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Pres. Clinton: Arafat Turned Down Major Last-Minute Israeli Concessions in 2000

In a speech last week at Georgetown University, former President Bill Clinton said that Israel and the Palestinians were extremely close to an agreement at the Camp David summit in 2000, when Yasser Arafat refused to close the deal that was offered to him.

According to Clinton, Arafat insisted that a narrow strip of land on the Temple Mount be included in the deal, and walked away when Israel refused to add that to the other far-reaching concessions it was prepared to make.

Clinton’s remarks revealed that a breakthrough in talks between Israel and the Palestinians, particularly on the controversial issue of the division of Jerusalem, was closer at hand in 2000, at the summit he called a “roaring success,” than previously thought. …

Arafat agreed to leave Israel with control over the Western Wall, as well as over the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, but insisted on keeping 16 meters, or 50 feet, of land leading up to an entrance to the Western Wall tunnels under Palestinian control.

The former president expressed sympathy for the Israeli position, saying, ““if you got in, you could do mayhem to the ruins of the temples.” Arafat subsequently launched the second intifada a few months later.

Clinton’s recollection of Arafat’s refusal to make peace is particularly timely in wake of  a report last week on Israeli television that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to make significant concessions in order to keep peace negotiations with the Palestinians going. However, instead of coming to an agreement with Israel, Fatah, the main constituent organization of the PA, came to a unity agreement with the terrorist organization Hamas. If the Israeli report is true, it would be another time that the Palestinians walked away from peace.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Mahmoud Abbas refused to come to an agreement with Israel. In 2008, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a peace offer to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and never heard back.

Clinton’s remarks are a reminder of the uncompromising positions of Palestinian leaders regardless of who is Prime Minister of Israel.

[Photo: clintonlibrary42 / YouTube ]