4-21-02 - Dennis Ross: Arafat rejected deal that would give them 97% of territory,
return of refugees to Palestinian state - and more.
[Thanks to Yisrael Medad]
Following is a transcript excerpt from Fox News Sunday, April 21, 2002.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross has worked to achieve Middle
East peace throughout President Clinton's final days in office. In the months following
Clinton's failed peace summit at Camp David, U.S. negotiators continued behind-the-scenes
peace talks with the Palestinians and Israelis up until January 2001, and that followed
Clinton's presentation of ideas at the end of December 2000.
ROSS: The ideas were presented on December 23 by the president, and they basically said
the following: On borders, there would be about a 5 percent annexation in the West Bank
for the Israelis and a 2 percent swap. So there would be a net 97 percent of the territory
that would go to the Palestinians.
On Jerusalem, the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem would become the capitol of the
On the issue of refugees, there would be a right of return for the refugees to their own
state, not to Israel, but there would also be a fund of $30 billion internationally that
would be put together for either compensation or to cover repatriation, resettlement,
And when it came to security, there would be a international presence, in place of the
Israelis, in the Jordan Valley.
These were ideas that were comprehensive, unprecedented, stretched very far, represented a
culmination of an effort in our best judgment as to what each side could accept after
thousands of hours of debate, discussion with each
FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Now, Palestinian officials say to this day that Arafat said
ROSS: Arafat came to the White House on January 2. Met with the president, and I was there
in the Oval Office. He said yes, and then he added reservations that basically meant he
rejected every single one of the things he was supposed to give.
HUME: What was he supposed to give?
ROSS: He supposed to give, on Jerusalem, the idea that there would be for the Israelis
sovereignty over the Western Wall, which would cover the areas that are of religious
significance to Israel. He rejected that.
HUME: He rejected their being able to have that?
ROSS: He rejected that.
He rejected the idea on the refugees. He said we need a whole new formula, as if what we
had presented was non-existent.
He rejected the basic ideas on security. He wouldn't even countenance the idea that the
Israelis would be able to operate in Palestinian airspace.
You know when you fly into Israel today you go to Ben Gurion. You fly in over the West
Bank because you can't -- there's no space through otherwise. He rejected that.
So every single one of the ideas that was asked of him he rejected.
HUME: Now, let's take a look at the map. Now, this is what -- how the Israelis had created
a map based on the president's ideas. And...
HUME: ... what can we -- that situation shows that the territory at least is contiguous.
What about Gaza on that map?
ROSS: The Israelis would have gotten completely out of Gaza.
ROSS: And what you see also in this line, they show an area of temporary Israeli control
along the border.
ROSS: Now, that was an Israeli desire. That was not what we presented. But we presented
something that did point out that it would take six years before the Israelis would be
totally out of the Jordan Valley.
So that map there that you see, which shows a very narrow green space along the border,
would become part of the orange. So the Palestinians would have in the West Bank an area
that was contiguous. Those who say there were cantons, completely untrue. It was
HUME: Cantons being ghettos, in effect...
HUME: ... that would be cut off from other parts of the Palestinian state.
ROSS: Completely untrue.
And to connect Gaza with the West Bank, there would have been an elevated highway, an
elevated railroad, to ensure that there would be not just safe passage for the
Palestinians, but free passage.
BARNES: I have two other questions. One, the Palestinians point out that this was never
put on paper, this offer. Why not?
ROSS: We presented this to them so that they could record it. When the president presented
it, he went over it at dictation speed. He then left the cabinet room. I stayed behind. I
sat with them to be sure, and checked to be sure that every single word.
The reason we did it this way was to be sure they had it and they could record it. But we
told the Palestinians and Israelis, if you cannot accept these ideas, this is the
culmination of the effort, we withdraw them. We did not want to formalize it. We wanted
them to understand we meant what we said. You don't accept it, it's not for negotiation,
this is the end of it, we withdraw it.
So that's why they have it themselves recorded. And to this day, the Palestinians have not
presented to their own people what was available.
BARNES: In other words, Arafat might use it as a basis for further negotiations so he'd
ROSS: Well, exactly.
HUME: Which is what, in fact, he tried to do, according to your account.
ROSS: We treated it as not only a culmination. We wanted to be sure it couldn't be a floor
ROSS: It couldn't be a ceiling. It was the roof.
HUME: This was a final offer?
ROSS: Exactly. Exactly right.
HUME: This was the solution.
BARNES: Was Arafat alone in rejecting it? I mean, what about his negotiators?
ROSS: It's very clear to me that his negotiators understood this was the best they were
ever going to get. They wanted him to accept it. He was not prepared to accept it.
HUME: Now, it is often said that this whole sequence of talks here sort of fell apart or
ended or broke down or whatever because of the intervention of the Israeli elections. What
ROSS: The real issue you have to understand was not the Israeli elections. It was the end
of the Clinton administration. The reason we would come with what was a culminating offer
was because we were out of time.
They asked us to present the ideas, both sides. We were governed by the fact that the
Clinton administration was going to end, and both sides said we understand this is the
point of decision.
HUME: What, in your view, was the reason that Arafat, in effect, said no?
ROSS: Because fundamentally I do not believe he can end the conflict. We had one critical
clause in this agreement, and that clause was, this is the end of the conflict.
Arafat's whole life has been governed by struggle and a cause. Everything he has done as
leader of the Palestinians is to always leave his options open, never close a door. He was
being asked here, you've got to close the door. For him to end the conflict is to end
HUME: Might it not also have been true, though, Dennis, that, because the intifada had
already begun -- so you had the Camp David offer rejected, the violence begins anew, a new
offer from the Clinton administration comes along, the Israelis agree to it, Barak agrees
HUME: ... might he not have concluded that the violence was working?
ROSS: It is possible he concluded that. It is possible he thought he could do and get more
with the violence. There's no doubt in my mind that he thought the violence would create
pressure on the Israelis and on us and maybe the rest of the world.
And I think there's one other factor. You have to understand that Barak was able to
reposition Israel internationally. Israel was seen as having demonstrated unmistakably it
wanted peace, and the reason it wasn't available, achievable was because Arafat wouldn't
Arafat needed to re-establish the Palestinians as a victim, and unfortunately they are a
victim, and we see it now in a terrible way.
HUME: Dennis Ross, thank you so much.
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