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Is Israel Giving too Much to the Palestinians?

In the run up to the Camp David summit in 2000, the negotiating position of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak underwent dramatic changes. These changes caused the walkout of a major portion of his governing coalition, leaving him with a mere third of the 120 members of the Israeli Knesset in his coalition. Further, he violated virtually every long-standing red line, including his own, in what might be called a desperate attempt to secure an agreement at any cost.

The following maps tell the story:

The current situation: The map to the right, which displays the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA) shows approximately of how much land the PA controls as of July, 2000. Currently the PA has either full or administrative control of about 40% of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza.

Note that already in 1996 95% of all the Palestinian Arabs living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza were living under the full or administrative control of the PA, meaning the "occupation" of the Palestinians has long been over.

(To see the map at full size click here or on the map.)

May, 2000: In a rapid deterioration of its position, the Israeli government moved from offering the Palestinians 60% of Judea and Samaria in the beginning of the year 2000 to 80% in May, 2000 during negotiations in Eilat. As shown in the map to the right, if implemented this plan would already leave dozens of settlements (where 50,000 Jewish settlers lived) surrounded by the Palestinian Authority, which had openly threatened an untimely fate for them should they come under its control.

(To see a larger version of the map click here or on the map. To see the map at full size (292 KB) click here.)

July, 2000: Before the Camp David summit of Prime Minister Barak, PA President Yassir Arafat and US President Bill Clinton, a new series of dramatic, one-sided concessions were used to entice Arafat to attend the summit. Various figures for the proposed withdrawal were reported, including 90%, 92% and even 96% of the West Bank.

This map at right shows the results of a 95% withdrawal. All but the largest settlement blocks are per force abandoned to the PA, along with the strategically important Jordan Valley and all mountaintop early warning stations.

The shocking extent of the Israeli government's willingness to return almost to the borders of 1949 forced Shas, Yisrael B'Aliya and the National Religious party to quit Mr. Barak's government even before the Camp David Summit could begin. Foreign Minister David Levy, from Barak's own One Israel party, refused to attend the summit due to his opposition to the concessions. There was also a massive demonstration against the concessions in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on July 16, 2000. The demonstration was one of the biggest in Israel's history.

(To see a larger version of the map click here or on the map. To see the map at full size (271 KB) click here.)

Disappearing Red Lines: In the space of a month, Ehud Barak smashed all of Israel's "red lines" regarding security, settlements, water and the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. These red lines had stood for decades, and were enshrined in the policy of all Israeli governments from the Right and Left, including Barak's. These red lines included maintaining control over the Jordan Valley, the mountain aquifers that supply a parched Israel with 30% of its water, non-acceptance of the "right of return" of the Palestinians to lands they abandoned in 1948, the unity of Jerusalem and more. Click here to read more.

Jerusalem Redivided? The most painful concessions of all were those made on Jerusalem, the spiritual and (when the Jews lived in their homeland) political capital of the Jewish people for almost 3000 years. All Israeli governments since 1967 and Prime Minister Barak himself have frequently repeated that Jerusalem will remain Israel's undivided capital forever. Mr. Barak himself said that Jerusalem's unity was one of his red lines as he prepared to go to the Camp David summit.

But Camp David quickly put an end to this red line. The accompanying map and analysis show the results of Mr. Barak's capitulation and an American "bridging proposal" which followed and weakened the Barak's position still further. The final map is an unworkable patchwork that not only would be a cause for constant friction, but would have surrendered the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site, to Yassir Arafat. Nonetheless, Arafat flatly rejected this far-reaching proposal.

(To see a larger version of the map plus further analysis, click here or on the map.)

A Worrisome Future: While the Camp David Summit ended in failure, there is no doubt that tremendous damage had been done to the State of Israel. Having not budged from their maximalist positions in nearly 7 years of peace talks, Yassir Arafat and the Palestinians saw that Barak is willing to capitulate on almost any position, no matter how sacred to him, the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Inflated Arab expectations will surely have an affect on any future negotiations. In order for there to be any further talks they will have to start from where the Camp David talks left off.

Worse, by forcing the summit to occur despite a lack of interest on the part of Arafat and Clinton, Mr. Barak has brought great danger to the State of Israel. As the left-wing journalist Eitan Haber wrote before the summit ("Fateful Days", The Jerusalem Post, July 9, 2000):

The chilling forecast is as follows: If Barak emerges from the Camp David forest with an agreement, we may find ourselves on the brink of civil war - Jew against Jew. If Barak returns without an agreement, we are likely to find ourselves steeped in blood - Jew against Arab.

Now Mr. Barak has returned without an agreement, but his concessions were even greater than Haber considered. This has forced the Arabs to focus solely on Jerusalem, and it will be nearly impossible for them back down on this issue.

In the end, Haber's forecast was quite prescient -- Barak did not get an agreement and immediately afterwards began the Second Intifada. Now that the Arabs has been armed with rifles and had access to excellent explosives the Second Intifada turned out to be much more deadly than the first.

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