President Clinton announced his invitation to Barak and Arafat on July 5, 2000, to come to Camp David to continue their negotiations on the Middle East peace process. Building on the positive steps towards peace of the earlier Camp David Accords (1978) where President Jimmy Carter was able to broker a peace agreement between Egypt, represented by President Anwar Sadat, and Israel represented by Prime Minister Menachem Begin. And, it sought to build on the momentum of the earlier peace negotiations that led to the Oslo Accords of 1993 between the assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitschak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat .
On July 11, the Camp David 2000 Summit convened. The summit ended on July 25, without an agreement being reached. At its conclusion, a Trilateral Statement was issued defining the agreed principles to guide future negotiations.
Trilateral Statement on the Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David July 25, 2000:
"President William J. Clinton Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat
Between July 11 and 24, under the auspices of President Clinton, Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat met at Camp David in an effort to reach an agreement on permanent status. While they were not able to bridge the gaps and reach an agreement, their negotiations were unprecedented in both scope and detail. Building on the progress achieved at Camp David, the two leaders agreed on the following principles to guide their negotiations:
- The two sides agreed that the aim of their negotiations is to put an end to decades of conflict and achieve a just and lasting peace.
- The two sides commit themselves to continue their efforts to conclude an agreement on all permanent status issues as soon as possible.
- Both sides agree that negotiations based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 are the only way to achieve such an agreement and they undertake to create an environment for negotiations free from pressure, intimidation and threats of violence.
- The two sides understand the importance of avoiding unilateral actions that prejudge the outcome of negotiations and that their differences will be resolved only by good faith negotiations.
- Both sides agree that the United States remains a vital partner in the search for peace and will continue to consult closely with President Clinton and Secretary Albright in the period ahead."
Both sides put the blame on the other for the failure of the talks. Palestinians blamed the Israelis for only accepting a Bantustan with scattered pieces of territory separated by highways for Israelis, security check-points and numerous Israeli settlements that Palestinians allege are illegal under international law and populated to a large extent by Jewish religiously observant people. In addition, Israel would control the Palestinian state's water resources, borders and customs. Palestinians said this was not an offer of peace but a demand for complete surrender. They said they were not offered a state but a "prison camp". Furthermore, the proposed solution did not address the issue of the Palestinian refugee problem. While realizing not all refugees could return, the Palestinian argued that any meaningful peace settlement would have to take the future of these people into account. The Israelis countered that over a million Jews were pushed out of Arab countries since 1948. In particular, they called for a partial right of return and an Israeli acknowledgment that they too had been responsible for the creation of the refugee problem (see also New Historians). Palestinians also resented that their ties to Jerusalem, the historical center of Palestine, were ignored. Palestinians were further offended that Israel demanded that Palestinians give up some 15% of the West Bank, which was also the best and most fertile land, in exchange for a much smaller swathe of land in the Negev desert that is essentially unusable.
Thus, some of the main stumbling blocks were the Palestinian's insistence on the "right of return" of all scattered Palestinians to return to their old homes in Israel proper, which Israel turned down, allowing for only token numbers. The Palestinian demands for complete political control over the Old City of Jerusalem, which for Jews would have meant losing a bond with their holiest shrine on the Temple Mount and the attached Western Wall . Palestinian refusal to accept a swap for some unpopulated areas of Israel proper in the Negev area in a switch for the area of some of the new Jewish settlements in the West Bank. And the Palestinian demand for full sovereignty over contiguous territory, which the Israelis view as a security threat.
Soon after the collapse of the 2000 summit, Ariel Sharon and a delegation of Likud politicians took a tour of the Temple Mount to demonstrate Israel's control. A wave of suicide bombings were unleashed by the Palestinians running from 2000 into 2003 and an uprising called the al-Aqsa Intifada began. Hundreds of Israelis were killed and thousands seriously wounded. In reprisal Israel sent in the Israel Defence Force to seal off the Gaza Strip and re-occupy the West Bank which was brought under strict military rule. Senior Palestinian militants were targeted for assassinations by Israel, and many hardships were imposed on the Palestinian population as Israel sought to seal itself off. Ehud Barak was defeated by Ariel Sharon in 2001 by a huge majority, and Sharon was re-elected as Israel's prime minister again in 2003. There was a sharp swing to the right in Israeli politics as the population supported a hard-line towards the Palestinians in 2003 and Yasser Arafat was besieged and quarantined by the Israelis in his Ramallah headquarters.
Clinton's successor, President George W. Bush, has refused to meet with Yasser Arafat calling for his removal. President Bush has put forward a proposal called a "road map" for peace which calls for a fully democratic Palestinian state in 2005.
A critique of Barak's performance at Camp David and of Barak's version of events as given in the Morris-Barak piece in the New York Review of Books.