Twenty years ago, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said his famous ‘no’ to an offer by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, described by Israel then as painful concessions, at the Camp David talks.
The 2000 Camp David talks between Arafat and Barak were hosted by US President Bill Clinton between July 11 and 25, 2000. Clinton tried to bridge the gap between the two sides, but the talks failed when Israel refused to relinquish parts of the occupied East Jerusalem. The summit failed and the second Intifada soon followed.
Arafat was offered almost all the occupied West Bank. But he rejected the offer because as it included only parts of East Jerusalem — not its entirety as per international resolutions. These resolutions consider all the East Jerusalem part of the territories occupied by Israel in June 1967.
The Palestinians were united. Today, it is a completely different story. As the Palestinian leadership faces unprecedented challenges trying to keep the cause alive, they lack the unity they need to overcome these challenges
The UN resolutions, particularly 242, call for complete Israeli withdrawal from those territories. Israel, supported by the US, refuses to implement any of these resolutions.
Twenty years later, Israel announced that it will annex the West Bank, a move which could deal an ultimate blow to peace hopes in the region. The decision takes an effect in July — the 20th anniversary of the failed Camp David talks. The move follows the December 2017 decision by President Donald Trump, to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘eternal and united capital’.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex the occupied territories, nevertheless, shows how far we regressed in 20 years.
In the year 2000, the second intifada was in full swing. The Palestinian issue was a major global concern. The Palestinians were emboldened by unequivocal support by the Arab world, which threw its weight behind every step taken by Arafat to pursue the dream of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.
However, the main support the Palestinian leadership had on those days was from their own people. The Palestinians were united. Today, it is a completely different story. As the Palestinian leadership faces unprecedented challenges trying to keep the cause alive, they lack the unity they need to overcome these challenges.
The division in the Palestinian ranks is mainly due to the policies of the Hamas movement, which controls Gaza. Hamas actions in the past decade have undermined the Palestinian Authority and created a chaotic atmosphere which Israel managed to exploit.
With the new Israeli plans, the Palestinians more than ever, need unity to be able to face up to the new Israeli onslaught. Their unity is also a prerequisite to get the necessary support from the Arab world and other peace-loving nations.