Utenriksminister under Barak, Shlomo Ben-Ami, er en gløgg fyr. Intellektuell. Nylig var han i Q-A-session i Haaretz. Her kom han med en interessant observasjon av Arafat, som en mann som er en trussel mot verdensfreden. En deltaker i Gaza spurte hva han mente.

He later told Haaretz that Arafat is «not a partner. Worse, Arafat is a strategic threat; he endangers peace in the Middle East and in the world.»

Ben-Amis ord har tyngde. Han deltok som utenriksminister i Camp David og Taba.

My attitude to Arafat is somewhat more nuanced. I do recognize his contribution to the cause of the Palestinian nationalism over the years, but I came to the conclusion that he is incapable of producing the transition from the revolutionary leader to the statesman and assume the inevitability of a reasonable compromise with the Israelis. It was not I, but the Saudi ambassador in Washington, expressing the view of Crown Prince Abdullah, who said that Arafat’s rejection of the Clinton Parameters for peace was a crime against the Palestinian people. I continue to support a solution that is based on two independent states with the 1967 lines as the guiding principle to delineate the border between the two states.

I have supported two capitals in Jerusalem and continue to do so, and if I question the leadership of Arafat, it is only because I saw him in the moment of truth as an obstacle rather than a vehicle for reaching a responsible solution based on the Clinton ideas.

Ben-Ami utdyper den negative holdningen til Arafat: Han var ikke villig til å godta at Israel hadde noen forbindelse til Tempelhøyden! hvor det annet tempel lå.

Did Arafat offer to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall Plaza or the surface of the Wailing (Western) Wall and an access corridor?

Shlomo Ben-Ami :
Arafat was only willing to recognize Israel’s sovereignty on the Wailing Wall, not on the Western Wall. [In practice they are the same, but the term «Western Wall» implies the existence of the Temple.] He never accepted any link between Israel – or the Jewish people for that matter – and the Temple Mount as such. One of the reasons that he rejected the Clinton Parameters was that although they offered him full sovereignty over the Temple Mount, they nevertheless recognized Israel’s symbolic link to the site. This he could not accept.

During a speech you made in Mexico City, you said that had you been in Arafat’s shoes, you would not have signed the Camp David agreement. Could you explain why?

Shlomo Ben-Ami :
Yes, indeed, I said that, and I reaffirm that the Camp David outline was not one that the Palestinians could have accepted; they didn’t accept the Clinton Parameters that went much further than Camp David. The problem with Arafat’s performance at Camp David did not lie in his refusal to rubricate an agreement on the basis of Camp David, but in his attitude to the negotiating process. He was throughout negative, unwilling to advance counter-proposals, and so passive that he made any exercise by the president to move ahead the process into a futile enterprise.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak was evasive about his so-called «generous offer» at Camp David. He claimed that the participants had agreed not to put anything on paper while many, including Israeli scholar Tanya Rheinhart, insist that no such offer was made. Others believe that Barak’s offer amounted to a bantustan Palestinian state, which any Palestinian leader would refuse. You were an active participant in the Taba negotiations with the Palestinians – can you shed light on this point?

Shlomo Ben-Ami :
Camp David and Taba are two different things. It is not true that at Camp David a bantustan-style state was proposed to the Palestinians. The offer at Camp David stood at 91 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip. Ninety-one percent may not be the ideal solution for the Palestinians, but how can one say that this was a bantustan-style state?

Taba, as I said, was another matter. Taba failed because the Israelis tried to reach a settlement that translated the Clinton principles into a written agreement, whereas the Palestinians insisted on changing and modifying the Clinton Parameters almost in every chapter. The deal proposed in Taba was 97 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent, of course, of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians rejected that.

Is it correct to conclude that the only real obstacle to recognition by and a peace agreement with Syria before, during and since your tenure has been Israel’s refusal to return all Syrian territory occupied by Israel? If not, why not? If so, what justifies this refusal by Israel diplomatically?

Shlomo Ben-Ami :
Israel was ready both under Mr. Rabin and Mr. Barak to withdraw from the whole of the Golan Heights. The reason we did not reach a settlement was Hafez Assad’s refusal to be forthcoming on the question of normalization of relations with Israel after peace, on the question of security arrangements, and because of his insistence on having a presence on the shores of Lake Kinneret, which is Israel’s only natural water source.

Land with Syria was not a problem. What was a problem was whether Syria was ready to establish normal political and economic relations with Israel. Assad was unwilling to establish normal relations with Israel because he understood that this would undermine his authoritarian rule. Open borders always undermine dictatorial rule – that was his major concern.

Haaretz – QA