Israel, PA faulted for lack of strategy

Kurtzer blames "asymmetrical relationship" for Oslo Accords failure.

rabin peres nobel 298.88 (photo credit: GPO)
rabin peres nobel 298.88
(photo credit: GPO)
The assymetrical relationship between Israel and the Palestinians caused the Oslo peace process's failure, Daniel Kurtzer, former ambassador to Israel and Egypt, said at Harvard University last week. But he also blamed both Israel and the Palestinians for lacking a political strategy to follow their military strategy as contributing to the failure in relations. "Neither side at any point defined or pursued a political strategy to extract the benefit of perceived military success," he said. Kurtzer said that the US too did not have a "game plan" when it went to Camp David in 2000 and that the hope was that "...the president through the sheer force of presidential power and his own personality would be able to bridge differences." He said that the fact that Yasser Arafat did not want to go to Camp David and that the US pushed him to go anyway contributed to the talks being unsuccessful. At the same time, however, Kurtzer said that the collapse of the Camp David talks was not the US's fault: "The failure of Camp David is largely attributed to the fact that Arafat did not even negotiate," said Kurtzer. "...It didn't matter what he put on the table; he put nothing on the table." He said he would "never understand" why Arafat cut off negotiations without even offering a maximalist position. Saying the lack of "human relations" between Israel and its Arab neighbors such as tourism, cultural events and sports contributed to poor relations, Kurtzer argued that better relations in the region depended on Israel and the Arabs establishing better ties with each other. "The normal stuff of what builds confidence in people is not necessarily what goes on in capitals, but what goes on between people," said Kurtzer. But he said the United States should be blamed for "...almost never fulfilling its role" in providing accountability for agreements made between Israel and the Palestinians. Kurtzer maintained that "unilateralist" actions by both Israel and the Palestinians during the Oslo period "...undercut the essence of what they had agreed to forgo." While Israel failed in its obligation to stop settlements, the Palestinians failed in their obligation to stop terrorism, he said. Kurtzer said part of the problem was the US did not have a "system in place" to monitor the agreement properly. At the same time, however, he said Fatah had proven that it was not a party that was able to make a transition to governing. "People suffered unduly because the diversion of resources from central [Fatah's] government coffers," said Kurtzer, who described Fatah as being "incapable and inefficient" in presiding over the Palestinian political system. He said different negotiation strategies played a part in driving a wedge between Israel and the Palestinians. While Israel was interested in negotiating through a series of interim agreements, he said, the Palestinians, on the other hand, where not interested in negotiating unless they knew that they could obtain something from the negotiations.