Taba Mythchief

(National Interest/Washington Institute for Near East Policy) - David Makovsky If an American push should come to vigorously pursue the Arab-Israeli peace process after dealing with Iraq, it would be tragic were it plagued by a misleading mythology that Israelis and Palestinians were at the verge of peace in January 2001 as they met at Taba. According to this myth, both sides had essentially agreed on the critical and difficult issues of land, refugees, and the status of Jerusalem, and it was only Ariel Sharon's rise to power that prevented these discussions from coming to fruition - a myth that has wide currency in both the Arab world and in Europe. The diplomatic advisor to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdallah, Adel al-Jubeir, claims that at Taba "the Israelis and the Palestinians came very close to an agreement." Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says that the talks "could have led to a settlement, had an additional chance for a few more months been made available for negotiations." This is just not so. First of all, the Israeli delegation at Taba did not have the moral authority to negotiate two weeks before an election in which Prime Minister Ehud Barak was widely expected to lose in a landslide; and Israel's delegation was led by a government that had the support of only 42 of Israel's 120-member parliament. Even had a deal been reached, therefore, it is very unlikely that the Knesset would have ratified it. But no deal was ever in prospect. Palestinian negotiators made only conditional and tactical concessions at Taba, and even these were never agreed to by Arafat. While some key Palestinian negotiators wanted a deal, no evidence suggests that Arafat himself was willing to make any concessions of real significance. Even the diplomat who has put forth the rosiest assessment of the Taba negotiations - EU Middle East peace envoy Miguel Moratinos - wrote in a document summarizing those talks (Ha'aretz, February 14, 2001) that "serious gaps remain."

2003-03-17 00:00:00

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