Former US president Bill Clinton said Wednesday that the Palestinians were offered the Temple Mount at the Camp David Summit in 2000, but the agreement fell through over a sliver of land near the Western Wall.
In an address at Virginia’s Georgetown University, where he has agreed to deliver a series of lectures, Clinton spoke on a variety of domestic issues, while also touching on the foreign policy challenges his administration had encountered — chiefly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the 2000 summit he brokered between then-prime minister Ehud Barak and the late Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat.
Clinton’s remarks revealed that a breakthrough in talks between Israel and the Palestinians, particularly on the controversial issue of the division of Jerusalem, was closer at hand in 2000, at the summit he called a “roaring success,” than previously thought.
Israel, he said, agreed to hand the Palestinians control of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and the compound where al-Aqsa Mosque is situated, on the condition that the area around the Western Wall remain under Israel’s control.
Arafat agreed to leave Israel with control over the Western Wall, as well as over the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, but insisted on keeping 16 meters, or 50 feet, of land leading up to an entrance to the Western Wall tunnels under Palestinian control.
Israel refused, on the grounds that the tunnel granted access to remains of the Jewish temples. In retrospect, Clinton said, Israel was probably justified in its refusal, as “if you got in, you could do mayhem to the ruins of the temples.”
The parties ultimately failed to reach agreement on Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, along with a slew of other critical issues…