of the urban legends that have gained wide currency over the last few years
is that the Syrians and Palestinians rebuffed Barak’s “generous” peace
overtures. Not according to Bill Clinton’s new book, My Life. His
thousand-page diary, a day-by-day account of his two terms in office, sheds
new light on how Barak and Netenyahu both deliberately sabotaged the peace
process. On the Syrian front, Clinton’s book leaves the reader with no doubt
that it was the Israelis who derailed the negotiations in Shepherdstown. The
ex-president’s account is scattered all over his book. What follows is
Clinton’s own version* of how Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak aborted the
peace negotiations with the Syrians.
In his dairy, Clinton avoids mentioning that Barak pushed the Syrian track so he could freeze the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. At the time, Barak claimed that progress on the Syrian front would eventually result in a more favorable environment for resuming work on resolving his differences with the Palestinians. In the meantime, he followed Netenyahu’s example by expanding settlements in the West Bank. Barak never gave any valid reasons why Israel couldn’t simultaneously make progress on both fronts. Basically Barak’s only excuse was that he had to finish chewing his Syrian gum before taking a very slow walk back to negotiating with the Palestinians.
Once the Syrian talks showed signs of progress, Barak used the same tactic to avoid signing on the dotted line. It appears that he was caught off guard by Syria’s eagerness to make peace. At which point, he insisted on freezing the Syrian talks and moving on to the Lebanese front.
Clinton’s diary is full of effusive praise of both Rabin and King Hussein. Netenyahu and Barak hardly get a positive word of acknowledgment. In fact, the ex-president’s diary clearly documents that he had to pull teeth to get Netenyahu to implement earlier Israeli commitments made by Rabin and Peres to partially withdraw from Hebron.
Netenyahu’s term was a series of provocations and assaults on the Oslo peace process. On page 752, Clinton gives a fairly accurate account on Netenyahu’s tactics “In April, I saw King Hussein and Prime Minister Netenyahu in an attempt to keep the peace process from falling apart. Violence had broken out again, in the wake of an Israeli decision to build new housing in Har Homa, an Israeli settlement on the outskirts of East Jerusalem. Every time Netenyahu took a step forward, as in the Hebron agreement, his governing coalition made him do something that drove a wedge between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Clinton also hints at the neocons active participation in Netenyahu’s election campaign. It is now common knowledge that the neocons were on a mission to derail the Oslo peace process. Clinton notes that Netenyahu won “by promising to be tougher on terrorism and slower with the peace process, and by using American-style television ads, including some attacking Peres that were made with the help of a Republican media advisor from New York.”
On this count, the ex-president is being a little disingenuous. It wasn’t a single media advisor; it was a concerted effort by Likudnik Americans including Richard Perle, David Wurmser and Douglas Feith. In 1996, they advised Netenyahu to ditch the Oslo Accords and adopt a “new strategy.” A year later, Douglas Feith openly incited Israel to re-occupy the areas under Palestinian Authority control. These neocon operatives from the American chapter of the Likud partly can hardly be considered “Republicans”.
On January 13, 1998, Clinton makes a very significant entry in his diary. “The same day, the Middle East moved toward crisis as Prime Minister Netenyahu’s government, which still had not completed the overdue opening of the Gaza airport or provided safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank, put the entire peace process in danger by voting to keep control of the West Bank indefinitely.” Clinton does not record if he even bothered to respond to this serious provocation. Even then, the Palestinians did not abandon what Arafat continued promising his people was a “beace brocess.” For over three years, the Palestinians were obliged to bite the bullet and wait for an Israeli peace partner while Netenyahu was systematically and publicly tearing up the Oslo agreement.
Through out his tenure at the White House, Clinton front-loaded his foreign policy team with professional Israel Firsters from the Lobby. Those who doubt the political theology of Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk can find them back at The Saban Center on Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution. The center is named after one of Brookings biggest financial backers, Haim Saban, an Israeli-American billionaire. This “institution” is one of the think tanks that front for Israeli interests in Washington. One of the donors that also support this outfit is The American Enterprise Institute, the Likudnik think tank that is associated with Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith.
Clinton was as guilty as most of the other Washington scam artists who prostitute Middle East foreign policy for their personal political ambitions. To his credit, he did try to persuade the Israeli lobby to consider the advantages of peace and he did immerse himself in the subject matter to the point where he became quite the expert on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The very human side of the man was genuinely enthusiastic about resolving the conflict and giving the Palestinians a measure of justice. But when push came to shove, it was Clinton the politician who decided to tie himself to the straight jacket designed by the Israeli lobby.
The Hillary Factor:
Perhaps because Hillary is now a junior member in the ranks of the neocon cabal, The ex-president makes no reference to “neo-conservatives” in his book. Last seen, the missus was leading a rally outside the United Nations to denounce the International Court’s decision to condemn Israel’s Apartheid wall. These days, she is as vicious a Sharonista as one can find in the Senate.
Hillary’s support of Sharon’s Palitentiary walls should surprise no one. In February 2002, the junior senator from New York was the honored guest of Binyamin Elon, the extremist who leads the Moledet party. Elon is an advocate of ethnic cleansing and vocally supports ‘transferring’ the Palestinians out of the West Bank and Gaza. On the occasion of Elon’s tete-a-tete with the lesser Clinton, Yossi Sarid of the Meretz party publicly rebuked Hillary for her brazen support of this fascist. “It was embarrassing to see an important representative of democracy sitting to dinner with Minister Elon, who openly espouses the racist doctrine of transfer.”
The purpose of bringing up Hillary’s flirtation with Israeli right wing extremists is to point out that Bill was under severe constraints when writing his account of Barak’s “generous” offer to the Palestinians. It is not hard to imagine that the ex-President penned his memoirs with one eye on his spouse's political fortunes. As Hillary would put it, she was now part of a “vast right wing conspiracy” – of the Israeli variety.
In spite of these “Hillary” constraints, Bill Clinton was obliged to point out that when presented with the final parameters “Arafat never said no; he just couldn’t bring himself to say yes”. Neither could the Israelis. All Barak ever offered was to hold a referendum on Clinton’s final parameters. The Israelis did hold a referendum and Ariel Sharon was elected with the promise to annex East Jerusalem and 58% of the West Bank. The new Israeli government immediately moved to bury the badly mauled carcass of the Oslo peace process.
Like the Syrian peace talks at Shepherdstown, The whole Oslo process was a scam. Clinton’s diary clearly demonstrates that Netenyahu spent three years deliberately sabotaging the agreement. Barak’s mission was to give it a final blow and pin the failure on the Palestinians. Sharon was tasked with conducting the final burial ceremonies. And Hillary is more than happy to dance over Oslo’s grave.
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