|PATH TO PEACE|
July 11, 2000
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat arrive in Washington to begin second-round Middle East peace talks. Ray Suarez leads a discussion.
RAY SUAREZ: Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat was first on the scene for this latest Camp David summit. He arrived late last night at Andrews Air Force Base. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak came in early this morning, a day after barely surviving a no-confidence vote in Israel's parliament, the Knesset. Three right wing parties quit Barak's coalition government to protest possible concessions the prime minister might make to the Palestinians at Camp David.
President Clinton invited the two leaders to come to his retreat in Maryland to make another attempt at resolving issues which have divided them for more than half a century.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: The two leaders face profound and wrenching questions, and there can be no success without principled compromise. The road to peace, as always, is a two-way street. Both leaders feel the weight of history, but both, I believe, recognize this is a moment in history which they can seize. We have an opportunity to bring about a just and enduring end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
That is the key to lasting peace in the entire Middle East. Of course, there is no guarantee of success, but not to try is to guarantee failure. In the process, they have passed the point of no return. The only way forward now is forward. Both sides must find a way to resolve competing claims, to give their children the gift of peace. It will take patience and creativity and courage, but Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat have those qualities, or they would not have come this far.
RAY SUAREZ: The Palestinian and Israeli governments face unofficial deadlines for a framework agreement. President Clinton would like to broker a peace deal before his term of office ends in January. Yasser Arafat has threatened a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state for mid- September. Even without the calendar, the obstacles on the road to peace are huge. The most difficult issue is the City of Jerusalem.
The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. But Israelis don't want the city divided. Arafat wants the two million Palestinian refugees who have been barred from returning to Israel following Middle East wars to be given the right to come home. Israel rejects an unrestricted right of return. Other stumbling blocks include water rights in the Jordan River Valley, and control of the west bank. The Palestinians want the Israelis to withdraw from some West Bank and Gaza settlements, but Israelis want to stay there.
This is the first Mideast summit at Camp David since 1978, when President Jimmy Carter brokered an agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. For President Clinton, a new Camp David accord would bring closure to a peace process he has stressed since his first year in office.
Then, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Arafat signed the Oslo Accords which provided a timetable for the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and West Bank. President Clinton met privately and separately with both Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Barak today.
Then all three met with their delegations for about a half hour this afternoon. As things are getting started, the public can't see the private tensions. The jocular tone before the cameras in the Maryland woods will inevitably give way to some of the most difficult negotiations in the public careers of all three men.
|Conflict of complexities|
RAY SUAREZ: For more on the Mideast summit, we turn to Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council; and Yuli Tamir, Israel's minister of immigrant absorption. Let's begin with you, Ms. Tamir. What should Americans under or what should they know to help them understand why this is so hard?
YULI TAMIR: Well, I think this is a very difficult conflict between two peoples who have their own claim for justice and who wish to find a way to live together under very complicated circumstances. We've gone a very long way since the beginning of the conflict, but as we were told right now, there are certain very crucial issues now on the table and I admire Prime Minister Barak for being ready to come here and discuss those issues, knowing very well that those are very difficult issues to solve and nevertheless being very determined to try and solve them in order to secure the future of Israel and to bring about the gift of peace for the future generations.
RAY SUAREZ: Hanan Ashrawi, same question, how would you help explain this to an American audience?
HANAN ASHRAWI: Well, actually this conflict as everybody knows is one of the most complex conflict because it deals with the question of identity, of land, of territoriality of geography of history, of legitimacy, and therefore it has within it all the components of every conflict in history. And it's been ongoing uncertainly for a long time. It's the longest standing conflict.
And, therefore, in attempting to achieve resolution one has to address all these issues that would bring about -- that brought about the conflict and that will bring, whose solution would bring about the end of the conflict. So we cannot take it lightly because people's lives are at stake, the future of the region is at stake.
And to take the necessary steps to achieve peace has been a very difficult incremental process because we have to change the course of history from violence towards reconciliation to legitimize even just the discourse, the language of peace. So I would say one shouldn't underestimate the complexity, the difficulty and I would end by saying that it is not for the faint-hearted at all.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, just in the past few weeks, spokesmen for people who claim to be spokesmen from both sides have talked about an outbreak of violence if this isn't settled soon. Why have things reached such a critical point? We see it's seven years since that handshake in the Rose Garden with President Clinton. Why is 2000 leaving everyone on the knife edge?
HANAN ASHRAWI: Well, it's beyond the symbolism of the date in the sense of the millennium and so on.
The question is that the peace process that was launched almost ten years ago started with such high hopes, raised expectations, and yet with every subsequent agreement there has been a process of fragmentation, of prolongation, stalling and at the same time creating facts under ground that went against really the requirements of peace including settlements, including control, closure, siege, house demolition's, and so on, which ended up with Palestinians feeling that they are victims of a process having been victims of a conflict. So, life has not changed for the better on country.
It became much worse for Palestinians on a daily basis, and at the same time we are in danger of losing the constituency for peace in Palestine not -- for this peace process let's say -- not for peace as a whole. While I believe that the dialogue with the Israelis has in many ways diminished, and the constituency in Israel has not grown larger - I mean, Israel remains polarized on a almost 50/50 basis. We need to see more of, respect for the other side and the politics of inclusion as an equal partner, with equal rights not as a result of distortions of occupation.
RAY SUAREZ: Yuli Tamir do you agree with the analysis?
YULI TAMIR: Only partly. I think one first of all should stress that the risk of eruption of violence comes own from the Palestinian side and we have been going through a long process of negotiations.
That is true. But we are now I think coming to a point where we are really offering a realistic deal that could be an end to the conflict and I think that the risk of violence comes from the fact that it is very hard, especially on the Palestinian side, to come to grips with the fact that that kind of an agreement will demand a very painful compromise.
|Searching for compromises|
RAY SUAREZ: But when you say especially on the Palestinian side, both leaders say that they understand fully that they can't get everything they want in this negotiation. Would you say that is true for the people who stand behind these leaders?
YULI TAMIR: Well, I'm quite sure that that is true for the Israeli public. We know very well that in order to come to an agreement, we have to make a compromise, a very painful compromise for us -- as it is by the way very painful for the Palestinians. In this kind of a conflict where justice meets justice, I believe that there are only very painful compromises. The question is how strong a leader is to bring back home a painful compromise?
And I think that Barak is a strong leader in that respect -- that he can bring back a painful compromise because people trust him, because people know that he is -- as we call him in Israel -- soldier number one; that he is a person that has the security interest of Israel in his mind and he is devoted to providing Israel with the best and secure future. The question is whether the Palestinians now when we are offering them a generous deal, whether they are ready to sign the deal and to look forward to a future of cooperation between the two peoples in the Middle East.
HANAN ASHRAWI: Well, first of all, I think the real threats of violence came from people like chief of staff in Israel. I mean, he threatened to use tanks and Cobra fighter planes and so on against the Palestinian people. And, of course, there are military maneuvers and so on, and the stockpiling of weapons. I mean, I really don't want to get into this who threatens violence.
We are emerging from a long period of either dispossession and exile for the Palestinians where more than half the Palestinian people are refugees still stateless, still at the mercy of host countries and the other half or less than half lived under occupation for decades.
So, it's not the question of offering the Palestinians a generous deal. We made historical compromise because we accepted only 22 percent of historical Palestine in accordance with 242. In 1947, Israel got -- with the partition plan, 56 percent of historical Palestine -- 1948 it conquered 22 percent -- in 1967 the remaining 22 percent. Now we are being told if they will generously give us parts of the remaining 22 percent, we should be very grateful.
I have a problem with this kind of mentality and I'm sorry, Yuli, I know you very well and I have tremendous respect for you as a friend and a woman. But I really think that this attitude, this language that the Israelis are unilaterally finding out, you know, what they want, what is in their interests and then telling the other side from a position of patronage which is a as a result of course naturally of years of occupation and unaccountable control, that we will give you out of the generosity of our heart a certain percentage of the remaining part of your land and you should be grateful.
And it has become take it or leave it. No, peacemaking is not unilateral, and it is not dictated by power. And it cannot incorporate injustice and it cannot incorporate illegality.
Now, having really changed the whole region by accepting 242 and by the way by giving Israeli legitimacy in the region, by accepting a two-state solution, then it seems to me the historical import, significance of this position should be understood and the mentality of dictates and patronizing, condescension, which is a result of the mentality of occupation, has to be replaced with a mentality of recognition that the Palestinians have equal rights, and they should be not just neighbors, but that we should forge new paradigms, new sets of relationships, new concepts of each other and get rid of the old concepts.
YULI TAMIR: I am surprised that Hanan -- if I may call you Hanan - because we are good friends -- talks about unilateral attempts to sort of impose a solution. We are here in a summit talking together. I mean, Prime Minister Barak and Yasser Arafat are sitting together and trying to find the most suitable compromise for all of us in the region. So there is no unilateral attempt to impose a solution.
There is an attempt to realistically assess what could be done right now and push forward. Some sort of a solution which I think we might not be ideal for you nor for us. You know, many people in Israel want the greater Israel; many people in Palestine want a greater Palestine. Neither side, neither side of extremism will win. I think the people that will win are the pragmatics, those who know that they have to make a compromise and always a compromise is made together -- not unilaterally.
|Trust and security|
RAY SUAREZ: What kind of moves on the part of the Palestinians, what kind of signs from the Palestinians would create the kind of security in Israel among Israelis, that would make them more confident about giving the higher percentage of the occupied, rather than the lower percentage of the range in these lands that we're talking about?
YULI TAMIR: Well, I think that the major issue is that really is of trust and security for the future of Israel. You know, we are also a country of refugees, a country of people coming bearing in mind a very harsh history.
And I think the people of Israel want to enter an era where they can live in peace and they know that they have security for them and their children and their grandchildren after them which is probably true also for the Palestinians - therefore, what we want now in this summit to achieve is to find from the Palestinians exactly what are their plans, what is the kind of agreement that they are ready to sign on. We don't want any more abstract declarations about this.
We want to get down to business. I think this is why Prime Minister Barak came here. He wants here to know exactly whether we could sign a peace agreement in the foreseeable future. We don't want to leave this conflict for the generations ahead.
RAY SUAREZ: Is the menu too long of things that have to be gotten through for there to be some kind of agreement sooner, rather than later?
HANAN ASHRAWI: Well, I think it's very complex and difficult. It's not such a long menu. I think the approach to security as a result -- as an outcome of military control and military means is absolutely the wrong approach. The only way you can have security is if you solve the causes of the conflict. You have a genuine peace.
You replace relationships of conflict, hostility, with starts of relationships of mutual benefit and cooperation. And, to do that, you have to go through the process. We have to start with first of all the recognition of guilt and culpability and of course, a recognition of the tremendous historical tragedy that the Palestinians suffered in 47 and '48 -- the loss of their land, the loss of their continuity, development, the dispersal, dispossession, occupation, exile.
This has to be recognized -- then we move from that and we do that to set the record state straight. And then we move from that in order to solve the causes of the conflict -- denial of Palestinian national rights and for statehood; denial of territorial continuity for Palestinian statehood.
We cannot say, okay, the Israelis created an illegal reality with all the settlements that fragment the West Bank and Gaza, that create Israel territory and apartheid -- and therefore, let's design an artificial peace process that accommodates settlers and settlements -- because that is going to be a source of conflict. And we want peace that would produce security, human security for everybody -- not just for one side. And we don't want a partial peace that will backfire and explode in our faces.
Another thing is the issue of Jerusalem. I mean, one side cannot unilaterally control Jerusalem and possess it exclusively. It has to be shared. It has to be two capitals for two states -- and, of course, in accordance with 242 and the refugees have to be recognized; their rights have to be safeguarded in accordance with international law and U.N. Resolution 194, which means they have equal rights like all over refugees in the world.
RAY SUAREZ: Dr. Ashrawi, Ms. Tamir, thank you both.