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"Shattered Dreams": an inside look at Israeli-Palestinian negotiations

Ph.D., London School of Economics and Political Science, Member of®
An interview with Charles Enderlin.

Charles Enderlin is the Jerusalem Bureau Chief of France-2 Television Network. He is the author of Shattered Dreams: The Failure of the Peace Process in the Middle East, 1995-2002 (Other Press, New York).®'s Neil Caplan, author of Futile Diplomacy (London: Frank Cass, 1983-1997), spoke with the author about his experiences and impressions.

Making skillful use of hundreds of hours of videotaped interviews and his privileged access to all of the major players, Enderlin recently published Le Rêve brisé, which became an immediate bestseller in France (Paris: Fayard, 2002). During the summer of 2002, PBS/Frontline aired a 2-hour television documentary, based exclusively on Enderlin's research and interviews. Shattered Dreams: The Failure of the Peace process in the Middle East, 1995-2002, is the English version of the French bestseller.® : The chosen title of the video documentaries and the book, Shattered Dreams, seems most appropriate, especially as we witness the continuing despair and deterioration of Israeli-Palestinian relations. Your book and your film deal with the American, Israeli, and Palestinian partners in their attempts to rescue the Oslo peace process from total collapse. Which specific "dreams" were shattered for each of the main protagonists?

Enderlin : For the first time in history, through the Oslo peace process, the Palestinians, believed that their dream of a viable state with East Jerusalem as its capital would become true. The Israelis were hoping that a final status agreement with the PLO would mark the end of their conflict, not only with the Palestinians but also with the Arab world, thereby fulfilling the century-old dream of Zionism: the integration of the Jewish state in the region. All those hopes, and dreams have been shattered. But instead of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, we have witnessed what Albert Camus, the French philosopher, called "the bloody wedding between terrorism and repression."® : How were you able to attain such unusual access to chief negotiators and politicians on all sides, when the parties seem so distrustful of, and secretive towards, each other? What sorts of commitments and promises did you have to make to gain their trust?

Enderlin : I have known them personally for many years and there is a sense of mutual trust. Most of them helped me with my previous book, Paix ou guerres: Les secrets des négociations israélo arabes 1917-1997. They played the game of the real-time video interview. Towards the end, after the start of the Intifada, when the negotiations became more and more difficult, several negotiators asked me to serve as their witness, and called me in order to be interviewed on camera. The only two promises I made were: (a) not to interfere in the negotiations -- that is, not to reveal to one side what the other was telling me, and (b) I also solemnly undertook not to publish or broadcast anything before the end of 2001.

Of course, being so close to the negotiators and knowing more or less what was going on enabled me to report fairly accurately in my daily work as a journalist. Without revealing the details on the talks, I could give the general direction of the peace process in my commentaries.® : Is there any Palestinian journalist counterpart who could have produced a similar sort of film or book?

Enderlin : As far as I know, I was the only journalist doing this kind of work, interviewing the negotiators in real time after each important meeting.® : Both Israeli and Palestinian participants in the recent negotiations have praised your book as "the closest description of the reality of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process published so far" (Yasser Abed-Rabbo) and as a "meticulous … [and] masterly account … with uncanny insight... and much perceptiveness" (Shimon Peres). But have any of the political or security people featured in the documentary and the book reacted negatively to the way he was portrayed in your narrative?

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"Today, the Palestinian Authority has been totally crushed by the Israeli Army and all the symbols of Oslo are disappearing day by day."

Enderlin : While there were some negotiators from both sides who told me I could have presented their respective positions in a more favorable way, I did not get a single denial about what I wrote from either Israelis or Palestinians involved in the negotiations.® : Getting so close to top leaders and negotiators on both sides, and being able to distinguish between their true views and their public-relations comments, what can you say about the media portrayals we often get that most Palestinians still cling to the goal of the complete destruction of the Jewish state, or that most Israelis want to dismantle the Palestinian Authority, drive the Palestinians out, and annex more territory?

Enderlin : Talking about the period I covered, that is until the end of January 2001, I firmly believe that all three sides, Israelis, Palestinians and Americans (Barak, Arafat and Clinton) wanted seriously to get to an agreement. In my analysis, the Israeli elections of February 2001 came too soon. At the time, most of the participants of the Taba talks had agreed that they needed a few more months to finalize an accord. From February on, the situation deteriorated to new abysses. Today, the Palestinian Authority has been totally crushed by the Israeli Army and all the symbols of Oslo are disappearing day by day. Parallel to this, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are calling openly for the destruction of Israel. The conflict has reached a point of no return.® : Looking back, after having produced both a video documentary and a book, what would you say are the different qualities and drawbacks involved in each of the two formats?

Enderlin : These are two different media but, for me, they complement each other. In 150 minutes of video it is impossible to pack in all the detailed protocols, documents and all the narrative that one can publish in a 370-page book. But it is possible to show in a movie things that are more difficult to capture in writing: the emotions, the tensions, the crucial moments. The movie "Shattered Dreams" enabled me to show part of the interviews I conducted in real time that constitute the basis of the research of the book.

"More than 50% of the population of the West Bank and Gaza is under the age of 15."® : How would you describe the differences between the American PBS/Frontline production of the "Shattered Dreams" documentary, and your own, longer, version of "Le Rêve brisé" produced for France-2?

Enderlin : The producer of the Frontline documentary, WGBH Boston, was in a hurry to broadcast the movie in a short version. They wanted it ready by June 2002. So, the editing was done in Boston by the Israeli team with the Americans, without me. I was in France at the time. I did not sign this version as a co-producer, only as "head of research."

The French version was much longer, edited in Jerusalem with my input. I know that some viewers have noticed a pro-Israeli tilt in the PBS version, one that reinforces the view -- which is erroneous in my view – which puts almost all the blame for the failure of Camp David exclusively on Arafat's shoulders. Dan Setton, the producer-director who was at the editing in Boston denies that there is such a pro-Israeli tilt in the American version.® : Apart from the PBS distribution in America and the France-2 broadcasts in Europe (transmitted to Canada via TV-5), were there any Israeli, Palestinian or Arab networks that have picked up and showed your documentary? Are you aware of any plans for future broadcast to Israeli or Arab audiences?

Enderlin : Abu Dhabi satellite TV aired in three episodes the full version of "Le rêve brisé" in January 2003. At the end of the broadcast, they presented a panel discussion with the participation of Gilead Sher and myself from Jerusalem, Saeb Erekat from Jericho, Dennis Ross from California. Telaad, of Israel’s Second (Private) TV channel, has bought the rights but does not know when they will broadcast it, perhaps in September 2003. Telaad wants a much shorter version.® : Have you been able to discern any different reactions to the film or the book among Jewish or Arab audiences?

Enderlin : The book got excellent reviews in France (including the Jewish press there), in Israel and in the Arab world although it has not been translated yet into Arabic. The film was very well received in the Arab world.® : What are some of the common misperceptions about the peace process -- the Camp David summit and all the meetings and negotiations before and after them -- that "Shattered Dreams" seeks to address?

Enderlin : American and Israeli diplomats present the Camp David summit as though Arafat rejected a Palestinian state that was offered to him: people refer to 98% of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This is not true. In fact, as I discuss in the book, Arafat was never offered more than 91% of the West Bank at Camp David (in July 2000) and no sovereignty over all the Arab quarters of Jerusalem. Clinton made a much better offer in his parameters of December 23rd, 2000: 94 to 96% and sovereignty over all Arab quarters.

It is also wrong to think that the process stopped at Camp David, as is the common perception given in the U.S. media. Talks between Israelis and Palestinians resumed almost immediately after the end of the Camp David summit, and one-quarter of the book's almost 400 pages is devoted to the intricate post-Camp-David negotiations between senior negotiators representing Arafat and Barak.

Clinton accuses Arafat of having rejected a Palestinian state when he did not immediately accept his parameters in December 2000. In fact the story is not so simple. Here, I believe, timing was the culprit, rather than personalities on one side or the other. It was three weeks before Clinton had to leave the White House, six weeks before the Israeli elections where Sharon was already the favorite, as all polls indicated. Even in these inauspicious conditions Arafat, after some hesitations, accepted the Taba negotiations, which were cut short for lack of time, two weeks before the election, never to resume.® : Why will these revelations come as such a surprise to American readers?

Enderlin : There is no other book telling the story of this gigantic failure. I hope to show here that the responsibility of failure falls on all three sides: Israeli, Palestinian and American. I believe that it was the lack of time that brought the peace process to an end, and not the actions or inaction of either negotiating team.® : What are the consequences of the current apparently unstoppable conflict? Is hope completely diminished at this point, or is there still a chance for realistic accords?

"Many in Israel believe that there is no interlocutor on the Palestinian side."

Enderlin : The current conflict is mortgaging the future of both nations. A new generation of Palestinians is coming of age. More than 50% of the population of the West Bank and Gaza is under the age of 15. Those children live in a harsh reality. As a result of Israeli measures -- closures, curfews and other military operations -- poverty in Gaza and the West Bank has reached unprecedented levels. More than two-thirds of Palestinian children live on less than $1.90 a day. Those children suffer not only from malnutrition but, as they are living in a war zone, they see their fathers, brothers, cousins, being killed, wounded, arrested. They are often on the front-line, throwing stones at the soldiers.

Among the more than 2000 Palestinians killed since the beginning of the Intifada, 600 were children. This generation has lost three years of schooling due to the situation and is growing up with the feeling of vengeance, not for the plight of the refugees in 1948 or the Arab defeat of 1967, but for the suffering they endured in 2001 and 2002. This is becoming a lost generation of suicide bombers and bin-Ladens.

On the Israeli side the new generation is growing up in an atmosphere of anguish and fear created by the Palestinian suicide bombers. More than 80 of the 440 Israeli civilians killed prior to November 2002 were under the age of 18, and many young people are starting to believe that there is no interlocutor on the Palestinian side.

These two generations will be fighting each other, while the development of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza is making more remote the possibility of any agreement.® : Can you see potentially positive elements in the emergence of a new Palestinian and a new Israeli leadership? Or is this naive wishful thinking?

Enderlin : I am afraid we will have to wait for the emergence of new pragmatic Israeli and especially Palestinian leaderships. Let us not forget that it took the Palestinian leadership of the 1948 and 1967 generations more than twenty years to adopt a pragmatic way of thinking and accept the principle of negotiations with the Jewish state. Much more time might be needed for the present generation to come to grips with the political realities.

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Caplan, Neil
By Neil Caplan

A native of Montreal, Neil Caplan received an MA in Canadian Studies from Carleton University, Ottawa, and a Ph.D. in Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London). Since retiring from teaching in 2008 he has... (Read next)

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