WASHINGTON — No one knows what the final details of an agreement coming out of Camp David would look like — or even if there will be one. But one thing is certain. If it does not contain the following twofold provision, it will be worthless:
That this agreement marks the end of Palestinian claims against Israel and thus closes the Palestinian-Israeli conflict;
That the finality of this agreement is guaranteed by the United States.
What does this mean?
Finality does not mean that the Palestinians pledge an end to conflict and violence. They pledged precisely that seven years ago on the White House lawn and have routinely used violence and the threat of violence ever since. Why, even as Camp David began, Yasser Arafat's own Fatah organization in Gaza declared "a state of general emergency and heightened alert" just to warn the Israelis of what would come if the summit failed.
Finality means something else. It means that Palestinian claims against Israel have come to an end. No more demands for territory, no more demands for refugee resettlement, no more demands for financial compensation.
They will get plenty of territorial, financial and other redress in any agreement, plus their own sovereign state. Indeed, Ehud Barak is prepared to give the Palestinians everything but his underwear. But in return, he must get irrevocable title to the underwear. The Camp David accords must be the last of the giving. No more claims, no more demands, no more negotiations.
The problem with such a "finality" provision, however, is that, after pocketing his gains from Camp David, Arafat could easily violate it. He could find some new grievance backed by the threat of force to keep the conflict open and, even better, perhaps provoke a war that brings in the vast neighboring Arab armies against Israel (the "spillover" strategy).
This would be devastating to American interests. Our overriding interest in Camp David is finality: an end to conflict in a region of major importance to the United States.
To achieve this the United States must be the arbiter of finality. It must declare to the world that with this peace agreement the Palestinians have, in return for extraordinary concessions by Israel and billions in financial compensation from the world, satisfied their claims and will press no more.
In practice, that means that we will reject any new Palestinian claims after Camp David; that we will be prepared to impose serious sanctions — withdrawing recognition, withdrawing aid, pressing our allies to follow suit — on the new Palestinian state if it resorts again to violence under the guise of some new grievance.
Powerful as we are, however, an American statement is not enough. There must be universal recognition that a new international norm now governs the Middle East. The United States must go to the U.N. Security Council with a new resolution embodying precisely this principle — that Israel and Palestine are committed to permanent nonviolence, that all claims are satisfied and all grievances retired, and that the international community will therefore recognize no more claims in this dispute.
This resolution should explicitly supercede the three resolutions that until now have been cited as the legal norm for Middle East relations: Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 (regarding the return of territory) and General Assembly resolution 194 (regarding the return of Palestinian refugees to their former homes).
Will it pass? As a show of good faith, the Palestinians must be prepared to go to the Security Council and urge ratification of such a resolution. The Russians and Chinese and French will balk, but they can hardly be more royalist than the king.
Without such international ratification, a Camp David agreement will go precisely the way of the Oslo agreement of 1993. Many on the White House lawn that day wept with joy at the promise of an end to bloodshed. It was a cruel deception.
The violence did not end. It was merely attenuated and refined. Occasional outbursts, continuous threats. "We remind the Israelis of the al-Karameh battle, the Beirut battle and the seven years of intifada," Arafat told a cheering rally in Gaza just last month. "If they don't like it, we will scratch the past and begin anew. Palestine is ours, ours, ours!"
The American interest in this dispute is simple: peace, real peace. Not another postponement of violence, not another invitation to violence. An end: to war, to claims.
Finality has to be in the agreement. It has to be ratified by the United States. It has to be enshrined by the Security Council as the new international norm. If that is done, Camp David will be regarded as a great milestone in history. If not, it will rank with Munich.
The Washington Post Writers Group