Reporters Are The Last to Know
Jude Wanniski
April 30, 2002


Memo To: Brit Hume, FoxNews
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Don’t Be a Jerk

You undoubtedly missed it, but a week ago I wrote an open memo to White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer asking him to “Check Out Adel al-Jubeir.” I decided it was time to forget my old friends in the press corps, because they seemed so hopelessly fixated on Yasir Arafat as being the main stumbling block in the Middle East that it was up to Ari to tell the President it ain’t so. The reason I single you out today, Brit, is that you got the ball rolling when you interviewed Dennis Ross on FoxNewsSunday. The foreign-policy advisor on Middle East matters to President Clinton, Ross has been repeating the canard that when Arafat got a generous offer of a Palestinian state from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David, he walked away from it. This seemed proof to Ross that Arafat was not really interested in peace and you swallowed hook, line and sinker.

I’d actually made a mistake myself when I assumed Arafat “walked away” from a much than less generous offer in the December negotiations, which included a West Bank that looked like “swiss cheese.” I wrote a memo to that effect, “Have I Got a Deal For You,” but your compatriot at Fox, Tony Snow, said the negotiations had continued at Taba, Egypt, in January, with much more progress beyond the “swiss cheese.” This is why I was surprised you clearly had not caught up with the story, and why I wrote to Ari Fleischer. The Saudi advisor to Crown Prince Abdullah was on Meet the Press the same day, an hour after your show, and he noted the great progress that had been made at Taba, which he learned by reading the Economist of London. I thanked Tony for straightening me out and expected to see the general corrections follow, especially on Fox. It is of singular importance to the international discussions on whether Arafat walked away or Sharon walked away. The facts in evidence clearly indicate Sharon is the barrier and not “a man of peace,” and Arafat is the same peacemaker who won a Nobel Peace Prize for earlier efforts in the region.

Imagine my surprise when I saw Tony had invited Adel al-Jubeir on his Sunday show and found you badgering him, as if he were a thief or common liar, insisting that he was evading your question by mentioning Taba instead of Camp David. A diplomat of great patience, even when dealing with jerks, al-Jubeir explained once, twice and then a third time, that Arafat walked away from nothing, and the proof of the pudding was the significant progress made at Taba in the six days after the Clinton presidency ended. Now of course you will get ticked off at me for pointing this out to you, and I wouldn’t have, except at the end of the show, in Tony’s roundtable phase, you took another cheap shot at Jubeir for evading your question. But before you blow your top again, please ask Tony if he thinks it is reasonable to blame Arafat for turning away a deal he improved upon when the negotiations resumed. And read the Economist article to which Tony referred me, which sensibly argues that the Taba agreements should be the starting point for the next round, if the peacemakers can get us to a next round. All this is very important to your many fans, Brit, because they count on you to be right, not covering up your errors. There are so many occasions when you have been dazzling in your insights and observations that owning up to an error will enhance your standing in the press corps, and also be good for the international discussion. Here, by the way, is the statement issued by the Arafat and Barak negotiators at Taba, which Ariel Sharon walked away from.

Israeli-Palestinian Joint Statement 27 January 2001

The following is the official text of the joint statement released yesterday by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators as published in the Jerusalem Post (Jan 28, 2001):

"The Israeli and Palestinian delegations conducted during the last six days serious, deep and practical talks with the aim of reaching a permanent and stable agreement between the two parties.

"The Taba talks were unprecedented in their positive atmosphere and expression of mutual willingness to meet the national, security and existential needs of each side. "Given the circumstances and time constraints, it proved impossible to reach understandings on all issues, despite the substantial progress that was achieved in each of the issues discussed.

"The sides declare that they have never been closer to reaching an agreement and it is thus our shared belief that the remaining gaps could be bridged with the resumption of negotiations following the Israeli elections.

"The two sides take upon themselves to return to normalcy and to establish [a] security situation on the ground through the observation of their mutual commitments in the spirit of the Sharm el-Sheikh memorandum.

"The negotiation teams discussed four main themes: refugees, security, borders and Jerusalem, with a goal to reach a permanent agreement that will bring an end to the conflict between them and provide peace to both people.

"The two sides took into account the ideas suggested by President Clinton together with their respective qualifications and reservations.

"On all these issues there was substantial progress in the understanding of the other side's positions and in some of them the two sides grew closer.

"As stated above, the political timetable prevented reaching an agreement on all the issues.

"However, in light of the significant progress in narrowing the differences between the sides, the two sides are convinced that in a short period of time and given an intensive effort and the acknowledgment of the essential and urgent nature of reaching an agreement, it will be possible to bridge the differences remaining and attain a permanent settlement of peace between them.

"In this respect, the two sides are confident that they can begin and move forward in this process at the earliest practical opportunity.

"The Taba talks conclude an extensive phase in the Israeli-Palestinian permanent status negotiations with a sense of having succeeded in rebuilding trust between the sides and with the notion that they were never closer in reaching an agreement between them than today.

"We leave Taba in a spirit of hope and mutual achievement, acknowledging that the foundations have been laid both in reestablishing mutual confidence and in having progressed in a substantive engagement on all core issues.

"The two sides express their gratitude to President Hosni Mubarak for hosting and facilitating these talks.

"They also express their thanks to the European Union for its role in supporting the talks."

Source: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs,