This week in Jewish history | Camp David Summit between Israel and Palestinians begins - World Jewish Congress

This week in Jewish history | Camp David Summit between Israel and Palestinians begins

This week in Jewish history | Camp David Summit between Israel and Palestinians begins

Ehud Barak, Bill Clinton, Yasser Arafat at Camp David, July 2000. (c) William J. Clinton Presidential Library

On 11 July 2000, U.S. President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Chairman of the Palestinian Authority Yassar Arafat gathered in Camp David for final status negotiations to end the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. 

The two-week meeting, known as the Camp David Summit, was convened in order to negotiate the most hotly contested issues between Israel and the Palestinians, namely the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements and Israeli security. Taking place after significant breakthroughs such as the Oslo Accords, as well as setbacks such as the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the summit represented a unique opportunity to end the conflict and give birth to a new Middle East.

At the outset, the three leaders posed for a photo together as they approached the lodge. Flanked by Arafat and Barak, Clinton entered first, with Arafat and Barak each politely encouraging the other to enter first.

Barak offered several concessions including proposing east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, despite his previous warning to American officials that he would not offer anything more than a symbolic “foothold.” Barak’s offer also included giving Palestinians “religious sovereignty” over the Temple Mount, as well as allowing a symbolic number of Palestinians to enter Israel.

Arafat roundly rejected the offer, instead saying that no Jewish temple ever stood on the Temple Mount but was in Nablus. When Arafat declined the proposed deal, Clinton was enraged and, according to contemporaneous sources, yelled, “You are leading your people and the region to a catastrophe." 

The Camp David Summit formally concluded on 24 July without an agreement reached. A trilateral statement was released noting that both sides “commit themselves to continue their efforts to conclude an agreement on all permanent status issues as soon as possible” and agree that the United States should remain a partner in any arrangement.  

After the summit, Barak stated in a press release, “Israel was prepared to pay a painful price to bring about an end to the conflict, but not any price.” Facing mounting criticism, the Palestinians declared that the summit’s failure was due to lack of preparation by the U.S. and that Barak was unwilling to compromise.

Soon after, a bloody wave of terrorism broke out, which became known as the Second Intifada.   

In his memoir, My Life, Clinton laid the blame squarely on Arafat, recounting that the Palestinian leader once complimented him by saying, "You are a great man." Clinton responded, "I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you made me one."