Posted by Joshua on Sunday, November 12th, 2006
Clayton Swisher, The Truth About Camp David: the Untold Story about the Collapse of the Peace Process, Nation Books: Yew York, 2004.
Clayton Swisher's book is excellent. Syria Comment readers will be particularly interested in the Syrian part of the Peace Process. I have gotten the author's permission to copy the chapters from page 61 to 130 here for everyone to read. It is in PDF format. They are the important Syria chapters and make compelling reading. Anyone who has read Denis Ross's book will also want to read Swisher's. He quotes most of the participants. Don't just satisfy yourself with the Syria part, however; the whole book is important and good reading.
The argument that emerges from these pages is that Clinton believed he could get Barak and Asad to close their differences by first ordering his aids to "find me a way to fudge it." The "it" here is the fact that Barak "was reluctant to deliver the Rabin deposit." The Rabin deposit was the understanding that Rabin had come to with Asad — Israel was prepared for "full withdrawal" to the June 1967 line if Syria was prepared to satisfy Israel's demands on full normalization of relations and on security guarantees.
Asad insisted that Barak accept the Rabin deposit and the principle of full withdrawal as the basis of reengaging in talks. Albright proposed to Asad that Barak would accept the Rabin deposit at a later date if the two sides could first agree on a number of issues which included water and security. It was on this basis that talks between Israel and Syria resumed under Barak.
Asad eventually agreed to Barak's water and security demands, but Barak got cold feet and would never commit to the 1967 borders. He wanted to give less. Asad would not accept less because he wanted no less than Egypt or Jordan had gotten. He had begun the negotiations on the understanding that both sides were discussing withdrawal to the 1967 borders. He had insisted all along that those were the only borders he would accept. Before setting out for Geneva to meet Clinton, he was led to believe that he would be satisfied on the border question. Once there, he was offered something less by Barak. As soon as he heard this, Asad insisted that Barak was not serious about peace between the two countries and left Geneva.
Swisher suggests that Barak may have decided by this time that he could not afford such a deal on the Golan if he hoped to conclude a deal with the Palestinians. Swisher does not belabor this point and gives a number of different actors' interpretations of the collapse of the talks. Some blame Clinton for being unwilling to pressure Barak. Others suggest Asad should have relented on the 1967 borders. What does seem to be clear is that Asad was determined on the 1967 borders from the beginning and had made it clear to all.
Here are some Amazon reviews
Highly recommended for any American who wants to know what happened., February 20, 2006
This book presents detailed, eye-witness accounts from all sides of the US/Israeli peace negotiations with the Syrians and Palestinians during the latter part of the Clinton administration. …
A significant fraction (roughly 1/3) of the book deals with the Syrian/Israeli peace process, the return of the Golan Heights to Syria, and the death of President Assad. The main point of interest in these discussions is that Israel could have peace tomorrow with Syria if the Golan Height were returned in toto.
The conventional wisdom in the US is that the US and Israel offered the Palestinians 90% of what they wanted, and were rejected. The conclusion is that since this offer was rejected, they have no partner for peace. The reality is considerably more complex. This book examines in detail, with accounts taken from participants on all sides, what was in fact offered to the Palestinians and why they rejected this offer. I challenge any reader who believes this conventional wisdom to read this book. Some of the negative reviewers below make very good points vis-a-vis Palestinian terrorism, Arafat's role in the second intifada, right of return, etc., but they miss the key issue of this book. To understand why the negociations failed and why the offer was rejected by Arafat, one must understand EXACTLY what was offered to the Palestinians. As described in great detail in this book, the Palestinians were offered far less than true statehood by the US and Israelis. They would have had a state in name (with a flag, an anthem, etc.), but the Palestinian state would be economically and politically subservient to Israel. They would not control their borders or their economy, their country would be divided by Israeli-only roads, and they would have a capital in a suburb of Jerusalem. This was not a process from which (from a US/Israeli perspective) a viable, independent, free Palestinian state would be formed, but one in which the Palestinians would accept Israeli political, economic, and military domination. Arafat quite rightly rejected this.
The second, and perhaps more chilling, aspect of this book is how the line dividing US and Israeli interests among the highest levels of the US government has almost totally disappeared. Why is Dennis Ross, a man described as more pro-Israel than the Israeli delegation and a servant of AIPAC, representing the US in these negociations? Surely there must have been someone who was slightly less one-sided in the State Department to take the role that Dennis Ross was thrust into?
Overall, this is a detailed, factual, balanced account of the US/Israeli peace negociations with the Palestinians and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in this issue. I look forward to reading more from Mr. Swisher.
Best book yet on Mideast peace process, September 7, 2004
|Reviewer:||M. Rosenberg "freddymac" (New York, NY United States) – See all my reviews
Talk about doing your homework. Clayton Swisher has interviewed virtually everyone involved in the Middle East peace process. And they told him very different things than we have all read before. That is why, as of this time, this is the most definitive book on why the Oslo process collapsed in 2000. Well-written, heavily footnoted, loaded with juicy nuggets, this is a book anyone even mildly interested in the Mideast will want to read. All I can say is "Bravo."