Re­vealed:how­can­did states­mendis­cussed pea­ce­pro­cesshopes

Made pub­lic at last, the full and frank con­ver­sa­tions in which Bill Clin­ton and Tony Blair de­bated Is­raeli-Pales­tinian re­la­tions, Holo­caust sur­vivors and their fel­low lead­ers

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY JOSH JACK­MAN

THE PER­SON­AL­I­TIES be­hind one of the most promis­ing pe­ri­ods of the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian peace process have been un­cov­ered in newly-re­leased con­ver­sa­tions be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair and Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

The tele­phone tran­scripts, de­clas­si­fied by the Clin­ton Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary, cover the pe­riod be­tween the start of Mr Blair’s elec­tion in May 1997 and the end of Mr Clin­ton’s pres­i­dency in 2001.

Elie Wiesel’s view on the Kosovo War and Mr Clin­ton’s con­dem­na­tion of the me­dia’s treat­ment of Holo­caust sur­vivors dur­ing the 2000 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion -— which saw Joe Lieber­man be­come the first Jewish vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date — were also in­cluded in the 530-pages re­leased last Thurs­day.

Mr Clin­ton over­saw the sign­ing of the Oslo Ac­cords in 1993 be­tween Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, and worked to­wards es­tab­lish­ing a per­ma­nent peace deal be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans be­fore he left the White House.

The dead­line to con­clude the Oslo deal was May 1999, by which time a com­pre­hen­sive agree­ment was meant to have been reached.

The pres­i­dent’s frus­tra­tion and sense of des­per­a­tion as the dead­line neared was clear in Oc­to­ber 1998, when Mr Blair said that he had seen “Mr Arafat on his way to you,” adding: “He still thinks it is pos­si­ble to do a deal.”

Mr Clin­ton replied: “I think it is. He wants it, I think. What we have to do is keep them from fall­ing into th­ese old habits. I keep telling them if we don’t make this deal now, we’ve got May 1999 star­ing us straight in the face and I think it will be a disas­ter.

“It will be im­pos­si­ble to avoid a bad out­come un­less we get this in­terim agree­ment now and get into fi­nal sta­tus talks.”

Headdedthatthe­p­ro­cesshad­be­come more dif­fi­cult be­cause the Pales­tini­ans’ eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion was “worse than when they signed on to peace.

“The Is­raelis close bor­ders at the drop of a hat and they never con­cluded all th­ese eco­nomic things, the roads and air­port and in­dus­trial park, they have been on the verge of do­ing for months and months.

‘If we don’t make this deal now, it will be a disas­ter’

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