Memo To. Ari Fleischer, White House Press Secretary
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Who Walked Away From Camp David?
I'm sorry to bother you again so soon, Mr. Fleischer, but I continue to worry that President Bush thinks that it is Yasir Arafat who has been dragging his feet on negotiations when it is absolutely clear to me that it has been the Israelis. It is also clear to the foreign-policy advisor to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Adel al-Jubeir, who was interviewed yesterday on “Meet the Press” by Tim Russert. If President Bush did not watch the show, I urge you to show him the transcript, to which I will link to save you the trouble.
Arafat has of course been demonized because the Israeli Lobby has a hundred times the clout of the Palestinian Lobby in Washington. For the President to be an honest broker for peace, he at least has to get his facts right. It was not Arafat who walked away from the peace agreement President Clinton was trying to broker before he left office. It was Ariel Sharon who refused to resume the negotiations that were suspended for the Israeli elections in February of last year. Of all the stories swirling around Washington, this is one that you absolutely must get control of, as the propagandists not only have a grip on the news media, but have control of all the relevant committees of Congress on behalf of the Israeli Lobby. The Senate Intelligence Committee is one of the saddest cases of all. I watched Wolf Blitzer Sunday interviewing Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican from Alabama, and Bob Graham, the Democratic chairman from Florida, and can tell you they may have high IQs, but what they spouted is more propaganda. Graham is wrong when he says the fact that Arafat walked away from a wonderful offer from Barak is PROOF that he DOES NOT WANT PEACE!!! Here is Mr. Al-Jubeir making the point on Arafat's behalf. He is correct:
MR. AL-JUBEIR: Well, Tim, we have weighed in with President Arafat on a number of areas. The important thing to remember is that it takes two to tango. We have seen—there has been talk about the Palestinians offered 97 percent of the land and a state of their own, including in Jerusalem and that they walked away from it. History does not prove this to be correct. At the Taba talks, which adjourned on the 27 of January, the Israelis and the Palestinians came very close to an agreement. They issued a joint statement, which incidentally is posted on the Web site of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, that said that they were very pleased with the progress and the seriousness of the negotiations, and they felt very comfortable that they can arrive at an agreement and they looked forward to resuming the talks after the Israeli elections. After the Israeli elections, Prime Minister Sharon chose not to come back to the negotiating table. So it's obvious that the party that walked away was Israel. If Israel wants to show seriousness, it should go back to the negotiations where they left off, pick up with the Palestinians and move forward. We hear from the Sharon government things about negotiations, modalities, principles, condemnations. These are secondary. What they need to do is sit down with the Palestinians and pick up where the talks left off.
This seemed to be news to Tim Russert, which leads me to think it may also have been news to you. I see Walter Pincus and Karen de Young of the Washington Post have the "chaos" inside the administration in focus in their Sunday piece, as well they should. They say Karl Rove has been warning President Bush that by dealing with Arafat he is slipping in the polls. What do you expect, when the GOP allows Richard Perle & Paul Wolfowitz to propagandize the press, demonizing Arafat, with no counter effort? He's not the problem. Every American has been told a dozen times a day for six months that Arafat walked away from a terrific deal offered to him in December 2000 by President Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The President is one of those Americans who has heard that baloney repeated incessantly, and of course he believes it. That's the problem with an Office of Strategic Influence. Its propaganda is meant for certain ears, but it reaches our own President and our own congressional committees.
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Having said that, I have some good words. I was extremely happy to see the President send Colin Powell to the Middle East. I also have advised my friends and clients that it was a successful trip, in that Powell did come away with assurances from Sharon that he was prepared to resume negotiations toward a Palestinian state. There was nothing written down, but it seems clear Powell came away with understandings on both sides on how to keep the lid on further violence. I was even more delighted that President Bush devoted his radio address Saturday to praise of his Secretary of State and his clear statement that there must be a Jewish state of Israel living next to an Islamic state of Palestine, or there will never be peace. There is at least the beginnings of a wedge between Sharon, who will now accept a Palestine, and those on his right in Israel who want no Palestine.
Have a nice day.