In June 2003, during his first meeting with Palestinian prime minister Abu Mazen, US president George Bush appeared certain that he would successfully bring peace in the Middle East. Besides, according to Mazen, Bush had a very strong ally in this effort: "God told me, 'George, go fight the terrorists in Afghanistan', and I went. And then he told me 'George, put an end to tyranny in Iraq', and so I did. I can hear him say now 'George, give the Palestinians their land, bring security to Israel, and bring peace to the Middle East', and by God, I will! I have a moral and religious obligation. I will bring you the Palestinian state!".
Bush’s "holy mission" is presented amongst others in the BBC documentary series "Israel and Palestine: After Sharon, What?”, that examines the historic developments and the course of the peace process in the past six years. One after the other, it presents the lost chances for peace: from September, 2000, when Ariel Sharon's visit to the holy for the Arab world Temple Mount in Jerusalem, that sparked off the second Intifada, until today, that the formerly mighty prime minister lies helpless in hospital, freezing all developments in the Middle East...
In the three episodes, presented by Reportage Without Frontiers, the protagonists - presidents and prime ministers, their secretaries and generals, but also people behind suicide attacks - shed light on the events and reveal the conflicts and diplomatic games that went on in the background of political negotiations.
"A LAST GOOD DEED"
In 1999, Bill Clinton, serving his last year as president of the USA, and feeling perhaps that there was something missing from his political biography, decided to do one last good deed: bring peace to the Middle East. The first episode of the series "Israel and Palestine: After Sharon, What?” examines the efforts of the Clinton government to find a settlement for Israel and its two oldest enemies: Syria and Palestine.
The negotiations between Israel and Syria reached a deadlock due to the inflexible attitude of the two prime ministers, making the American even more willful to find a final solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict. Therefore, in the summer of 2000, Clinton invited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Palestinian head Yasser Arafat to Camp David in the USA. The documentary reveals that for one whole week all American proposals were turned down one after the other. Barak refused to meet face-to-face with Arafat, and was holding meetings with his staff on the veranda of his cabin, because he was afraid that the Americans had hidden bugs in the other rooms.
Despite Clinton’s pressures, the Camp David negotiations didn’t have any results, and Barak and Arafat returned home empty-handed. There, they decide to give it one more try: Barak invited Arafat and the Palestinian officials to dinner at his house, during which the two men talked alone for a while on the balcony. As the documentary reveals, the two men returned to the living room and announced to their officials that they had reached a basic agreement and would sign a peace-accord within a week’s time. But the next morning, opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the holy to Muslims Temple of Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, triggered a new wave of bloody clashes at the occupied territories, erasing all hope for a peace agreement.
The Al-Aqsa Intifada, as it became known, mobilized president Clinton, who assigned his Secretary of State, Madeline Albright with the task of reconciling the two opposing sides. Albright convinced Barak and Arafat to meet in Paris, at the US embassy building. The atmosphere during the negotiations was extremely hostile, and at one point Arafat, who believed the Israelis were conspiring against him, decided to leave the embassy, forcing Albright to chase after him, in order to evade another political impasse. An impasse that didn’t take long to come...