Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process Was a 'Scam,' Former CIA Director Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The Israeli-Palestinian peace process was a "scam" during the 1990s and because of that Washington should not be pushing Israel to make a "land for peace deal" now, a former head of the CIA said here.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, President Bush referred only briefly to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, saying the U.S. and its partners in the "Quartet" - the United Nations, European Union and Russia - were "pursuing the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who visited here two weeks ago, offered to host a three-way summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in a bid to discuss ways of moving toward a Palestinian state.

Bush is the first U.S. leader to publicly back the idea of a "two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But former CIA director James Woolsey said this week the U.S. should learn from past experience. Until something changes in the P.A. there would not be an Israeli-Palestinian deal, he said.

Woolsey told Cybercast News Service the U.S. had "pushed fairly hard" during the 1990s and especially in the final stages of the Clinton administration, exerting "a great deal of effort to produce an Israeli-Palestinian deal."

In 1993, President Clinton presided over a White House signing of an agreement between the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the late Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat.

The pact, which became known as the Oslo Accords, required Israel, in exchange for Palestinian recognition and peace, to surrender land, which would become an independent Palestinian entity.

During the next few years, Israel turned over large tracts of land - including areas many Israelis regard as a biblical inheritance - to the self-rule P.A. The land relinquished included areas inhabited by 90 percent of the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But despite Arafat's pledge to abandon terrorism, terrorism against Israelis continued, and in September 2000, a violent Palestinian uprising erupted.

The following January, then Prime Minister Ehud Barak made what Woolsey called an "extremely generous offer" to Arafat, who refused it.

"Arafat effectively walked away and picked up the pace of murdering Israeli women and kids in pizza parlors," said Woolsey, who is currently vice president at Booz, Allen, Hamilton.

"I think that we should learn from the fact that the 90s were a scam, that the Palestinian Authority under Arafat, I think, demonstrably never had the remotest interest or will to cut a land-for-peace deal with Israel," he said.

"It never effectively changed its charter," Woolsey said of the PLO. "It is still committed to the destruction of Israel."

"I don't know how you realistically expect a friend and ally to negotiate a land-for-peace deal with an entity that in effect still wants to destroy it," he added.

Woolsey did not rule out an eventual Israeli-Palestinian deal some years down the road but said this would not happen as long as Hamas is involved in the government and while the P.A. educational system was heavily influenced by radical Islam.

'Turning point'

Other Israeli analysts agreed that due to growing Iranian influence in the region and failure of the Palestinians to live up to past agreements, the idea of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process and a "two-state solution" should be revisited.

Dr. Dore Gold, director of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said this week a "historical turning point" is occurring in the way the Middle East is being viewed, and this could have an impact on Israeli-Palestinian relations.

In the past, the assumption held by many in the West was that the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflicts were the crux of problems in the Middle East. Therefore, if they could be solved, other problems would be solved too.

It was also assumed that if efforts were made, a "stable agreement" could be obtained within a "real time frame," Gold said, speaking at the annual Herzliya Conference on the Balance of Israel's National Security.

But Gold said it was now recognized that Iran, not the Israeli-Arab conflict, is the source of instability in the region.

This raises new questions for Israel, he said, such as whether it should attempt to reach agreements with the Palestinians at a time when Iran was rising and whether the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is part of the wider conflict between the West and forces of global jihad.

Speaking at the same conference, former Israeli army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon said there were no "immediate solutions" to the conflict. Israel needed to think in terms of "long-term strategic concepts."

"In the long-term, we have to think out of the box of the two-state solution," Ya'alon said, adding that further Israeli unilateral territorial withdrawals would only reinforce the jihadist enemy.

Since there was no effective Palestinian leadership "capable and willing" to implement a two-state solution and since Palestinian youngsters were being raised in a "culture of hatred and death," the idea of a two-state solution was irrelevant in the foreseeable future, he argued.

Israel should undo the "conventional wisdom" that finding a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict would bring stability to the Middle East and instead "reinforce the willingness of the West to deal with Iraq and Iran," Ya'alon said.

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