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 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’