, time constraints on the Palestinian side and undoubtedly some time constraints on the American side. So the President made his decision on the basis of these three components, taking into consideration the fact that, in the Middle East, if things stagnate, they are apt to deteriorate, they are not apt to get better.
|Clinton as mediator|
|JIM LEHRER: Mr. Ambassador,
is this an opportunity, a likely... well, is it the responsibility of
the United States, having called this summit now, the president has asked
prime minister and Mr. Arafat to come, that the United States has to put
something on the table, say, "you guys haven't been able to work
it out, here's what that what we suggest?" Has it come to that, do
EDWARD DJEREJIAN: Absolutely, Jim. I think that having called this summit, President Clinton has to go way beyond the role of a facilitator of just bringing the parties together. He has to truly act as a mediator, and he has to be willing to take the political heat from both sides: The Arab side, the Israeli side because tough decisions have to be made to narrow these very important substantive gaps on these sensitive issues we mentioned. And there's another factor: sustainability. The President's going to have to hang in there. It may take much longer than a week or two weeks or three weeks. Look at the precedent of Jimmy Carter at Camp David...
JIM LEHRER: How long did that take? Refresh your memory.
EDWARD DJEREJIAN: That took months. And he had to go to the region after Camp David in order to hammer out the final agreements. And I agree what's been stated earlier, that this may just be one of another or another summit following that one. But the important thing is sustainability and the political will, the political will on the part of the American president to see this through and take the political heat. The political will on the part of the Israeli prime minister and Arafat to take the heat from their constituencies. And there's a great deal of heat that everybody is feeling.
JIM LEHRER: Does the President of the United States have to start talking in terms of potential violence to get even the attention of the American... most American people don't understand what's at stake in this. This has been going on for so long, people talk, they don't talk, they come to Washington, they go to Shepherdstown, they go this and that and nothing happens.
EDWARD DJEREJIAN: Well, I think these stakes have to be outlined without causing great alarm, but the focus really has to be on the substance of the talks and trying to reach a settlement. That is really what is key. And Arafat is in front of some precedents here that are going to make it more difficult for him. Barak, very boldly, unilaterally withdrew from Southern Lebanon to the international border. The Israeli-Jordanian treaty, they went to the border. In Camp David, the Israelis withdrew to the border. And so Arafat is going to be under pressure by his own people to regain, if not all the land, a great, great portion of the West Bank in order to justify any agreement to his people. So there's a lot at stake here.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Jahshan, can Yasser Arafat use the pressure from the President of the United States to help him with his own people to take something that he might not otherwise be able to do if it was just offered by the Israelis?
KHALIL JAHSHAN: I'm not sure to what extent Yasser Arafat can withstand pressure from the United States. As a matter of fact, when you raised the question earlier in this conversation as to why people are not so enthused about this summit, particularly in the Arab world, it's because of that. It's for fear that Barak is going to gang with Clinton against Arafat and put undue pressure on him since he's the weakest of the three parties and somehow extract some concessions from him beyond what is borne Arab-wise and Palestinian-wise, especially when you hear statements from the administration kind of like, as the model for this summit, that, "no party will go home after this summit feeling that it's a loser, but none will go home with 100 percent of what they came to Washington to get." You know, it's easy for example, to justify that on the part of the Israelis who certainly not only have 100% in Israel but are occupying Palestinian land, but for the Palestinians coming to the table asking for 20% of their... what they consider their historical homeland of Palestine and to expect only a fraction of that to go home, it's going to be a hard, tough sell for Arafat, should he particularly, as Mr. Horowitz mentioned earlier, sign what Barak wants him to sign, which is an end-of-conflict agreement in return for being home for with a small fraction of Palestine. Most Palestinians will not go for that.
JIM LEHRER: Will Barak go along with what President Clinton has in mind?
NITZAN HOROWITZ: I think so. And it's not a small fraction. Actually, what Barak is talking about is more than 90% of the occupied territories. 10% is actually settlement area that Barak will not be able to move or remove. So I think this 90% compromise or settlement is really the maximum red line that Barak can afford in order to stay in power, as simply as that.
JIM LEHRER: A lot of lines.
KHALIL JAHSHAN: Certainly, a lot of lines. And there are a lot of lines on the Palestinian side. I mean we have to understand that, even though there is lack of symmetry in this conflict and has been for many years, but one has to understand that there is also a public opinion on the Palestinian side, there is a Palestinian street, it has its own sensitivities and aspirations and concerns, and these must be taken into consideration.
JIM LEHRER: Okay, gentlemen, we'll see what happens. Thank you all three very much.