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Yes, Blame Arafat

May 9, 2009 | by Gary Rosenblatt

The new revisionist view of last summer's Camp David Mideast summit— perhaps best described as a "don't blame Arafat" campaign - is morally and historically false.

Courtesy of The Jewish Week.

The new revisionist view of last summer's Camp David Mideast summit — perhaps best described as a "don't blame Arafat" campaign — is upon us with a vengeance, literally. But the logic of the Arab public relations effort is deeply flawed, the "facts" don't hold up and the attempt to vindicate the Palestinian leadership at the expense of Israeli officials is morally and historically false.

One need not deconstruct the thousands of words in Deborah Sontag's analysis in The New York Times ("Quest For Mideast Peace: How and Why It Failed; Many Now Agree That All the Parties, Not Just Arafat Were to Blame," July 26) to see that the front-page post-mortem makes the same fatal mistake as the Mitchell Report (on the cause of the renewed intifada), the new touchstone of Mideast peace efforts. Both accounts try so hard to be fair to all parties that they equalize unequal truths, invoke symmetry when there is none, and refuse to cast proportional blame. The result is not only to make a mockery of reality but to distort history in dangerous ways.

The Sontag report and a Times editorial three days later ("Looking Back At Camp David"), which asserts the summit "fell short because of insufficient preparation and a lack of trust and chemistry between the two leaders," are partial truths that add up to a misleading conclusion.

It may well be that Ehud Barak was less than congenial in dealing with Yasir Arafat or that the U.S. pressured the Palestinian leader to come to the summit, but those matters hardly compare to the fact that Arafat rejected Barak's generous offer to create a Palestinian state on more than 90 percent of the contested land, including Jerusalem. What is more, even Sontag acknowledges that the Palestinians never wavered from their refusal to accept any territorial compromise and made no counter offers. (As Daily News columnist Zev Chafets put it this week, "in other words, all Israel needed to do to save the summit, and make the peace, was to give the Palestinians 100 percent of what they wanted — and then drop dead.")

What Sontag does not mention is that the Palestinians violated the most basic premise of the Oslo accords from Day One, eight years ago, by resorting to violence after pledging to solve all differences through negotiations. That, and praising the Palestinian killers, as well as ignoring Oslo's insistence on ending vicious anti-Semitism in textbooks, the media and public talks, are not mentioned in the analysis of what doomed the peace effort.

Perhaps most disturbing, the Times report lends credence to the notion that the renewed intifada began last fall after Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount; the Mitchell Report disputes this and a number of high-ranking Palestinian officials have since acknowledged that the violence was planned, and indeed had begun, before the visit.

The Sontag "special report," which never supports its contention that Arafat did not turn down 97 percent of the West Bank, is being viewed by some in the context of a new attempt on the part of the Palestinian camp to counter what it calls "the myth" of Camp David.

Until recently, the Palestinians did not aggressively challenge the American and Israeli versions of what sabotaged the summit last July — namely, Yasir Arafat's complete rejection of Barak's generous offer and the Palestinians' decision to use violence as a means of achieving their goals.

In recent weeks, though, the Palestinians struck back on several fronts. With the help of Edward Abington, a Washington-based former U.S. Mideast diplomat who is now a consultant to the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians issued a slick document on Capitol Hill asserting Arafat did not reject Israel's offer, which wasn't all that generous.

Robert Malley, a member of the U.S. Mideast peace team at Camp David, published an op-ed piece in the Times several weeks ago (based on a longer piece in the New York Review of Books), making similar claims, and noting that Arafat was forced into the summit showdown and was faced with a "take it or leave it" offer from Barak.

The Palestinian goal has been and remains to destroy the Jewish state, not make peace with it.

Just last week, Ahmed Queria, a top Palestinian negotiator at Camp David known as Abu Ala, gave a rare press conference in which he asserted that the U.S. and Israeli accounts of what transpired at Camp David are a lie.

But none of these efforts disprove the tragic but overwhelming evidence that the Palestinian goal has been and remains to destroy the Jewish state, not make peace with it. Only that awareness and acknowledgment accounts for the ongoing effort to deny any Jewish historical ties to the land, the preaching of anti-Semitic hate in the schools and media, the insistence on a law of return that would make Jews a minority in Israel, the glorification of suicide bombers as martyrs, the persistent call for "the liberation of all of Palestine," and the daily attacks on Israeli civilians.

Maybe diplomats are trained to place hope above reality, but the rest of us cannot ignore the facts. It is true that in the end, the Israelis and Palestinians, fated to live side by side forever, will have to negotiate in good faith if there is ever to be an end to the violence. But the last 10 months have shown us all too vividly that one side is not ready to bury the sword.

Courtesy of The Jewish Week.

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