Tomorrow, I will be undergoing some exploratory surgery for cancer. I am grateful for the support of friends and family members, but mostly to my physician who has been honest enough to level with me about what, precisely, we are looking for. When it comes to matters of life and death, one does not want to play games.
It was with this backdrop in mind that I read the news about the November Israeli-Palestinian conference that the Bush administration plans to hold in
On July 25, 2000, I was in attendance at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. when Israeli Attorney General Eli Rubinstein had come to address the group. He had just returned from
"I can look every one of you straight in the eye," he said, "and I can tell you that we went as far as any responsible government could possibly go. In fact, some will argue that what we offered was irresponsible. What we offered was shared sovereignty of
"There were people who are now crying in their limousines back to the airport. We figured that if we offered Chairman Arafat an offer that he couldn't refuse…he wouldn't."
"You will find no documentation about the terms of the offer. We have presented this in a 'now or never' formulation," added the former Attorney General.
I have been internally crying ever since. I knew then that by making the terms of the offer so extraordinary, the Clinton-Barak parameters could never be matched, and would doom any future "land for peace" negotiations to failure. How could any responsible Palestinian interlocutor come back to his people with less than what Arafat walked away from? And how could any responsible Israeli interlocutor come back to his people, after the seven years of ensuing violence since Camp David II, and offer so much?
The Clinton-Barak parameters have raised the bar so high as to make it nearly impossible for future negotiators to come to a practical understanding that works for both sides. So it's no surprise what currently confronts us: A maximalist Palestinian position and an Israeli retreat to the pre-1967 borders, which are actually the 1949 armistice lines. These boundaries were nine miles wide at their narrowest point, lacking the strategic depth to enable Israel to defend itself, which led the former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Abba Eban (of the Labour Party) to dub them "the Auschwitz lines."
With what confidence can the Israelis contemplate that such a retreat will not be met with a barrage of missiles onto the coastal plain, where
Culpability should not be put on the Bush White House for a lack of "engagement." If there is any culpability, it should go to the
These already inflated expectations are actually growing. On October 11, Adnan Husseini, advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that Palestinian demands for eastern
Unrealistic expectations are seeding the ground for a future explosion. There are times when dialogue is not the palliative we generally think it to be in the West, but can become a stroll down a lethal minefield. We are almost setting the stage here for a religious war.
The head of the Palestinian negotiating team, Ahmed Qureia was quoted in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz on October 12 saying, "If the talks fail, we can expect a third, and much more severe, intifada."
Azzam al-Ahmed, the head of the Fatah parlimentary list and a close associate of Mahmoud Abbas, warned of the possibility of much greater bloodshed if the negotiations fail. He told the Jerusalem Post, "If we don't prepare well for the conference, so that it will result in something positive, the repercussions will be much more dangerous than what happened after the failure of
President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to resign if the talks fail, paving the way for another round of bloodshed, and for the strengthening of Iranian-backed Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
Even the European Union's special representative to the Middle East peace process, Marc Otte, has warned that a failure to advance the peace process at next month's planned summit in Annapolis could trigger worse violence then what followed the failed Camp David II talks in 2000.
The fantastic terms of the Clinton-Barak peace offering, and its rejection by Arafat, are not the only obstacle to a meaningful, further negotiation. The 1995
These statutes were, and are, critical, and the official Palestinian stance of ignoring them is of great significance. While
According to Palestinian Media Watch, a clip that has been broadcast by Fatah-controlled television throughout last week, shows the entire map of
As President Kennedy once said, "Peace does not exist in signed documents and treaties alone, but in the hearts and minds of the people."
Hopefully, there will be a time when future Palestinian leaders will be preparing their people for a durable peace, one that will last for generations, but at this point we have no firm evidence to believe that is the case. The litmus test of when the Palestinians will be actually ready to sit down and negotiate a lasting peace is when they will stop teaching their children to play war games in their summer camps, training them to become suicide bombers for the sake of a fully "liberated"
The Palestinians have been using every means of communication available to teach their children hatred of
In a recent conversation with a colleague from another think tank, I expressed my fears. His response was "Life is like a game of charades."
No, it is not. Not when we are dealing with issues of life and death.
SARAH N. STERN is the founder and president of EMET, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a
By Sarah N. Stern