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Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Don't Play With Maps

Don't Play With Maps
By DENNIS ROSS The New York Times January 9, 2007


I BECAME embroiled in a controversy with former President Jimmy Carter over
the use of two maps in his recent book, "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid."
While some criticized what appeared to be the misappropriation of maps I had
commissioned for my book, "The Missing Peace," my concern was always

I was concerned less with where the maps had originally come from - Mr.
Carter has said that he used an atlas that was published after my book
appeared - and more with how they were labeled. To my mind, Mr. Carter's
presentation badly misrepresents the Middle East proposals advanced by
President Bill Clinton in 2000, and in so doing undermines, in a small but
important way, efforts to bring peace to the region.

In his book, Mr. Carter juxtaposes two maps labeled the "Palestinian
Interpretation of Clinton's Proposal 2000" and "Israeli Interpretation of
Clinton's Proposal 2000."

The problem is that the "Palestinian interpretation" is actually taken from
an Israeli map presented during the Camp David summit meeting in July 2000,
while the "Israeli interpretation" is an approximation of what President
Clinton subsequently proposed in December of that year. Without knowing
this, the reader is left to conclude that the Clinton proposals must have
been so ambiguous and unfair that Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, was
justified in rejecting them. But that is simply untrue.
In actuality, President Clinton offered two different proposals at two
different times. In July, he offered a partial proposal on territory and
control of Jerusalem. Five months later, at the request of Ehud Barak, the
Israeli prime minister, and Mr. Arafat, Mr. Clinton presented a
comprehensive proposal on borders, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and
security. The December proposals became known as the Clinton ideas or

Put simply, the Clinton parameters would have produced an independent
Palestinian state with 100 percent of Gaza, roughly 97 percent of the West
Bank and an elevated train or highway to connect them. Jerusalem's status
would have been guided by the principle that what is currently Jewish will
be Israeli and what is currently Arab will be Palestinian, meaning that
Jewish Jerusalem - East and West - would be united, while Arab East
Jerusalem would become the capital of the Palestinian state.

The Palestinian state would have been "nonmilitarized," with internal
security forces but no army and an international military presence led by
the United States to prevent terrorist infiltration and smuggling.
Palestinian refugees would have had the right of return to their state, but
not to Israel, and a fund of $30 billion would have been created to
compensate those refugees who chose not to exercise their right of return to
the Palestinian state.

When I decided to write the story of what had happened in the negotiations,
I commissioned maps to illustrate what the proposals would have meant for a
prospective Palestinian state. If the Clinton proposals in December 2000 had
been Israeli or Palestinian ideas and I was interpreting them, others could
certainly question my interpretation. But they were American ideas, created
at the request of the Palestinians and the Israelis, and I was the principal
author of them. I know what they were and so do the parties.

It is certainly legitimate to debate whether President Clinton's proposal
could have settled the conflict. It is not legitimate, however, to rewrite
history and misrepresent what the Clinton ideas were.

Indeed, since the talks fell apart, there has emerged a mythology that seeks
to defend Mr. Arafat's rejection of the Clinton ideas by suggesting they
weren't real or they were too vague or that Palestinians would have received
far less than what had been advertised. Mr. Arafat himself tried to defend
his rejection of the Clinton proposals by later saying he was not offered
even 90 percent of the West Bank or any of East Jerusalem. But that was
myth, not reality.

Why is it important to set the record straight? Nothing has done more to
perpetuate the conflict between Arabs and Israelis than the mythologies on
each side. The mythologies about who is responsible for the conflict (and
about its core issues) have taken on a life of their own. They shape
perception. They allow each side to blame the other while avoiding the need
to face up to its own mistakes. So long as myths are perpetuated, no one
will have to face reality.

And yet peace can never be built on these myths. Instead it can come only
once the two sides accept and adjust to reality. Perpetuating a myth about
what was offered to justify the Arafat rejection serves neither Palestinian
interests nor the cause of peace.

I would go a step further. If, as I believe, the Clinton ideas embody the
basic trade-offs that will be required in any peace deal, it is essential to
understand them for what they were and not to misrepresent them. This is
especially true now that the Bush administration, for the first time, seems
to be contemplating a serious effort to deal with the core issues of the
Of course, one might ask if trying to address the core issues is appropriate
at a moment when Palestinians are locked in an internal stalemate and the
Israeli public lacks confidence in its government. Can politically weak
leaders make compromises on the issues that go to the heart of the conflict?
Can the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, compromise on the right of
return and tell his public that refugees will not go back to Israel? Can
Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, tell his public that demography and
practicality mean that the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem will have
Palestinian and not Israeli sovereignty?

The basic trade-offs require meeting Israeli needs on security and refugees
on the one hand and Palestinian needs on territory and a capital in Arab
East Jerusalem on the other. But producing such trade-offs won't simply come
from calling for them. Instead, an environment must be created in which each
side believes the other can act on peace and is willing to condition its
public for the difficult compromises that will be necessary.

So long as mythologies can't be cast aside, and so long as the trade-offs on
the core issues can't be embraced by Israelis or Palestinians, peace will
remain forever on the horizon. If history tells us anything, it is that for
peace-making to work, it must proceed on the basis of fact, not fiction.
Dennis Ross, envoy to the Middle East in the Clinton administration, is
counselor of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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