Taking Stock: Looking at the Past, Searching for the Future
On August 13, 2001, the Palestine-Israel Journal held a round-table discussion in Jerusalem, with the participation of Dr. Yossi Beilin, former Israeli Minister of Justice and one of the architects of the Oslo agreement, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), Ziad Abu-Zayyad, founder and publisher of the Palestine-Israel Journal, and Reuven Merhav, a former director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry. The moderators were Israeli journalist Danny Rubinstein, who writes on the occupied territories for Ha'aretz and Palestinian journalist Nasser A. Jawad, who works for ABC.

Danny Rubinstein: The main question is: after the failure of Camp David, how can we get out of this deadlock? I suggest that we start with comments from each one of the four participants.

Yossi Beilin: I believe that most of us have come to more or less the same conclusions about the mistakes of Camp David: that none of us was prepared, neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis nor the Americans, for such a conference;F that there was no safety net; and that it was kind of a zero-sum game, rather than a serious readiness to seek compromises. There is a feeling on the Palestinian side - which Dr. Shikaki is relating to - that, because of the lack of the necessary institutions, it was very difficult for the Palestinian Authority to face the political earthquake that was erupting. In such a moment of truth, one had to get enough internal support in order to compromise, and that kind of public support was lacking at the right moment.
Dr. Shikaki would not say that there was a kind of conspiracy whereby the Israeli government, the most dovish government ever, wanted to entrap the Palestinians. Neither would I say that the Palestinians entered the whole process without any readiness to compromise, or that Arafat planned and prepared the Intifada in advance. Nonsense. We all agree that the Intifada was not pre-planned, even if the Minister of Communications, Imad al-Falouji, said something different and idiotic. He is not a responsible person, in my view, and I think he wanted to put Arafat into a kind of trap, knowing that extremists on our side will fall into it.
Those of us who believe in peace and compromise can see the weaknesses both on the Israeli and on the Palestinian sides. On the Israeli side, I think that Barak had all good intentions but had no idea how to make peace, or how to show his readiness for peace to the other side. On the Palestinian side, my feeling is that the leadership came to Camp David knowing that it would not compromise there and it did not change its mind during those 15 days. This included the most important moderate leaders, like Abu Mazan and Abu Ala', who decided to stay out of this game, with difficult results.
Then there was an American side which also, with all good intentions, didn't prepare itself for this very important summit. Indeed, the U.S. put itself in an impossible situation of entering discussions for 15 days without knowing in advance what should be the result.
Later on, the Palestinian mistake was that Arafat did not put an end to the Intifada. He did not plan the Intifada. At the beginning, he maybe thought it would be proper for him to ride on this tiger, but then it became stronger than himself. As it became popular, it was difficult for him to enter into an internal rift in Fatah, in the Tanzim. The feeling was that maybe the Tanzim, which is actually Arafat's brainchild, is too strong for him to fight against; that now he could not actually fight his own organization. And then you had the Intifada as a result of both the frustration that until September no permanent agreement was reached and all opportunities were missed. Meanwhile, the economic situation deteriorates - e.g, life expectancy went down by two years between 1994 and 2000; the feeling of the people on the Palestinian side was that Oslo reduced their standard of living, and there was the internal rift on the Palestinian street, in Fatah itself, in the Tanzim itself, between Hussein el-Sheikh and Marwan Bargouti, something which we Israelis, I must admit, did not follow too closely and did not understand in the context of the overall picture.
All this eventually put us today in what looks like a deadlock. On the Israeli side we have a leader who is part of the extreme right and is not hiding the fact that he doesn't believe in a permanent solution. On the other side, we have a weaker Palestinian Authority and a leader who is frustrated and distressed. I think that the role today of the peace camps among both people is to encourage each other; to seek some new rays of hope, otherwise we might find ourselves in a continuous situation of dangerous deterioration. This not necessarily the intention, neither of Arafat nor of Sharon, but could become a reality since maintaining the status quo is by definition impossible.

Danny Rubenstein: Following analysis of the past, the problem, of course, is what can be done. That will be the next round.

Ziad Abu-Zayyad: I think that Yossi was right in saying that Barak wanted to make peace, but didn't know how. I would like to add another factor. I think that the Israeli leadership misunderstood the Palestinian position and underestimated the importance of Jerusalem and of Al-Aqsa to the Palestinian people. And, also, perhaps they misunderstood the Palestinian position on the right of return. Maybe the latter issue could have been presented in a better way to the Israeli side. But when the Israelis raised the issue of sovereignty over Haram al-Sharif, they lost their chance to make an agreement. They did not understand that there is no Palestinian, Arab or Moslem leader who will accept giving up sovereignty over Haram al-Sharif. This was one of the major issues for the failure of all the efforts that were made in Camp David. Also, I don't think that clear targets had been set by the Israelis for the meeting in Camp David and later in Taba.

Khalil Shikaki: I agree with everything that Yossi said, but I think that the failure goes a little deeper, and that in part it was in the actual Oslo agreement itself, with its open-endedness, while simultaneously Israeli settlement construction was going ahead on the ground. This created conditions that would not necessarily or inevitably lead to failure, but made the process subject to failure if certain conditions materialized, which was the case. I believe that one of the major reasons that you haven't addressed is the issue of legitimacy in both cases. The Oslo process was not seen as a legitimate one, perhaps not by a majority but by a large segment of the two societies, which relied on religion, for example, as a main source for their own legitimacy. Both leaderships failed to deal with this issue of legitimacy.
On the Israeli side, the issue of Palestinian violence made the government vulnerable. For example, on the first occasion that the government began to feel the pressure of violence, with the major suicide attack in early 1995, Rabin immediately turned to the concept of separation. Now, the concept of separation assumed that the Palestinians are a sort of enemy and that security can only be achieved through separation, not integration. Oslo, on the other hand, was all about integration.
The lack of legitimacy continued to remain a major impediment, and when Barak went to make peace at Camp David, he had already lost majority support. On the Israeli street, Barak was not seen as a legitimate leader who can sign a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians. Neither side was willing, because of the lack of domestic legitimacy, to address the difficult issues. On the Palestinian side, a real solution to the conflict, the inner contradiction of the right of return, and the two-state solution, was never addressed, because of this failure.
For example, in 1994, before Palestinian elections, at the first instance of internal Palestinian violence, Arafat basically abandoned the regular Palestinian forces and turned to Fatah for support. So in March 1994, the survivability of the peace process became dependent on the support of Fatah. Again after the Palestine Mosque incident in Gaza, when the Palestinian Authority police killed 14 Palestinians, Arafat turned to Fatah.
So that is a parallel to what happened after the suicide attack in early January 1995, when Rabin turned to the notion of separation from the Palestinians, abandoning what was understood, up until that point, to be the purpose of the whole Oslo process.
The comparison I wanted to draw was between what happened then at the end of 1994 and during the first half of 1996, right after the elections and the establishment of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Arafat was now in a much better position to address the crackdown on Hamas after the suicide attacks. This was the first time that Arafat was able to seriously address this issue effectively, because then he felt he had the legitimacy to do it. He had legitimacy because of the success of the peace process until that point - you remember, right before that we had the redeployment from the cities of the West Bank - and because he had just been elected by 77% or more of the Palestinian people with the Palestinian Legislative Council having more than 70% membership from Fatah.
Immediately after that we had Netanyahu in power and he more or less froze the process. I believe that since then the search for legitimacy on the Palestinian side prevented any serious discussion of the issues like the right of return, like what kind of relationship we should have with the Israeli state, which would also have addressed issues of curriculum, incitement, etc. Similarly, Israel also failed to address certain key issues.
Rabin was never able to confront the settlers, not even after the Baruch Goldstein massacre. Settlement construction continued under all Israeli prime ministers, including Barak. That's again an indication of how insecure a leader of Israel feels, when he is unable to say that the settlement process cannot continue parallel to the peace process.
Neither side was able to address the issues because of domestic constraints. These constraints had to deal on the Palestinian side with Fatah, the balance between Fatah and Hamas, while on the Israeli side, the left never had a majority in the Knesset, in support of fundamental concessions to the Palestinians with regard to return to the 1967 borders, Jerusalem as a capital of two states, and the right of return in principle for refugees.
These are the three most difficult issues that the majority of the Israeli Knesset and public never accepted. Despite all the progress that was made in the psychological environment, Palestinians and Israelis throughout this period never reached a point where they met, not on bits and pieces here and there, but on the fundamentals. This made it very difficult for Barak, for Camp David, to succeed.
Perhaps the most dramatic illustration is that Barak went to Camp David without a majority and with a public that was very suspicious of what he was doing, while Arafat went to Camp David without his two most senior advisers. Both Abu Mazen and Abu 'Ala were wary of Camp David. Left alone there, Arafat could never have reached a comprehensive agreement at Camp David.
As regards the question "Where to go from here?," first of all, I don't believe that the past year, with all its bloodshed and suffering, qualitatively or significantly undermined the basic need for the peace process. I believe that the two societies remain committed to a peace agreement. Ya'akov Shamir and I did two public opinion surveys just after Camp David and a year later. The surveys indicate that with regard to all the long-term issues, surprisingly one year of bloodshed did very little to change the basics, that the two sides want reconciliation, and both are willing to pay a price. Not equally. The Israelis are more willing in some areas and the Palestinians in others. Perhaps it will take time, but essentially the two societies, I believe, are willing to go ahead, if they are able to receive certain assurances. In the short term, however, the two societies are at a point where they are out for blood. This means that if we are able to find ways to address these short-term needs and fears, we might be able then to get to the heart of the matter to address the difficult issues.
I have just completed work on Israeli public opinion in the past 20 years. Based on all previous examples we have seen, the Israeli public is not going to remain hawkish. The Israeli public becomes extremely angry and frustrated and wants blood when it is angry, as in 1988, right after the first Intifada; as in 1991 during the Gulf War; as in 1995 after Beit Lid. The latter date is surprising for it was the first time since the agreement was signed that there was, in Israel, more opposition to Oslo than support.
But after that, things went back to where they were before, with one change. Israelis began to ask themselves whether the conditions that prevailed before could prevail again. Should we allow them to prevail again? And that created a healthy debate in Israel. The answers were not always positive, for example, the idea of separation, which I think is a bad idea, came out of that debate in Israel, after the early 1995 events.
After the anger of 1988, the idea of Palestinian statehood began to take hold in Israeli society; if we begin to look at what happens in Israel, we find almost a majority before 1988 satisfied with the status quo, now you cannot find 10% of the Israelis satisfied with the status quo. And we begin to see an admission in the Israeli public that statehood for the Palestinians is the answer. I believe that we are going to see something similar in the present case.

Reuven Merhav: Let's try and take stock. What are the existing fundamentals that are accepted? Oslo's achievements can never be erased. First of all, it perpetuated the concept of mutual recognition and it established the principle of two states in Palestine by way of partition. In the meantime this was not only accepted by the Israeli public, but we also saw stages of it implemented by a Likud-led government. Though I don't think the stages are necessarily viable any longer, these achievements will remain forever.
Oslo also generated something else in a different way and for this Yossi Beilin and Abu Mazen are responsible. Although Oslo said that Jerusalem should be discussed in the permanent status, the negotiators set the principle of tackling the Jerusalem question, though this doesn't mean solving it. In the sense that he accepted the principle, this was a great achievement of Barak. He was willing to approach the subject and since this first came into the public eye late in 1999, Khalil will testify that "the skies didn't collapse." People very easily got accustomed to the fact that the municipal borders of Jerusalem are not God spelled, they were not given on Mount Sinai, and that the whole metropolitan area of Jerusalem can be redevised, redivided and rearranged, to the satisfaction of both peoples. It was understood that the details can be dealt with later, as long as there is a mutual recognition of each other's identity. By the way, this subject came up in a very wrong way in Camp David, and I can testify how wrong it was and how bad was the timing.
The reaction of the Palestinians in completely negating the link of the Israelis to the Temple Mount made the whole Israeli delegation completely frustrated. I think this was a great mistake on the Palestinian side. In this they touched on a very sensitive nerve in the Israeli public, even among declared secularists, like myself, who don't want to argue with the credo of other people. The Arabs have an established position on the Temple Mount and nobody is going to take it from them. But the matter can't be tackled in the way the Palestinians presented it, denying any Israeli connection to the site.
The truth of the matter is that there was never really an in-depth discussion of the Jerusalem question, along the lines that were first submitted by the Israelis. Because what the Arabs did, and what the Israelis consequently did, was to stick to patronymic style, harking back to '67, with no change, whereas the Israelis were at first willing to discuss things and even made some offers.
What we said in the Israeli delegation, with whom I was privileged to work for a while, was that if you go to negotiations with the patronymic approach, you cannot end up the way you started. There is no doubt that there must be negotiations.
Another very deep mistake of Camp David is that it was not based on a real educational process. I think in this respect the Israeli government's conservative elements, and Israeli public opinion, was too slow to react to completely unacceptable proposals of the Palestinian official or semi-official media. I think, in that respect, the Palestinians have a great responsibility and we should have been more alert. The same goes for the Americans, to a lesser extent.
There was, of course, the question of time. I mean, a president who will be out of office in a short while; a prime minister, courageous as he may have sounded, coming to the summit with a minority government based on 49 votes in the Knesset. Even so, Barak staked his whole future on peace.
What astonished me personally was that the delegations didn't actually talk much to each other, openly or behind the scenes. I didn't see the development of any human contact. The second level or third level of the Arab delegation remained apart from Arafat. I think in the Israeli case it was less so, because Barak was holding caucuses all the time.
Then, of course, Arafat definitely made his own calculations, and he thought that with an American president who is leaving office, whatever practical or financial support he is pledging would not be written in stone. Who is going to pay the check? The very fact that all this took place within such a time frame was definitely detrimental.
As far as my experience with our Israeli body politic is concerned, major policy decisions can in my view be taken, or carried out, only when you have the two (or whatever remains of them) major political parties working together. Begin could finalize the Sinai agreement only because he had the support of Labor, and whatever Netanyahu did was only because Labor supported him. It is only through the national unity coalition, even though it is very questionable and very debatable, that, on an ad hoc basis, any major territorial decision can be taken. I am utterly confident of that. If the left ever thinks of coming to power and doing things on its own, this would be out of the question. Of course, the right, if it goes ahead, will be able to rely on the support of the left, or whatever is left from the left until then. The center of the body politic must be involved.
I totally agree with what Prof. Shikaki said about what the future holds for us. I take great comfort from statistics and sometimes, you know, they are very contradictory. Among the Palestinians, 72% - this was last time - supported the peace process and at the same time a great majority support the suicide attacks.

Khalil Shikaki: The figures are not all that accurate, but you are right about the contradiction. There is a contradiction.

Reuven Merhav: There was a time when we had terrible inflation in Israel, up to 400% a year. It took a national unity government to overcome it. As happened then, you can bring things to a standstill for a very short while, so you can restart the engine. I am not speaking of seven days without violence. I don't think that any suicidal type who wants to take revenge for the death of his brother should be given permission to kill the peace process. But I'm speaking of an effort on the part of the Palestinian Authority to deal with issues like incitement, through very clear-cut orders by Arafat because he carries huge weight. This will help the peace camp in Israel to convince the government, for its part, to bring things to a standstill, sort of a Yom Kippur or like the first days of Muharam in the Islamic calendar. Muharam, I don't have to tell you, was the first month that you are not supposed to carry out any bloodshed. After that, things could start moving again. This is the only practical idea I can suggest.

Nasser A. Jawad: I have two short comments. One of the things that most Israelis don't understand is that every day the Palestinian press prints two pages of Israeli articles, and more Palestinians watch Israeli TV than watch Palestinian TV. There is a lot of misunderstanding over incitement and the influence of the media. The Palestinians see the Arabic and Israeli TV newscasts more than they watch the Palestinian TV, and I think Khalil knows about that.

Khalil Shikaki: Not anymore. Now they watch satellite TV.

Nasser A. Jawad: Every dish brings around 60 to 70 stations. Danny Rubinstein knows that more Palestinians read his articles than Israelis. Right-wing and left-wing journalists alike are translated.
There is a misunderstanding over Arafat's control of the Intifada, as if he has a keyboard and he can say s-t-o-p and then it will stop. In the first Intifada, I think, the message was clear to Israel. We are human beings. Come, let's sit down. We want to talk to you. In the second Intifada, this is not the message. The message is very clear: we are fed up with a process that is taking us nowhere. Settlement is increasing. You built, from 1993 to 2001, 23,000 housing units. Demolishing of homes is continuing all the time. The closure is still intact. The situation is taking a heavy toll on the Palestinians. The standard of living has gone down 25% since Oslo.
The Palestinians are telling the Israelis a simple message: we are fed up with the occupation, with you being in control and your soldiers humiliating the Palestinians systematically. Why can't the Israelis get this message?

Yossi Beilin: I think the message is totally artificial and post-factum. In many cases, what you have is an accumulation of flannable factors, then, the match is lit like the visit of Sharon to the Temple Mount. Had the visit of Sharon taken place four months later, and had Clinton come in time, then the match wouldn't have worked, because I believe we could have been in a process providing enough optimism to both sides, who were very close to agreement. We then say, Ah, the message of the Intifada was A, B, C. My feeling is that the Intifada did not carry a message. Retroactively, yes. All you said is right, expressing the feeling of the people, but it was not a collective decision because this point in history could have been conducive to an agreement. The problem for the Israeli peace camp is the perception that Oslo said, "No more war," as Sadat declared. Even if there are disputes, they can be solved in a different way.
Of course, you can say that actually Netanyahu was the one who ended the Oslo process but for the peace camp in Israel, the feeling was that the issue was violence from the Palestinian Authority. They knew there were extremists on the other side who did not agree with the Oslo process, but at least they thought that the Palestinian Authority, which had an authoritative monopoly over power, would not let people start shooting.
The perception was: here we made an agreement, and now there is a sincere government, a very dovish one ready to make peace. The Palestinians don't have to accept everything. The answer could be more negotiations, rather than violence. Until this very moment, but hopefully not until this debate is published, the major question for the Israeli peace camp is not why the Palestinians used violence, but why Arafat got involved in violence.

Ziad Abu-Zayyad: Why don't you say that the Israeli media was all the time representing Arafat as if he is leading this violence: that Arafat failed in the negotiations and now he is starting this Intifada because he wants, through violence, to achieve what he did not achieve at the negotiating table. This is not true. The Intifada did not start because it was Arafat's agenda. You said that, Yossi.
All the circumstances were ready for an explosion and Sharon's visit to Al-Aqsa wasn't the only reason for this Intifada. Because if you look back and see what happened, first of all from the beginning of the process, after Oslo, we had suicide attacks, the assassination of Rabin. Therefore, there were forces on both sides who wanted to undermine the Oslo process, did not want it to continue. Then the influence of these two factors on Israeli public opinion in opposition to Oslo was tremendous. The Israeli leadership also stopped the implementation of the interim agreement and there was non-implementation of the redeployment agreement. There were major factors set against the peace process, side by side with expanding the settlement activities in the West Bank.
The average Palestinian, when he looks around, sees that the Israeli occupation is still going ahead. New houses are going up in the settlements while new by-pass roads are being constructed. My wife drives every day to Ramallah and every day she sees new buildings being built in the settlements on the way. New Jewish settlements, no progress in the peace process, no redeployment. Even during the Netanyahu period, some deployment was implemented, but Barak wanted to combine the third phase of redeployment with the final agreement. By that he primarily succeeded in removing the interim agreements from the agenda.
Now we are in an extremely difficult situation on the ground. We speak about violence and bloodshed, but what are the Palestinians witnessing these days? They see a closure and an internal closure, and Palestinians cannot go from one village to another, from one city to another. My daughter is in Nablus and I cannot see her. Her child started to walk and to say some new words and she calls me on the phone and describes to me how he walks and what he says, and I am dying to go and see her, but I can't go to Nablus. And besides the closure, there is the continuation of the assassinations, whether they are political or are associated with militant activities. They want Hamas and the Jihad to keep quiet so they kill them. They cannot understand that, in this society, the principle of revenge is deeply rooted. You kill and people want to take revenge.
How can we start calming down the situation, how can we reach the standstill point which Reuven mentioned? You have to deal with all these things together, including the tight Israeli control on the outlets of the West Bank and Gaza; the airport; safe passage, and the restrictions on movement of people and goods from and to the occupied territories. You have to freeze all activities in expanding the Jewish settlements, and you have to give a clear signal to the average Palestinian, not to the politicians, that Israel is changing direction, that Israel is thinking honestly and seriously about making peace.
There is a lot of exaggeration in the Israeli media reporting about the Tanzim and Hamas and the Jihad. If the Israelis deal with all the problems I mentioned, I am sure that in the end we will have things under control. The Tanzim is the Fatah. This name is not different from Fatah. Arafat is head of Fatah. If he gives orders, the Tanzim will comply. But the two sides will have to work together. Without the full cooperation of the Israelis, the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian leadership, can do nothing in this regard.

Yossi Beilin: One should differentiate between the periods before and after the Intifada. The points you are making now, about the situation during the Intifada, are part of the second chapter. I'm still speaking about the first chapter. The question was whether the violence was something that was part of the game. What happened on the 29th of September, 2000, was a Pandora's box that was opened, and the question until now is actually: why?
Of course there were violations on both sides. But I think that one main question still faces the peace camp in Israel: every day I get letters, asking me how I can still defend the Palestinians when they began to shoot at us, without our having done this to them?
The issue of portraying Arafat as almost omnipotent is for sure an exaggeration, but you know, this is part of something that we both did. What was the aim of the peace camps on both sides? It was to say that what we have to do is find a Palestinian address. The only one is the PLO. The head of the PLO is Yasser Arafat. Of course he will use his authority and his power in order to put an end to the nightmare. The press in this way accepted our ideology, our main argument.
This was our big success. Imagine that the press were to say, What's the big deal? Peres, Rabin, Beilin, they brought upon us an old person who is a very weak leader, with a uniform from the '50s, trying to play the role of Fidel Castro or Nasser, without power, with divisions between Hamas, the Tanzim and Fatah. We would have said, Nonsense. We are speaking here about a man of peace who has changed his mind - in '74, in '88, in '92, in '93, in the name of peace. This man is the hero of the Palestinian people. Who would you prefer, a weakling?
Now, how is it seen from the side of the Palestinians? They saw Barak as omnipotent. Before Sharon went to the Temple Mount, why didn't Barak stop him before? We say, this is a democracy. The man is the head of the opposition. Had Barak said to Sharon, Don't go to the Temple Mount, the opposition would have said: Is this a democracy?
You know, on both sides, it is easy to attribute any usage of power to the official authority and on both sides, it is not accurate. We see each other as monolithic. It is true in every international conflict.

Nasser A. Jawad: What we are talking about is the fact that at the end of the day, I do not hear anything taking up the three main Palestinian issues. There is Arafat, one day he is Bin Laden, one day he is giving orders to Marwan Barguti, one day he is in control, the next day he is not. He is said to be in stress and collapsing, then the intelligence report says that he is not collapsing. I have been reading this for the last ten months, and I laugh. I see the reality. I know that Arafat today has 3 million Palestinians, 50% of them unemployed. They live in fear of the shelling and the tanks and the F-16 and the Apache and the shooting and the killing. The Israelis are living with the fear of the suicide attacker going into a nice café in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv to explode himself. But at least the Israeli has the right to move, the right to be treated as a human being, not to be humiliated and to be cooped up in ghettos.

Danny Rubenstein: We have, from an official point of view, to say Arafat is responsible. Because we didn't have any agreement either with Hamas or with the Tanzim. The same goes for you. You don't deal with the settlers. You deal with the government. You have to blame the government. The government should be responsible for everything, because your agreement is with them, not with the settlers or with the National Religious Party, or with the Likud. And from the Israeli point of view, there is only one address. I am a journalist and I can differentiate and say there are nuances here and there, but for my government, I understand that the government says: there is only one address.

Nasser A. Jawad: Dr. Shikaki, as a Palestinian intellectual and researcher today, what is in Arafat's mind? What is his strategy? Is the Intifada his only option or he is looking for other options? Is he able to see any hope of signing an agreement with the Sharon government, interim or long-term? Or is he now thinking that maybe the Intifada can be his only option? That things will go on this way for two-three years and then maybe there will be a change in the Israeli government and public opinion?

Danny Rubenstein: That's a question that all my neighbors and friends ask. People write me letters asking this question.

Khalil Shikaki: It's very difficult to read Arafat's mind. If you ask me to speculate, I can do so. Arafat is nothing but a politician and a politician's first and foremost objective is to survive. So Arafat needs to survive if he is to be able to achieve any of his other objectives.
From his own point of view, the past year has radicalized the Palestinian population in ways that nothing else was able to do during the past eight-nine years. In this past year, the balance of power has shifted. For the first time opposition forces today outnumber the Palestinian mainstream. The mainstream is no longer the mainstream. In fact, what we used to call the mainstream has now only 30% of the Palestinian population - Fatah and all its friends. Arafat and Fatah, both, have lost 30% of their support in this one single year, from Camp David until today. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PFLP, the three main opposition groups, have gained support, have increased their strength by 60% in that same period.
Now, if I am Arafat and I see where public opinion is going, I have to be very, very careful. I believe that Arafat made a mistake in 1994 when he decided to call on Fatah to come and save him from Hamas. But since that moment, Arafat is stuck with them. Fatah has been radicalized due to a lot of factors, many of which have to do with domestic politics. It's about power. It's about money. It's about positions. Arafat has a population that is angry and frustrated. He has a balance of power that is decisively shifting against him, and he has Fatah, which is basically his strength. Without it he is nothing. And this Fatah is today fighting or becoming radical and is insisting on continuing on this road regardless of what he says.
I must say I disagree with Ziad that Arafat can order Fatah and it will obey. In the past ten months I have seen with my own eyes cases in which they do the exact opposite. They are sending him a message not by arguing with him, but by what they are doing. This is Fatah. Hamas does this in a more obvious way.
Arafat needs to survive and to do so in this environment; he wants to sign a deal that can give the man in the street something to look forward to. Again, I go back to the issue of legitimacy: Arafat must feel that signing secures more legitimacy than yesterday. That feeling will then provide him with the political will he needs in order to stand up to those within Fatah, or to crack down on Hamas, if need be. I submit that he does not believe Sharon has the answer he needs.

Reuven Merhav: By saying that, you justify the Israelis who lost confidence in Arafat. Everyone will respond that if this is the case and Arafat's own people turn their back on him, why should we entrust our faith in him?

Khalil Shikaki: Because if you don't give him what he needs in order to do what you Israelis expect him to do, then both societies are going to continue in this war of attrition for as long as both leaderships exist, even if Sharon and Arafat are replaced by new men with new legitimacy. In other words, if you are to focus on the notion of survivability of a leader, then you have to make sure that when you replace Arafat, you bring somebody who does not have to worry about his own legitimacy and his own survivability. If you can find a magical way of doing that, then you can tell Arafat that he is no longer a partner.

Nasser A. Jawad: I would like to say that what Khalil says totally accords with the line of Mr. Peres. Two weeks ago, he said that our problem is not with Arafat; our problem is with the Palestinians. Your problem is not Arafat, the person. The problem is who is control on the ground.

Reuven Merhav: You didn't reply to Yossi's question: why did the Palestinians start shooting after the failure of Camp David? Because now they are losing our confidence twice, and this is the major issue.

Ziad Abu-Zayyad: I can go back to Yossi's question, but I want to take up what Khalil was saying, because I totally disagree with his final analysis. Arafat is the historical leader of the Palestinian people, and he believes and he feels that he has a historical mission to achieve a state for the Palestinian people. This is his aim. His aim is not to survive just like any other politician. Who wants to survive and stay in power.

Khalil Shikaki: Survive and achieve his objective.

Ziad Abu-Zayyad: His aim is not only to survive. He wants to achieve an honorable solution for the Palestinian people and for the Palestinian cause.
Arafat is the head of Fatah. I, as an insider, must say that in Fatah, for all those who are associated with Arafat, when he wants something to be done, he will order it to be done and it will be done. Regarding the increase of the popularity of Hamas and the Jihad, this is the result of the current situation, of the reality on the ground. This is temporary, because in this society people are extremely emotionally involved. However, the minute you give them a clear message that this reality will be changed and something positive will be achieved, they will alter their direction. This is not an ideological change in the people, but a result of the daily frustration, the daily suffering, the humiliation that Nasser spoke about. People are saying, What can we lose? The Israeli soldiers are shooting, killing, humiliating us at the checkpoints, and when there is a suicide bomb in Israel, they see the suicider as the one who is killing those who oppress them.

Danny Rubenstein: That is what Khalil said, that in the long run there is a majority that support peace, and in the short run there is a contradiction.

Ziad Abu-Zayyad: It's not the long run. I don't know what Khalil meant by the long run. Tomorrow, change the direction, you will see the translation of this change immediately.
Yossi Beilin: On both sides you will see the change.

Nasser A. Jawad: Exactly. The latest public opinion survey shows clearly that there is confusion in the two public opinions. Some 56% of the Israelis are for the peace process yet 76% are for the assassinations.
What is in the Palestinian mind? They think that Barak, the former prime minister, who, you said, wanted to make peace with us, was the only PM who did not give up land - Begin gave Sinai, Shamir gave Taba, Rabin gave Gaza and Jericho, Peres gave Jenin and Nablus and deployment in the cities, Netanyahu gave 5% in Area A in Jenin and Hebron. Before he was PM Barak voted against part of the Oslo agreement. He never had any chemistry with Arafat, nor did he try to work as a team with him, giving a little bit of ground, creating a kind of partnership. The Palestinians are saying that in one day, after Al-Aqsa Mosque, on that Friday, this PM's police killed seven Palestinians with live bullets. Subsequently, before any Israelis were killed in Israel, 65 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Gaza. Mr. Beilin was part of this government.
Now the Palestinians are seeing the police was more restrained under Sharon - in spite of Sharon's reputation and the massacre associated with him - than under Barak, who is the hero of the peace camp. What I want to ask you is: Did he really give a serious offer to the Palestinians?

Reuven Merhav: As regards Ehud Barak, I can only tell you that he really regarded himself as a person who - I want to say it very cautiously - thought he could shoulder Ben-Gurion's style of making historical decisions. He believed this, though he certainly made innumerable mistakes along the road.
Then perhaps, and you may not like to hear this, the lessons of October 2000 also taught the Palestinians a lesson in Jerusalem. If there is one thing that neither the Palestinians, nor we ourselves, can permit, it is a cosmic explosion in Jerusalem. I think when the chips are really down, the parties learn the limits after some mistakes. The Palestinian leadership knows its limits in this respect, as does the Israeli leadership.

Yossi Beilin: No. We in the Israeli peace movement are fighting the occupation and people who fought all their lives against the occupation came to power in order to make peace. That didn't happen under another government. When we were in power, it's true that settlement activity went on and the Palestinians suffered, but we also took strides towards peace. We left Lebanon. We were ready to withdraw from the Golan Heights. We were ready to come to an agreement with the Palestinians to divide Jerusalem and to break many taboos on that subject.
Maybe the Palestinians were justified in not being happy with the offer, but why at that moment could Arafat not stop the violence? To this, I don't have a good answer. I think Arafat made a huge mistake by not using force to stop it some days after the beginning of the Intifada when he understood what was going on. Maybe Barak made mistakes. Maybe the Israeli police made mistakes. But we sought peace.
There was a chance to go on, after Camp David, with Clinton and at Taba, and Arafat certainly missed his opportunity. Barak was ready to continue even without a majority, and contrary to what was said, I believe that only if we don't have a unity government can we make peace. For this, one doesn't need a Palestinian unity government or an Israeli unity government. Rather, I want unity between the peace camps within the two peoples.
Speaking about the future, I think that right now we are at the lowest point. What is needed now is a way of enabling both sides to meet and talk about two major things, based on the end of violence: how can we first achieve the implementation of the interim agreement; and second, can we set a new date for the permanent agreement? We have to tackle the interim issues which will be easier for the Sharon government to implement.
Rather than the stupid idea of seven days of cease-fire, we need a new hook on which to hang the negotiations. The hook may be a Sharm el-Sheikh conference, or a second Madrid conference. We could work out a new timetable and implement interim solutions even with Sharon. Then we can set a date for a permanent solution. Regrettably, I don't believe that in the current political situation, we can really talk seriously about a permanent solution.
On the other hand, I believe that the peace camps on both sides must be much more active. Joint declarations, statements, interviews and articles should be encouraged by both sides. We should really work together. There are enough good people on both sides, who know each other, who trust each other, despite everything. We know we did not become enemies.
If we work together on a daily basis and think together, a lot can be done in order to change the atmosphere, even in the darkest hours, so that there will be a ray of hope for both peoples, for people on both sides who are still committed to the cause of peace.
Parallel to political developments, and alongside informal activities by the peace camps, we have to develop a third layer: a profound effort to work together, informally, but intensively and systematically to prepare, in advance, the details of the permanent solution. This has not been done before, and it is politically possible (either because somebody like Sharon changes his mind, or because we are successful in replacing him). The decision-makers from both sides should not be in the same situation as they were in July 2000. They must be in a situation whereby all the parties and details will have been prepared, on Jerusalem, on the refugees, on security, etc., and they will then need a summit of something like 3-4 days in order to complete a deal.

Reuven Merhav: First of all, back to the subject of Jerusalem. Times have changed. If, two years ago, the very mention of Jerusalem would have been impossible, many taboos were meanwhile broken and new options can be discussed. Second, when I was referring to national unity, I am not speaking of a coalition government; I am saying that if you don't have the backing of the two blocs, both of which would support a referendum, you cannot do anything.
I am making a third remark as a member of the Executive of the Council for Peace and Security, which is composed of some one thousand ex-senior officers, diplomats, intelligence people, etc. We think that, at the end of the road, the Palestinians should work very hard in preparing their statehood, because I think this will eventually put them on equal footing internationally vis-à-vis Israel. It will invest them with more responsibility, and it may change the situation in the sense that Israel will learn to respect them. There is nothing wrong in declaring the eventual establishment of a state when you have no fixed borders. Ben-Gurion did it in 1948, and, as you see, we have survived.

Khalil Shikaki: I'm not sure, Yossi, that Sharon's government is capable of doing what you suggested. To tell you the truth, I am also reluctant to say that Arafat will actually be able to embrace it. I think he will come under very great pressure to concentrate on ending the occupation, rather than implementing the agreement you mention.
If he is certain that Sharon can deliver on these things that you've raised, then I believe Arafat might be convinced to throw all of his weight behind them, deal with his own Fatah people and confront Hamas and the opposition groups. But I am not sure that Sharon will be able to carry out an interim agreement, because it will entail significant redeployment. This might have been possible six-seven years ago, when Oslo was signed, without removing some of the settlements. But today, any significant redeployment must involve evacuation of some isolated settlements, which I'm not sure Sharon can do.

Ziad Abu-Zayyad: First of all, I think all of us agree that this is a political problem and it needs a political solution and that we have no option other than going back to the negotiating table. I think we should not accept any demand or call to change the frame of the peace process, or change its reference. We started this process. We have succeeded in implementing part of it. We should not quit it. Therefore, I am totally against all other ideas like "Gaza first." We also hear on the radio about a long-term interim agreement or about unilateral separation. I think all these ideas will kill what has already been implemented in the process and those parts that became facts on the ground.
Therefore, we must think how we can implement what was not implemented, but disconnected from the original timetable set for that agreement. For example, the redeployment should be implemented regardless of the original timetable.
I believe that what Yossi suggested, the hook, how to latch on to it and go ahead towards the future, is a very important idea. Until that happens, we should support all the efforts which are invested in calming down the situation, because we need to change the climate in the territories and in relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. I believe that the recommendations of the Mitchell Report can help in changing this climate. Until then, until we find the hook, and a way of moving from there towards continuing implementation of the agreements, and reaching a comprehensive settlement, I share Yossi's idea: that it is absolutely necessary to support all efforts to bring together the Israeli peace camp and the Palestinian peace camp. We can only give the people hope if both camps work together.

Danny Rubenstein: This is a good note on which to end. Thank you very much. Let's hope that by the time this issue is published, the situation will have improved.