Lost opportunities


Former Democratic candidate for the presidency of the US back in 2016, Hillary Clinton, said on Fareed Zakaria GPS that the Palestinians had missed a golden opportunity to conclude a peace deal with Israel that former president Bill Clinton had brokered with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak during the Camp David summit, which brought the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Barak together at the White House.

Hillary Clinton maintains that had the Palestinians accepted the peace plan then, they would have had a Palestinian state by now instead of nothing.

Under Barak’s peace offer, Israel would have relinquished control of 96 per cent of the West Bank to the projected Palestinian state, including putting the so-called “Western Wall” and Islamic holy sites under Palestinian sovereignty. The two sides differed over a mere 16 metres of land leading to the entrance of the Western Wall tunnels that Israel wanted to keep, unfairly no doubt.

The whole peace plan fell apart because the late Palestinian leader Arafat could not agree to relinquish control over the 16 meters of land in question. In other words, the Palestinians had an opportunity to have their own independent state back in 2000 over 95 per cent of the West Bank, including control over Al Haram Al Sharif, but failed to seize the opportunity over 16 metres of land.

To be sure, Barak’s offer was not perfect and the Palestinian leadership was counting on more favourable peace offers at a future time, something that did not happen, and from the looks of things is not likely to happen. In other words, the Palestinian leadership miscalculated and gambled on receiving some offer for peace which is “more complete”. That did not happen and is not projected to happen.

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert also got close to striking a deal with the Palestinians, albeit not a perfect one either. Olmert offered the Palestinian leadership in September 2008 again an offer to forego Israeli control of Islamic holy shrines, including Al Aqsa Mosque, but wanted to keep about 6.3 per cent of the West Bank where major Israeli settlements existed already under Israeli control. Olmert offered to relinquish about 2 per cent of Israeli territory in exchange for the seized 6.3 per cent of the Palestinian territory, not a perfect solution to be sure, but better than status quo!

The moral of this writing is to show that the Palestinian leadership may have lost rare opportunities to “salvage” as much of Palestinian rights and territory as possible, including control over Al Harm Al Sharif and about 95 per cent of the West Bank.

To be sure, these repeated Israeli offers were not perfect and successive Palestinian leaderships had a right in principle to insist on a “perfect” solution. Yet, in relative terms, what the Palestinians now have or could have in the foreseeable future is infinitely worse than what Barak and Olmert had offered them.

If the Palestinian leadership did commit a major policy error by insisting on the “perfect solution” at a time when that was not in the cards neither back then nor now, who is going to hold such short-sighted positions accountable, especially when the cards are still stacked against the Palestinians now and as far as one can see in the future.

With the US electing presidents the likes of President Donald Trump, who could be reelected for another term, what chances do the Palestinians have to recover not 95 per cent of their homeland but much less.

Is the Palestinian leadership locked in the same frame of mind that rejected the 1947 UN partition plan for Palestine and for how long!



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