Robbins wrong: Israel more of the peace-process rejectionist

Jeff Robbins’ Times of Israel post, (“A very good question,” Dec. 23 Times of Israel), forms a core of the Israeli Right’s narrative myth: that the Palestinians rejected peace: When it has often been the opposite.

In order to balance Robbins’ Rightist Palestinian-bashing, let’s  “exaggerate the truth” and refute Robbins’ original imbalance.

At Oslo in 1993 the Palestinians made historic and basic concessions:

To accept the permanent loss of 80% of their land ; to recognize Israel ; and to peace.  As Farah Stockman also recently notes in the Boston Globe (“Keeping the dream of a Palestinian state alive?,” Dec. 16), that Oslo “obligated Palestinians to cooperate with Israel on security, but it did not obligate Israel to stop building settlements”–which, by the time of Camp David, were 600,000 settlers.

And, since then, Israel has said no to the Geneva Accords, the Arab League Peace offer, and recent Kerry talks, while overtaking the Palestinian’s last 20% sliver of land with 750,000 settlers and still climbing.

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On Camp David in 2000, as Israeli expert and nationally known centrist peacemaker with many friends on both sides, Gershon Baskin, wrote about two weeks ago in The Jerusalem Post (16 Dec. 2014):


Baskin notes the “many myths and such general lack of knowledge surrounding every previous round of negotiations.” He continues:

“The conventional wisdom according to most Israelis is that each time the Palestinians have been offered a generous offer by Israel they have walked away from the table.

“This includes the famous offer of the ‘whole store’ by Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David, which Yasser Arafat turned down, and the offer of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who, or so the story goes, turned it down and walked away.”

Part of the uncertainty about Camp David, Baskin reports, is that  Barak “refused to directly negotiate with Arafat because the Americans demanded that a full and detailed American record be registered, and Barak refused.” In other words, because of Barak, we have all been denied an objective American record of what took place there.

And we have all suffered for it ever since.

On Camp David, Baskin comments:

“Here are some of the [–known–] facts:

“[1] Barak’s Camp David offer of July 2000 included… 89 percent of West Bank [which means 11% less, and arguably even much less still, than the already basic Palestinian concession to accept only the 20% of their historical land]

“[2] with two east-west corridors under full Israeli control (dividing the West Bank into three cantons) [which means each of the three cantons separated by Israeli land and checkpoints which would isolate and separate the Palestinians in their own country, or example commuters, economic and recreational travelers, and visitors to family]  ;

“[3] Israeli control of the entirety of the eastern border of the Palestinian state [which means the Palestinian eastern border with Jordan, or Jordan Valley,, which would make Palestine politically landlocked and surrounded by Israel on all sides] … ;

“[4] …  a Palestinian capital in Abu Dis [rather than in Jerusalem, as Abu Dis is next to but outside Jerusalem] ;

“[5]  no foothold in  east Jerusalem or the Old City.”

Arafat was supposed to accept this?

Meanwhile Barak was increasing the settler expansionism even over that of Netanyahu’s first term ; as the New York Times headlined it, “Barak Plan Speeds Up West Bank Settlement; Expansion Threatens To Derail Peace Talks” (December 6, 1999).

How humiliating to the Palestinians.  And: As Farah Stockman reports in the Boston Globe  today (Dec. 28)– and as we shall later return to:

“The peace process,” Daniel Seidemann tells us, ‘is like two guys arguing over how to divide a pizza. But only one guy gets to eat the pizza while the argument is going on. Does that guy want to finish the argument? No. He wants to eat as much as he can. By the time they finish arguing, there’s only one piece left.’”

They came closer at Taba, but Barak was already behind Ariel Sharon by 20% in the polls, so there was little chance Israel’s government then in the middle of elections would have accepted Barak’s even one-sided and less than entirely generous offer.

And then Baskin adds, “10 days prior to national elections in Israel, Barak ordered the [Israeli negotiating] team home and then lost the elections to Ariel Sharon, who won by a landslide.”


As for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas:

Baskin notes that “Olmert and Abbas agreed that with another few months’ time, they would have reached an agreement.”

This is the opposite of Robbins’ “the Palestinians saying no.”

Rather, as Baskin goes on, “Olmert was indicted and was forced to step down….US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice told them [i.e., the US asked the Palestinians] to stop negotiating with Olmert and to wait for and to wait for Tzipi Livni….But Livni never became prime minister.”

Instead Israelis re-elected a well-known rejectionist, Benjamin Netanyahu–who was up to that time known to have always rejected any 2-state solution at all. And even today only very dubiously and doubtfully can claim to support any “yes.”

Meanwhile, Israel was continuing all the time to attempt to take over Palestine with settlements, while rejecting — or only perfunctorily, non-credibly, and under US pressure, claiming to accept — any viable 2-state solution.


The John Kerry peace efforts?

From the time of Camp David to John Kerry, the settler numbers had continued to sky-rocket to 750,000.  This expansionism has dominated the occupation and peace process for decades.

Again: Farah Stockman recently noted in the Boston Globe that Oslo “obligated Palestinians to cooperate with Israel on security, but it did not obligate Israel to stop building settlements.”

She continues:  “There were 100,000 settlers when Oslo was signed,”  [Palestinian public figure Sam] Bahour said. ‘Today, there are over 500,000.’”  When including East Jerusalem there are today around 750,000 and still rising.

Therefore it is no surprise, on Kerry’s most recent efforts, that, as The Times [April 8, 2014) notes of his report to The Senate Foreign Relations Committee:


That while “both sides bore responsibility for ‘unhelpful’ actions, the precipitating event, he said, was Israel’s announcement of 700 new housing units for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. That came three days after a deadline passed for Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, and it undercut an emerging deal to extend the negotiations. ‘Poof,’ that was sort of the moment,’ Mr. Kerry said.’”

And, if it was unlikely Netanyahu would have shared Jerusalem as both peoples’ capital or returned control of the Jordan Valley, how still harder to believe Netanyahu’s main rightist coalition partners — Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett — would have accepted these  or any terms that are even remotely agreeable to the Palestinians.

Roger Cohen quotes Livni in the Times (December 24) that “any day that goes by without a solution is another lost day”– of Israel “taking more land.”

But then– why not just stop taking more land?

Livni is now herself running for Prime Minister. Apparently because of the need to play campaign politics, she prefers not to assign the obvious blame for failure of the talks to the pro-Settler government she was in.

It seems to be electorally easier for her to uphold a common electoral front at least on Palestine-bashing, avoid any campaign charge against her of “disloyalty,” and so to unite in scapegoating the Palestinians.


This all turns upside down Robbins’ polemic about inappropriate Palestinian “no’s,” and transforms them into either (1) only occasional but appropriate Palestinian “no’s” and (2) rather frequent Israeli “no’s.”

This pattern has continued to repeat itself out in the peace process:

–from, for Palestinians, the impossible-to-accept Camp David terms ;

(– and about which the Israeli Public also essentially said “no” by then electing the then-anti-2-state rejectionist Ariel Sharon over Barak, a result that would ruin Taba as a successful successor to Camp David) ;

–to the Israel-rejected Geneva Accords ;

–to the Israel-rejected 2002 Saudi-Arab League Peace Offer– always rejected by Israel for getting put on the table and further negotiated ;

–to the possibly fruitful negotiations between Olmert and Abbas of which both sides agreed on the potential, and that nobody said “no” ;

(and about which also the Israeli public again said “no” by re-electing (after Olmert’s legal troubles) the rejectionist Netanyahu over Livni ;

–to the peace efforts of John Kerry–which Israel entirely rejected .


While ultimately:

At the very outset of the occupation, Israel could have sent its army, no settlers, and withdrawn later when peace came. But instead it chose expansionism. 

As Farah Stockman later reports in the Globe just today (Dec. 28): “’The peace process,’ Daniel Seidemann tells us, ‘is like two guys arguing over how to divide a pizza. But only one guy gets to eat the pizza while the argument is going on. Does that guy want to finish the argument? No. He wants to eat as much as he can. By the time they finish arguing, there’s only one piece left.’”

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And so why would the Palestinians accept inviable terms for their own land, and especially when Israel was in the middle of taking it over?

And related to Seidemann’s point is the further fact that if the situation was reversed, and Palestine occupied Israel, Israel wouldn’t accept such terms while Palestine was sending 750,000 Palestinian settlers and rising into Palestine-occupied Israel–

So that, in a reverse scenario that illustrates it, by the time occupier Palestine and occupied Israel finished arguing, there would be only one piece of the land of Israel left, controlled by the Palestinians.

And right here in the real world, the actually occupied Palestinians, whose land is constantly being eaten by Israel while they are ostensibly talking, do understandably and naturally feel the same way.

And so, in short, Netanyahu’s underlying anti-2-state (viable) solution  attitude, along with Barak’s and his own constant settler expansionism  during this whole while, speak for themselves about Israel’s rejection of most of the opportunities in the peace process.

If there had been no settlers, just the army, and the Green Line honored, then, without any expansionism, so the stakes so much lowered over the decades, and the Palestinians long agreeing to recognize Israel and to peace, Israel could have just withdrawn its army (maybe in stages), and so there would have been many great opportunities for any of these efforts to have worked out, and so…long ago…peace to have prevailed.





About the Author
James Adler was born in Kentucky, now works in university libraries, and feels especially and intensely bound up with the fate of the Jewish people in the last hundred years, especially the Shoah, the rise of Israel "out of the ashes," and the accidental and mutually tragic collision with the Palestinians in the early and middle of the 20th century, continuing through today. He is happily married and the father of two teenagers.