I can’t improve on the overall analysis of the Walt/Mearsheimer Paper (“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”) in the extraordinary posts by Scott Johnson at Power Line (here, here and here), or Richard Baehr and Ed Lasky at The American Thinker, or James Taranto at Best of the Web (here and here), or Anne Lieberman at Boker tov, Boulder! (here and here), or Alex Safian at CAMERA.
But let’s look in greater depth at an important “factual” statement in the Paper -- and examine the lengthy footnote that supposedly supports it -- not only because the statement demands a formal correction, but because it is a case study of the Walt/Mearsheimer methodology.
Here is the statement (contained not only in the Paper but in the shorter version published in the London Review of Books):
“[N]o Israeli government has been willing to offer the Palestinians a viable state of their own. Even Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s purportedly generous offer at Camp David in July 2000 would only have given the Palestinians a disarmed and dismembered set of “Bantustans” under de facto Israeli control.40” [Emphasis added by JCI].
And here is Footnote 40 in its entirety, with its impressive-looking citations:
“40. Charles Enderlein, Shattered Dreams: The Failure of the Peace Process in the Middle East, 1995-2002, trans. Susan Fairfield (NY: Other Press, 2003), pp. 201, 207-208; Jeremy Pressman, “Visions in Collision: What Happened at
Camp Davidand Taba? International Security, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Fall 2003, p. 17; Deborah Sontag, “Quest for Mideast Peace: How and Why it Failed,” New York Times, July 26, 2001; Clayton E. Swisher, The Truth about Camp David: The Untold Story about the Collapse of the Peace Process (NY: Nation Books, 2004), pp. 284, 318, 325. Barak himself said after Camp David that “the Palestinians were promised a continuous piece of sovereign territory except for a razor-thein Israeli wedge running from Jerusalem through from Maael Adumim to the Jordan River,” which effectively would have been under Israel’s control. Benny Morris, “ Camp Davidand After: An Exchange (1. An Interview with Ehud Barak)”, Review of Books, Vol. 49, No. 10 (June 13, 2002), p. 44. Also see the map Israeli negotiators presented to the Palestinians at Camp David, a copy of which can be found in Roane Carey, ed., The New Intifada: Resisting Israel’s Apartheid (London: Verso, 2001),p. 36. New York
Two things are “immediately apparent to even the casual observer,” as my physics professor used to say:
First, the citations in Footnote 40 are to secondary sources, not primary ones, with the exception of (a) the Barak interview (quoted in more revealing length below), and (b) the “map” (in a book subtitled “Resisting Israel’s Apartheid”), which turns out not to be what one might expect.
Second, there are well-known primary sources that are not considered in the footnote, including Dennis Ross’s “The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace” (2004), with its exhaustive, day-by-day account of Camp David, and Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami’s nine-thousand word interview in Haaretz in 2002, with its similarly detailed explanation.
Let’s look at what Barak actually said in the interview cited by Walt/Mearsheimer, then at what was actually shown on the map they cite, and then at the readily-available primary sources they ignored:
1. The Benny Morris interview with Ehud Barak (June 13, 2002):
Barak first recounted the call he received from Bill Clinton immediately after publication of the article by Deborah Sontag (one of the secondary sources cited in Footnote 40). It is worth quoting this portion of the interview at some length, because no one could read it and write what Walt/Mearsheimer wrote:
The call from Bill Clinton came hours after the publication in The New York Times of Deborah Sontag's "revisionist" article ("Quest for
Middle EastPeace: How and Why It Failed," July 26, 2001) on the Israeli–Palestinian peace process. Ehud Barak, Israel's former prime minister, on vacation, was swimming in a cove in Sardinia. said (according to Barak): Clinton
What the hell is this? Why is she turning the mistakes we [i.e., the
USand ] made into the essence? The true story of Camp David was that for the first time in the history of the conflict the American president put on the table a proposal, based on UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, very close to the Palestinian demands, and Arafat refused even to accept it as a basis for negotiations, walked out of the room, and deliberately turned to terrorism. That's the real story—all the rest is gossip. Israel
Clinton was speaking of the two-week-long July 2000 Camp David conference . . . Midway in the conference, apparently on July 18, Clinton had "slowly"—to avoid misunderstanding—read out to Arafat a document, endorsed in advance by Barak, outlining the main points of a future settlement. The proposals included the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state on some 92 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip, with some territorial compensation for the Palestinians from pre-1967 Israeli territory; the dismantling of most of the settlements and the concentration of the bulk of the settlers inside the 8 percent of the West Bank to be annexed by Israel; the establishment of the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, in which some Arab neighborhoods would become sovereign Palestinian territory and others would enjoy "functional autonomy"; Palestinian sovereignty over half the Old City of Jerusalem (the Muslim and Christian quarters) and "custodianship," though not sovereignty, over the Temple Mount; a return of refugees to the prospective Palestinian state though with no "right of return" to Israel proper; and the organization by the international community of a massive aid program to facilitate the refugees' rehabilitation. [Emphasis added by JCI]
Morris then asked Barak about the charge that
"This is one of the most embarrassing lies to have emerged from
Camp David," says Barak.
I ask myself why is he [Arafat] lying. To put it simply, any proposal that offers 92 percent of the
West Bankcannot, almost by definition, break up the territory into noncontiguous cantons. The West Bank and the Strip are separate, but that cannot be helped [in a peace agreement, they would be joined by a bridge]. Gaza
But in the West Bank, Barak says, the Palestinians were promised a continuous piece of sovereign territory except for a razor-thin Israeli wedge running from Jerusalem through from Maale Adumim to the Jordan River. Here, Palestinian territorial continuity would have been assured by a tunnel or bridge . . . [Emphasis by JCI]
So what Barak actually said in the interview cited in Footnote 40 was that the "Bantustans" allegation was “one of the most embarrassing lies” Arafat promulgated about
Now read Walt/Mearsheimer’s footnote again and see if it either (a) fairly reflects the primary source it cites, or (b) supports the proposition that “no Israeli government has been willing to offer the Palestinians a viable state of their own.”
2. The “map Israeli negotiators presented to the Palestinians at
What exactly did that map show? Walt/Mearsheimer don’t say, but a reader of their footnote would think they cited a primary source for the proposition that “no Israeli government has been willing to offer the Palestinians a viable state of their own.”
Dennis Ross’s book published the map “Palestinians now cite . . . as the final offer they turned down at
Next to the extraordinarily misleading Palestinian “map,” Ross published a “Map Reflecting Actual Proposal at Camp David.” According to Ross, his map “illustrates the parameters of what President Clinton proposed and Arafat rejected: Palestinian control over 91% of the
Ross also published in his book a “Map Reflecting Clinton Ideas” to illustrate the Clinton Parameters offered to both sides in December 2000 and formally accepted by Israel -- a Palestinian state in 95% of the West Bank and 100% of Gaza, with an additional 1 to 3% territorial swap from within Israel, meaning a total of 96-98% of the West Bank. There is not a
And if Walt/Mearsheimer had consulted the extensive interview with Ben-Ami (the most dovish Foreign Minister in Israeli history), they would have found this statement:
“[W]hen the ridiculous contention was voiced that what we were proposing to the Palestinians was cantons and that they would not have territorial contiguity, I went to [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak and showed him a map. As I recall, it was still the 8-percent map, a map of 8-92. Mubarak perused it with interest and asked aloud why the Palestinians were claiming they didn't have contiguity."
Thus if one reads the entire Barak interview, or looks at the purported “map,” or reviews the primary sources Walt/Mearsheimer ignored, the point in the text is not only unsupported but demonstrably wrong. It is simply Arafat’s lie, refuted long ago by the President of the
Walt/Mearsheimer’s paper, complete with footnotes that misstate primary sources and ignore others, is worse than embarrassing. It is academic malpractice. No one contests their right to their opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.
This is another moment in a new era. In an earlier time, Walt/Mearsheimer’s paper, disseminated as the purported findings of “scholars” that are “not in serious dispute,” would have circled the globe before truth could get its boots on. But thanks to the blogosphere, and the extraordinary efforts of people like Scott Johnson, Richard Baehr, Ed Lasky, James Taranto, Anne Lieberman, Alex Safian, and many others, the truth caught up in a matter of days.
Other posts in this series: