Although the laboriously negotiated and long-delayed Middle East "road map" received a diplomatic boost by the recent intervention of George W. Bush, the plan is replete with the same structural flaws that doomed the Oslo Accords. It’s as if the players in this drama were cursed to a Nietzschean hell of eternal recurrence. As in 1991, the United States has just won a crushing victory in the Persian Gulf and promised vigorous action to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. As in 1991, the United States, to satisfy its Israeli partner, has vetoed the recognized Palestinian leadership. And just as with the Oslo Accords in 1993–when Israel bypassed the Palestinian negotiators it had approved earlier and engaged its old bête noire, Yasir Arafat, because the recognized negotiators stubbornly insisted on bothersome details like compliance with the Geneva Conventions and guaranteed removal of illegal settlements–the Palestinians and Israel have agreed to a process that promises little peace. As with Oslo, it purposefully avoids all the fundamental issues, like settlements, Jerusalem, borders, refugees, international law and human rights.
If the architects of the new plan have been able to present their scheme as a road map rather than a cul-de-sac, they have been aided by the determined refusal of the mainstream US media to speak honestly about what Oslo involved and about what actually happened at the Camp David summit of July 2000, and why it collapsed. Even casual observers can recite the common wisdom–didn’t the courageous Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, make astounding concessions at Camp David, offering the Palestinians almost everything they had long demanded? Didn’t he go further than any prime minister before him? Didn’t the churlish and deceitful Arafat reject all offers while making no substantive proposals in return, and then launch an intifada, hoping to win through terror what he couldn’t gain at the negotiating table? Doesn’t this prove that Israel really has no peace partner? This was the refrain in almost every US newspaper and on every TV network, repeated ad nauseam as the bodies piled up and the hatred grew. This magazine, along with a few other outlets and commentators, said otherwise, but the big boys weren’t listening.
It was only many months after the intifada began–and long after Oslo was dead, if not yet buried–that a hint of reality began to creep into the mainstream. Deborah Sontag’s long July 2001 New York Times article, cautiously venturing that perhaps it wasn’t all the Palestinians’ fault, and especially the article that August by Robert Malley and Hussein Agha in The New York Review of Books, began to puncture the myth. Malley’s status as an adviser to the Clinton Administration at Camp David made his rebuttal all the more convincing. But after September 11, fearmongering and the facile equation of Palestinian terror with that of Al Qaeda–not to mention the declaration of near-permanent crisis and war by the Bush Administration–meant that most US media would resume their obedience to the received wisdom.
Now, with the US publication of Charles Enderlin’s Shattered Dreams, we have the most complete inside account yet of what actually happened at Camp David, as well as detailed accounts of many of the other key negotiations between the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the February 2001 election of Ariel Sharon. Enderlin, a veteran correspondent and Jerusalem bureau chief for France 2 television since 1990, had unprecedented access to most of the top negotiators from the key countries involved. His book, a bestseller when published in France last year, is based on many hours of videotaped interviews with the participants, often taken at the time of the events in question, along with notes of those sessions furnished by the participants. Many of these interviews and negotiating sessions are transcribed verbatim in the book. The reader feels, at times, like a fly on the wall at these talks. Shattered Dreams is thus essential reading for any serious student of the last years of the Oslo era. It’s remarkable that so many different negotiators would be at once so bitterly opposed to one another and yet so willing to trust Enderlin with their version of events and then corroborate the accuracy of his rendering.