Ehud Barak's Vanishing Red Lines
The negotiating positions of Prime Minister Ehud Barak vis-a-vis the Palestinians underwent rapid changes over the course of several months in 2000. Whereas in the early spring of that year the Israeli position was for giving the Palestinians 60% of the disputed territories, that number rapidly grew to 80% in May, 2000 (see map) and to 90%+ before the beginning of the Camp David Talks in July (see map).
In addition to the lack of firmness of Mr. Barak's positions, he revealed a startling willingness to violate Israel's longstanding red lines. These red lines have been upheld by every government from the Left and Right, include Barak's, over the space of decades. Barak violated virtually every major red line in the matter of a few weeks.
Mr. Barak specifically mentioned 4 red lines that he would not cross when he left for Camp David. They were: No division of Jerusalem, no return to the 1949 borders, no return of Arab refugees, and no foreign army west of the Jordan River. He violated them all at the summit, and a few more as well. A list of his violations before and during Camp David follows:
- Red line: Since Israel liberated and united Jerusalem in June, 1967, it was the policy of every government, including Barak's, that Jerusalem would remain united under Israeli sovereignty.
Violation: At the Camp David summit Barak offered to transfer part of the Old City, Arab populated neighborhoods of East and North Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount itself, to Palestinian sovereignty. (See related article and map.)
- Red line: Since Israel captured Judea and Samaria after being attacked by Jordon in the 6-day war, it was the policy of every government that there would be no return to the armistice lines of 1949 that lasted until 1967. These were called "Auschwitz borders" by Abba Eban since they left Israel as narrow as 9 miles (15 km) wide and extremely vulnerable to attack from the south, east and north. (See related map.)
Violation: While reports on how much land Israel would surrender varied, all of the numbers pointed to the fact that Mr. Barak proposed returning to the 1949 lines with minor changes only. (See the 80% withdrawal map and the 95% withdrawal map. He had already offered all of the Golan Heights to Syria.)
- Red line: The Palestinian "right of return" to the areas they evacuated in 1948 was an absolutely non-negotiable issue since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. For over 5 decades the "right of return" has been considered by every government to be synonymous with the destruction of the state, since it means that Israel would be flooded with hostile, non-Jewish residents.
Violation: Prime Minister Barak negotiated how many Palestininans would be allowed to return to Israel, within the Green Line, under the guise of "family reunification." The numbers discussed were in the thousands or tens of thousands, thereby opening the door for further concessions later.
- Red line: No foreign army west of the Jordan River, whose valley forms a natural barrier against invasion from the East.
Violation: As is well-known, the Palestinian "Police" force is really a nascent army, with assault rifles, armored personell carriers, naval vessels, and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. A sovereign Palestinian state, which Barak was willing to agree to at Camp David, would have the right and the desire to create a real army with no limits. Since this Palestinian state would have borders with Jordan and Egypt along with it own air- and seaports, Israel would be powerless to monitor or control the flow of weaponry.
- Red line: Since the conclusion of the War of Independence in 1949, the idea of redividing the land acquired by Israel in that war was inconceivable. Tiny Israel is far too small to be further whittled down (See Israel Size Comparison Maps for size comparisons to other countries.
Violation: Barak has proposed transferring territory in the southwestern Negev to the Palestinians, in "return" for the portions of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) that he hopes to annex to Israel.
- Red line: Since the beginning of the Oslo process it was understood by all negotiators that Israel would maintain control over the strategic Samarian mountain aquifers that hold over 30% of Israel's water supply.
Violation: Control of theses aquifers was included in the negotiations. [Note -- At the time Israel is in the midst of a drought, and even with the aquifers under Israeli control the potential for a major water crisis was looming.]
- Red line: Since Israel acquired it in June, 1967, the Jordan Valley was considered vital to Israeli security, never to be ceded to a foreign government, since it is a natural defense against invasion from the east and almost uninhabited.
Violation: Prime Minister Ehud Barak became willing to grant the Palestinians full sovereignty over the Jordan valley.
- Red line: All governments since 1967 have agreed that the early warning stations atop the central mountain ridge of Judea and Samaria would remain in Israeli hands. These bases give Israel clear line-of-sight and radar view of subtantial portions of Jordan and afford a few minutes warning in the event of an air strike from the East.
Violation: According to Barak's position before and during Camp David these warning stations would have to be abandoned since they are deep inside what would have become Palestinian territory.
Barak's personal willingness to violate positions that the overwhelming majority of Israelis find sacred could have caused a tremendous rift in Israeli society and would have been a disaster for the security and well-being of the Jewish State. Further, such a lack of steadfastness was surely noticed by the Palestinians, who will realize that they only need to stand fast their own maximalist positions to achieve almost any gain without the need to compromise themselves.
This article was based in part on "Arafat Has Us on the Run"
by David Weinberg (The Jerusalem Post, July 9, 2000).
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