Despite this huge setback Israel and Palestine must find a way to keep talking

Share

In the end, as all along seemed probable, the gap was narrow but unbridgeable. From the outset, the future of Jerusalem had threatened to be the deal-breaker in the Israeli-Palestinian summit, which collapsed without agreement at Camp David yesterday. Often theatrics are part of a truly crucial Middle East negotiation. Statements of the failure from the White House, the summoning by participants of their motorcades for the airport, have been part and parcel of the brinkmanship process. This time alas, they do not seem to be the prelude to yet one more desperate push for a breakthrough.

In the end, as all along seemed probable, the gap was narrow but unbridgeable. From the outset, the future of Jerusalem had threatened to be the deal-breaker in the Israeli-Palestinian summit, which collapsed without agreement at Camp David yesterday. Often theatrics are part of a truly crucial Middle East negotiation. Statements of the failure from the White House, the summoning by participants of their motorcades for the airport, have been part and parcel of the brinkmanship process. This time alas, they do not seem to be the prelude to yet one more desperate push for a breakthrough.

Summits can teeter on the edge for only so long. For 15 days, most of those in the presence of Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat have been seeking to reach a "final status" agreement to cap the peace process which began with that unforgettable handshake between Mr Arafat and the late Yitzhak Rabin seven summers ago. The two sides seemed to have been inching towards a deal on the borders of the future Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and the future of settlements in the occupied territories. Differences remained on the "right of return" of the 4 million Palestinian refugees whose families once lived in what is now Israel. But on Jerusalem, claimed by both sides as their historic, rightful capital, there has been no understanding whatsoever.

In fact, each leader's hands were tied. Mr Barak apparently offered some form of Palestinian sovereignty over east Jerusalem, but neither sufficient nor precise enough to satisfy Mr Arafat and - more importantly - protect the Palestinian leader from accusations by his own people of a sell-out. But with his own governing coalition in ruins, the Israeli Prime Minister felt he could go no further.

But if failure this time was predictable, its consequences are no less alarming. Inevitably recriminations will fly. The Israelis will blame Mr Arafat for a pigheaded failure to accept the best terms his people are ever likely to receive. The Palestinians will fume at the Israelis for delivering a package which they knew did not meet the minimum requirements of their negotiating partner. President Clinton and his Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, will also come under fire for not having done their homework, and failing to appreciate the colossal symbolic importance of Jerusalem to both parties.

The immediate need now is for cool heads. Just possibly, the breakdown will prove temporary, and a fresh summit can be called before the 13 September deadline for a peace treaty. Indeed, before this last Camp David marathon began, many experts predicted that it would be but the first act of a two-act drama. If that is not the case, however, the prospects are grim.

All too probably, Mr Arafat will conclude that after so many disappointments and false dawns since 1993, he has no choice but to carry out his oft-voiced threat to unilaterally declare a sovereign Palestinian state. To which the Israelis would surely and instantly reply by formally annexing West Bank land it currently occupies and by tightening still further its grip on Jerusalem. At this point every achievement since the first Camp David summit of 1978, which paved the way to a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, would be in danger of unravelling. Somehow, the Israelis and Palestinians must find a way to keep talking.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Web Designer

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Now’s the time to bring back Top Of The Pops

David Lister
Amanda Knox will learn today if her conviction for murdering British student Mereditch Kercher has been upheld  

Amanda Knox: A retrial, two films and endless speculation - will the fascination with Meredith Kercher's murder ever end?

Peter Popham
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss