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Dennis Ross comments
Listen to what Dennis Ross said. He was there at Camp David and Taba.
Monday, April 22, 2002 Dennis Ross: Arafat rejected deal that would give the Palestinians 97% of West Bank and 3 percent of Israel.
Following is a transcript excerpt from Fox News Sunday, April 21, 2002.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross has worked to achieve Middle East peace throughout President Clinton's final days in office. In the months following Clinton's failed peace summit at Camp David, U.S. negotiators continued behind-the-scenes peace talks with the Palestinians and Israelis up until January 2001, and that followed Clinton's presentation of ideas at the end of December 2000.
ROSS: The ideas were presented on December 23 by the president, and they
basically said the following: On borders, 97 percent of the West Bank would go to the Palestinians. There would be about a 3 percent annexation in the West Bank for the Israelis and a 3 percent swap of Israeli land to the Palestinians. So there would be a net of 100 percent of the territory that would go to the Palestinians.
On Jerusalem, the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem would become the capitol of the Palestinian state.
On the issue of refugees, there would be a right of return for the refugees to their own state, not to Israel, but there would also be a fund of $30 billion internationally that would be put together for either compensation or to cover repatriation, resettlement, rehabilitation costs.
And when it came to security, there would be a international presence, in place of the Israelis, in the Jordan Valley.
These were ideas that were comprehensive, unprecedented, stretched very far, represented a culmination of an effort in our best judgment as to what each side could accept after thousands of hours of debate, discussion with each side.
FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Now, Palestinian officials say to this day
that Arafat said yes.
ROSS: Arafat came to the White House on January 2. Met with the president, and I was there in the Oval Office. He said yes, and then he added reservations that basically meant he rejected every single one of the things he was supposed to give.
HUME: What was he supposed to give?
ROSS: He supposed to give, on Jerusalem, the idea that there would be for the Israelis sovereignty over the Western Wall, which would cover the areas that are of religious significance to Israel. He rejected that.
HUME: He rejected their being able to have that?
ROSS: He rejected that. Yes! He kept telling us, that the Jews had no history in Jerusalem and that the Wailing Wall was really the Baraq Wall and was Arab.
He rejected the idea on the refugees. He said we need a whole new formula, as if what we had presented was non-existent.
He rejected the basic ideas on security. He wouldn't even countenance the idea that the Israelis would be able to operate in Palestinian airspace.
You know when you fly into Israel today you go to Ben Gurion. You fly in
over the West Bank because you can't -- there's no space through otherwise.
He rejected that.
So every single one of the ideas that was asked of him he rejected.
HUME: Now, let's take a look at the map. Now, this is what -- how the Israelis had created a map based on the president's ideas. And...
HUME: ... what can we -- that situation shows that the territory at least is contiguous. What about Gaza on that map?
ROSS: The Israelis would have gotten completely out of Gaza.
ROSS: And what you see also in this line, they show an area of temporary Israeli control along the border.
ROSS: Now, that was an Israeli desire. That was not what we presented. But we presented something that did point out that it would take six years before the Israelis would be totally out of the Jordan Valley.
So that map there that you see, which shows a very narrow green space along the border, would become part of the orange. So the Palestinians would have in the West Bank an area that was contiguous. Those who say there were cantons, completely untrue. It was contiguous.
HUME: Cantons being ghettos, in effect...
HUME: ... that would be cut off from other parts of the Palestinian state.
ROSS: Completely untrue.
And to connect Gaza with the West Bank, there would have been an elevated highway, an elevated railroad, to ensure that there would be not just safe passage for the Palestinians, but free passage.
BARNES: I have two other questions. One, the Palestinians point out that this was never put on paper, this offer. Why not?
ROSS: We presented this to them so that they could record it. When the president presented it, he went over it at dictation speed. He then left the cabinet room. I stayed behind. I sat with them to be sure, and checked to be sure that every single word.
The reason we did it this way was to be sure they had it and they could record it. But we told the Palestinians and Israelis, if you cannot accept these ideas, this is the culmination of the effort, we withdraw them. We did not want to formalize it. We wanted them to understand we meant what we said. You don't accept it, it's not for negotiation, this is the end of it, we withdraw it.
So that's why they have it themselves recorded. And to this day, the Palestinians have not presented to their own people what was available.
BARNES: In other words, Arafat might use it as a basis for further negotiations so he'd get more?
ROSS: Well, exactly.
HUME: Which is what, in fact, he tried to do, according to your account.
ROSS: We treated it as not only a culmination. We wanted to be sure it couldn't be a floor for negotiations.
ROSS: It couldn't be a ceiling. It was the roof.
HUME: This was a final offer?
ROSS: Exactly. Exactly right.
HUME: This was the solution.
HUME: Now, it is often said that this whole sequence of talks here sort of fell apart or ended or broke down or whatever because of the intervention of the Israeli elections. What about that?
ROSS: The real issue you have to understand was not the Israeli elections.
It was the end of the Clinton administration. The reason we would come with what was a culminating offer was because we were out of time.
They asked us to present the ideas, both sides. We were governed by the fact that the Clinton administration was going to end, and both sides said we understand this is the point of decision.
HUME: What, in your view, was the reason that Arafat, in effect, said no?
ROSS: Because fundamentally I do not believe he can end the conflict. We had one critical clause in this agreement, and that clause was, this is the end of the conflict.
Arafat's whole life has been governed by struggle and a cause. Everything he has done as leader of the Palestinians is to always leave his options open, never close a door. He was being asked here, you've got to close the door.
For him to end the conflict is to end himself. I also believe, Arafat was never serious about making a peace deal at Camp David. Whenever Arafat gets in trouble with his own people, to divert attention to this, he always incites them against Israel. This is a common tactic among dictators. Arafat knew, he couldn't do this no more, if he agreed to peace.
HUME: Might it not also have been true, though, Dennis, that, because the intifada had already begun -- so you had the Camp David offer rejected, the violence begins anew, a new offer from the Clinton administration comes along, the Israelis agree to it, Barak agrees to it...
HUME: ... Might he not have concluded that the violence was working?
ROSS: It is possible he concluded that. It is possible he thought he could do and get more with the violence. There's no doubt in my mind that he thought the violence would create pressure on the Israelis and maybe the rest of the world. Arafat wanted to re-establish the Palestinians as a victim, and started this horrific war.
HUME: Dennis Ross, thank you so much.