At the Camp David talks in July, 2000 hosted by President Clinton, Yasser Arafat rejected the proposals for a final status agreement put forward by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and offering Arafat virtually all the territories beyond the pre-1967 armistice lines. He rejected as well Clinton’s suggested amendments to Barak’s offer. Nor did Arafat submit any alternative proposals.
The reason for Arafat’s tack was not difficult to discern for anyone who had been paying attention to what the Palestinian leader had been saying and doing since the inception of the Oslo Accords in 1993. It was not that he was unwilling to take control of more territory and add to the forty percent of the West Bank and most of Gaza already handed him by Israel. Rather, the problem for Arafat was that the Camp David talks were cast as “end of conflict” negotiations. It was understood that any territorial agreement would be accompanied by Arafat signing away all further Palestinian claims against Israel, and this was something Arafat had no intention of doing.
Arafat had made clear his goals for the Oslo process at its very inception. On the night of the signing of the initial Oslo agreements on the White House lawn in September, 1993, he was on Jordanian television from Washington explaining to his fellow Palestinians and to the wider Arab world that Oslo was the first phase of the Palestine National Council’s 1974 program. This was a reference to the so-called Plan of Phases, according to which the Palestine Liberation Organization would acquire whatever territory it could gain by negotiations, then use that land as a base for pursuing its ultimate goal of Israel’s destruction. Arafat made at least a dozen references to this perception of Oslo within a month of that broadcast, and he and his associates referred to it many times thereafter. Once established in Gaza in July, 1994, Arafat also became involved in promoting the increased terror to which Israel was subjected in the ensuing months.
In the wake of abandoning Camp David, Arafat undertook a two-pronged strategy to advance his objectives. He unleashed a still more intense, indeed unprecedented, terror war against Israel, both to weaken Israeli resolve and, potentially, to win world sympathy as Israel’s response, against assailants imbedded within the Palestinian civilian population, would inevitably – he anticipated – cause large-scale civilian casualties.
He also undertook a diplomatic campaign to win international, particularly European, support for recognition of all lands beyond the pre-1967 lines as “Palestine”; in effect, granting it all to the Palestinians without the bilateral negotiations and agreements called for in the Oslo accords and without the Palestinians having to foreswear future, additional claims against Israel culminating ultimately in her dissolution.
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