To read Ken's column, "Making it look easy," click here.
Jimmy Carter's odd description of the December 2000 last-gasp peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians is, in my opinion, the most consequential error in his recent book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.
It was later claimed that the Palestinians rejected a generous offer' put forward by Prime Minister Barak with Israel keeping only 5 percent of the West Bank, he writes on page 152. The fact is that no such offers were ever made.
Dennis Ross, President Clinton's lead negotiator, reports in his account of the peace talks, The Missing Peace, that, in response to one Clinton proposal, the Israeli cabinet formally accepted ideas that would produce a Palestinian state in roughly 97 percent of the West Bank, and 100 percent of Gaza. He goes on to describe how the Palestinian delegation, at the Arafat's direction, rejected that offer.
During the the talks, there were numerous other offers in the 94 or 95 percent range, including one offered by Clinton on Dec. 23, 2000, and for which there is a written record.
In his book, My Life, Clinton writes: "On the ninth day (of the talks), I gave Arafat my best shot again. Again he said no. Israel had gone much further than he had, and he wouldn't even embrace their moves as the basis for future negotiations."
While there are differing accounts of the various offers and the responses of the two parties, Carter's choice in Peace Not Apartheid to describe Clinton's version in a passive voice is misleading and perhaps somewhat telling. By saying it was later claimed, he keeps from readers the fact that he's contradicting Clinton. On CNN recently, however, Carter phrased it another way: I hate to dispute Bill Clinton on your program, because he did a great and heroic effort there. He never made a proposal that was accepted by Barak or Arafat. On the same show, Ross responded to a clip of Carter by saying, That's simply not so.
Here are a handful of other apparent errors in Carter's book that I had time to document. The purpose isn't to win an argument over the Palestine-Israel conflict; it's simply to demonstrate that Carter's book contains substantive mistakes and omissions with an obvious slant:
p. 38: U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 is based on the premises that that Israel must withdraw from occupied territories.
The 1967 resolution actually states that a lasting peace should be sought in the Middle East consistent with a combination of principles: that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories, that all claims or states of belligerency be ended, and that every state in the area has the right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force. The word must doesn't appear in the resolution, and that's important in a diplomatic document.
Carter also fails to make the related point that Israel's cabinet unanimously voted nine days after the Six-Day War to exchange all the territories for peace, when the resolution was passed in 1967. Nor does he mention that Arab nations in a unanimous Arab League resolution resolved that there would be "no peace, no recognition and no negotiation with Israel."
p. 39: In 1969, the PLO found a strong leader in Yasir Arafat, a well-educated Palestinian who was the head of al-Fatah, a guerrilla organization. As chairman, Arafat turned much of his attention to raising fund for the care and support of the refugees and inspiring worldwide contributions to their cause.
Carter's benignly novel description of Arafat's activities fails to mention what the chairman gained fame for after he took the leadership post in 1969: attacks on Israeli civilians. The PLO launched artillery attacks from Jordan on Israeli kibbutzim in 1969 and 1970, and sent armed guerrillas, or fedayeen, into Israel for terror attacks during that time. The attacks culminated in the 1972 murders of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich by Black September, which scholars and some former PLO leaders say was a Fatah faction.
p. 58: During and after the 1948 war, about 420 Palestinian villages in the territory that became the State of Israel were destroyed and some 700,000 Palestinian residents fled or were driven out.
This is an error of omission. While most estimates of Palestinian refugees in 1948 do fall around 700,000, census reports indicate that a similar number of Jews were driven within a few years from Arab countries.
p. 52: The Israelis have never granted any appreciable autonomy to the Palestinians, and instead of withdrawing their military and political personnel, Israeli leaders have tightened their hold on the occupied territories.
Through the Oslo peace accords of 1993, Palestinians gained a great deal of autonomy for a time. In 1994, Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza and Jericho, and later from most other cities in the West Bank. The new Palestinian Authority governed those jurisdictions; elections were held there as well. Last year, Israel forcibly removes all Israeli settlers from Gaza unilaterally, leaving the Palestinian Authority in charge. (Much of that autonomy has melted away in recent years, however, particularly with the breakdown of the peace talks, the expansion of settlements, the Intafada, the construction of the wall and Israeli military actions.)
p. 59: On June 5, Israel launched preemptive strikes, moving first against Egypt and Syria, then against Jordan.
While Israel did launch preemptive attacks Egypt and Syria (after Egypt had kicked U.N. forces out, and both those countries moved more troops to their borders with Israel), Israel used diplomatic channels to try to keep Jordan out of the war. Then, Jordan attacked Israel, and Israel counterattacked.
p. 62 When I met Yasir Arafat in 1990, he stated, The PLO has never advocated annihilation of Israel. The Zionists started the drive the Jews into the sea' slogan and attributed it to the PLO. In 1969, we said wanted to establish a democratic state where Jews, Christians, and Muslims can live together. The Zionists said they do not choose to live with any people other than Jews.
Carter fails to correct anywhere in the book Arafat's clearly false statements. There are numerous, well-documented instances of Arab leaders threatening that they would drive Israel into the sea. The constitution of Fatah, the PLO faction that Arafat led, still says that the organization's goals include eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.
According to Israeli census information, 16 percent of Israel's residents are Muslim, around 2 percent are Christian and 1.6 percent are Druse. While residents of the territories are denied the rights of citizens, citizens of all religions in Israel proper have full political rights.
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