Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of July 27, 2000
By Uri Dan
(The writer is one of the authors of The Mossad: Secrets of the Israel Secret Service and other books on the Middle East.)
Despite the outcome, the Camp David summit leaves one terribly saddened and worried. The Israeli delegation, headed by Prime Minister Ehud Barak, performed like a team of clowns.
For public consumption the professional PR people, Moshe Gaon and his assistants Yoni Koren and Eldad Yaniv, declared that "the prime minister spent long periods by himself before making crucial decisions," after he had already agreed to let the Palestinian flag fly about the Temple Mount.
In fact, as Barak's confidant revealed to me, "the prime minister was in the worst mood I had ever seen him in. He has no government. Arafat has made no concession approaching those made by Barak. Consequently, he was in a very bad mood, and just didn't want to talk to anyone."
It seems that Karl Marx's assertion was correct: History repeats itself twice - first as a tragedy, and then as a farce. Begin's great tragedy was that in the 1978 agreement he agreed to recognize "the legitimate rights of the Arabs of Eretz Yisrael," and agreed to uproot the settlements in Sinai.
But in Camp David II, Barak and his aides acted like a flock without a shepherd, even when the fate of Jerusalem lay in the balance. At a moment of truth, before he fell into the chasm of concessions on Jerusalem, Barak tried to escape from the trap last week and return home without an agreement. Barak's office and coding room in Emmitsburg was dismantled.
But the circus manager, Bill Clinton, flew to Japan and ordered the clowns to remain suspended on the trapeze until he returned. Food valued at $7,000, which had been loaded on the prime minister's aircraft, was dumped in the garbage, and an angry Barak kept to himself, without exchanging a word with Yasser Arafat for three days.
It suddenly became clear to the Israeli players that they would have to seriously discuss the division of Jerusalem. For some reason, Reuven Merhav was summoned urgently, because of some dubious research he had done on the capital.
A spokesman later admitted that the team was "not prepared to seriously discuss the future of Jerusalem."
At the same time, the tension increased among the actors, both in the delegation and amongst Barak's aides outside Camp David. Barak's official spokesmen were neutralized to a large extent by Yaniv and Koren - and they all danced to the tune of Gaon's PR minions.
Based on the instruction sheets Gaon gave Barak's aides - many of them civil servants - the PR people were engaged in actual election propaganda. They disseminated stories whose purpose was to hide, or explain, Barak's concessions on Jerusalem. (It is not known who was paying Gaon, who has business connections with James Carville, Bill Clinton's PR guru. But his work cost lots of money. Was he being paid by contributions, perhaps?)
Sometimes Barak had to intervene, as when Yaniv was told to inform the press that those pressing for concessions on Jerusalem were Shlomo Ben-Ami and Amnon Shahak. The latter counterattacked, and Barak was forced to deny the statement which he had himself ordered circulated. Towards the peak of the Camp David II comedy, Barak ordered the return of about 20 of the 50 aides who had come to the summit.
All told, the former leader of brilliant commando operations was revealed as incapable of competently managing the campaign to preserve the unity of Jerusalem.
All these slapstick events were hidden from view by the efforts of Gaon, who presented Barak as "a leader engaged in historical decisions, like Ben-Gurion."
Neither he, Begin, Golda Meir nor Yitzhak Rabin needed PR men to boost their images, because they were real leaders. Barak's PR men tried to dress him up as a leader, but in fact, the emperor Barak was naked.
"Because of the quarrels between Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, Jerusalem was destroyed," Barak warned in the Knesset two months ago, when he tried to silence the opposition. The irony of history is that Kamtza and Bar Kamtza were present in his delegation, when he gave up ground to Arafat on Jerusalem.
Barak had already shown, in his negotiations with Shas, Meretz and the striking doctors, that he is incapable of reading the map of reality properly.
Insulated in Camp David, his aides at home kept telling him that his image was improving and that he would win the elections and/or a referendum. There was no one there near him to tell him that his comedy was liable to end as a tragedy for the Jews.
There was no one amongst his aides who would get up and warn him that at the moment when he, Barak, began to slice up Jerusalem like a salami, he would, in the end, lead us not only to war with the Arabs, but to a bitter civil war, to the final collapse of the Jewish state.
(c) Jerusalem Post 2000