Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Candidates’ Unconditional Support Isn’t Right for Jewish State

Published on Sunday, January 13, 2008 by The Oregonian

Candidates’ Unconditional Support Isn’t Right for Jewish State
by John J. Mearsheimer

Once again, as the presidential campaign season heats up, the leading candidates are going to enormous lengths to demonstrate their devotion to the state of Israel and their steadfast commitment to its “special relationship” with the United States.

Each of the main contenders emphatically favors giving Israel extraordinary material and diplomatic support — continuing the more than $3 billion in foreign aid each year to a country whose per capita income is now 29th in the world. They also believe that this aid should be given unconditionally. None of them criticizes Israel’s conduct, even when its actions threaten U.S. interests, are at odds with American values or even when they are harmful to Israel itself. In short, the candidates believe that the U.S. should support Israel no matter what it does.

Such pandering is hardly surprising, because contenders for high office routinely court special interest groups, and Israel’s staunchest supporters — the Israel lobby, as we have termed it — expect it. Politicians do not want to offend Jewish Americans or “Christian Zionists,” two groups that are deeply engaged in the political process. Candidates fear, with some justification, that even well-intentioned criticism of Israel’s policies may lead these groups to back their opponents instead.

If this happened, trouble would arise on many fronts. Israel’s friends in the media would take aim at the candidate, and campaign contributions from pro-Israel individuals and political action committees would go elsewhere. Moreover, most Jewish voters live in states with many electoral votes, which increases their weight in close elections (remember Florida in 2000?), and a candidate seen as insufficiently committed to Israel would lose some of their support. And no Republican would want to alienate the pro-Israel subset of the Christian evangelical movement, which is a significant part of the GOP base.

Indeed, even suggesting that the U.S. adopt a more impartial stance toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can get a candidate into serious trouble.

These candidates, however, are no friends of Israel. They are facilitating its pursuit of self-destructive policies that no true friend would favor.

The key issue here is the future of Gaza and the West Bank, which Israel conquered in 1967 and still controls. Israel faces a stark choice regarding these territories, which are home to roughly 3.8 million Palestinians. It can opt for a two-state solution, turning over almost all of the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians and allowing them to create a viable state on those lands in return for a comprehensive peace agreement designed to allow Israel to live securely within its pre-1967 borders (with some minor modifications). Or it can retain control of the territories it occupies or surrounds, building more settlements and bypass roads and confining the Palestinians to a handful of impoverished enclaves in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel would control the borders around those enclaves and the air above them, thus severely restricting the Palestinians’ freedom of movement.

But if Israel chooses this second option, it will lead to an apartheid state. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said as much when he recently proclaimed that if “the two-state solution collapses,” Israel will “face a South African-style struggle.” He went so far as to argue that “as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished.” Other Israelis, as well as Jimmy Carter and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have warned that continuing the occupation will turn Israel into an apartheid state. Nevertheless, Israel continues to expand its settlements on the West Bank while the plight of the Palestinians worsens.

Given this grim situation, one would expect the presidential candidates, who claim to care deeply about Israel, to be sounding the alarm and energetically championing a two-state solution. One would expect them to have encouraged President Bush to put significant pressure on both the Israelis and the Palestinians at the recent Annapolis conference and to keep the pressure on during last week’s visit to the region.

Hillary Clinton could be expected to be leading the charge here. After all, she wisely and bravely called for establishing a Palestinian state “that is on the same footing as other states” in 1998, when it was still politically incorrect to use the words “Palestinian state” openly. Moreover, her husband not only championed a two-state solution as president but in December 2000 he laid out the famous “Clinton parameters,” which outline the only realistic deal for ending the conflict.

But what is Hillary Clinton saying now that she is a candidate? She said hardly anything about pushing the peace process forward at Annapolis. More important, both she and GOP aspirant Rudy Giuliani recently proclaimed that Jerusalem must remain undivided, a position that is at odds with the Clinton parameters and virtually guarantees that there will be no Palestinian state.

Sen. Clinton’s behavior is hardly unusual among the candidates for president. Barack Obama, who expressed some sympathy for the Palestinians before he set his sights on the White House, now has little to say about their plight, and he, too, said little about what should have been done at Annapolis to facilitate peace. The other major contenders are ardent in their declarations of support for Israel.

As Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. national security adviser and now a senior adviser to Obama, noted, “The presidential candidates don’t see any payoff in addressing the Israel-Palestinian issue.” But they do see a significant political payoff in backing Israel to the hilt, even when it is pursuing a policy — colonizing the West Bank — that is morally and strategically bankrupt.

In short, the presidential candidates are no friends of Israel. They are like most U.S. politicians, who reflexively mouth pro-Israel platitudes while continuing to endorse and subsidize policies that are in fact harmful to the Jewish state. A genuine friend would tell Israel that it was acting foolishly and would do whatever possible to get Israel to change its misguided behavior. And that will require challenging the special interest groups whose hard-line views have been obstacles to peace for many years.

As former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami argued in 2006, the American presidents who have made the greatest contribution to peace — Carter and George H.W. Bush — succeeded because they were “ready to confront Israel head on and overlook the sensibilities of her friends in America.” If the Democratic and Republican contenders were true friends of Israel, they would be warning it about the danger of becoming an apartheid state, just as Carter did.

Moreover, they would be calling for an end to the occupation and the creation of a viable Palestinian state. And they would be calling for the United States to act as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians so that Washington could pressure both sides to accept a solution based on the Clinton parameters.

But Israel’s false friends cannot say any of these things, or even discuss the issue honestly. Why? Because they fear that speaking the truth would incur the wrath of the hard-liners who dominate the main organizations in the Israel lobby. So Israel will end up controlling Gaza and the West Bank for the foreseeable future, turning itself into an apartheid state in the process. And all of this will be done with the backing of its so-called friends, including the current presidential candidates.

With friends like them, who needs enemies?

John J. Mearsheimer is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. Stephen M. Walt is a professor of international affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. They are the authors of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” published last year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Twilight Zone / A window on interrogation

Ha'aretz, January 11, 1008

Twilight Zone / A window on interrogation
By Gideon Levy

Imad Khotri says he is a clerk in the Qalqilyah municipality and serves as a volunteer imam in the city's Saladdin Mosque. He is 23 years old, and was arrested in his home late at night on October 17, 2007 by Israel Defense Forces soldiers. The next day he was transferred to a Shin Bet security service interrogation facility in the Kishon detention camp. That was the start of a prolonged series of interrogations involving torture. His hands have remained partially paralyzed as a result of the torture, and the tight and prolonged binding of his hands to a chair with iron handcuffs.

Anyone who saw him brought to the military court saw a person with dangling palms, which he is barely able to move. A judge who saw him in this condition ordered the cessation of his interrogation and medical tests. A test performed in Haifa's Rambam Medical Center indicated "quite serious partial axonal damage to his nerve." The Shin Bet doctor determined that this was caused by "strong pressure" on his hands. The legal bureau of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) filed a harsh complaint with the attorney general.

Khotri is still under arrest, awaiting trial. His testimony exposes Shin Bet interrogation methods, years after the High Court of Justice specifically banned torture. It opens a window to what goes on in our interrogation rooms.

Following is the declaration of prisoner Khotri: "At about 2 A.M. a military force arrived at the place where I live with my parents and four brothers. They rang the bell and shouted that I should come downstairs. We obeyed and went down to the courtyard. Captain Munir, a Shin Bet officer, told me that I should hand over all the wanted men. I told him that I didn't know where they were and he ordered the soldiers to put me into a jeep. The soldiers bound my hands with plastic handcuffs, blindfolded me and put me into the jeep."

After being transferred to several places the prisoner arrived at 9 P.M. the next day at the Kishon detention center, where he was put into solitary confinement: "The next day one of the wardens transferred me with my hands bound and my eyes covered to the interrogation room. In the interrogation room there was an interrogator who identified himself as Eldad, and the warden sat me down in a chair attached to the floor and bound my hands behind my back and put the chain of the handcuffs into a lock behind the chair, so I couldn't move my hands. That day I was interrogated until 9 or 10 P.M. During the interrogation the interrogator removed the handcuffs occasionally, every two hours for about 15 minutes, and I could eat, go to the bathroom and pray.

"The interrogator accused me of helping wanted men. I denied any involvement and the interrogator began to shout at me and told me that he wanted me to undergo a polygraph test. At first I objected because I was very anxious and scared, but as a result of the pressured applied by Eldad and a number of other interrogators, I agreed to take the test.

"During the second week, from November 21-25, I underwent intensive daily interrogations. For the first three days I was interrogated 24 hours a day and the interrogators prevented me from sleeping. During the entire interrogation I was bound in handcuffs as described above ... On the third day in the evening the interrogation ended and I was put into solitary confinement, where I fell asleep immediately.

"On the fourth day I took another polygraph test. At the end of the test Major Effie entered and moved me to another room, and sat me down on a chair attached to the floor and bound my hands from behind but didn't attach the handcuffs to the chair. He explained to me that I had failed the test and I told him that it could have been a result of the tension and fear I felt because of the interrogation and the suspicions against me. Effie told me that I was lying and informed me that they were about to conduct a military interrogation.

"Immediately afterward the military interrogation began. In the room were Captain Eldad, Captain Adi, Maimon and Franco, Major Effie and Peretz. The interrogators would alternate, but at least three were present the entire time.

"Major Effie brought a backless chair and attached it to the floor. Afterward he sat me down on the chair and bound my hands with short iron handcuffs. He sat in front of me, placed my legs behind the chair legs and held me with his legs so I couldn't move them. Captain Adi sat behind me and began to slap my face and ordered me to bend backward, and when I got tired of holding myself in the air he would push me backward and leave me in this painful position for several minutes and pick me up by the shirt and push me backward. Captain Effie used this method for about 20 minutes, and when my body was hanging in the air, Effie would place his hand under the chair, grab my hands beneath my back and pull toward him. Afterward Effie took off my handcuffs, placed each of my hands in a sock and bound my hands behind my back. Afterward he brought different handcuffs, tightened them on my forefingers, with my hands bound behind me, and then another interrogator joined and each of the interrogators began to tighten the handcuffs on my hands with all his strength, and one interrogator would hold me by the neck at the same time and slap my face. The interrogators used this torture for 5-10 minutes, during which I would scream with pain and beg them to stop, while some of them laughed at me.

"Afterward they removed the handcuffs from my forefingers and left the handcuffs on my hands and ordered me to assume the kambaz position - forcing me to squat and to keep myself steady on my toes. One of the interrogators stood behind me and one in front. Occasionally they would slap me and hold me in this position for 20 minutes. At the conclusion of the torture I was unable to stand up and the interrogator would grab me by the shirt and push me into the chair, allowing me to rest for about 10 minutes, and afterward they would repeat the same torture methods, while threatening to arrest my mother and father. The torture continued from 3 P.M. to 6 A.M.

"At 6 A.M. a new team of interrogators arrived. Two interrogators sat with me, removed my handcuffs, and brought me a cup of tea, which I drank with a straw, since I was suffering from pains in my hands. Franco told me that it was better for me to reveal everything because they had permission to continue to torture me for days and weeks. I told Franco a lot of things, but repeated that I had no information about future military activities. Victor insisted I knew more and continued to interrogate me. Afterward they asked me to take another polygraph test and I agreed. At about 10 they took me to the solitary confinement cell. I arrived there a broken man, I had great difficulty walking and moving my hands, I lay on the mattress in pain. I was in such pain that I couldn't fall asleep.

"On Friday I took another polygraph test. The results were that they couldn't decide [anything due to] my medical situation, and the polygraph technician stopped the test in the middle and said he would ask them to allow me to rest for three days. I was held in confinement until Monday when I took another polygraph test. My medical situation was still serious and I had terrible pains, and after three hours the technician decided that I was not telling the truth.

"Captain Victor entered the room and led me to the interrogation room. In the room were Adi, Effie, Peretz and two other people whom they called 'Colonel' and 'General.' The interrogators told me that I had been lying and that I would understand only if force were used on me, and [they] resumed the military interrogation, from the afternoon until the next morning.

"This time they used more force, to the point that I began to invent things, and they told me that I was lying. On Wednesday at six, after I had been tortured all night, they took me to solitary confinement and brought me back up to the interrogation room in the evening and resumed the military interrogation, which continued until midnight. Afterward they took me to solitary confinement and told me they would bring me new clothes, because the clothes I was wearing were too big for me and full of perspiration and saliva. The interrogation ended on Friday and then they brought me up to write the testimony, at the end of which I was transferred for a remand of my detention, and there I told the judge what had happened to me and showed him that I couldn't move my hands any longer."

The military judge, Lieutenant Colonel Aryeh Avriel, wrote in his decision on November 6, 2007: "The suspect told me he was tortured, says his hands are paralyzed, and showed me the condition of his two hands, with his palms bent downward in an unnatural position ... I order the cessation of his testimony ... I order that the suspect be examined by the doctor of the facility to verify the medical problem raised by the suspect, and if there is truth to his words, I order that he be given immediate medical treatment."

Dr. Alex Adler of the Israel Prisons Service wrote: "The prisoner was examined by the doctor of the facility who sent him to the emergency room, where he was examined by specialists. He was diagnosed as suffering from weakness in his hands and there may be ... damage due to too much pressure, and he requires an EMG" (the electromyography exam that checks electrical activity of muscles).

The test was administered on November 29 in the Rambam Medical Center, and at its conclusion, the doctor described "a neurophysical picture that accords with partial and quite serious axonal damage in the bilateral radial nerve."

Attorney Samah Al-Khatib Ayyub of the PCATI sent a letter several weeks ago to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, describing the entire story. Al-Khatib Ayyub is demanding that Mazuz order an investigation and indict the interrogators for exercising serious physical violence. She also cites a High Court ruling against torture.

A Shin Bet spokesperson this week told Haaretz that Khotri was indeed interrogated, "according to rules and regulations and also confessed that he was planning to participate in an attack on Israel." The Shin Bet also says that Khotri named several other indivuals as his co-conspirators, who were subsequently arrested. "Khotri's claims were forwarded to the Justice Ministry and they are currently being investigated. We would like to emphasize that Khotri received medical attention during his interrogation."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Israel hiding settlement facts to protect image

Ed O'Loughlin Herald Correspondent in Jerusalem
January 9, 2008

THE Israeli Government has told a court that it does not want to reveal the true extent of Jewish settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories because the information would damage its image abroad, a local newspaper has reported.

The news comes on the eve of the arrival of the US President, George Bush, for a three-day state visit in which the settlement issue is likely to figure.

Last week Mr Bush said that Israeli settlement building in the West Bank was an obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The office of the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, has said that during the visit he would again commit Israel to removing some of the smaller and newer settlements.

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz said the Israeli Defence Ministry, which rules the Arab territories seized by Israel in 1967, is resisting a petition from two Israeli rights groups for the publication of an official report showing the extent of settlement is greater than Israel has previously admitted.

The newspaper said that the report showed both veteran settlements and newer "outposts" had been built extensively without legal permits on land deemed as state land by the Israeli military courts and on the private property of local Palestinians.

Last week the Government asked the Israeli High Court to ban the publication of the report "for fear of harming state security and foreign relations".

One of the petitioners, Peace Now, said Israel had built 122 settlements in the West Bank with official state sanction. Another 100 newer settlements - described as outposts of older settlements following Israel's commitment not to build new settlements - were built without official sanction.

An officially-commissioned report by the lawyer Talia Sasson found in 2005 that many of these settlements were built with funding and the active assistance of various government bodies, often in contravention of Israel's law.

The International Court of Justice and many other countries regard all Jewish settlement in the occupied territories as illegal, citing provisions in the Geneva Conventions which forbid the forced transfer of populations into lands seized in war.

Israel argues that the term "forced" refers to the settlers, not the indigenous people, and that its activities are legal because its settlers move to the West Bank of their own free will.

Peace Now said the number of Jewish settlers living in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, had almost trebled to 270,000 since Israel signed the Oslo peace accords in 1993. Another 180,000 Israelis live in parts of the West Bank annexed by Israel as part of its self-declared East Jerusalem territory.

Mr Bush's attempt to revive the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace protest at Annapolis two months ago is already faltering in the face of Palestinian protests at Israel's subsequent decision to build hundreds of new homes for Jews in East Jerusalem.

This story was found at:

Friday, January 4, 2008

Ungenerous occupier: Israel`s Camp David exposed

Jonathan Cook
The Electronic Intifada
2 January 2008

After seven years of rumors and self-serving memoirs, the Israeli media has finally published extracts from an official source about the Camp David negotiations in summer 2000. For the first time it is possible to gauge with some certainty the extent of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak`s `generous offer` to the Palestinians and Yasser Arafat`s reasons for rejecting it.

In addition, the document provides valuable insights into what larger goals Israel hoped to achieve at Camp David and how similar ambitions are driving its policies to this day.

The 26-page paper, leaked to the Haaretz daily, was drafted by the country`s political and security establishments in the wake of Camp David as a guide to what separated the parties. Entitled `The Status of the Diplomatic Process with the Palestinians: Points to Update the Incoming Prime Minister,` it was prepared in time for the February 2001 general election.

Although this is far from the only account of the Camp David negotiations, it is the first official document explaining what took place -- and one that certainly cannot be accused of being unsympathetic to Israel`s positions.

The document came to light last month after it was presented to current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to prepare him for his meeting with the Palestinians at Annapolis. Olmert had agreed, under American pressure, to revive negotiations for the first time since the collapse of Camp David, and the follow-up Taba talks a few months later. It is clear that, far from reviewing his stance in light of the Camp David impasse, Olmert chose to adopt some of Barak`s most hardline positions.

The earlier negotiations, in July 2000, were Barak`s attempt to wrap up all the outstanding points of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians that had not been addressed during a series of Israeli withdrawals from the occupied territories specified in the Oslo agreements.

Barak, backed by the US president of the time, Bill Clinton, pushed Palestinian Authority President Arafat into the hurried final-status negotiations, even though the Palestinian leader believed more time was needed to build confidence between the two sides. Contrary to the spirit of the Oslo agreements, Israel had doubled the number of illegal settlers in the occupied territories through the 1990s and failed to carry out the promised withdrawals in full.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Israeli document does not acknowledge the most generous offer of all during the six decades of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the PLO`s decision in the late 1980s to renounce its claim to most of the Palestinian homeland, and settle instead for a state in the two separate territories of the West Bank and Gaza -- on only 22 percent of historic Palestine.

So given the massive territorial concession made by the Palestinian leadership 20 years ago, how do Barak`s terms compare? The document tells us that Barak insisted on three main principles in agreeing to end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state:

1. Israel`s illegal settlement blocs would be kept, with 80 percent of the settlers remaining in the West Bank on land annexed to Israel.

The West Bank constitutes the bulk of any future Palestinian state. According to the document, some eight percent of the territory would have been annexed to Israel to maintain the settlements. In return the Palestinians would have been compensated with a much smaller wedge of Israeli land of much less value, probably in the Negev desert.

Israel`s proposal required leaving nearly 400,000 Jews living inside the West Bank and East Jerusalem in fortified communities connected by settler roads, some linked to Israel and others criss-crossing the territory. The settlements and the infrastructure to sustain them would have been off-limits to the Palestinians and guarded by the army, creating effectively closed Israeli military zones deep in the West Bank. All of this was a sure recipe for destroying the viability of the proposed Palestinian state. Arafat was being asked to approve a labyrinth of Israeli land corridors that would have consolidated a series of Palestinian ghettoes under the guise of statehood.

2. A wide `security zone,` supervised by the Israeli army, would be maintained along the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, from the Dead Sea to the northern Jewish settlement of Meholah.

Such a security zone exists already, so we do not need to speculate on what it would look like. A few thousand settlers in the Jordan Valley have ensured that the area, nearly a fifth of the West Bank, has been all but annexed to Israel for decades. Most Palestinians, apart from those living in the Valley itself, are barred from entering it. The Valley is one of the most fertile areas of the West Bank, its huge agricultural potential currently exploited mainly by Israel. Depriving Palestinians of both territorial and economic control over the Valley would again make the Palestinian state unviable.

3. On East Jerusalem, Israel demanded massive territorial concessions in line with its illegal annexation of the part of the city occupied by Israel in 1967.

Israel wanted to maintain territorial contiguity for its illegal settlements in East Jerusalem, home to nearly a quarter of a million Jews, with the Palestinian inhabitants forced as a result into a series of what Haaretz refers to as `bubbles.`

Maintaining Israel`s current expanded municipal borders for Jerusalem would have had two damaging consequences for the Palestinians: first, it would have severed the city, the economic and touristic hub of any Palestinian state, from the rest of the West Bank; and second, the large settlements of Maale Adumim and Har Homa, built deep in Palestinian territory but now considered by Israel to be part of Jerusalem, would have remained under Israeli sovereignty. The West Bank would have been cut in half, creating further movement restrictions for Palestinians in the West Bank.

In the Old City, Israel demanded that the Jewish and Armenian quarters and parts of the so-called `sacred basin` outside the walls be annexed to Israel, and that the mosques of the Noble Sanctuary (known as Temple Mount to Jews) be placed under an `ambiguous` sovereignty, doubtless later to be exploited by the stronger party, Israel. These demands would ensure that Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem were carved up into a series of ghettoes, a mirror image of Israeli policies in the West Bank.

In addition, Israel hoped Camp David would belatedly legitimize its annexation and ethnic cleansing in 1967 of an area of the West Bank close to Jerusalem called the Latrun Salient. Today the area has been transformed by the Jewish National Fund into an `Israeli` nature reserve called Canada Park using tax-exempt donations from Canadians.

The sum effect of these `generous` proposals was to offer the Palestinians far less than the remaining 22 percent of their historic homeland. They would have had to subtract from a state in Gaza and the West Bank large parts of the expanded municipality of Jerusalem, as well as the Latrun Salient, eight percent of the West Bank to accommodate the settlements, and a further 20 percent for a security zone in the Jordan Valley.

In other words, the Palestinians were being asked to sign up to a deal that would give them a very compromised sovereignty over no more than about 14 percent of their historic homeland -- or something very similar to the Bantustans that have been created for them before and since Camp David by the growth of the settlements and the creeping annexation of their land by the separation wall.

In return for Barak`s `generosity,` what counter-demands did the Palestinians make that scuppered the talks and thereby `unmasked` Arafat, as Barak and Clinton have long maintained? What damning evidence is cited?

The Palestinians, according to the document, were willing to accommodate Israel`s `demographic needs` and agree to border changes. They insisted on two conditions, however: that Israel`s annexation of the West Bank not exceed 2.3 percent of the territory, and that any land swap be based on the principle of equality. Israel, it seems, could not accept either term.

The Palestinians also wanted the land corridor connecting the two parts of their state, the West Bank and Gaza, to be under their sovereignty, presumably so that such connections could not be severed at Israeli whim. In addition, Arafat expected the usual trappings of statehood: an army and control of Palestinian airspace. Israel opposed all these demands.

Concerning Jerusalem, the Palestinians wanted an `open city,` much in line with the original United Nations Partition Plan of 1947, connected to both the Israeli and Palestinian hinterlands. The Palestinians objected to the prospect of living in `bubbles` and demanded instead territorial contiguity in East Jerusalem. They also wanted most of the Armenian quarter in the Old City, though appear to have been ready to cede the Jewish quarter ethnically cleansed of Palestinians in 1967.

On the other major contentious issue, Arafat wanted Israel to admit sole responsibility for the Palestinian refugees created by the 1948 war. The document, however, notes that the Palestinians `showed understanding of the sensitivity of the issue for Israel, and willingness to find a formulation that would balance these feelings with their national needs.` This suggested at the very least that the Palestinian leadership was willing to do a deal on the refugees.

According to some critics, Barak entered the Camp David negotiations in bad faith, setting the bar so high that Israel and the Palestinians were bound to fail to reach an agreement. But why would Barak want, or at least risk, such an outcome? The document suggests two related reasons.

First, it notes that parallel to his preparations for Camp David Barak was working on a `separation` plan if the talks failed. The scheme was ready by June 2000, a month before the negotiations, and was approved by the cabinet in the immediate wake of the intifada, in October 2000. According to Haaretz, Barak`s separation proposal encompassed all aspects of Palestinian life and was to be implemented over several years.

Many of these secret dealings by Barak are recorded in my book Blood and Religion, including the fact that his deputy defense minister, Ephraim Sneh, drew up a `separation map` shortly before Camp David. Shlomo Ben Ami, Barak`s chief negotiator at the talks, observed later: `He [Barak] was very proud of the fact that his map would leave Israel with about a third of the [West Bank] territory.` According to Ben Ami, the prime minister said of the ghettoes he intended to leave behind for the Palestinians: `Look, this is a state; to all its intents and purposes, it looks like a state.`

After Barak lost office in early 2001, he lobbied publicly first for unilateral separation and later for disengagement. His military mentor and successor as prime minister, Ariel Sharon, was persuaded reluctantly to abandon his maximalist positions and settle for Barak`s plan. He agreed to separation`s logical outcome, the West Bank wall, in summer 2002, and to disengagement from Gaza in early 2004.

From the document, it seems clear that Barak and much of the Israeli leadership assumed from the outset that they would need to cage the Palestinians into ghettoes, or Bantustans familiar from South African apartheid. The failure of Camp David simply gave Barak and his successors the pretext to implement the policy.

Second, the document reveals that Barak made a demand of Arafat he must have known the Palestinian leader could not accept. Barak wanted formal recognition not of Israel, but of Israel as a Jewish state. Much more than semantics depended on extracting this concession. It required of Arafat that he renounce the rights of two groups that constitute the overwhelming majority of Palestinians.

Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state would have forfeited the right -- protected by international law and United Nations resolutions -- of the refugees to the homes they were ethnically cleansed from by the Israeli army in 1948. Their right of return, whether realized in practice or not, has been sacrosanct for Palestinians ever since.

And recognition would have further condemned more than one million Palestinian citizens of Israel to permanent status as marginalized outsiders in an ethnic state that privileges the rights of Jews over non-Jews. In effect, Arafat was being asked to give his blessing to Israel`s attempts to outlaw the Palestinian minority`s campaign for the country`s reform into a `state of all its citizens` -- or a liberal democracy.

Both Olmert and his foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, were briefed about the Camp David document before they met current Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at Annapolis. It is therefore notable that, rather than abandoning a demand that had wrecked the Camp David talks, both made recognition of Israel as a Jewish state a deal-clincher before the two sides had even met.

Also interesting is that, whereas Barak was reluctant to divulge the demand he made of Arafat at Camp David, Olmert`s government has been trumpeting it from the rooftops. Why the about-turn?

The most likely explanation is that Barak expected Camp David to fail and was fearful that his demand for recognition might give away Israel`s ulterior motives. Olmert, on the other hand, has succeeded in dressing up recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as the ultimate test of whether the Palestinians are serious about accepting a two-state solution. It is a maneuver he mastered last year when he needed to turn world opinion against Hamas following its election victory.

In truth, Israel`s need for recognition as a Jewish state is proof that it is not a democratic state, but rather an ethnic state that needs to defend racist privilege through the gerrymandering of borders and population. But in practice Olmert may yet use the recognition test to back Abbas, a weak and unrepresentative Palestinian leader, into the very corner that Arafat avoided.

Before Annapolis, Livni declared: `It must be clear to everyone that the State of Israel is a national homeland for the Jewish people,` adding that Israel`s Palestinian citizens would have to abandon their claim for equality the moment the Palestinian leadership agreed to statehood on Israel`s terms.

Olmert framed the Annapolis negotiations in much the same way. It was about creating two nations, he said: `the State of Israel -- the nation of the Jewish people; and the Palestinian state -- the nation of the Palestinian people.`

The great fear, Olmert has repeatedly pointed out, is that the Palestinians may wake up one day and realize that, after the disappointments of Oslo and Camp David, Israel will never concede to them viable statehood. The better course, they may decide, is a South African-style struggle for one-person, one-vote in a single democratic state.

Olmert warned of this threat on another recent occasion: `The choice ... is between a Jewish state on part of the Land of Israel, and a binational state on all of the Land of Israel.`

Faced with this danger, Olmert, like Sharon and Barak before him, has come to appreciate that Israel urgently needs to persuade Abbas to sign up to the two-state option. Not, of course, for two democratic, or even viable, states, but for a racist Jewish state alongside a Palestinian ghetto-state.

Jonathan Cook is a journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest book `Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East` will be published next month. His website is