President Mubarak of Egypt and Foreign Minister Shamir of Israel have recently shared with our readers their governments' very different views on how the Camp David peace process might be revived. Today, former president Carter -- architect and, in a sense, custodian of the Camp David Accords -- responds to our invitation to comment on their positions and to offer his own view of what Camp David actually mandated. We asked Mr. Carter for his analysis before President Reagan decided to give his own speech last night. We believe it makes especially interesting reading in conjunction with that speech.
At Camp David, President Sadat, Prime Minister Begin and I had to address three general questions, involving Palestinian rights, Israeli security, and land. Based on our best answers to these questions, the final documents were signed with great ceremony, and there were fervent mutual pledges of "no more war!"
Now, not quite four years later, another war has left thousands dead and tens of thousands of new refugees. Although most of the Palestinian leaders fighting under the PLO banner have survived, their heavy armaments have been destroyed or confiscated by the invading forces of the Israelis, and they have been driven from Lebanon and dispersed to several Arab countries. However, the Palestinian question -- still the most crucial factor in the search for permanent peace in the Middle East -- has not been resolved. In fact, because their plight has again been brought to the forefront of the world's attention, the search of several million Palestinians for a homeland and the full rights of citizenship may have gained some public support, even within the United States.
The second question, concerning Israeli security, has been answered much more clearly. With the severe damage to the PLO army and the dispersal of its leaders, the peace treaty with Egypt resulting in the demilitarization of the Sinai and the proven power of the Israeli forces, there is no longer any real possibility that an assault from any direction could seriously threaten Israel. With continued American economic and military assistance, this situation is unlikely to change for many years to come.
There remains the issue of land -- the occupied territories in the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza strip. The questions of land and Palestinian rights were addressed together at Camp David. Since the agreement is still binding on the signatory governments and remains the only identifiable basis for further peace efforts, it may be fruitful to review some of its provisions. Real evidence that these Camp David commitments will be honored in a substantive and forceful way may induce the Jordanians and Palestinians to take advantage of this opportunity to achieve their legitimate goals.
Here are a few interesting points:
a) In spite of some statements to the contrary, Prime Minister Begin and his government pledged at Camp David that "The agreed basis for a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Israel and its neighbors is United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, in all its parts." There was a further commitment that this understanding is to apply not only to Israel and Egypt, but "between Israel and each of the other neighbors which is prepared to negotiate peace with Israel on this basis." Therefore, an opportunity to resolve remaining differences with Israel under the principles of U.N. Resolution 242 remains available to all its neighbors.
b) There were further pledges by all parties to work for "the resolution of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects." For an interim period not to exceed five years (this is not a permanent situation), a self-governing authority is to be freely elected by the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza to replace both the Israeli military government and its civilian administration, which are to be withdrawn from these occupied territories.
During this interim period, some remaining Israeli forces will be deployed into specified security locations. Full autonomy is to be granted to the Palestinians, as negotiated by their representatives with Egypt, Israel and Jordan. The United States is to participate in these autonomy talks. The delegations may include Palestinians from Egypt and Jordan, from the West Bank and Gaza, or from other places as mutually agreed. In the absence of Jordan and the Palestinians, Sadat reluctantly agreed that Egypt would assume their negotiating role after consulting with other Arabs. This process is waiting to be pursued.
c) The same Camp David agreement further provides that after the self-governing authority is established, a five-year clock will begin to tick, during which time negotiations will be conducted to determine the final status of the West Bank and Gaza. Also during this time, a peace treaty is to be concluded between Israel and Jordan. "The negotiations shall be based on all the provisions and principles of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242," and "will resolve, among other matters, the location of the boundaries and the nature of the security arrangements. The solution from the negotiations must also recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and their just requirements." "The Palestinians will participate in the determination of their own future" by joining as an equal party in any agreement concerning the final status of the occupied territories and then having the agreement submitted to a vote of the elected representatives of the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians are also to participate in negotiating the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty as it relates to the status of the occupied land.
It is hard for me to envision how Sadat could have been more successful at Camp David in obtaining a full voice for the Palestinian people in determining their own future or in helping to shape the final status of the occupied territories on the West Bank and in Gaza. It is a tragedy that the Palestinians and moderate Arabs have not yet acknowledged this fact and joined the peace process. This shortsighted attitude is one of the serious stumbling blocks to progress, and is certainly a partial cause of the other obstacle: the failure of the Begin government to carry out the letter and spirit of the agreement.
The massive settlement program in the occupied territories, launched by the Israelis contrary to repeated assurances by their leaders, has been an extremely unpleasant surprise to all of us who had such high hopes for a peaceful resolution of the major Middle East issues. This action plus the continued deprivation of citizenship rights of those living under military occupation, apparent unwillingness to grant any real autonomy to the Palestinians, and the recent invasion of Lebanon, have convinced most Arabs that Israel does not intend to carry out the commitments made by Begin at Camp David.
It is clear that the Israeli leaders are relatively satisfied with the status quo; their potential negotiating partners are the ones who would most likely benefit from any possible changes and who suffer most from refusing to cooperate in the Camp David process.
There is plenty of blame for both sides, and it must be shared by our own country, which has shown little interest in fulfilling the legitimate and necessary role of the United States as a full participant in the peace process. I know from experience the complexity of the problems and the intransigence of the negotiating parties themselves. But I know from the same experience that the situation is not hopeless, provided our government is willing to shoulder the difficult burden, as an unbiased mediator, understanding all the interests involved and pursuing peace courageously and with persistence. The full authority of a president, secretary of state or someone known to speak directly for them is a demonstrated requirement for success.
It is time for a peace offensive. Following the Lebanese war, there is a new opportunity for all interested parties in the Middle East to forgo further violence and seek the high ground of diplomacy. The Syrian and Israeli military forces must withdraw from Lebanon, and the Palestinians and other Arabs should now join the peace talks. If it is not immediately possible to bring all the parties to the negotiating table, we should explore every reasonable alternative within the Camp David framework. The Palestinian leaders might, for instad thance, request the Jordanians, a committee of West Bank and Gaza mayors, or the Egyptians to work on their behalf during the early stages of the talks. Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab countries would need to acquiesce in such an arrangement.
The Palestinians would have little, if anything, to lose, and potentially a lot to gain. If the Camp David commitments are honored, the West Bank and Gaza residents will gain full autonomy and the early withdrawal of the Israeli military government, plus a strong voice (and even the right of ultimate approval in a referendum) in determining the final status of the occupied territories -- either eventual independence or affiliation with Jordan or Israel. The United States and the rest of the world would benefit from another major step toward harmony in the Middle East, and Israel would finally gain security, full recognition and peace with its neighbors.
That was the bright vision I shared with Sadat and Begin four years ago. It must not now be obscured by warlike rhetoric and continued hatred among neighbors, or by timidity or reluctance within our own government to address these crucial issues.