- At Camp David in 2000-01, Israel agreed to a comprehensive peace proposal that would have seen the establishment of a Palestinian state in all Gaza and more than 90% of the West Bank. Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian National Authority, rejected that proposal without counter-offer.
- At the same time, various Palestinian terror factions (including those associated with Arafat’s Fatah Party) launched a campaign of violence against Israeli civilians, killing more than 1,000. Evidence later emerged that the Intifada was planned in advance. It was not a spontaneous response to any Israeli decision.
- President Clinton and other observers (including in the Arab world) later blamed Arafat for the failure to establish a Palestinian state in the context of a peace agreement with Israel.
Between July 2000 and January 2001, under the auspices of US President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat took part in a series of detailed negotiations at Camp David. In December, a comprehensive plan – known as the “Clinton Bridging Proposals” – was brought forward for the purpose of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Under the proposed agreement, a Palestinian state would be formed on the entire Gaza Strip and more than 90% of the West Bank. Israel would remove all settlements from Gaza and most from the West Bank, with the exception of major settlement blocs (neighbourhoods with thousands of residents, and in some cases tens of thousands). A solution was offered for Palestinian refugees, in which some would be settled abroad while others would move to the new Palestinian state (and a fund of $30B from international sources would be set up to provide compensation). In what was a particularly difficult compromise for the Jewish state to make, Israel agreed to divide sovereignty in Jerusalem between the two states – with a Palestinian capital to be situated in the eastern part of the city.1
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to the proposal (with the support of the Israeli cabinet, which voted to accept the package). Yasser Arafat flatly rejected the proposals, refused to propose a counter-offer, and insisted that every Palestinian refugee should be allowed to ‘return’ to Israel2 (including the millions of descendants of 1948 refugees, a policy, if implemented, would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state). President Clinton later blamed Arafat for the collapse of the peace process, telling the Palestinian leader: “I’m a failure, and you have made me one.” 3
Around the same time, a campaign of Palestinian violence broke out – culminating in what became known as the Al-Aqsa Intifida (or the Second Intifada). In September 2000, Ariel Sharon (then leader of the opposition Likud Party) made a public visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In response, Palestinian crowds rioted and – under various terror factions (including the Fatah Party’s military organization, Tanzim, and the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade) – launched an intense campaign of violence on Israeli civilians. It was later revealed by the Communications Minister of the Palestinian Authority that the violence had been planned when Yasser Arafat returned from peace talks at Camp David – two months in advance of Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount. 4
Yasser Arafat not only planned the second intifada, but he also praised and glorified suicide bombers in Arab media outlets – while appearing to condemn the attacks in international fora. As a key official in the Palestinian Authority later admitted, the Palestinian leadership was using the Oslo peace process as cover to advance the ‘resistance’:
The Oslo Accords are not the dream of the Palestinian people. However, there would never have been resistance in Palestine without Oslo. Oslo is the effective and potent greenhouse which embraced the Palestinian resistance. Without Oslo, there would never have been resistance. In all the occupied territories, we could not move a single pistol from place to place. Without Oslo, and being armed through Oslo, and without the Palestinian Authority’s “A” areas, without the training, the camps, the protection afforded by Oslo, and without the freeing of thousands of Palestinian prisoners through Oslo – this Palestinian resistance and we would not have been able to create this great Palestinian Intifada.
– Ziyad Abu Ein, PA Deputy Minister of Prisoners Affairs. 5
As the suicide bombing campaign intensified targeting civilians in Israeli buses, restaurants, and malls, the strain on Israeli society was enormous. In total, some 1,000 Israelis were murdered and 8,000 more wounded.
- Martin Gilbert, Israel: A History (Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2008), p. 622.
- Martin Gilbert, Israel: A History (Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2008), p. 621.