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Labor Returns to Camp David and Taba

25 November 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Labor Party Chairman Amram Mitzna has announced consistently he is ready to meet with PA Chairman Yasir Arafat to facilitate a Middle East peace.  In addition he has promised within a year of taking office he will evacuate the Gaza Strip and isolated settlements in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and implement a unilateral separation even if his negotiations with Arafat fail.  First Labor needs to win the elections, no easy task. 

Simultaneously, Labor super dove Yossi Beilin and Yasir Abed Rabo of the PA are working on a peace agreement pillared in the Clinton Outline of Camp David 2000 and the Taba Talks of 2001.  Israel is to relinquish some 97% of the West Bank, all of Gaza and to take back a small, symbolic amount of Palestinian refugees.  The Palestinians receive and independent state with East Jerusalem as the capital and the vast majority of Israeli settlements are to be removed.  The agreement is being written up by two private individuals who hope Labor will be elected.  Then it will be sold to the Israel Left, who according to expectations will be a willing buyer.  To sweeten the pill of large Israeli concessions the agreement will be signed by a European country.

But what of the Palestinians?  Arafat made absolutely no compromises at Camp David 2000 and when his negotiators came to what appeared to be an agreement at Taba, they told the Israeli side that Arafat will reject the agreement which he did.  Arafat then intensified the violence.  One needs to remember the ‘moderate’ Palestinians have no militia or weapons to speak of and therefore can sign any agreement they want, but it will not be honored.

Even Yossi Sarid of the left wing Meretz faction believes an international force is necessary to patrol the Palestinian areas once Israel withdraws.  He has made it clear he has absolutely no confidence in Arafat, having been cheated by him so many times.  Former Labor foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami also believes international involvement is needed, just that he demands it be effective, demanding an American presence and not a “Norweigan force” in an apparent reference to the weakness of implementation in the Oslo Accords.

It is certainly commendable that the Left is developing alternatives to the Likud, but the question arises as to their relevancy.  Yasir Arafat continues his terror campaign and even Mitzna has no doubts it will continue even if he makes far reaching one sided territorial withdrawals to include forced evacuations of settlements.  When asked on TV if he thought such gestures will end terrorism he responded negatively.  Mitzna believes once the Palestinians have a state they will behave more responsibly and if not, Israel retains the right of retaliation should Palestinian violence continue.

Barak also conceded virtually everything and in the end was condemned by the world for Israeli anti-terror operations.  Barak has advised Mitzna not to deal with Yasir Arafat, explaining the PA Chairman’s irrelevancy. Mitzna responded by saying Barak is “irrelevant.”  Mitzna has a point, at least temporarily.  Barak draws on experience.

Mitzna is suggesting to walk in Barak’s footsteps, while Barak is suggesting to cover his own tracks.