Arafat did not come up with one idea at Camp David

I just read an article on the Jerusalem Post (www.jpost.com) that goes over an interview with Dennis Ross, who was one of the main mediators between Israel and the Palestinians under former U.S. presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton.

"Arafat didn't offer anything but slogans during this period. He never indicated that he would even make a decision," said Ross.

"The only thing he did say was that the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans almost 2000 years ago, never existed in Jerusalem as the Jews believe. He said it was located somewhere in Nablus", Ross said.

I copy the full article below.





Ross: Arafat said Temple was in Nablus
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
http://www.jpost.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=JPost/A/JPArticle/Full&cid=1021378903175

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat "never offered any substantive ideas [for peace], not once" during the 15 days of talks at Camp David in the summer of 2000, former US peace negotiator Dennis Ross said yesterday.

The only thing he did say was that the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans almost 2000 years ago, never existed in Jerusalem as the Jews believe. He said it was located somewhere in Nablus, Ross said.

"He did offer one new idea, which was that that the Temple didn't exist in Jerusalem, that it was in Nablus," Ross told Channel 1 last night.

"Arafat didn't offer anything but slogans during this period. He never indicated that he would even make a decision," said Ross, one of the main mediators between Israel and the Palestinians under former presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton.

Ross said that when meeting with Clinton in Washington in January 2001, Arafat appeared to accept the compromises made by both sides, but later raised reservations that undercut them. Therefore, Ross said, he would believe Arafat's reported statement yesterday that he now accepts the Clinton ideas, if he clarifies what that means in detail.

Israel Radio reported Arafat told a group of bereaved Israeli families that he supports the proposals presented at Camp David by prime minister Ehud Barak and Clinton.

Still, Ross said, the Palestinian negotiators made important concessions during the Camp David talks and would likely not have done so unless they thought Arafat would ultimately support them.
Ross said he believes Arafat is not a partner for peace, but at the same time Israel cannot bypass him.

"Yasser Arafat is the symbol of the Palestinian movement. Anyone who thinks he is going to disappear doesn't understand the importance of what Yasser Arafat means to the Palestinian people. From the Palestinian standpoint, he put them on the map.
"But the character of his power and his ability to exercise it is likely to change," Ross said, adding that the Palestinians are looking for a new type of leadership.

Ross spoke to reporters in Jerusalem about the Palestinian reform movement and the possibility of peace. It's significant that Palestinians did not allow Arafat to enter Jenin on Monday, Ross said. Arafat faced a similar problem in Bethlehem. Arafat's standing had dropped before the Israelis isolated him in Ramallah, Ross said.

"The reform movement driven by Palestinians is very important. The Palestinians themselves are saying there must be a change. The Palestinians are frustrated with the corruption and the lack of transparency in the Palestinian Authority under Arafat. The Palestinians want to build structures and institutions that are less arbitrary. If that reform is successful,l it will impact how Yasser Arafat can behave in the future," Ross said.

"If there is going to be a Palestinian state, it has to be a responsible state. It has to have one authority. It can not have multiple authorities."
Speaking at the Knesset yesterday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that reform in the PA is one of the preconditions for restarting peace talks. But Ross said it's a mistake to make such a demand.
True reform can only come from the Palestinians, it cannot be imposed and certainly not by Israel. The international community, however, can insist on accountability if it is going to spend more money in the PA areas, he said.

Palestinian reform can reassure Israelis that once again they have a partner in the pursuit of peace, but there is a risk to demanding that it is a precondition for peace. It can give the Palestinians an excuse to stay away from making necessary reforms, Ross said.

He doesn't believe that if Arafat is less powerful, a more radicalized movement will emerge, if anything he is hopeful the change will be a positive one.

Two days ago in Al Hayat, Fatah people said Hamas betrayed the Palestinian cause by carrying out attacks in Israel.

"That is something very profound, that is something we have not seen. It offers a possibility of hope," Ross said, adding that to make peace everyone is going to have to give up some of their myths.

"The Palestinians have been victims of history, but if they want to be something other than victims they have to assume the responsibility as well," Ross said.

He believes that a Palestinian state will eventually be created, despite the recent Likud vote against such a move.

It was more of a "symbolic statement that a position of what the outcome will be," Ross said. "I was, struck by the fact that while 71 percent [of the Likud central committee] were against the creation of the state, 83% said they expected the state to emerge."

The US sees the vote against a Palestinian state as "reflecting political competition here; it's an internal political affair in Israel," Ross said.

But the difficult choices leaders must face around the question of Palestinian statehood will only come when the Palestinians make it clear that they will not permit terror.

"To date Sharon has not been faced with a choice, he has dealt only with the question of terror and violence," said Ross, who met with him yesterday. "Only when the terror stops will it be possible to evaluate if he or any other prime minister is capable of acting on that choice."

Posted by David Melle
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