- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2000

President Clinton has left Camp David without brokering a peace deal and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat are sleeping. The two leaders have been left to catch up on some rest at the rural Maryland retreat center and chat with Madeleine Albright till Mr. Clinton returns from the G-8 summit in Okinawa Sunday or Monday. Mr. Arafat would do well to take this hiatus as a chance to rethink all Israel is offering in return for peace.

Mr. Barak has offered Mr. Arafat a fair package, and more. Israel would recognize a Palestinian state, 100,000 Palestinian refugees could be accepted in Israel, and Palestinians in East Jerusalem would have broad autonomy, according to a report from Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper. There have also been reports that Israel would agree to return 94 percent of the West Bank. In return, Israel would have sovereignty over East Jerusalem, and Israel could keep some of its settlements on the West Bank. That Mr. Arafat could sniff at these concessions further illuminates his unwillingness to be serious about a peace deal in the first place. There is little more that Israel can offer, but Mr. Arafat will not be happy until he can claim all of Jerusalem.

Mr. Barak is staking his political future on clinching a peace deal with the Palestinians, but in so doing he cannot give up Israel's heart and soul. Any deal he would make with the Palestinians must be approved by the Knesset and his constituents in a national referendum upon his return. If he is staying at Camp David to try to save his own political reputation, he must think again. A deal made under pressure which would compromise Israel's security is worse than no deal at all.

The Israeli leader is already coming under criticism at home from opposition Likud leader Ariel Sharon for giving away too much. The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli proposals would even allow Palestinians limited sovereignty over holy shrines of the Christian faith. Over 100,000 protesters added their voices to Mr. Sharon's in Tel Aviv square on Sunday night to protest the concessions.

The only way forward is for all three leaders at Camp David to remember whose legacy they need to preserve that of their people. Mr. Clinton will do the American people no favors if he ushers in a peace deal that compromises Israeli security, forcing Israel to be dependent on American troops, intelligence and funds. Mr. Barak's legacy as a deal-maker will hold no significance if it means an era of Palestinian dominance over Israel's resources, strategic defense areas and holy sites. Nor will Mr. Arafat bring peace to the Palestinians by using them as pawns in an endless game of bigger-and-better summits, only to miss yet another opportunity. For now, we should let sleeping negotiators lie.

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