Why did the Palestinians reject the Camp
David Peace Proposal?
For a true and lasting peace
between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, there must be two viable and
independent states living as equal neighbors. Israel’s Camp David proposal,
which was never set forth in writing, denied the Palestinian state viability
and independence by dividing Palestinian territory into four separate
cantons entirely surrounded, and therefore controlled, by Israel. The Camp
David proposal also denied Palestinians control over their own borders,
airspace and water resources while legitimizing and expanding illegal
Israeli colonies in Palestinian territory. Israel’s Camp David proposal
presented a ‘re-packaging’ of military occupation, not an end to military
Didn’t Israel’s proposal give the
Palestinians almost all of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967?
No. Israel sought to annex
almost 9% of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in exchange offered
from Israel’s own territory only the equivalent of 1% of the Occupied
Palestinian Territories. In addition, Israel sought control over an
additional 10% of the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the form of a
“long-term lease”. However, the issue is not one of percentages – the issue
is one of viability and independence. In a prison for example, 95% of the
prison compound is ostensibly for the prisoners – cells, cafeterias, gym and
medical facilities – but the remaining 5% is all that is needed for the
prison guards to maintain control over the prisoner population. Similarly,
the Camp David proposal, while admittedly making Palestinian prison cells
larger, failed to end Israeli control over the Palestinian population.
Did the Palestinians accept the idea of a
The Palestinians were (and
are) prepared to consider any idea that is consistent with a fair peace
based on international law and equality of the Israeli and Palestinian
peoples. The Palestinians did consider the idea of a land swap but proposed
that such land swap must be based on a one-to-one ratio, with land of equal
value and in areas adjacent to the border with Palestine and in the same
vicinity as the lands to be annexed by Israel. However, Israel’s Camp David
proposal of a nine-to-one land swap (in Israel’s favor) was viewed as so
unfair as to seriously undermine belief in Israel’s commitment to a fair
How did Israel’s proposal envision the
territory of a Palestinian state?
Israel’s proposal divided
Palestine into four separate cantons surrounded by Israel: the Northern West
Bank, the Central West Bank, the Southern West Bank and Gaza. Going from any
one area to another would require crossing Israeli sovereign territory and
consequently subject movement of Palestinians within their own country to
Israeli control. Not only would such restrictions apply to the movement of
people, but also to the movement of goods, in effect subjecting the
Palestinian economy to Israeli control. Lastly, the Camp David proposal
would have left Israel in control over all Palestinian borders thereby
allowing Israel to control not only internal movement of people and goods
but international movement as well. Such a Palestinian state would have had
less sovereignty and viability than the Bantustans created by the South
African apartheid government.
How did Israel’s proposal address
Palestinian East Jerusalem?
The Camp David Proposal
required Palestinians to give up any claim to the occupied portion of
Jerusalem. The proposal would have forced recognition of Israel’s annexation
of all of Arab East Jerusalem. Talks after Camp David suggested that Israel
was prepared to allow Palestinians sovereignty over isolated Palestinian
neighborhoods in the heart of East Jerusalem, however such neighborhoods
would remain surrounded by illegal Israeli colonies and separated not only
from each other but also from the rest of the Palestinian state. In effect,
such a proposal would create Palestinian ghettos in the heart of Jerusalem.
Why didn’t the
Palestinians ever present a comprehensive permanent settlement proposal of
their own in response to Barak's proposals?
The comprehensive settlement
to the conflict is embodied in United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338, which
were accepted by both sides at the Madrid Summit in 1991 and later in the
Oslo Accords of 1993. The purpose of the negotiations is to implement these
UN resolutions (which call for an Israeli withdrawal from land occupied by
force by Israel in 1967) and reach agreement on final status issues. On a
number of occasions since Camp David – especially at the Taba talks – the
Palestinian negotiating team presented its concept for the resolution of the
key permanent status issues. It is important to keep in mind, however, that
Israel and the Palestinians are differently situated. Israel seeks broad
concessions from the Palestinians: it wants to annex Palestinian territory,
including East Jerusalem; obtain rights to Palestinian water resources in
the West Bank; maintain military locations on Palestinian soil; and deny the
Palestinian refugees’ their right of return. Israel has not offered a single
concession involving its own territory and rights. The Palestinians, on the
other hand, seek to establish a viable, sovereign State on their own
territory, to provide for the withdrawal of Israeli military forces and
colonies (which are universally recognized as illegal), and to secure the
right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes they were forced to
flee in 1948. Although Palestinian negotiators have been willing to
accommodate legitimate Israeli needs within that context, particularly with
respect to security and refugees, it is up to Israel to define these needs
and to suggest the narrowest possible means of addressing them.
Why did the peace process
fall apart just as it was making real progress toward a permanent agreement?
Palestinians entered the
peace process on the understanding that (1) it would deliver concrete
improvements to their lives during the interim period, (2) that the interim
period would be relatively short in duration – i.e., five years, and (3)
that a permanent agreement would implement United Nations Resolutions 242
and 338. But the peace process delivered none of these things. Instead,
Palestinians suffered more burdensome restrictions on their movement and a
serious decline in their economic situation. Israeli colonies expanded at an
unprecedented pace and the West Bank and Gaza Strip became more fragmented
with the construction of settler “by-pass” roads and the proliferation of
Israeli military checkpoints. Deadlines were repeatedly missed in the
implementation of agreements. In sum, Palestinians simply did not experience
any “progress” in terms of their daily lives.
However, what decisively
undermined Palestinian support for the peace process was the way Israel
presented its proposal. Prior to entering into the first negotiations on
permanent status issues, Prime Minister Barak publicly and repeatedly
threatened Palestinians that his “offer” would be Israel’s best and final
offer and if not accepted, Israel would seriously consider “unilateral
separation” (a euphemism for imposing a settlement rather than negotiating
one). Palestinians felt that they had been betrayed by Israel who had
committed itself at the beginning of the Oslo process to ending its
occupation of Palestinian lands in accordance with UN Resolutions 242 and
Doesn’t the violence which
erupted following Camp David prove that Palestinians do not really want to
live in peace with Israel?
Israel’s right to exist in 1988 and re-iterated this recognition on several
occasions including Madrid in 1991 and the Oslo Accords in September, 1993.
Nevertheless, Israel has yet to explicitly and formally recognize
Palestine’s right to exist. The Palestinian people waited patiently since
the Madrid Conference in 1991 for their freedom and independence despite
Israel’s incessant policy of creating facts on the ground by building
colonies in occupied territory (Israeli housing units in Occupied
Palestinian Territory – not including East Jerusalem - increased by 52%
since the signing of the Oslo Accords and the settler population, including
those in East Jerusalem, more than doubled). The Palestinians do indeed wish
to live at peace with Israel but peace with Israel must be a fair peace –
not an unfair peace imposed by a stronger party over a weaker party.
Doesn’t the failure of Camp David prove
that the Palestinians are just not prepared to compromise?
The Palestinians have indeed
compromised. In the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians recognized Israeli
sovereignty over 78% of historic Palestine (23% more than Israel was granted
pursuant to the 1947 UN partition plan) on the assumption that the
Palestinians would be able to exercise sovereignty over the remaining 22%.
The overwhelming majority of Palestinians accepted this compromise but this
extremely generous compromise was ignored at Camp David and the Palestinians
were asked to “compromise the compromise” and make further concessions in
favor of Israel. Though the Palestinians can continue to make compromises,
no people can be expected to compromise fundamental rights or the viability
of their state.
Have the Palestinians abandoned the
two-state solution and do they now insist on all of historic Palestine?
The current situation has
undoubtedly hardened positions on both sides, with extremists in both Israel
and the Occupied Palestinian Territories claiming all of historic Palestine.
Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the PA or the majority of
Palestinians have abandoned the two-state solution. The two-state solution
however is most seriously threatened by the on-going construction of Israeli
colonies and by-pass roads aimed at incorporating the Occupied Palestinian
Territories into Israel. Without a halt to such construction, a two-state
solution may simply be impossible to implement – already prompting a number
of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to argue that Israel will never
allow the Palestinians to have a viable state and Palestinians should
instead focus their efforts on obtaining equal rights as Israeli citizens.
Isn't it unreasonable for the
Palestinians to demand the unlimited right of return to Israel of all
The refugees were never seriously discussed at Camp David because Prime
Minister Barak declared that Israel bore no responsibility for the refugee
problem or its solution. Obviously, there can be no comprehensive solution
to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without resolving one of its key
components: the plight of the Palestinian refugees. There is a clearly
recognized right under international law that non-combatants who flee during
a conflict have the right to return after the conflict is over. But an
Israeli recognition of the Palestinian right of return does not mean that
all refugees will exercise that right. What is needed in addition to such
recognition is the concept of choice. Many refugees may opt for (i)
resettlement in third countries, (ii) resettlement in a newly independent
Palestine (though they originate from that part of Palestine which became
Israel) or (iii) normalization of their legal status in the host country
where they currently reside. In addition, the right of return may be
implemented in phases so as to address Israel’s demographic concerns.