Prime Minister Barak Speaks After the Camp David Summit
(July 25, 2000)
The Prime Minister explained the nature of some of Israel's proposals on Jerusalem. He expressed his sorrow over the inability of the Palestinian side to accept the proposals and noted that the other side is not yet ripe for peace. He said that Israel was prepared to pay a painful price to bring an end to the conflict, but not any price. He expressed the hope that the talks would continue, but said that Israel would have to reconsider some of its offers in light of what happened at Camp David.
The Government of Israel, and I as Prime Minister, acted in the course of the Camp David Summit out of moral and personal commitment, and supreme national obligation to do everything possible to bring about an end to the conflict - but not any any price - while at the same time, strengthening the State of Israel, and Jerusalem its capital. In the course of the negotiations, we touched the most sensitive nerves, ours and the Palestinians, but regretfully - with no result.
We were not prepared to relinquish three things: the security of Israel, those things that are holy to Israel, and the unity of our people. If we will be faced with the alternative between compromising one of these and a confrontation, the choice is clear to every Israeli.
We've known how to face such situations in the past, and we will in the future. Yet, if we will find ourselves in a confrontation, we will be able to look straight into the eyes of our children and to say that we have done everything to prevent it. In the face of the dangers and risks before us, we must put aside all our differences and unite, as we have known to do so many times in the past.
All my life I fought for Israeli security, and I reiterate: I will not agree to relinquish the vital interests of Israeli security; I will not agree to give up the strengthening of Israel and the bolstering of greater Jerusalem, with a solid Jewish majority, for future generations.
Israel was prepared to pay a painful price to bring about an end to the conflict, but not any price. We sought a stable balance, and peace for generations to come, not headlines in tomorrow's paper. The summit was a major - and for now the latest - milestone in the intensive and exhaustive negotiating process to achieve a framework agreement for the permanent status accord with the Palestinians, which my government has been striving to achieve.
We can today look in the mirror and say: In the past year, we have exhausted every possibility to bring an end to the 100-year-old conflict between us and the Palestinians, but regrettably the conditions were not yet ripe.
I understand the disappointment of many in Israel, who believe in co-existence and extending a hand in peace to our Palestinian neighbors. I even join them in their disappointment. However, we will not cease our effort to achieve peace and will continue to work to bring it about - yet not at any price.
Arafat was afraid to make the historic decisions necessary at this time in order to bring about an end to the conflict. Arafat's positions on Jerusalem are those which prevented the achievement of the agreement.
We in the delegation worked day and night in order to reach an agreement. But I, as Prime Minister, bear overall responsibility for the Israeli positions presented in the course of the summit, just as I would have stood behind any overall agreement, difficult as it may have been, had it been achieved.
The Israeli positions were accorded full legitimacy by the US government, and there is no dispute that Israel was prepared to go all the way to achieve that peace.
Ideas, views and even positions which were raised in the course of the summit are invalid as opening positions in the resumption of negotiations, when they resume. They are null and void.
We must not lose hope. The vision of peace is not dead, but it suffered a heavy blow because of the Palestinian stubbornness. The Palestinians must deal with their extremist elements, and both sides must work together to prevent a deterioration into violence.
I thank the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, the Peace Staff - both of the State Department and of the National Security Council, for their dedicated work during the course of the Summit, during the last months, and throughout the last year - I would even say throughout the decade.
We are at the end of an important stage in the peace process and the beginning of a new stage which contains considerable uncertainty. Strong and united, firmly convinced in the justice of our position, we will enter the period before us with confidence. We will insist on our security and continue to act with determination to bring peace to Israel and a secure future for all our families and children.
Prime Minister Barak: This morning we have ended the summit at Camp David without an agreement. In the next few weeks an American senior official will come to the Middle East to probe the ground whether it's ripe for a continuation of the negotiation.
We have done our best, out of a moral and personal and government responsibility, to do whatever we can to put an end to a conflict of 100 years, not at any cost, and in a way, of course, that will strengthen Israel. But unfortunately, in spite of being ready to touch the most sensitive nerves, we have ended with no results.
We will emphasize, under whatever circumstances, the security of Israel, the sacred values and interests of Israel, and the unity of our people. And if we have to face the challenge and fight for one of those, we will be ready to fight to the end. We were ready to end the conflict; we looked for an equilibrium point that will provide a peace for generations. But unfortunately, Arafat somehow hesitated to take the historic decisions that were needed in order to put an end of it.
And of course, I believe that we should not lose hope. We should prepare for every possibility. The vision of peace suffered a major blow, but I believe that with good faith, goodwill on all sides, it can recuperate.
We'll have to take care of extremism and terrorism and to make sure that the next few weeks will not deteriorate the whole region into a new round of violence.
I have to express our deep gratitude and thanks to the President of the United States, President Clinton, to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, to her peace team, to the team of the National Security Council for the effort they have made during this summit, during the last month, during the last year since I came to power, and, in fact, all along this decade to bring peace to the troubled region of the Middle East on exactly the other side of the globe.
We are at the end of a stage, opening a new era with a lot of uncertainties. But both strong and united and aware of our inner truth, we'll step forward into this new era. We'll insist on our security, and we will do whatever could be done to bring peace for Israel and the Middle East and a better future for all our children.
Question: Mr. Prime Minister, President Clinton praised you for taking bold steps. At the same time, you have said that Chairman Arafat was not ready for the historic decision. Could you enlighten us on what were those bold steps that you were ready to make, particularly in Jerusalem?
Prime Minister Barak: We have considered, and some ideas were raised, that in order to make Jerusalem wider and stronger than at any time, in any previous time in the history of the city, we should consider annexing to Jerusalem cities within the West Bank beyond the '67 border, like Maale Adumin and Givat Ze'ev and Gush Etzion, and in exchange for this to give to the Palestinians the sovereignty over certain villages or small cities that had been annexed to Jerusalem just after '67. These ideas were raised, they were contemplated. But as the whole summit was run under the rules of "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed", even those ideas are now null and void.
Question: Seeing, Mr. Prime Minister, you had said that it's now repeated that all of the ideas and issues raised during these meetings are "null and void". So at this point, when there is a lot less hope to reach an agreement, weren't you possibly better off two and a half weeks ago, before you started with this summit, now that you have said this is the end of a chapter in the peace process? So does that mean that the September 13th deadline will assume significance at this point? And one last point finally, the members of the European Union have said that they would recommend a Palestinian state in September. Do you have any message for those leaders?
Prime Minister Barak: About the European Union, I believe that when they will learn the details, they will realize that the right way is to not encourage any kind of unilateral step, since it will not contribute to making the future of the Middle East better or the conflict reduced or level of friction reduced.
In regard to the situation now, compared to two and a half weeks ago, we are not operating in a vacuum. What we had faced, if we sat idle, was to see, first of all, the third further deployment, then the negotiations of a comprehensive agreement with a very, very high probability of ending in a total breakdown of the negotiations and without even being able to know whether there is a meeting point, or there isn't, on the very core issues. So I believe that, on any kind of level, we are in much better shape right now.
It's painful to realize that the other side is not ripe for peace, but it's always better to know the realities than to delude ourselves. And I still hope that when they will consider what are the real alternatives what await all of us down the stream, they will have an opportunity to make up their minds once again.
The major, toughest kind of debate, or inability to bridge the gaps were about issues that have to do with Jerusalem. We believe that the ideas raised by the President was far-reaching and justified a kind of positive response from Arafat. They didn't. And I should admit that even on other issues - especially the refugees - there are still wide gaps of a kind of conceptual nature, not just technical nature.
So I believe that we made a long way, and the public debate within the Israeli public and within the Palestinian delegation is very important for the future contact. But unfortunately, we have to admit reality: we were unable as of now, basically as a result of unripeness on the Palestinian side, to achieve a deal, or strike a deal.
Question: Mr. Prime Minister, one year ago you came into office with high hopes and a near single-minded goal to bring peace with Syria and the Palestinians. You have failed in both of those, and your government has collapsed. Is it perhaps time for you to step aside... That's the first question.
Prime Minister Barak: It's a heavy one. I have to contemplate it.
Question: And second, about the third redeployment and outstanding interim issues.
Prime Minister Barak: A year ago, I stood here - in Washington, in fact - and told that we - our government, my government - will do whatever it takes, and we'll leave no stone unturned on the way to check whether it's possible to make a peace with our neighbors without violating our vital interest. But I emphasized that it takes two to tango. We cannot impose it upon them. We are ready, and if a partner will be there, there will be peace.
Now we did exactly this. We checked it. It's very important for us, first of all, out of our responsibility, to make peace if it's possible, but on the other end, at the same time, in order to be able to face the challenges of no peace with a united Israeli people that knows that its government made whatever it could to put an end to the conflict - and if there is no end to the conflict, somehow the responsibility is upon the other side. This is our basic position, and of course, the fact that such an attempt to touch for the first time in the whole history of the conflict the very core issues - refugees, Jerusalem - tried to solve that.
When we find that it's still unripe, of course, I say with a certain kind of sorrow that it will influence, of course, the third further redeployment or the comprehensive agreement negotiations, since we cannot delude ourselves that we have not seen what we have seen in the last 12 days. And there is a need to continue from this point forward, not from a different kind of approach or track.
Question: Do you personally need fresh mandates?
Prime Minister Barak: No, I don't think so. A mandate is still
there. I'm doing exactly what I have told the Israeli people I will.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs