myth of Camp David: part of the US-Israeli disinformation campaign
By Chris Marsden
19 April 2002
Justifying the massacre of Palestinian men, women and children
by the Israeli Defence Forces has required an extraordinary propaganda
effort from the pro-Zionist US media. Lies have become the norm
in an attempt to turn reality on its head, portraying the victims
of state terror as the guilty party, and war criminals as the victims.
One myth that is central to the propaganda campaign involves a
grossly distorted presentation of the Camp David Israeli-Palestinian
summit of July, 2000. The American media endlessly repeat the assertion
that Yasser Arafat spurned a generous proposal for Palestinian statehood
offered by the then Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, thereby
precipitating the eruption of violence that has continued for more
than 18 months.
To cite one example, the April 15 Wall Street Journal contains
an article by Daniel Pipes and Jonathan Schanzer arguing against
an Israeli military withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. In
it they opine:
Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in July 2000, convinced President
Clinton to host a summit for Yasser Arafat and himself. At Camp
David, he offered unprecedented concessions, hoping to close the
Palestinian account like he thought he had just closed the Lebanese
one. Trouble was, both Hezbollah and the Palestinians drew the opposite
lesson from this retreat. Hezbollah crowed how Islamic forces in
the smallest Arab country had caused Israel to retreat
in defeat and resignation.
As for Arafat, rather than be inspired by Israeli goodwill,
he saw an Israel weak and demoralized. Inspired by Hezbollahs
success, he and the Palestinian body politic lost interest in diplomacy
and what it could bringthe partial attainment of their goals.
Instead, they adopted the Hezbollah model of force in order to attain
Not surprisingly, then, Arafat flatly turned down Mr. Baraks
wildly generous proposals and did not even deign to make a counter-offer.
Of course, complete victory here means the destruction of Israel,
not coexistence with it. How could Arafat aspire for less, when
he had turned down so handsome an offer at Camp David?
Such claims are made in the full knowledge of their falsity. For
since the Camp David talks in Maryland finally collapsed on July
25, 2000, a plethora of evidence has emerged disproving the efforts
of the Israelis and the US to blame the Palestinian delegation for
the failure of the summit.
The propaganda unravels
As US president, Clinton announced that the talks had foundered
over the future of Jerusalem, and blamed the Palestinians, stating,
The Israelis moved more from the position they had.
The Palestinians said nothing at the time, because they were still
pinning their hopes on further negotiations. This left the field
clear for the far right in Israel to portray Barak as a naïve
fool who had failed to understand that it was impossible to compromise
with Arafat, who would stop at nothing less than the destruction
It wasnt until almost a year later that a number of articles
appeared refuting the propaganda of the Zionists, at a time when
the military conflict had been raging for ten months. The first
to speak out was Robert Malley, the US National Security Councils
Middle East expert under Clinton and a member of the American team
at Camp David.
He wrote an initial article for the July 8, 2001 edition of the
New York Times, Fictions About the Failure at Camp David,
in which he rejected a number of myths, including the assertion
that Barak had all but sacrificed Israels security by making
an offer that met most, if not all, of the Palestinians
Malley wrote, Yes, what was put on the table was more far-reaching
than anything any Israeli leader had discussed in the pastwhether
with the Palestinians or with Washington. But it was not the dream
offer it has been made out to be, at least not from a Palestinian
To accommodate the settlers, Israel was to annex 9 percent
of the West Bank; in exchange, the new Palestinian state would be
granted sovereignty over parts of Israel proper, equivalent to one-ninth
of the annexed land. A Palestinian state covering 91 percent of
the West Bank and Gaza was more than most Americans or Israelis
had thought possible, but how would Mr. Arafat explain the unfavorable
9-to-1 ratio in land swaps to his people?
In Jerusalem, Palestine would have been given sovereignty
over many Arab neighborhoods of the eastern half and over the Muslim
and Christian quarters of the Old City. While it would enjoy custody
over the Haram al Sharif [Noble sanctuary], the location of the
third-holiest Muslim shrine [the Al Aqsa Mosque], Israel would exercise
overall sovereignty over this area, known to Jews as the Temple
He also acknowledged major concessions on the part of the Palestinians:
The Palestinians were arguing for the creation of a Palestinian
state based on the June 4, 1967, borders, living alongside Israel.
They accepted the notion of Israeli annexation of West Bank territory
to accommodate settlement blocs. They accepted the principle of
Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalemneighborhoods
that were not part of Israel before the Six Day War in 1967. And,
while they insisted on recognition of the refugees right of
return, they agreed that it should be implemented in a manner that
protected Israels demographic and security interests by limiting
the number of returnees. No other Arab party that has negotiated
with Israelnot Anwar el-Sadats Egypt, not King Husseins
Jordan, let alone Hafez al-Assads Syriaever came close
to even considering such compromises.
The article was followed by further revelations, which were denounced
by the right-wing Israeli media as Camp David revisionism.
On July 23, Ahmed Qureia, the Palestinians top negotiator
at Camp David, gave a press conference echoing Malleys remarks
and describing the claim that Barak offered everything [and]
the Palestinians refused everything as The biggest lie
of the last three decades. The New York Review of Books, New
York Times and the Palestinian negotiating team all published accounts
of Camp David that contained material contradicting the claims of
the Zionist myth-makers.
What happened at Camp David?
Barak had come to office in July 1999 and pledged to carry out
final-status talks with the Palestinians. Negotiations began secretly
in late March 2000, during which Barak made a number of initial
promises. In mid-May, however, the substance of the talks was leaked
to Israeli newspapers and was met with a hostile campaign by Likud,
other right-wing parties and the Israeli media. In response, Barak
pressed for a US-sponsored summit, against the advice of Arafat
and the Palestinians, who feared that insufficient preparation had
been made. Clinton persuaded Arafat to attend, despite Arafats
reservations, and Camp David began.
The New York Review of Books of August 9, 2000 ran a comprehensive
account of events, Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors,
co-authored by Malley and Hussein Agha, who has played an active
part in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
According to their account, Barak refused to implement a number
of interim steps to which Israel was formally committed by various
agreements, including a third partial redeployment of troops
from the West Bank, the transfer to Palestinian control of three
villages abutting Jerusalem, and the release of Palestinians imprisoned
for acts committed before the Oslo agreement.
Though the authors are exceedingly diplomatic in their own formulations,
they make it clear that Barak did so in order to present the Palestinians
with an all-or-nothing offer: Either peace on Israeli terms or the
implicit threat of renewed violence. Central to Baraks plan
was the enlistment of the Clinton administration and Europe to isolate
Arafat and place enormous pressure on him. According to the account
of Malley and Agha, the Western powers were asked to threaten
Arafat with the consequences of his obstinacy: the blame would be
laid on the Palestinians and relations with them would be downgraded.
The article continues: Likewise, and throughout Camp David,
Barak repeatedly urged the US to avoid mention of any fall-back
options or of the possibility of continued negotiations in the event
the summit failed.
This left Arafat in an untenable political position, under conditions
of rising anger amongst the Palestinians and disillusionment over
the failure of the Oslo Accords to improve their social position.
As the two authors write, Seen from Gaza and the West Bank,
Oslos legacy read like a litany of promises deferred or unfulfilled.
Six years after the agreement, there were more Israeli settlements,
less freedom of movement, and worse economic conditions.
They conclude from this, Camp David seemed to Arafat to encapsulate
his worst nightmares. It was high-wire summitry, designed to increase
the pressure on the Palestinians to reach a quick agreement while
heightening the political and symbolic costs if they did not....
That the US issued the invitations despite Israels refusal
to carry out its earlier commitments and despite Arafats plea
for additional time to prepare only reinforced in his mind the sense
of a US-Israeli conspiracy.
The one thing Clinton did promise Arafat in order to get him to
Camp David was that the Palestinians would not be blamed for a failure
of the summita promise that proved to be worthless.
As to what was offered by Barak, the authors note that he never
put anything in writing. The Palestinians were in fact asked to
endorse a vague series of promises that could have been amended
at any time. They write, Strictly speaking, there never was
an Israeli offer. Determined to preserve Israels position
in the event of failure, and resolved not to let the Palestinians
take advantage of one-sided compromises, the Israelis always stopped
one, if not several, steps short of a proposal. The ideas put forward
at Camp David were never stated in writing, but orally conveyed...
Nor were the proposals detailed. If written down, the American ideas
at Camp David would have covered no more than a few pages. Barak
and the Americans insisted that Arafat accept them as general bases
for negotiations before launching into more rigorous negotiations.
Baraks proposals were a far cry from wildly generous
concessions to Palestinian aspirations. His offer would not have
provided a viable basis for a Palestinian state, but rather the
framework for an Arab ghetto dependent on and subordinate to Israel.
The Oslo Accords were based on the Palestinians having recognised
Israeli sovereignty over 78 percent of historic Palestine on the
assumption that the Palestinians would be able to exercise sovereignty
over the remaining 22 percent. In contrast, Baraks supposed
generosity at Camp David amounted to a rejection of United Nations
Resolutions 242 and 338, which had been accepted as the basis for
the Oslo Accords of 1993.
Amongst the most pertinent facts regarding his offer are the following:
* Baraks proposal divided Palestine into four separate cantons
surrounded by Israel: the Northern West Bank, the Central West Bank,
the Southern West Bank and Gaza. A network of Israeli-controlled
highways and military posts would in turn, divide these cantons.
It would make no part of Palestine contiguous and put Israelis in
charge of both the movement of people and goods, internally and
externally, thus ensuring the subordination of the Palestinian economy
to its more powerful neighbour.
* Israel sought to annex almost nine percent of the Occupied Palestinian
Territories, and in exchange offered only one percent of Israels
* Israel sought control over an additional ten percent of the Occupied
Territories in the form of a long-term lease, of unspecified
* The Palestinians were asked to give up any claim to East Jerusalem,
which they had designated as the future capital of a Palestinian
state. The Palestinian negotiating team accept that this was amended
in subsequent talks, with a proposal to allow Palestinians sovereignty
over isolated Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem. But these neighbourhoods
would be surrounded by Israeli-controlled neighbourhoods and separated
not only from each other, but also from the rest of the Palestinian
state. In a calculated insult, the Israelis offered to build tunnels
so that Arafat could visit Palestinian neighbourhoods without setting
foot on Israeli territory.
* Israel would retain control of 69 Zionist settlements on the
West Bank, where 85 percent of the settlers live. The building of
illegal settlements had increased by 52 percent since Oslo was signed,
and the settler population, including those in East Jerusalem, had
more than doubled.
* The Palestinians would abandon any right of return to Israel
for those displaced since its creation in 1948.
And all of this was offered as a threat, rather than a proposal.
As the Palestinian negotiators note, Prior to entering into
the first negotiations on permanent status issues, Prime Minister
Barak publicly and repeatedly threatened Palestinians that his offer
would be Israels best and final offer, and if not accepted,
Israel would seriously consider unilateral separation
(a euphemism for imposing a settlement rather than negotiating one).
In their account, Malley and Agha portray the Palestinians as only
having a perception of being set up, and this creating problems
for the US in its posture of honest broker. But the
episodes they cite show instead that Clinton worked with Barak in
an attempt to force the Palestinians to accept an arrangement equivalent
to the tribal Bantustans in Apartheid South Africa.
They write, for example, that when Abu Alaa, a leading Palestinian
negotiator, balked at Baraks proposals, the President
stormed out: This is a fraud. It is not a summit. I wont
have the United States covering for negotiations in bad faith. Lets
quit! Toward the end of the summit, an irate Clinton would
tell Arafat: If the Israelis can make compromises and you
cant, I should go home. You have been here fourteen days and
said no to everything. These things have consequences; failure will
mean the end of the peace process.... Lets let hell break
loose and live with the consequences.
This was the ultimate threat hanging over the heads of the Palestinianseither
sign up to Baraks offer and sign away any possibility of achieving
a viable state, or incur not only Israels wrath, but that
of the United States.
Sharon implements the military option
The New York Times of July 26, 2001 ran an extended article by
Deborah Sontag entitled, And Yet so Far, which contains
interesting additions on Camp David, but is more important for its
detailing of what happened subsequently. She writes of the events
following Camp David:
Few Israelis, Palestinians or Americans realize how much
diplomatic activity continued after the Camp David meeting appeared
to produce nothing. Building on what turned out to be a useful base,
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators conducted more than 50 negotiating
sessions in August and September, most of them clandestine, and
most at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem....
During August and September, [chief Palestinian negotiator
Saeb] Erekat and Gilad Sher, a senior Israeli negotiator, drafted
two chapters of a permanent peace accord that were kept secret from
everyone but the leaderseven from other negotiators, Mr. Erekat
At the same time, American mediators were pulling together
Mr. Clintons permanent peace proposal. It appeared in December,
but Martin Indyk, the former American ambassador to Israel, disclosed
recently that they were already prepared to put it before the parties
in August or September.
Sontags article is important in that it not only exposes
the myth of Palestinian intransigenceeven after the Camp David
ultimatum failed, intense negotiations continuedbut also draws
attention to the great unmentionable as far as the pro-Zionist media
is concerned: that Ariel Sharon, not Arafat, deliberately blew up
any possibility of achieving a negotiated settlement.
She notes that it was Sharons heavily guarded visit
to the plaza outside Al Aqsa Mosque to demonstrate Jewish sovereignty
over the Temple Mount [that] set off angry Palestinian demonstrations.
The Israelis used lethal force to put them down. The cycle of violence
Even then, discussions continued into December. However, The
negotiations were suspended by Israel because elections were imminent
and the pressure of Israeli public opinion against the talks
could not be resisted, said Shlomo Ben-Ami, who was Israels
foreign minister at the time.
Sontag concludes, In the Israeli elections in February ,
Barak lost resoundingly to Sharon. It was then that peace moves
frozenot six months earlier at Camp David.
One can question the extent to which any of the negotiations following
Camp David were conducted in good faith on Baraks part. The
Clinton administration summoned negotiators to Washington on September
27, 2000. On September 28, Sharon made his deliberately provocative
visit. Barak never once criticised Sharons actions, and Arafat
insists that Barak was conspiring directly with Sharon to
destroy the peace process, choosing Temple Mount/Haram al
Sharif as a vehicle for what they had decided on: the military
See a Flash Presentation of Barak's "Generous Offers".
A simple, clear exposition, with maps, prepared for mass-circulation,
responding to the widespread israeli propaganda assertion that "We
gave them everything and they gave us war" (2001). This will
help you know the facts and thereby break the Myth.
Source: Gush Shalom (israeli peace bloc) http://www.gush-shalom.org