Clinton Peace Proposals No Longer Binding

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The Mideast peace proposals put forward by the Clinton administration are "null and void," according to all three parties involved in those negotiations. That clears the way for Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon to establish a new negotiating policy with the Palestinian Authority.

Defeated Prime Minister Ehud Barak wrote a letter to President Bush, telling him the ideas raised by President Bill Clinton in the closing weeks of his presidency, as well as those discussed at Camp David last July, were "not binding on the new government" to be formed in Israel.

Before sending his letter to Bush, Barak conferred with Clinton. The two former leaders agreed that the earlier ideas discussed would not bind Sharon's government.

Clinton previously said that his proposals, which included the division of Jerusalem, would leave office when he did, on January 20.

In the letter to Bush, Barak wrote that he had done his "utmost" to end the conflict but that those efforts had not borne fruit, according to a statement from his office.

In the concessions he offered the PA, Barak went further than any other Israeli prime minister, saying he was prepared to relinquish 95 percent of the disputed West Bank, and to divide Jerusalem.

PA Chairman Yasser Arafat rejected those proposals as insufficient. But he is unlikely to get a better deal from Sharon.

The former general has already made it clear that he will only hand over a little more than 40 percent of the disputed areas. That portion, most of which is already under PA control or shared administration, includes most Palestinian population centers.

Israel accepted Clinton's proposals as a basis for negotiations providing the PA also accepted them. Instead, the PA presented a list of more than 20 reservations.

In his letter, Barak told Bush that both sides had accepted the principle that "nothing is agreed upon until everything is agreed upon."

Outgoing Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, who was one of the architects of the negotiation process, reacted sharply to Barak's stance. He said in a radio interview on Friday that Israel remained obligated to Clinton's proposals, no matter who was in government.

The PA has made it clear it wants negotiations to pick up where they left off shortly before the election. It is also mounting a diplomatic campaign to gain support for that position.

However, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher confirmed that the new U.S. administration, too, does not consider the sides bound by previous proposals.

"The ideas and parameters that were discussed in the last few months were President Clinton's parameters and therefore, when he left office, they were no longer a U.S. proposal or a presidential proposal," he told reporters.

"The parties have not agreed on any other basis for final status talks at this point," Boucher said. After consultations with the parties Washington would have a better idea how to help them.

Bush called Arafat on Thursday for the first time since taking office on January 20. According to National Security Council spokesperson Mary Ellen Countryman, Bush "urged Arafat to make every effort to help stop the violence and calm the situation."

Bush initiated the call several hours before a powerful bomb exploded in Jerusalem.

After the blast, in which no-one was seriously hurt, Secretary of State Colin Powell called Arafat and urged him to do everything he could to restrain violence. Boucher said he did not know if the bombing was specifically mentioned.

Powell is scheduled to visit the region in 15 days' time. Although the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, could not confirm it, radio reports on Friday indicated Powell would meet Sharon, Barak and Arafat.

Powell was already scheduled to travel to Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, to mark the 10th anniversary of the end of the Gulf War.

However, the trip to Israel and the PA had remained in question due to the recent Israeli elections and formation of a new government.

Speaking after the bomb blast, Sharon called it "another tragic event" that demanded all of Israel to "unite to act with determination against terror." Sharon has vowed to return a sense of security to the country after 19 weeks of Palestinian uprising and terrorism.

Two previously unknown groups claimed responsibility for the attack in faxes sent to news agencies.

The Islamic Jihad threatened earlier this week to carry out terror attacks in Israel in revenge for the slaying of one of its militants, who was shot and killed by Israeli troops as he attempted to scale a fence into Israel strapped with more than 30 pounds of explosives.

Arafat's Fatah faction also pledged this week to intensify the uprising.