The Oslo Diaries (2018) Movie Script

Ron Pundak:
It's hard to find
an opening to my story,
a tale of a small cog in
the history of our region.
I can only write my
own private memories
of these three years
of hope and anguish.
Is this a tale of triumph,
or defeat?
The ending to our story
has not yet been written.
Ve zeh--
This is obviously shit.
Perhaps, I should start
with the one decisive
Wednesday, on July '92,
when Professor Hirschfeld
called me up with
a dangerous proposition:
joining him for
a secret meeting
with our sworn enemies,
the Palestinian
Liberation Organization,
known to all as the PLO.
The PLO were
a terrorist organization
led by Yasser Arafat,
a man many Israelis
considered Hitler's
Arafat believed
in armed struggle...
- ... fighting for
Palestinian freedom.
- He took pride
in the slaughter
of the athletes
in the Munich Olympics,
opening fire on
school children
in Ma'alot,
and planting deadly bombs
all over Israel.
The problem was
Arafat was the only one
- who Palestinians
looked up to.
He had the final say
on all negotiations,
but Israel refused
to talk to him.
Nine months ago,
Rabin was elected
to lead Israel
on a platform of
peace and security.
But as the months went by,
he delivered neither.
As the terror attacks
were on the rise,
and the peace process
was deadlocked,
Rabin's right-wing
rose in the polls,
and threatened
to overrun him
before he even completed
his first year in office.
In a desperate attempt
to renew the peace talks,
Professor Hirschfeld decided
to act outside the law,
and set up
a secret back channel
to negotiate with the PLO.
"If we get caught,"
Hirschfeld said,
"we will be charged
with treason and espionage,
and probably end up in jail."
"Sounds like a sweet offer,"
I winked at Hirschfeld.
Shimon Peres: We were in
a very strange situation.
the law forbids us
to come into contact
with the Palestinians.
I thought this foolish.
If you don't go
to contact the Palestinians,
what are you going to do?
And terror was very painful.
I mean, bombs in cars,
in buses,
all over the world!
They were very active.
They had quite
an organization of terror.
Abu Ala:
The Oslo process,
which I like to call
the Accidental Channel,
was neither pre-planned
nor pre-programmed.
My own partial involvement
began in December '92,
when I was sent by
the PLO to Norway,
to meet secretly with
two Israeli professors.
On my long flight
from Tunisia to Oslo,
I remembered the day
I was forced to flee
my home in Abu Dis,
when the PLO was
declared illegal.
I left my family
and home behind,
under the
oppressive occupation
of the Israeli Army,
and swore I'd return
the day we were liberated.
In the past 25 years,
Rabin was known to us
as the "Bone Breaker,"
the architect
of the iron fist policy
of repression.
The idea of meeting our
occupiers face-to-face
did not appeal to me at all.
But the freedom of Palestine
demanded all of us
to take high risks.
To muddy our tracks,
we informed the university
we would take part in
an academic summit
held by the Norwegians.
We were supplied
with fake pamphlets
and a made-up schedule,
which was a complete lie.
The pamphlets never
stated that the summit
will consist of only
five participants:
two Israelis and three
Palestinians from Tunis.
As we approached
the secluded villa,
hidden deep within
the Norwegian forest,
a chill ran through
my spine.
Negotiating with terrorists
was one thing in theory,
but now,
I was just hoping
that we didn't make
a terrible mistake.
Our first handshake
was rather tense.
I scanned the people
in front of me,
and matched their faces
to the memos
we had prepared
back home.
Abu Ala served as
the Palestinian
minister of finance.
Beside him sat
Maher El-Kurd,
Arafat's confidant.
The youngest of the group
was Hassan Asfour,
a militant communist
who was the most
aggressive of the three.
The Palestinians wanted
to know who we were,
and who we represented.
But all we could say was
that we were two professors
who were here
against the law.
The morning started bad.
The morning started bad.
Abu Ala said,
"We Palestinians understand
how difficult it was
"to live under Nazi
occupation in Norway.
"You surely understand
how difficult it was
to live, for us to live
under Israeli occupation."
And if he would've wanted
to say something
more irritating me,
and more getting me up,
like, this is--
There are certain things
you're not allowed to do.
If you really think that
there's any comparison
between Israelis
and Palestinians,
and the Nazis...
if you ever say this again,
I'm going to stand up
and move out.
It never came back.
It never came back again,
and I think this was a very...
it was a very unpleasant start,
but it was an important start.
We knew that all
past negotiations
had been fruitless,
and in order
to tempt Rabin,
we had to come up with
a completely new offer.
To be perfectly honest,
I said,
we are standing on
the verge of a new war,
which will harm
both sides.
We are serious in reaching
an understanding with you
and are open for
a historic compromise.
Until now,
we have demanded your
immediate withdrawal
from the occupied
but we realize it
won't happen overnight.
Arafat wants to bring up
the possibility
of withdrawal from
the Gaza Strip
as a first step
toward peace.
Hirschfeld and I
exchanged glances,
although we were
trying to conceal them,
we were stunned.
The PLO was considered
an extremist group,
and here was
Arafat's messenger
with a game-changer
Did you trust the Israelis
from the beginning?
It is not easy to say that
when you start talking
with your enemy that you trust.
But you-- if you want peace,
you should convince
yourself to trust,
and later on, by experience,
you can say that's
serious or not.
The guys which we met...
...Hirschfeld or Pundak,
it seems to me,
after more than a meeting,
they were serious.
When the meeting
was over,
Hirschfeld and I retreated
to our rooms to compose
the first draft of
the developing proposal.
We began by nervously
typing the words,
"Gaza first,"
on a Norwegian letterhead,
so that if it leaked,
Israel could deny
its existence.
Now we were left
with the most
difficult task of all--
presenting the draft
to the decision makers.
The big tension was,
how would Peres take it?
But more than that,
how would Rabin take it?
I was almost sure
that once Peres
takes it to Rabin,
Rabin will throw him away.
So, I told Peres
I sent Yair Hirschfeld
and Ron Pundak
to Oslo to meet
some PLO people.
And after some meetings,
they have this paper,
and I really want
you to look at it
and decide what
we are doing with it.
So, "Okay, thank you."
Then, next day,
I'm asking him,
Shimon, did you read
the paper?
He said, "No," and,
"Yeah, I saw it."
Another day, did you read
the paper? "No, I didn't."
And then he read it.
And then he understood that
he had something
explosive in his hands.
No, I didn't take it seriously.
I didn't take it seriously.
The draft wasn't worth,
in my eyes,
a penny, a thing.
Not at all.
The fact, the important fact was
the discovery of Abu Ala.
A plan without Abu Ala,
you had many plans like it.
Brit Shalom.
Full of-- Take the papers,
they are full of plans.
I don't think that there
are any region in the world
that has so many plans,
with so little results,
in the Middle East.
As the wave of terror
engulfed the streets,
the protests
outside the homes
of Rabin and Peres
became routine.
The two leaders were stuck
between a rock
and a hard place.
They were losing their
war against terror,
and the peace process
showed no signs of revival.
Perhaps the Oslo channel
was their only way out.
With a heavy heart,
they authorized us
to continue the talks,
as long as we exercised
every precaution
to keep the news
from leaking.
If it became known we were
deliberating with the PLO,
it would be their
last day in office.
Now that the leaders
were involved,
we were no longer
in the driver's seat.
Peres announced
that the Oslo channel
will now be lead
by Uri Savir,
the director general
of the foreign ministry,
and Joel Singer,
a rigid military lawyer.
Joel Singer:
Now, we are bringing
a military lawyer.
Former colonel
that was dealing
with the law in
the West Bank and Gaza,
and I come there
to meet with the PLO,
terrorist, murderers.
So, from my perspective,
it was like a theater.
As I go into the room,
and see Abu Ala
the first time,
he comes to me,
and kisses me
on both cheeks.
A terrorist is kissing me.
Oh my God, I've been
kissed by a terrorist.
And probably, he thought,
"I just kissed...
a milita--
a former military--"
I mean...
men don't kiss one another
in the United States
or in Israel.
That was the first time a man
kissed me.
Before the first
round of talks,
I decided to get acquainted
with my counter partner,
Abu Ala.
"Where are you from,"
he asked.
Jerusalem, I replied.
"I am also from Jerusalem,"
he said.
"Where is your father from?"
He was born in Germany.
"My father was
born in Jerusalem
and still lives
there," he said.
We can go all the way back
to King David, I replied,
and didn't try
to conceal my anger.
I'm sure we could argue
about the past for years
and never reach
an agreement.
Let's try and see
if we can agree
on the future.
"All right," he said,
"And we'll reach our first
mutual understanding.
We won't argue about
the past ever again."
Singer started the meeting
by announcing that we had
a real concrete proposal
for the signed agreement.
All trace of our optimistic
document was erased
and was replaced
by Rabin's agenda
that put security
and defense
before cooperation
and coexistence.
Rabin had refused
to deliberate
on the core issues
of the conflicts,
demanding to discuss
them at a later stage.
His offer did not include
any mention of
uprooting settlements,
dividing Jerusalem,
the return of
the Palestinian refugees,
and definitive borders.
As the reading commenced,
the Palestinians'
astonishment grew.
After a few minutes,
Abu Ala turned to Asfour
and muttered
quietly in Arabic,
"It's a massacre."
The last round of talks
left me more
confused than ever.
Despite Singer's
humiliating offer,
it was clear we are now
in the major leagues.
It was no longer
an initiative
of two peace-loving
but of Rabin and Peres
All the while,
the news painted
an entirely
different picture.
Rabin tightened his fist.
Everyday, demonstrators
were being killed
throughout Palestine,
some of them, innocent kids.
Who should we believe?
The reality on TV
or Uri's promises?
The next round of talks
had been an epic battle over
the text of the agreement.
Both parties,
unwilling to compromise,
appear to be heading
for a final showdown.
We all stuck to our guns
as our leaders
had instructed us.
I found it hard
to remember to eat.
At times,
I had to remember
to breathe.
On the 11th round in Oslo,
we arrived with
a proposition of our own.
Perhaps Singer
and the Israeli delegation
thought we would
surrender to their terms,
but that would not be
the case.
Our revised proposition
the end goal will be
the UN Resolution 242,
demanding Israel's
from the occupied
The Palestinian
proposition enraged me,
and I responded with
outright opposition.
We will not acknowledge
Resolution 242
because it means retreating
to the '67 borders,
and we refuse to discuss
borders at this stage.
We started believing
the PLO
were our partners
in this initiative,
but when we put
our cards down,
the PLO always
seems to back away
from any clear decision.
Maybe people were right,
saying that the Palestinians
never miss an opportunity
to miss an opportunity.
There was
a lot of tension.
People walking
out of the room,
slamming the doors,
but it was all a game.
You know? We knew that...
that they are...
to reach an agreement.
I just said, let them...
Let it...
We need to let it all play out,
and then we'll just say no.
The Israeli's dismissed
our proposition,
refusing to discuss
the definitive borders
at this stage.
I said to Uri,
you refuse to recognize
our national rights
and insist on retaining
all the settlements.
We prefer to wait
another 10 years
for a reasonable offer.
Uri fired back,
"In that case,
you will keep waiting
for the Messiah to arrive."
I said to Uri,
we have made every
possible effort
to reach a peace agreement
with you,
but, unfortunately,
I now find myself
unable to go on.
I have decided to resign
from the talks.
The room fell silent.
A dark expression spread
across Abu Ala's face,
and he seemed powerless
as he rose to his feet
and left the room.
This time,
it was really over.
Within myself,
my feelings were mixed.
For years, we have fought
for freedom
on all of Palestine,
but now we were
offered peace
with heavy compromises.
The weight on my shoulders
had become unbearable.
Will I fail my people
by abandoning peace,
or by abandoning
the struggle?
Uri asked me how
I was feeling.
I didn't hide my emotions.
Both sides are stubborn,
and do not grasp
the importance
of the moment.
I just cannot continue
this negotiation.
I told Abu Ala,
if you can't cure
the illness,
we must find its cause.
Let's put aside the maps
and the agreements
and begin with recognizing
each other as partners.
The PLO will denounce
all terror attacks
against Israel,
and we will stop viewing
you as terrorists
and allow Arafat to return
to his homeland.
I promised Uri
I would present
his mutual recognition
proposal to Arafat in Tunis.
Perhaps this round of talks
wasn't a complete
failure after all.
I understand that you
were born in Abu Dis
and you left this
area many years ago.
Do you think,
do you dream about
your coming back
to your home?
That's my dream
in all the period
which I am
so far from it, yeah.
-To go back?
And what to do?
To live there as a citizen.
And it's too much for me.
We were negotiating
in Oslo
in complete secrecy.
No one knew about
it outside of this
very small group.
And then,
when we were in Oslo,
suddenly, it leaked out.
The story leaked out.
The worst thing
that could happen
was the premature
exposure of the channel.
Reporters kept calling me,
and I consistently
denied everything,
without giving any
unnecessary explanations.
But I knew,
we couldn't keep up
this charade much longer.
It was only a matter
of time until the Likud
used the talks to make
Rabin and Peres
seem like traitors,
who were conspiring with
the murderous Arafat.
We were trying
to beat the clock
by reaching
an agreement before
a premature leakage would
stop the Oslo agreement.
The mutual
recognition option
excited the leadership
in Tunis,
and I was sent back to Oslo
with Arafat's support.
It seemed
as if the Israelis
returned with a deep desire
to move forward as well.
The next day, we started
with a crucial debate.
We zeroed in
on the difficult
problems first.
Terms move
from line to line.
Substitute words replaced
problematic ones.
Unnecessary sentences
were tossed into
the large draft bin.
Although it was clear that
there was only one pathway
that would lead to peace
between the two nations,
each side feared
the reaction of its people
when they'd be presented
with an agreement
that included
painful concessions.
Abu Ala would be
considered a traitor
for signing an agreement
that abstained discussing
the fate of the settlements.
And I didn't want to know
what names we'd be called
when it became known
that the Oslo team
had divided up
the Holy Land.
We managed
to progressively
narrow down our differences
to five open issues.
And we went back and forth,
and back and forth,
and... early in the morning,
4:00 in the morning,
we reached...
full agreement on
those five issues.
At 5:00 a.m.,
the Norwegians' printer
delivered the final draft
of the Declaration
of Principles for peace
between Israel
and the PLO.
It stated
that as a first step,
Israel would withdraw
from Gaza and Jericho
and grant the Palestinians
authority for
In the second stage,
which would take place
within a year,
the Palestinians' authority
would expand to most
of the West Bank.
And within five years,
a permanent peace
treaty will be signed,
addressing the core
issues of settlements,
Palestinian refugees,
definitive borders,
and Jerusalem.
Good evening.
Israel and the PLO
are not far from
a historic embrace tonight.
I remember
there was a TV set
with multiple stations,
Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish,
and everyone was talking in
incomprehensible words,
you know, foreign languages--
"Oslo, PLO..."
"Oslo, PLO."
And it was all over the world,
and that was stunning,
to suddenly realize that,
wow, we caused this.
It-- you know...
It's us that they
are talking about.
Twenty-nine years
after declaring Israel
an illegal state,
the Palestine Liberation
Organization has decided
to recognize Israel's
right to exist peacefully.
And after decades of calling
the PLO
a terrorist organization,
Israel finally
recognizes the PLO
as the legitimate representative
of the Palestinian people.
Given the history
of the Palestinians
and the Israelis,
which has involved so much
of the rest of the world,
it is, in a word, staggering.
The last-minute
went on for a day
and a half, nonstop.
But when the haggard
Norwegian mediator
arrived in Tunis,
he said he had the historic
documents of recognition
in his bag.
The success
wasn't his doing,
he said modestly,
but belonged to Israeli
Prime Minister Rabin
and PLO Chairman Arafat.
In the one-page letter
from Arafat to Rabin,
"the PLO recognizes the right
of the State of Israel
to exist in peace
and security."
In his return letter
to Arafat,
Rabin says that in view
of those commitments,
the government of Israel
has decided to recognize
"the PLO as the representative
of the Palestinian people."
I want to tell you
that this is a day
I never expected to see.
That our government
would recognize
a terrorist, murderous
In the Middle East today,
Israeli Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin
will fly to Washington
for the signing ceremony
of the Oslo Agreement
between Israel
and the Palestinians.
Yasser Arafat will arrive
from Tunis for the signing,
which will be his
first visit to America
since the PLO were denied
entrance to the US.
Right-wing opponents
are calling
the signing of
the treaty treason,
while Arab opposition
is calling Arafat
a traitor to
the Palestinian cause,
and threats have been
made on his life.
Daniel Kurtzer:
From the perspective
of an American diplomat,
these were the best days
of, of my life
because there was something
actually being consummated.
An agreement was actually
about to be signed,
so sure, there were
last-minute difficulties.
Would Arafat come
with his uniform on?
Would he have a gun
in his holster?
How do you avoid kissing
Arafat when he shakes
your hand?
I mean, the lesson that we gave
to Warren Christopher,
which is you take
the person by the hand,
and with your other hand,
you hold his elbow.
And, in effect,
that becomes your distance,
where if he starts
to come forward at you,
you just, you don't
have to push him away.
He's just away already.
Nabil Shaath:
Well, in my last
meeting with Clinton,
just before
the celebration started,
he took me aside and said
he wanted two concessions.
I said, Mr. Clinton,
we gave enough
He said, "No, no, no,
these are personal."
He said, "Concession one,
"could you prevail
on Mr. Arafat
"to come dressed
in a French suit
and abandon his
military garb?"
I said,
this was part of the way
his people view him.
So I said, I'm sorry, I can't
give you that concession.
What's the second one?
So he said,
"No hugging, no kissing."
And I said,
this a very tough concession,
but for peace,
I'll do it.
Newsman: They brought
the morning shows
to the White House today.
Tucked away at the bottom
of the South Lawn
were Charlie,
and Paula,
and Bryant, and Kate.
Sure signs that history
was about to be made.
The people are rejoicing,
celebrating the occasion,
and that they are
waving olive branches,
and they are singing,
they send us a message
of solidarity.
Do you realize what's
going on today here?
-What is going on here?
-Do you understand
the situation?
The Palestinian state
is emerging.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Mr. Arafat,
chairman of
the executive council
of the Palestine
Liberation Organization,
His Excellency Yitzhak Rabin,
prime minister of Israel,
the President of
the United States.
Yitzhak didn't want
to come to Washington.
He says, "I... don't
want to see Arafat."
The one
that convinced him
to stand up with Arafat
was Clinton.
And as you saw in the picture,
Clinton holds the two of them,
almost by force.
Finally, Yitzhak shook
the hands of Arafat.
He turned to me
and he says,
"Now, it's you, your time..."
" to shake his hands."
He went through the hell,
now I have to go
through the hell.
It was very difficult for him.
Why do you think it was
so difficult for him?
Because he was against the PLO.
his heart wasn't there.
Because he saw in Arafat
a terrorist.
But, you know, I cannot
change the past of anybody.
Finally, Yitzhak said it.
You make peace
with your enemies,
not with your friends.
To everything,
there is a season
and a time,
to every purpose
under heaven.
A time to be born,
and a time to die.
A time to kill,
and a time to heal.
A time to weep,
and a time to laugh.
A time to love,
and a time to hate.
A time of war,
and a time of peace.
Ladies and gentlemen,
the time for peace has come.
Do you feel proud?
I feel proud, but I'm afraid.
Of what?
Of the failure.
Because we are still in
the beginning, in the start.
But you are
so optimistic.
I should be.
I should be, but...
at the same time,
also in my side,
I... feel afraid.
Because both of us should
work very, very, very hard,
and we should trust each other
more, and more, and more.
Without a trust,
we cannot continue.
After the ceremony,
when the crowd
started to disperse,
I spotted Abu Ala
with a group of
Palestinian officials.
I walked towards him,
and he shot me
an embarrassed look.
We were no longer protected
by the intimacy of Oslo,
but trapped in plain sight
and suddenly
feeling alienated.
At that moment, we turned
from secret partners
to members
of opposing teams.
When you shook hands
with Mr. Rabin,
it looked like it was
your idea, not his.
He... he hesitated
a little bit,
but I insisted,
and I continued stretching
my hand to him.
Now, looking at
the longer term,
do you recognize that
if Mr. Rabin has his way,
Jerusalem, as he puts it,
will never be the capital
of a Palestinian state.
Do you recognize that?
Do you accept that?
He said Jerusalem,
not unified Jerusalem.
-He said Jerusalem.
He's a politician. He know...
He knows exactly
what he is saying.
The Israelis will never
pull back from Jerusalem.
They never will,
will they?
Do you believe
they ever will?
Yeah, I think if there is
a will, there is a way.
But there isn't
a will on their side!
Who knows?
Who knows?
Some weeks ago,
nobody was imagining that
we'll find that solution,
and this agreement.
Not to forget
that Berlin Wall had fallen.
This is IBA Radio
from Jerusalem,
and here are the news.
One month after the historic
signing in Washington,
Israel and the Palestinians
gather once again
for a round of negotiations.
This time to implement
the first stage of
the Oslo Accord--
Israel's withdrawal
from Gaza and Jericho.
The negotiations
will be lead by
Israeli deputy chief
of staff, Amnon Shahak,
and on the Palestinian side,
Nabil Shaath,
Arafat's chief advisor.
How significant is this?
How important?
This is the implementation
of the agreement.
This is the most important
part of our agreement.
Newswoman 2:
But how important is it
to the succession of
the whole process?
If we succeed,
the whole thing will succeed.
And we will succeed.
My first meeting with
General Amnon Shahak
was quite pleasant, in fact.
The man, very modestly,
came to me and said,
"Dr. Shaath,
here is my speech.
"And you know, I have never
given speeches before,
"I am a straight
military man.
So, why don't you look
into that speech?"
And I felt that this
was really, very modest
and very positive
starting point.
But between
that first meeting
and the second meeting,
which came out
after the weekend and so on,
four, five days later,
I went through
Google and other sources
to find out about
General Amnon Lipkin-Shahak.
And I found he was part
of the raiding party
that killed three of my
dearest friends in Beirut.
And I thought about it,
and I said,
I'm sorry, I cannot...
get myself to negotiate
with you. I mean...
it's very difficult. These were
very close friends of mine.
They're brothers, and...
I don't know,
I don't feel like it's fair
to negotiate with you.
So, Amnon Shahak said,
"But, Nabil...
we are here so that
we'll never repeat that."
On February 19th,
Nabil Shaath
and General Shahak
presented us
with the first draft
of the Gaza-Jericho
The draft was
clearly pro-Israeli,
but promised us rewards
we didn't dream of
just a year ago.
Such as passports,
an international airport
in Jericho,
and for the first
time in history,
Palestinian elections.
We were on the right path,
but our utopian bubble
was destined to
shatter violently.
At 5:00 a.m. on Friday,
February 25th,
Dr. Baruch Goldstein,
a religious settler,
in his army uniform,
grabbed an Uzi
submachine gun
and opened fire on
the people in prayer
at the Cave
of the Patriarchs.
Thirty-one people
were murdered
during the massacre,
that ended only
when Goldstein
himself was killed.
The news spread quickly,
and violent riots
broke out
across the entire
occupied territories.
Israeli soldiers opened
fire on the protesters,
killing nine Palestinians,
and injuring hundreds more.
quickly established
a fan base
among the settlers,
hundreds attended
his funeral,
and many of them praised him
as a hero and a saint.
We urged Rabin to clear out
the Hebron settlers.
It would be a brave move
that could restore
the Palestinians' trust
in the peace process.
But the army generals
that vacating
the settlers from Hebron
could cause a civil war.
Rarely have I seen
Peres so determined
to reach a decision
that opposes the military.
We were sure that as
a result of the debate,
the Jewish Israeli
residents of Hebron
will be taken away
from this place.
And I waited at home--
I mean, it was Friday.
I waited at home
for another hour, another hour
to hear the news,
and in the news,
there was nothing.
And I thought,
what could happen? I mean,
maybe it was a secret.
Maybe it happened and nobody...
informed about.
Maybe censorship.
But of course, eventually,
the decision was
not to do that.
It was really...
It was inconceivable.
The Palestinians demanded
the settlements
be cleared out.
But Israel refused,
and instead
put the Arab residents
of Hebron under lockdown.
Once again, the victims
were being punished.
Saeb Erekat:
When Oslo was signed,
82 percent of Palestinians
supported us,
supported Oslo,
and they saw hope.
And they gave every chance
to get hope.
And then,
with their eyes,
they continued to see
business as usual.
Settlement activities,
incursions, demolition
of homes, and so on,
and so on, and so on.
Business as usual.
This is the land
that's supposed to be
a Palestinian state.
Why are they
building settlements?
Our worst nightmare
had come true.
Arafat was torn
between his people
and the need to appease
the Americans
and the Israelis.
He is slowly losing
his credibility
in the eyes of
the Palestinians.
He is losing control.
Mahmoud al-Zahar:
The people now are
totally convinced
with the attitude of Hamas
after the massacres.
So, what do you think will
happen to Fatah, for example?
They are going to lose
much of the support
of the people
who believed in
Fatah at the time.
You know that people in Israel
are really terrified
of revenge now?
Yes, everybody is angry,
and it is expected for revenge.
The Palestinian attacks
began 40 days
after the massacre in Hebron.
Exactly the 40 days
of mourning.
It was Afula and Hedera,
and you see blood
on the streets,
and people are saying,
"This is the peace
you promised us."
And you could not say,
don't forget!
It was only a DOP!
What is DOP?
What it, what?
Wasn't there a ceremony
with Arafat,
and Rabin, and Clinton?
Wasn't it peace?
On March '94,
we headed back to
the negotiating table.
Since the wave of
suicide bombings,
Israel has put
two and a half million
Palestinians under closure.
Poverty was
rising throughout
the occupied territories,
and living conditions
Our people
were losing faith
in the peace process,
but I knew
we must not give up.
Despite the blood
and the violence,
the process had
a force of its own.
And on May '94,
we set out to sign
the Gaza-Jericho agreement,
granting the Palestinians
self-rule in Gaza.
After eight months of talks,
the stage was finally set.
Egypt President Mubarak
provided a suitably
dramatic setting
for the ceremony in Cairo.
The morning
of the signing of
the Gaza-Jericho agreement,
Faisal and I were being
interviewed in Jerusalem,
while watching a live
broadcast of the ceremony.
On my way to the interview,
I was held up by the Israeli
soldiers at the checkpoints.
Someone said to me,
"This is your idea of peace?
"Tell the old man not to sign.
Tell him to come wait
"at the checkpoint
and sign it here,
along with the rest of us."
I stared at
the screen in wonder.
Is this a celebration of
the birth
of the peace process,
or its burial?
Both sides appear to have
sorted out differences over
the Gaza Strip and Jericho,
but within minutes,
it was clear that the deal,
like the stage positions,
was not going to plan.
Ladies and gentlemen,
the signing of the Gaza-Jericho
self-rule agreement.
I'm sitting there, and I see
Arafat signing the document,
signing the document,
signing the document.
All the documents,
and then the guy
that assisted him
brought the maps.
He looked at them, opened,
didn't sign, closed it,
and went back to stand,
and Rabin was walking
to do the same.
So, I walk up the stairs,
and I stand next to Rabin,
and as he begins to sign,
I open it, and then
I whisper in his ear,
without show--
trying not to show
any excitement
because everything was recorded
and filmed.
And I told him,
Arafat did not sign the maps.
So he says,
"So, what does it mean?"
I responded, it means that
there is no agreement.
Israel's prime minister,
Yitzhak Rabin,
examines the documents,
called over
Foreign Minister
Shimon Peres,
and also refused to sign.
For a while,
it seemed as if
the entire ceremony
was about to collapse.
Dennis Ross:
Because we had not been
a part of that channel,
we didn't fully appreciate
what the gaps were
between the two sides.
Israel saw this as
a devolution of power
as the Palestinians
prove themselves.
Palestinians saw this as,
we have to show
this is a new day,
and as a new day,
we have to have all
the trappings of statehood
even if we don't
have it formally yet.
So, immediately,
they wanted, you know,
they didn't want controls
over crossing points.
They wanted, they wanted
immediately to say,
you know, the Israelis
are out of our lives.
What happened with Arafat
that in all negotiations,
He says, "La, la, la."
He says, "No, no, no."
What I did, I was at very
good terms with Mubarak.
They wanted peace seriously.
So I would go to them and says,
again, he said no.
They would call him up
and said, stop it.
Mubarak said it publicly
while he was on the stage,
he called him ibn kalb ,
the son of a bitch.
After a brief interval,
the PLO leader was assured
that the size of
the Jericho region
was still under negotiation.
He signed the document
and added a few comments.
Finally, with the briefest
of handshakes,
a deal was done,
at the very last minute.
On July 1st, 1994,
Yasser Arafat
returned to his home,
and reclaimed his position
as the Palestinian leader.
It was an ambivalent return.
He came back and had
to govern Palestine,
which was divided
and driven apart.
Or perhaps Israel
brought him back
in order to control him.
What was the price
we had to pay
for his return home?
Was this one of
Oslo's minefields?
Or was it the first
step toward peace
and the liberation
of Palestine?
As we made our
way to Palestine,
my heart pounded,
and I was choked with
the emotion of the moment.
I wept as I had
never wept before,
kissing and hugging all
my relatives and friends.
The last time I met
my father in Jordan,
I hinted that I might
be coming home soon.
He cried
and raised his hand,
swearing he will prepare
a feast on my return.
My sadness was
that my father
had passed away
just four month earlier,
after waiting to my return
for so many years.
Soon, I called Uri.
I said I am finally back
in my childhood home.
He greeted me with
the Arab words of welcome,
Ahlan wa sahlan,
and told me he was truly
pleased to hear my voice.
We have become
neighbors at last.
One week after Abu Ala's
return to Abu Dis,
we met once again in Taba.
This time,
in order to negotiate
the second stage
of the Oslo process--
Israel's withdrawal
from the West Bank.
I spread out the maps
we had kept secret
until then.
The Oslo Accord stated
Israel will withdraw
from most of the West Bank
within a year,
and the Palestinians
were expecting
to receive control over
the land immediately.
But Israel demanded
a gradual withdrawal,
and offered
the Palestinians
full control on only
two percent of the land.
The remaining
98 percent
will be controlled
by the Israeli Army.
Arafat stared at
the map silently,
and then announced
that it was an unbearable
"These are prison camps,"
he yelled.
"You want to destroy me."
With those words,
Arafat left the room.
What you are suggesting
deviates from the signed
agreement, I shouted.
You keep 98 percent
of the land?
We won't accept that.
You can enforce this
approach on Arafat
and push him into a corner,
but remember this,
a one-sided agreement
will not last.
Abu Ala stood up without
saying another word,
and summoned his driver.
We exchanged a polite
and cold handshake,
and we each went
our separate ways.
As hours went by,
we waited nervously
in the hotel's lobby.
Some Israeli reporters
informed us
that Arafat had
issued a statement
about the talks collapsing.
We were all on edge,
but refused to cave in.
Later that evening,
Arafat's personal assistant
came rushing towards me.
"Arafat asks that you come
to Abu Ala's room
She said, "He's collapsed."
I rushed to Abu Ala's room,
and found him lying in bed,
pale as a ghost, trembling,
nodding in and out
of consciousness.
Hold on my friend,
I whispered.
I need you to stay with me.
The doctors found
Abu Ala's collapse
to be a result of
extreme fatigue
caused by the many
hours of negotiations.
But I knew the truth.
The map I presented to him
had broken his heart.
There was something very
personal in peace-making.
It wasn't a political...
festival. It wasn't
a political ambition.
It was a very human ambition.
There's a symbolic...
picture, where people
went to Israeli tanks
in the streets
and put olive branches.
The tanks that destroyed
your lives and your homes,
the army that killed your
kids and oppressed you.
People went out
and gave them flowers
and gave them
olive branches,
and felt that this was it.
This is the end
of the conflict.
This is the end
of the occupation.
It was a moment of hope...
a moment of promise.
But people's hopes were dashed
and it didn't materialize
into a reality.
So, yes, of course,
I feel...
sad and responsible.
I had a meeting
with Yair and Ron.
We all felt that
the time was running out,
and that we had to act fast.
We agreed on deliberations
that would lead to
a permanent agreement,
utilizing the same framework
we used in Oslo.
Quick, discreet talks,
and no empty slogans.
Mahmoud Abbas
and I deliberated
over the drafts for
almost two years,
behind the scenes,
without the racket
of the Taba Hotel.
We touched on the most
sensitive points
of the process,
for the very first time.
At least, theoretically,
we had a document
in our hands,
with a comprehensive solution.
A withdrawal to
the '67 borders,
the establishment
of a Palestinian state,
of course,
keeping the settlement
blocks intact,
and making Jerusalem
the capital of both nations.
My plan was to set up
a meeting with Rabin.
I told him that I would
like to meet with him
about the
permanent solution.
And he said, "As soon as
possible," so I told him,
let's do it when I return
from the United States
on Saturday, November 11th.
No one could've guessed
under what circumstances
that meeting
would take place.
On September 5th,
we reassembled in Taba.
I must admit,
after our last encounter,
I wasn't looking
forward to another round
of this endless
boxing match.
We were stressed,
and most of all,
fed up.
It was not long before
the negotiation, once again,
to an exchange
of accusations.
It was the nastiest meeting
I've ever been in my life.
We just wanted to be
anywhere but in that room.
As I was leaving the room,
I turned around,
and the Israeli
and Palestinian delegations
are talking to each other
and having a cup of coffee.
I think it underscores
the point that
part of what happens
in negotiations is the...
humanization of the other side.
You no longer see just the,
quote, unquote, "enemy,"
but you see a person.
And you learn about
that person's family
and their ups and downs
and their happy moments,
and you get a sense of
how committed they are to peace.
And you never are able to
translate that to the public.
That evening, we improvised
a Friday prayer service.
We lit candles,
and much to the astonishment
of the Palestinians,
Singer recited
the Kiddush prayer.
We opened with, "Everybody
Loves Saturday Night,"
in three languages.
Afterwards, Abu Ala
and myself joked around
by imitating the Peres
and Arafat conversation,
while Uri taught
Asfour how to sing
"My Yiddishe Momme."
It was nice to
kid around again.
Later that night,
I received a call
from Jerusalem.
A bus exploded in
the center of the capital.
We sat and watched
the news silently.
No one said a word.
No one doubted our Palestinian
friends opposed terror
and that it was directed
towards them as well.
Two days later, Abu Ala
called me up from his room,
and asked me to watch
the Arab evening news
with him.
We watched images
of a seven-year-old
boy's funeral,
a boy who had been
killed that day by
the Israeli Army.
Abu Ala was right
when he said
that neither side has
dominion over suffering.
That night,
Abu Ala and I reached
the final draft
of the Oslo-B Agreement.
Ladies and gentlemen,
the President of
the United States,
His Majesty King Hussein of the
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,
His Excellency
Mohammed Hosni Mubarak,
president of the Arab
Republic of Egypt,
His Excellency Yitzhak Rabin,
prime minister of Israel,
Chairman Arafat.
Please, take a good,
hard look.
The sight you see
was impossible,
was unthinkable
just two years ago.
Only poets dreamt of it,
and to our great pain,
soldier and civilians
went to their death
to make this moment
These were
the years of hope,
when the two peace camps
felt that they were somehow...
That they are bringing
to their people the fruits.
Abu Ala, are you
more optimistic now
than you've been,
let's say,
one day after Oslo 1?
Yes. Yes,
I am optimistic.
-I believe that...
the process
we agreed together,
it will continue,
despite of all
difficulties we face,
but it will succeed later.
We have, both,
we have a good will
to push this process forward.
I concur with
what Abu Ala said,
and we really
have no choice.
And there's some good common
language around this table,
as you can see.
What is a Jewish sport?
And the saying is,
I start to believe,
Chairman Arafat,
that you are close to be Jewish.
Abraham is my grandfather!
Abraham is my grandfather!
Our partner.
Our cousin.
Yitzhak Rabin.
Savir: Rabin and Arafat
felt isolated
in the hostile environment.
The peace camp
wasn't going out
into the streets to protest.
Instead, they chose
to avoid confrontation.
The peace objectors, Hamas
on the Palestinian side,
and the Greater Israel
camp on our side,
now own public opinion.
The face-off wasn't between
Israel and the Palestinians,
but between those
who supported peace
and those
that objected to it.
In early October,
John Friedman,
a friend of Peres,
convinced him to
arrange a rally
in support of
the peace process.
Peres urged Rabin to
accept the initiative.
But Rabin wondered,
would people even
leave their homes?
Those days, Rabin was more
pessimistic than ever.
If too much is heard
in the Middle East
from the few extremists,
tonight the supporters
of peace emerged
in a huge rally in Tel Aviv.
This is the young Israel,
tired of army service,
tired of chasing Palestinian
stone-throwing children
through refugee camps.
All sides are mobilizing,
for this is now becoming
one of the most contentious
in Israeli history.
For the first time, perhaps,
the surprise is fading,
and there is a popular
momentum for peace.
You know, these people
were fighting each other.
They don't recognize each
other, they kill each other,
and so on. It wasn't a play.
But then, later, I saw
Rabin's meeting with Arafat.
I saw meeting after meeting
after meeting after meeting.
I was there every
single meeting,
and I saw how their
relationships developed.
After the day when
Rabin was assassinated,
Arafat told me,
"They assassinated the peace
process in Israel."
And I disagreed with him.
No, Israel is not
about an individual.
It's about an institution.
It's about this, they...
have replacements and so on.
And he did like this
with his hand and told me,
assassinated the peace process."
Peres was...
was not himself.
Was not himself.
He was very sad, deeply sad.
He was already
the prime minister,
and on Saturday,
I came to his home with all
the maps and all the material.
And I said to him,
this is the agreement that
we have with Abu Mazen.
I think that we can go for it.
You have the exact border,
you have the solution
for Jerusalem,
with everything else,
I think that now is the time.
I mean, everybody's so confused,
including ourselves,
but still...
there is a support for peace,
even more than before,
as a result of
the assassination,
and let us, "use it,"
for his memory
and finish the job.
he listened to me
very carefully,
for two hours...
and then he said, "Not now.
"Not now. I don't
think that people
are ready to leave
the Jordan Valley,"
which was part of the map,
so that Israel should withdraw
from the Jordan Valley.
And, uh...
"I think that
today to bring it
to the people will...
is immature."
Well, it is always immature,
but this is an opportunity.
I was not...
strong enough to tell him
it is your biggest mistake.
Reconsider it.
I did not come again
to him with this.
And, uh...
maybe it is in me.
Maybe it is part
of my weakness.
Maybe it was just a mistake,
I don't know.
But if you ask me
whether I regret it,
I, I do regret it.
I had, I had, apparently,
to fight more
for, for, uh...
for the permanent agreement.
On May 5th, 1996,
I found myself back in
the familiar surroundings
of the Hilton Taba.
I wondered about
the three years that passed
since I first met
Abu Ala in Oslo.
Since then,
our lives had become
a combination of promise
and anguish.
The process we started
had withstood
tremendous trials.
Since the first day in Oslo,
and up until this current
exchange in May '96,
1,100 days of peace
talks had passed.
When we said our
farewells that day,
I never imagined that
it would be my last
and final meeting
with Abu Ala
in my official role
as head of the Israeli
negotiating team.
If I had known it
was all going to end,
maybe I would have come up
with something more
intelligent to say to him.
But all I said
to Abu Ala was,
see you soon, my friend.
Nearly 80 percent of Israel's
four million voters
streamed to polling stations.
Everyone seemed to understand
why this election
was important.
In suburban Tel Aviv,
voters chose Peres.
The peace process means hope,
so that he won't be
in a bloody army
or in a bloody war.
In the West Bank
city of Hebron,
Jewish settlers
voted for Netanyahu.
Peres want to be,
to give our land to
the Arabs, so, of course,
we are voting for
Benjamin Netanyahu.
those who support
the steps Israel has
taken toward peace
are clinging to the hope
that they may be
the ultimate winners.
It's like someone
building a bridge,
and building
and building and building
something that
could have really
the Middle East.
An opportunity
like this comes
once in a hundred years,
and it was wasted.
I felt so bad
when it all collapsed
because I held it already,
and I felt,
we can do it! We can do it!
And then...
It went wrong,
and I knew,
it's not in my lifetime.
Probably not in
my kids' lifetime.
Maybe the grandchildren.
Are you still an optimist?
Do you still believe
there's a chance for peace
between us
and the Palestinians?
I don't think there's
another alternative.
Neither for the Palestinians,
nor for us.
The only alternative
is an ongoing war.
But contrary what people think,
in war, there are no victories.
Only victims.
No war is ever finished,
unless it's being
replaced by peace.