“Decolonize Palestine” Debunked: Palestinians sabotaged the peace process

Adin Haykin
9 min readSep 28, 2021

"decolonize Palestine” tries to prove that the Palestinian leadership did not destroy the peace process.

“To begin with, the often-repeated line that Barak offered the Palestinians the Gaza Strip and 96% of the West Bank for a state is completely untrue. Barak offered the Palestinians 96% of Israel’s definition of the West Bank, meaning they did not include any of the areas already under Israeli control, such as settlements, the Dead Sea, and large parts of the Jordan Valley. This meant that Barak effectively annexed 10% of the West Bank to Israel, with an additional 8–12% remaining under “temporary” Israeli control for a period of time”

According to the source they provided:
“The first proposed Israel’s annexation of 10.5
percent of the West Bank and Israeli security control over an
additional 8.5 to 12 percent”

This does not refer to the final proposal presented to the Palestinians.

“In return for this annexation, Palestinians would be offered 1% of desert land near the Gaza Strip. Thus, Palestinians would need to give up 10% of the most fertile land in the West Bank, in exchange for 1% of desert land. Not to mention that if the past record is any indicator, the additional 8–12% under “temporary” Israeli control would remain so forever.”

Reuters reported:
“Palestinian state in Gaza and 94–96 percent of West Bank territory, plus 1–3 percent land swap and a “safe passage” link between the two areas.”

Mitchell G. Bard:
“In 2000, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak offered to withdraw from 97 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip. In addition, he agreed to dismantle sixty-three isolated settlements. In exchange for the 3 percent annexation of the West Bank, Israel said it would give up territory in the Negev that would increase the size of the Gaza territory by roughly a third”

The former US president said, in his memoirs, and more recently that, during the 2000–2001 talks, he had a deal Arafat turned down “that would have given them all of Gaza, 96 to 97 percent of the West Bank”.

In Dennis Ross’s book, The Missing Peace, and in a NYT op-ed in 2007, he writes that Arafat was indeed offered 97 percent of the West Bank. Further, Ross dismisses Arafat’s claim — parroted by Fisk — that he wasn’t even offered 90% as a “myth”.

“Put simply, the Clinton parameters would have produced an independent Palestinian state with 100 percent of Gaza, roughly 97 percent of the West Bank and an elevated train or highway to connect them.”

Mr. Arafat himself tried to defend his rejection of the Clinton proposals by later saying he was not offered even 90 percent of the West Bank or any of East Jerusalem. But that was myth, not reality.”

“In addition to all of this, Israel demanded permanent control of Palestinian airspace, three permanent military installations manned by Israeli troops in the West Bank, Israeli presence at Palestinian border crossings, and special “security arrangements” along the borders with Jordan which effectively annexed additional land.”

In fact, it was offered to the Palestinians to let them use Israel’s airspace and a temporary and limited military presence:

“On the other hand, with regard to air space, the term was `agreed use. ‘ Clinton declared that sovereignty over air space would be Palestinian, but recognized Israel’s right to make use of it for training purposes and for operational needs, providing such use would be agreed. One idea was that the ways for it to be used would be on a mutual basis: by giving the Palestinians the right to make nonmilitary use of Israeli air space“

“The president suggested a softer term: a `non-militarized state.’ He also asserted that we would have a significant military presence in the Rift Valley for three years and a symbolic presence at defined sites for three more years. We were given three early-warning stations for a 10-year period with the presence of Palestinian liaison officers”

“The cherry on top of all of these stipulations, is that Israel would be allowed to invade at any point in cases of “emergency”. As you can imagine, what constituted an emergency was left incredibly vague and up to interpretation. The Palestinian state would be demilitarized, and the Palestinian government would not be able to enter into alliances without Israeli permission. None of these are ingredients for the creation of an actual sovereign state.”

Bill Clinton and Israel have in fact agreed that in any case of emergency, Israel will have to notify international forces in advance.

“Regarding emergency developments, I understand that you will still have to develop a map of the relevant areas and routes. I propose the following definition: imminent and demonstrable threat to Israel’s national security of a military nature that requires the activation of a national state emergency. Of course, the international forces will need to be notified of any such determination”

Instead of being demilitarized, they agreed:

“I understand that the Israeli position is that Palestine should be defined as a “demilitarized state” while the Palestinian side proposes “a state with limited arms.” As a compromise, I suggest calling it a “non-militarized state.”

This will be consistent with the fact that in addition to a strong Palestinian security force, Palestine will have an international force for border security and deterrent purposes.”

“But the Israeli conditions did not end here. In the case of East Jerusalem, which was supposed to be the capital of the Palestinian state, Israel refused any form of Palestinian sovereignty over the majority of the city, including many Palestinian neighborhoods. It should be noted that the PA agreed to Israeli sovereignty over Jewish neighborhoods and the Kotel, and even proposed Israel annex settlements in East Jerusalem in return for land swaps elsewhere. This was met with Israeli intransigence, and an insistence that the Noble Sanctuary remain under Israeli sovereignty, and that a part of it should be reserved for Jewish worshippers.

According to Ben-Ami, Israel tried to find a solution for Jerusalem that would be “a division in practice…that didn’t look like a division;” that is, Israel was willing to compromise on the issue, but needed a face-saving formula. The Palestinians, however, had no interest in helping the Israelis; to the contrary, they wanted to humiliate them.” Nevertheless, Ben-Ami said Israel dropped its refusal to divide Jerusalem and accepted “full Palestinian sovereignty” on the Temple Mount and asked the Palestinians only to recognize the site was also sacred to Jews.

“Furthermore, when it came to the right of return, Israel refused to admit any responsibility for the millions of refugees it created. The only thing it offered was a very limited return of a very limited number of refugees over a very long period of time.”

Israel has allowed roughly 200,000 Palestinians into Israel since Oslo and has agreed to take in an additional number on a humanitarian basis. Israel also supports the return of refugees to an eventual Palestinian state and the payment of compensation to the refugees from an international fund.

At this point they are showing the false map that the Palestinian leadership claimed they were offered:

In fact, this was the real offer:

They then bring up a half quote from Shlomo Ben Ami.
In fact, this is what he said in his book:
“It was a capital sin that the Palestinians should have rejected such a golden opportunity to join the Camp David process at a time when the West Bank was still practically free of Israeli settlements. This was a major missed opportunity by the Palestinian leadership.”

After the Camp David summit, it became accepted by the international community that the Palestinians had been offered a state on the territory of the Gaza Strip and 95% of the West Bank. This figure was mentioned also by a number of senior Palestinian leaders, among them Faisal Husseini who in March 2001 said:
“Barak agreed to a withdrawal from 95% of the occupied Palestinian lands… no other party will be able to conduct a dialogue with us except from the point where Barak stopped, namely, from the right to 95% of the territory… our eyes will continue to aspire to the strategic goal, namely, to Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea.”
(Al-Safir (Lebanon), March 21, 2001.)

Furthermore, by the time of the Taba talks, there is no real dispute that Israel offered 97% and a 3% land swap. Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and top negotiator Abu Ala, was quoted as saying in the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayam on 29 January 2001 that Israel had offered the Palestinians “97% of the territory” (statement quoted in Israeli newspaper Hamodia, 4 February 2001).

“To add insult to injury, Israel was adamant that Arafat declare “the conflict over” with the signing of these accords, meaning that Palestinians could never ask for anything more after this.”

Since 1994, Israel had insisted that the negotiations should proceed by means of interim agreements on single issues, and that the “final status” issues should be postponed for later talks: indeed this is the approach which the Oslo accords required. The Palestinians and their supporters became the strongest critics of this approach, arguing that Israel was “buying more time” for settlements, and stalling when it knew full well what the “final status” issues were.

When Mr Barak put all these issues on the table at Camp David, he was thus fulfilling what his Palestinian critics had been demanding for several years. It is very ironic that they themselves now criticise Israel for having done so.

A more genuine reason why the Palestinians objected to Israel demanding an “end-to-the-conflict” is that Israel’s boldness caught them by surprise. It revealed the fact that, despite having 6 years to prepare a negotiating stance, the Palestinians did not have a position capable of ending the conflict.

During the Taba talks Mr Arafat made a fiery and uncompromising speech in Davos Switzerland, in which he accused Israel of conducting a “brutal and barbaric war” using “fascist methods”, and imposing “economic strangulation” on the Palestinians. This speech shattered all remaining prospect of a political relationship between Mr Barak and Mr Arafat. It was this speech, and its impact on Israeli pre-election opinion, which forced Mr Barak to pull out of the talks.

Arafat approach is best summed up in another quote from the account of Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami:-

“Arafat is not an earthly leader. He sees himself as a mythological figure…. Therefore even the concrete real-estate issues don’t interest him too much. At Camp David it was clear that he was not looking for practical solutions but was focussed on mythological subjects: the right of return, Jerusalem, the Temple Mount. He floats on the heights of the Islamic ethos and the refugee ethos and the Palestinian ethos.

Arafat’s discourse is never practical, either. His sentences don’t connect and are not completed. There are words, there are sentences, there are metaphors — there is no clear position. The only things there are are codes and nothing else. At the end of the process you suddenly realise that you are not moving ahead in the negotiations because you are in fact negotiating with a myth…”

- quoted in Haaretz magazine, 14 September 2001

Even Saeb Erekat said:
“Some ask what the negotiations with the Israeli side [since the Oslo accords in 1993] have brought us? First [the Israelis] said we would only have the right to run our own schools and hospitals. Then they consented to give us 66% [of the occupied territories]. At Camp David [in 2000] they offered 90%, and recently they offered us 100%. So why should we hurry?”


At Camp David and at Taba, the Palestinians showed themselves to be simply unwilling to respond. No amount of rewriting of what happened at the talks can change that reality.



Adin Haykin

Israeli, IDF soldier and researcher of Israeli history and wars