Sunday, May 11, 2014

Pundak is dead. Long live Pundak.

Ron Pundak was a powerful voice for peace.  Along with Yair Hirshfeld he initiated the Oslo peace process with the Palestinians in January 1993.  This led to a Declaration of the Oslo Principles that provided for Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, gradual devolution of economic power to the Palestinians, and international economic assistance to the nascent Palestinian entity in Gaza.  It was the model for peace for 20 years.  The Oslo peace process is dead.  Ron Pundak is dead.

The hope was for peace within five years.  It could have happened. There was a partner for peace, says Pundak in the video below.  It didn't happen.

A year and a half after Oslo, on February 24, 1995, Baruch Goldstein, a Brooklyn born physician and Orthodox Settler in Kiryat Arba near Hebron, entered the Cave of the Patriarchs Mosque in Hebron and killed 29 worshippers.  Nine months later, on November 4, 1995, an Orthodox settler opposed to the Oslo accords assassinated Yithzak Rabin at a rally in the Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv.

Five years came and went.

In July 2000 President Clinton hosted Ehud Barak and Yassir Arafat and their negotiating teams for a summit at Camp David to attempt to close the deal on Oslo.  What happened at Camp David?

Robert Malley, who was a special assistant to President Clinton, and Hussein Agha frame the issue in the New York Review of Books in August 2001:
In accounts of what happened at the July 2000 Camp David summit and the following months of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, we often hear about Ehud Barak’s unprecedented offer and Yasser Arafat’s uncompromising no. Israel is said to have made a historic, generous proposal, which the Palestinians, once again seizing the opportunity to miss an opportunity, turned down. In short, the failure to reach a final agreement is attributed, without notable dissent, to Yasser Arafat. ....
For a process of such complexity, the diagnosis is remarkably shallow. It ignores history, the dynamics of the negotiations, and the relationships among the three parties. In so doing, it fails to capture why what so many viewed as a generous Israeli offer, the Palestinians viewed as neither generous, nor Israeli, nor, indeed, as an offer. Worse, it acts as a harmful constraint on American policy by offering up a single, convenient culprit—Arafat—rather than a more nuanced and realistic analysis.
Pundak also was present at Camp David.  His views about the collapse of the Oslo process, right through Camp David, are not equivocal.

It's a problem of very poor implementation of the principles of Oslo, says Pundak.  He gives three examples, but puts the main blame on Israeli leaders.

  1. Israel kept building settlements. Israel spent, and is spending billions of NIS on the settlements.  "This sends a message to the Palestinians that we are not serious;"   
  2. Palestinian continued terrorism tapped into Israeli paranoias; it undermined trust;  and, 
  3. Israel has never openly declared that the negotiation will lead to 2 states based on '67 borders, with partition of Jerusalem, with secure borders for Israel, and a fair and agreed upon resolution of the refugee issue. 
If Israel, the government, any prime minister, had made such a declaration, and they should have done it right after the Oslo accords, Pundak believes the process would have gone very differently.  Palestinians would have trusted more, there would not have been a second Intifada, and settlers would have known that the ongoing settlement process was fruitless, and governmental agencies would not have supported the settlement process as they have done.  This was the biggest mistake, says Pundak.  

"If we are looking at Camp David, which was another opportunity, the Americans behaved amateurishly. ... They came as the lawyer for Israel." [ Not like Carter in 1978, who was a real honest broker between Egypt and Israel.  The parties owe great thanks to Carter, thought Pundak; not so much Clinton] 
"But on the Israeli side, I think this was one chain of mistake after mistake. Barak wanted to reach peace from my point of view. But after wanting to reach peace, he started to make all possible mistakes on the way. He did not accept the idea of putting the end game in front, as the Palestinians asked, if not demanded.  He suggested things that in Israel, until today, are being portrayed as the best offer ever, but this is an offer that no Palestinian leader, and no leader who would have taken the Palestinian role (i.e. Clinton?) would have accepted. IMPOSSIBLE.  He was aggressive, he was arrogant, he didn't want to meet Arafat alone, he didn't want to meet the other side until the other side will agree to the terms that he dictates.  And actually, even without the American mistakes, and without the Palestinian mistakes, which I can list from here to the evening, I think the main spoiler of Camp David, unfortunately, I think was Barak."  

Malley and Agha in their article claim 
"strictly speaking, there never was an Israeli offer. Determined to preserve Israel’s 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. They generally were presented as US concepts, not Israeli ones; indeed, despite having demanded the opportunity to negotiate face to face with Arafat, Barak refused to hold any substantive meeting with him at Camp David out of fear that the Palestinian leader would seek to put Israeli concessions on the record. 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.
In the wake of the failure of the Camp David talks there were protests in Arab villages in Galilee.   Ari Shavit in his My Promised Land (Kindle Loc. 5083) describes how Israeli police came under attack, and in response they shot dead thirteen Palestinian Israelis. Settlement continued full steam ahead; Sharon visited the Temple Mount in tense times.  From September 2000 until February 2005 the Second Intifada raged.

In 2005 Israel withdrew from Gaza and embarked on building the separation wall.  It has brought quiet to Israel, but the peace process has stood still.

Pundak is an inspiring and optimistic speaker.  He felt optimistic that ultimately the parties would have to come together on something like the Oslo framework.  But Oslo and Pundak are dead.  We will see if they have an afterlife.

Camp David 2000 Until Today: Ron Pundak and... by IPCRI

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