- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2000

The Israeli and Palestinian parties at Camp David II have arrived for a major purpose seeking American largess. This will be a price President Clinton will have to pay for his so-called legacy, and the American taxpayers will pay for his Noble Prize. The price tag for Camp David II for both parties ranges between $40 billion and $150 billion, an amount the Congress of the United States will not approve.

The agreement that will be reached at the end of Camp David II will be a framework agreement on borders and settlements. However, it will be an agreement before an agreement. The fact is there was no need for Camp David II. The parties could have reached an arrangement if the secretary of state and her advisers had shuttled between Jerusalem and Ramala. The only reason for Camp David II besides milking the American taxpayer would have been for the president to act as an enforcer of creative American ideas rather than a facilitator, putting greater pressure mainly on Israel as he did at the Wye summit. No self-respecting Israeli government would accept the president's role as anything other than facilitator.

This is the last summit for now. Remember the Wye summit of 1998 between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Chairman Yasser Arafat, and President Bill Clinton. They agreed on specific actions. Within a week's time, the parties reneged on all the agreements after the American press had freely complimented the president on his savvy diplomatic and political skills at Wye.

Camp David II is different. It is a summit before a summit, and in between will come violence. The reason why this summit will be proclaimed a success is that the parties will agree to sign on principles. The principles will be linked to realities.

The most conspicuous reality is that East Jerusalem is a Palestinian capital more than a municipality. Whether or not it is agreed at Camp David II that Israel is the sovereign power in Jerusalem, the Palestinians will call Jerusalem the Palestinian capital, and the Israelis will continue to speak of a unified Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.

The second fact on the ground is the settlements. We hear from Palestinian propagandists that the settlements are unacceptable and the press repeats their allegations totally ignorant of the fact that Israel will dominate at least 9 percent to 12 percent of the West Bank, i.e. the areas where 85 percent to 90 percent of the settlements are located. No government of Israel will be in the position to evacuate 200,000 people and survive.

Anyway, the settlements will be annexed, the question is how much. The third principle has to do with the Palestinian refugees and Mr. Arafat's demand that Israel assume legal, moral responsibility for their exiles.

Neither Prime Minister Barak nor any other Israeli prime minister can assume moral responsibility for a deed not of his or Israel's own making, but committed rather by five aggressive Arab states that rejected the partition of Palestine and determined to drive the Jews into the sea.

Mr. Barak will stress that Israel refuses to recognize the Palestinians' right of return, but is willing to absorb Palestinians (Israel has already assimilated 60,000 to 70,000 Palestinians) as part of the family reunification program. And Israel will participate in the financial aid that will be part of an international body to raise money for the refugee's rehabilitation. And this is why the Palestinians are at Camp David II to demand $20 billion to $40 billion for compensating and resettling the refugees. This is part of the price Bill Clinton will pay.

The wise and knowledgeable defense correspondent of Ha'aretz, Ze'evSchiff has this to say on July 11: "The Camp David Summit could produce an improved partial agreement. For example, one that would include terms such as the creation of a Palestine State, the establishment of comprehensive security arrangements, and a declaration of a general, mutual understanding concerning the territorial issue."

But Mr. Schiff cautiously warns, "However, even in the event of a good partial agreement, Israel would require an additional summit conference, which would surely be preceded by several crises." By this he means terror.

Both Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat are indebted to President Clinton, and are here to repay the debt by making Camp David II into a success even if the major issues are not resolved in Washington, but on the ground, and not during this president's tenure. But the American taxpayer does not owe the Camp David parties. The Cold War is over, and the Middle East region is no longer a bone of contention between the Soviet Union and the United States. It was then that pouring money into unstable Arab governments, some of whose leaders were anti-American, was a necessity during the Cold War.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be contained by the Israelis and Palestinians. It can affect the Arab diplomatic and political attitudes toward Israel, but it will not change the basic U.S.-Arab moderate states relationships. When it comes to Israel, nothing is more glaring than the Israeli-Chinese Phalcon-Awacs fiasco.

The United States has played a positive and generous role in supporting the fledgling Israel since 1948. Israel is no longer economically or militarily insecure. Israel's GDP is $110 billion. More than all Arab countries (except for the Gulf) combined. It is a 21st-century high-tech superpower. If Israel forgoes the American economic largess, its defense industry could easily bring Israel at least $10 billion, if not more, in international military sales. Israel sells to 27 states, and the Pentagon wants to "supervise" these sales, curtailing Israel's economic and political independence.

For Israel to be independent, it must relieve itself of American military dependence, and this must be balanced by an end to the heavy American military support for Egypt that is no longer strategically significant since the end of the Cold War. Unfortunately, at Camp David II, Mr. Barak has demonstrated Israel's continued military dependence on the U.S.

Amos Perlmutter is a professor of political science and sociology at American University and editor of the Journal of Strategic Studies.

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