Israel is still dealing with the repercussions of President Bill Clinton’s having pressured Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to exchange “land for promises” uttered by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat In in English but, alas, not in Arabic. Dennis B. Ross, author of the ill-fated Clinton Parameters for a two-state solution, almost pulled it off.
Israel barely survived a set-up for disaster at Camp David II in 2000 during President Bill Clinton’s summit.
Israel is still dealing with the repercussions of Clinton’s having pressured Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to exchange “land for promises” uttered by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat In in English but, alas, not in Arabic. Dennis B. Ross, author of the ill-fated Clinton Parameters for a two-state solution, almost pulled it off.
On March 30, Ross admitted he had committed two errors during the lead-up to this near-debacle — while promoting his latest book at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel.
He never before had ‘fessed up, including in his semi-autobiographical tomes. This newly-revealed narrative emerged only after he responded to my questions, carefully structured to forestall evasion.
I first quoted two people-in-the-know who had met with participants in two missions to Israel sponsored by the American Jewish Committee: Daniel C. Kurtzer, the American ambassador to Egypt and a member of Ross’s Office of the Special Middle East Coordinator, and Efraim Halevy, the head of the Mossad. Both blamed Ross for advising the event be held, despite widespread awareness that Yasir Arafat had privately maintained — regardless of what land would be “returned” — that he would refuse to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.”
I had asked Ross this same question a decade ago, when he had been the keynote speaker at Cheltenham High School’s “Five Star Forum” adult education series. At that time, I had quoted Kurtzer, while Ross had blamed Halevy. Yet, a year later, after being serendipitously confronted with this claim, Halevy doubled-down on his recollection of Ross’s culpability for advising the event transpire.
So, having been informed of this serial finger-pointing exercise, what did Ross reveal, for the first time last week?
First, he said he relented to Clinton’s demand that any conference be held prior to the presidential nominating conventions of 2000 and, therefore, he felt pressured to convene the summit before he had prepared adequately for it. As an aside, he admitted that he viewed this as a unique opportunity, for gaining concessions would be easier from the Labor government of Ehud Barak than from any Likud regime. That’s why he had pushed for Palestinian Arab sovereignty in the Old City of Jerusalem, cited in his book The Missing Peace.
Second, he said he should have prepped each side to ensure their constituents would accept a peace pact. As an aside, he admitted that awareness of this omission had only occurred to him recently. That’s why he had ignored the presence of the so-called “Intifada II” that Arafat had already launched.
Time didn’t permit further probing of these obvious glitches in his narrative.
As a follow-up, he claimed he had opposed the Iran nuclear capitulation pact last year, despite his not having done so unequivocally during speeches such as what he delivered at Har Zion Temple. In any case, Ross’ efforts to satisfy Clinton’s quest for a Nobel Peace Prize — over the corpse of eretz Yisrael — were fortuitously dashed by a recalcitrant Arafat.
And now we know why Ross initiated this fool’s errand.
Robert B. Sklaroff, M.D., is a physician-activist in Philadelphia. He may be contacted at [email protected]