Jake Lynch and Majd Beltaji on a revelation

They write:

The end game of Clinton’s mediation efforts came with the ‘parameters’ of the Taba summit in January 2001, when both he and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak were about to leave office. The underpinning principle was that UN Security Council Resolution 242, affirming the pre-1967 Green Line as the basis for mapping the border between two states. By the time negotiators sat down, however, Israel had already privately expressed “reservations”, in a letter from Barak’s Chief of Staff, Gilead Sher, to the Americans; a communication whose existence is revealed for the first time in a new book by the historian and advocate of a two-state solution, Benny Morris.


NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: What actually happened? What actually happened was exactly as what was announced by the White House spokesman on January 3rd, 2001, the official statement was both the Israelis and the Palestinians have accepted the Clinton parameters with some reservations. Both sides entered reservations on the Clinton parameters. Dr. Ben-Ami leaves out in the book both sides. He only mentions the reservations by the Palestinians.Number two, I was surprised to notice one of the books Dr. Ben-Ami recommends is the book by Clayton Swisher called The Truth at Camp David. I looked in the book. On page 402 of Clayton Swisher’s book, when he’s discussing the issue of entering reservations to Clinton’s parameters, he quotes none other than Shlomo Ben-Ami. You acknowledged—you call them relatively minor, but you acknowledged that Barak entered—you called it several pages of reservations. In fact, Barak sent a ten-page letter of reservations to the Clinton parameters. It was exactly symmetrical. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians agreed to the Clinton parameters with some reservations.

Wait, one last point. One last point. Dr. Ben-Ami left out another crucial point in his account. He doesn’t tell us why Taba ended. It ended officially when Barak withdrew his negotiators. It wasn’t the Palestinians who walked out of Taba. It ended with the Israelis walking out of Taba, a matter of historical record, not even controversial.


SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Okay, well. You see, as somebody who was a part of those who prepared the Israeli document that was submitted to President Clinton, I can say that the bulk of the document was an expression of our – the comparison that we made between our initial positions and what was reflected in the Clinton parameters.

Or (Chomsky):

After the collapse of these negotiations, Clinton recognised that Arafat’s reservations made sense, as demonstrated by the famous “parameters”, which, though vague, went much further towards a possible settlement — thus undermining the official story, but that’s only logic, therefore as unacceptable as history. Clinton gave his own version of the reaction to his “parameters” in a talk to the Israeli Policy Forum on 7 January 2001: “Both Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat have now accepted these parameters as the basis for further efforts. Both have expressed some reservations.”One can learn this from such obscure sources as the prestigious Harvard-MIT journal International Security (Fall 2003), along with the conclusion that “the Palestinian narrative of the 2000-01 peace talks is significantly more accurate than the Israeli narrative” — the US-NYT “narrative”.

The point is, an Israeli letter expressing reservations is not new, and certainly not Benny Morris’s revelation. And the reservations are not the big deal they make out anyway. There are other reasons to be skeptical of the Taba negotiations: I would recommend Lynch read Tanya Reinhart’s study.

Does Benny Morris even advocate a two state solution anymore? Putting aside my personal opinion that he advocates it in about the same sense as Mendes (or Olmert and Sharon when in government [in fact, Olmert was probably a stronger advocate in power, but looking at his policies is the relevant issue]), I think we should not refer to such people as two state advocates. The real proponents of a two state agreement – the creation of a viable Palestinian state – are people like Finkelstein, Chomsky, Avnery and so on.


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