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July 02, 2004 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-07-02

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Special Regrets

In his new book, Bill Clinton reflects on failure in the Middle East.

sions, Clinton writes.
olutionary to statesman."
Barak wanted to draw out the negotia-
The book abounds in
tions so he would appear to be a tough
revealing anecdotes. For example,
negotiator, Clinton writes. But as a rela-
hen Bill Clinton calls himself
Clinton was in awe of Barak's toughness
tively new politician, Barak didn't under- when the Israeli prime minister returned
a failed president, it's not
stand that peace with Syria would reap
because of the scandals, the
to negotiating immediately after nearly
_legislative battles or even his personal life greater political rewards with Israeli vot-
choking to death on a peanut during the
ers than if he hung tough, he says.
— it's because of the peace in the
Camp David summit.
"Barak had not been in politics long,
Middle East that he never achieved,
Clinton describes the day that Arafat
and I thought he had gotten some very
despite long hours spent cajoling Israeli
and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
bad advice," Clinton writes.
and Arab negotiators.
came to -Washington to sign the Oslo
Writing in My Life (Alfred A Knopf;
"If Barak had made real peace with
accords in September 1993. Clinton for-
Syria, it would lift his standing in Israel
$35) his memoir that hit bookstores last
bade Arafat to wear a revolver on his
and across the world, and increase the
week, Clinton places the blame squarely
hip, and had to convince Rabin to shake
on Yasser Arafat.
chances of success with. the Palestinians.. hands with Arafat.
If he failed, a few days of good poll
During Clinton's final days in office,
One account shows how high political
numbers would vanish in the wind. As
the Palestinian Authority president
drama can at times merge with farce.
hard as I tried, I couldn't change Barak's
"thanked me for all my efforts and told
Clinton and his national security staff
me what a great man I was," Clinton
coordinated a way to ensure that Arafat
But Clinton saves his harshest criti-
writes. "Mr. Chairman," I replied, "I am
would not try to kiss Rabin, something
not a great man. I am a failure, and you
cism for Arafat. As Clinton's second
Rabin insisted he wouldn't allow.
have made me one."
term was expiring in the fall of 2000, he
"National Security Adviser Tony Lake
recalls questioning Arafat about his
Readers who buy Clinton's autobiog-
described the procedure and we prac-
raphy looking for details of his relation-
desire to make peace following the failed
ticed it. I played Arafat and he played
ship with intern Monica Le-wins , as
Camp David summit and the outbreak
• me, showing me what to do," Clinton
of the intifada.
touted in the book's pre-publicity, also
writes. "When I shook his hand and
Clinton was considering investing his
will get detailed insight_ into Clinton's
moved in for the kiss, he put his left
search for peace between Israel and its
energy pressing North Korea to end its
hand on my right arm where it was bent
missile production programs, but only if at the elbow and squeezed; it stopped
Arafat indicated that even a final push
Clinton's account of his presidency is
me cold. Then we reversed roles and I
chronological rather than thematic; all in wouldn't bring peace with Israel.
did it to him.
all, about 68 pages scattered through the
"He pleaded with me to stay," Clinton
"We practiced it a couple of more
says of Arafat, "saying that we had to
957-page book are devoted to the
times until I felt sure Rabin's cheek
Middle East peace process.
finish the peace and that if we didn't do
would remain untouched," he writes.
it before I left office, it would be at least
The outlines are not new, but there
"We all laughed about it, but I knew
are sharp details about his days spent at
five years before we'd be this close to
avoiding the kiss was deadly serious for
peace again."
several retreats working with negotiators
_ abin."
Yet before long Arafat's maneuvering
and about.whom he believed to be com-
Clinton speaks at length of his affinity
pliant and who played hardball.
got in the way: After agreement had
for Rabin, and writes glowingly of the
Clinton. largely faults Israeli Prime
been reached that the Muslim and
late Israeli leader's work and personality.
Minister Ehud Barak for the breakdown
Christian quarters of Jerusalem's Old
Clinton describes the night of Rabin's
of peace talks between Israel and Syria.
City would come under Palestinian sov-
assassination in November 1995: After
Though Barak was the driving force
ereignty and the Jewish and Armenian
learning Rabin had been shot, Clinton
behind the summit with Syria in
quarters under Israeli rule, Arafat
hit golf balls on the White House lawn
Shepherdstown, W.Va., in January 2000, demanded a few blocks of the Armenian while awaiting news of his condition.
he didn't have the will to make conces-
The book includes a photo of
"I couldn't believe he
Clinton, head in hands, hearing the
was talking to me about
news of Rabin's death from Lake.
this," Clinton writes. •
"By the time he was killed, I had
Clinton suggests that
come to love him as I had rarely loved
Arafat may not have
another man," Clinton writes. "In the
been at his full mental
back of my mind, I suppose I always
capacity in the final
knew -he had put his life at risk, but I
months of negotiations,
couldn't imagine him gone, and I didn't
saying he seemed "con-
know what I would or could do in the
Middle East without him."
Clinton — who received 80 percent
Then again, he writes,
of the Jewish vote in 1992 and 78 per-
Arafat may simply have
cent four years later — praises the
been unable to "make
American Jewish community for its role
Yitzhak Rabin, left, shakes hands with Yasser Arafat, as
the final jump from rev-
in support of his peace efforts.
President Clinton looks on, in September 1993.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency




7/ 2



"The American-Jewish com-
munity had been very good to
me," he writes, explaining his
decision to unveil the details of
his peace plan at an Israel
Policy Forum dinner in early
2001, when he had barely two
weeks left in office. "Regardless
of what happened; I thought I owed it
to them to explain, my proposal."
Under Clinton's plan, a Palestinian
state would have been established in all
of the Gaza Strip and nearly all of the
West Bank, with an exchange of territo-
ry to compensate for settlement blocs
annexed by Israel. Clinton also proposed
that Palestinian refugees have an unlim-
ited right to move to the new Palestinian
state, but not to Israel.
Clinton reflects angrily on Arafat's
statement, nearly a year after Clinton left
office, that he finally accepted the
parameters of Clinton's plan.
"Apparently, Arafat had thought the
time to decide, five minutes to mid-
night, had finally come," Clinton writes.
"His watch had been broken a long
Some of Clinton's explanations about
whom he did and didn't pardon in his
last days in office also will have interest
for Jewish readers. Clinton explains his
decision not to pardon Jonathan Pollard,
the former U.S. Navy intelligence officer
convicted of spying for Israel.
During negotiations toward the 1998
Wye accord, Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu demanded
Pollard's release as a condition for mov-
ing forward in the peace process. But
Clinton says CIA Director George Tenet
said he would resign if Clinton corn-
muted Pollard's sentence.
"For all the sympathy Pollard generat-
ed in Israel, he was a hard case to push
in America; he had sold our country's
secrets for money, not conviction, and
for years had not shown any remorse,"
Clinton writes. .
Clinton says he decided in his final
days as president to pardon Marc Rich, a
contributor to several Israeli and
American Jewish causes, because tax eva-
sion charges against him were now seen
as civil offenses — and because Rich had
paid more than four times the amount
in fines that he had evaded in taxes.
Clinton says that Barak, for his part,
asked him three times to pardon Rich.
The Rich pardon' proved to be among
Clinton's most controversial.
Clinton says he didn't pardon Michael
Milken, the former junk-bond king,
who is a major contributor to Jewish day
schools, because of objections from the
Treasury Department and the Securities
and Exchange Commission.17

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