The Mitchell Report
In October 2000, President Clinton had asked former senator George Mitchell and four eminent international colleagues—former senator warren Rudman, former president of Turkey Suleiman Demirel, Javier Solana of the European Union, and Foreign Minister Thorbjoern Jagland of Norway—to investigate and write a report about the outbreak of violence after the failure of the Camp David summit “to determine what happened and how to avoid it recurring in the future.” The continued work of the committee was endorsed by Powell in January 2001 on behalf of the Bush administration
. After visits to the region and consultation with regional leaders, the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee Report (popularly known as the Mitchell Report) was sent to President Bush on April 30 and issued in May, immediately engendering debate about its recommendations.
The report provided the first authoritative assessment of developments since the beginning of the Intifada, including the factors the members believed helped cause or aggravate the tensions. The basic conclusion was that Palestinians and Israelis had lost all confidence in each other and that Israeli and Palestinian leaders needed to take measures to break the cycle of violence.
The report called on the PA to “make clear through concrete action to Palestinians and Israelis alike that terrorism is reprehensible and unacceptable, and that the Palestinian Authority will make a 100 percent effort to prevent terrorism and to punish perpetrators.” At the same time, it called on the Palestinians to “prevent gunmen from using Palestinian populated areas to fire upon” Israelis.
It called on the Israel Defense Forces to consider withdrawing to positions held before September 28, 2000 and to adopt policies encouraging nonlethal responses to unarmed demonstrators. Its conclusion was that in order to move ahead with Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, there had to be a cessation of all violence followed by confidence-building efforts. The report recommended that Israel freeze settlements, including natural growth, that Palestinians crack down on terrorism, and that both sides halt violence without condition.
It apportioned responsibility for the situation to both sides. Nevertheless, Israel viewed the Mitchell report as a document of importance and as a possible basis for ending violence and resuming peace talks.Israel expressed reservations about the recommendation calling for a freeze on building Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza as an unwarranted concession on an issue that should be resolved only in peace talks, not in advance.
On May 21, the Bush administration endorsed the report and began diplomatic action in its support while stressing that the United States was not putting forward a peace plan but would work to implement a series of confidence-building measures that were contained in the report. Arafat accepted the report. Nonetheless, it was followed by a new round of violence.
Arafat Is “Engaged in Terrorist Activity”
On Saturday night, June 2, 2001, the Israeli political-security cabinet met and issued a communiqué concerning the previous night’s terrorist attack in which 21 young Israelis at Tel Aviv’s Dolphinarium disco were killed. The communiqué made a significant political observation that summed up the Israeli perspective and foreshadowed future policy.
The Government of Israel has determined that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Chairman Arafat are engaged in terrorist activity, encourage it and are inciting to hatred and violence. The PA has not only violated all the obligations and agreements to fight the terrorist and incitement infrastructure, but its members are themselves engaged in terrorism and incitement.
The PA has established in its territory a coalition of terror, and is attempting to disguise it with words of peace as lip service to the international community, while continuing to incite its people to hatred and violence. The violent Palestinian attack against Israel came after far-reaching Israeli proposals for peace were rejected.The cycle of violence and terrorism by the Palestinians and Israel’s retaliatory responses continued through the summer of 2001.