NORMAN FINKELSTEIN, CounterPunch, NOVEMBER 13, 2006
The historical chapters of Palestine Peace Not Apartheid are rather thin, filled with errors small and large, as well as tendentious and untenable interpretations. But few persons will be reading it for the history.
It is what Carter has to say about the present that will interest the reading public and the media (assuming the book is not ignored). It can be said with certainty that Israel’s apologists will not be pleased. Although Carter includes criticisms of the Palestinians to affect balance, it is clear that he holds Israel principally responsible for the impasse in the peace process. The most scathing criticisms of Israel come in Chapter 16 (“The Wall as a Prison”). One hopes that this chapter (and the concluding “Summary”) will be widely disseminated.
Below I reproduce some of Carter’s key statements.
Most Arab regimes have accepted the permanent existence of Israel as an indisputable fact and are no longer calling for an end to the State of Israel, having contrived a common statement at an Arab summit in 2002 that offers peace and normal relations with Israel within its acknowledged international borders and in compliance with other U.N. Security Council resolutions. (p. 14)
Since 1924, Shebaa Farms has been treated as Lebanese territory, but Syria seized the area in the 1950s and retained control until Israel occupied the Farms–along with the Golan Heights–in 1967. The inhabitants and properties were Lebanese, and Lebanon has never accepted Syria’s control of the Farms. Although Syria has claimed the area in the past, Syrian officials now state that it is part of Lebanon. This position supports the Arab claim that Israel still occupies Lebanese territory. (pp. 98-9)
The best offer to the Palestinians [at Camp David in December 2000]–by Clinton, not Barak–had been to withdraw 20 percent of the settlers, leaving more than 180,000 in 209 settlements, covering about 10 percent of the occupied land, including land to be “leased” and portions of the Jordan River valley and East Jerusalem.
The percentage figure is misleading, since it usually includes only the actual footprints of the settlements. There is a zone with a radius of about four hundred meters around each settlement within which Palestinians cannot enter. In addition, there are other large areas that would have been taken or earmarked to be used exclusively by Israel, roadways that connect the settlements to one another and to Jerusalem, and “life arteries” that provide the settlers with water, sewage, electricity, and communications. These range in width from five hundred to four thousand meters, and Palestinians cannot use or cross many of these connecting links. This honeycomb of settlements and their interconnecting conduits effectively divide the West Bank into at least two noncontiguous areas and multiple fragments, often uninhabitable or even unreachable, and control of the Jordan Valley denies Palestinians any direct access eastward into Jordan. About one hundred military checkpoints completely surround Palestinians and block routes going into or between Palestinian communities, combined with an unaccountable number of other roads that are permanently closed with large concrete cubes or mounds of earth and rocks.
There was no possibility that any Palestinian leader could accept such terms and survive, but official statements from Washington and Jerusalem were successful in placing the entire onus for the failure on Yasir Arafat. (pp. 151-2)
A new round of talks was held at Taba in January 2001, during the last few days of the Clinton presidency, between President Arafat and the Israeli foreign minister, and 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. The fact is that no such offers were ever made. Barak later said, “It was plain to me that there was no chance of reaching a settlement at Taba. Therefore I said there would be no negotiations and there would be no delegation and there would be no official discussions and no documentation. Nor would Americans be present in the room. The only thing that took place at Taba were nonbinding contacts between senior Israelis and senior Palestinians. (p. 152)
In April 2003 a “Roadmap” for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was announced by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on behalf of the United States, the United Nations, Russia, and the European Union (known as the Quartet).The Palestinians accepted the road map in its entirety but the Israeli government announced fourteen caveats and prerequisites, some of which would preclude any final peace talks. (p. 159)