MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
To make sure it is clear to everyone before I start, I think the Geneva accords are worthy of our support because any effort that keeps peace on the public agenda is important.
Nothing is perfect however. Yossi Beilin has written an article entitled "The Eighth Day of Taba" that illustrates, unknowingly some of the things that are wrong with the Geneva Accord, and also with Yossi Beilin.
The Taba discussions lasted seven days. The eighth day lasted three years. It ended in Jordan on October 12 of this year, with the signing of a letter to Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, to which was attached the agreed version of the draft agreement.
The Taba discussions were conducted by the democratically elected government of Israel. The agreements Beilin reached, laudable as they might be, cannot be a continuation of the Taba discussions, because Beilin is not in the government. Moreover, the Israeli government announced several times that the Taba offer was not establishing principles. If it was not accepted then, it was not a basis for further negotiation. There is a good reason for that. Some other things happened during those three years besides Beilin's negotiations with the Palestinians.
In fact however, the Palestinians did not accept the plan then. If they had accepted it, they would have a state now. The Israelis accepted it only as the basis for a settlement to be made at that time. It is not a minor point. In a sense, the elections that were held were a referendum on Taba, and as much as I dislike saying so, we lost the referendum. The people spoke in Israel and the people said "no." You cannot ignore three years of war and violence and the lessons that both sides have learned from them.
Excellent points. But the method of achieving the agreement is undemocratic, and the agreement itself is undemocratic and from what we can see of it, it is far from perfect. Suppose that I want peace, but I don't agree with Beilin's particular plan? What then? Too bad. Nobody asked me at all.
The Swiss government in effect hired Dr. Beilin to make peace for us, but I don't remember voting for anyone in Switzerland. Dr Beilin gave a copy of his agreement to the Swiss Foregin minister, but not to any Israeli citizens. However, Dr. Beilin wants US to support the agreement.
I am an Israeli citizen, not Swiss. I don't want Dr. Beilin to tell me what is good for me. We tried it his way in 1993, and the results are visible to all: Over 2,000 Palestinian dead, 800 Israeli dead, and still counting. I want someone to listen to the people, and to make an agreement that the people can accept. I would not want the elected government of Israel to negotiate an agreement without listening to the people, and I certainly don't want some politicians who are not elected officials to "educate" me about what I should think. For sure, I don't want the Swiss government to decide anything for me.
Even worse, in fact there is no broad campaign of information. The agreement was not released by the negotiators officially, but leaked. You can read what there is of it at http://www.mideastweb.org/geneva1.htm
Some specific points:
Right of Return - The abandonment of Right of Return of refugees by the Palestinians would certainly remove a serious obstacle to peace. However, the wording of the agreement, as usual with such agreements, is unclear. It is so unclear that as soon as the agreement was announced. Hisham Abd-El Razeq said that the Palestinians didn't give up Right of Return. The references in the document to various UN resolutions that have been used in the past to support "Right of Return" are not helpful at all. This is the most crucial point. This time it cannot be like Oslo. This time we have to get it right in all aspects and everyone must understand exactly the same thing. The Oslo accords proved the folly of smearing over disagreement with obfuscation in order to obtain the semblance of agreement where
Water - This is a crucial issue that is not resolved at all if we believe the text that was
Land - The agreement is bad for everyone with respect to land, though it is less unmanageable than the Clinton agreement. Instead of making the border shorter, the argeement makes it longer and more difficult to patrol. A swath of Israeli land will now extend into Palestinian territory
As in the Taba agreements, Palestinians are giving up good land in the West Bank, and getting some arid land in the Negev next to Gaza. If I were a Palestinian I wouldn't agree, but if it is good enough for the Swiss Foreign Minister and Mr abed-Rabbo, it is not my problem.
Access to the Temple Mount will not be guaranteed. It will be at the discretion of the Waqf, which in practical terms may mean that it is off limits. I can see where some religious people might object to that, but Beilin wants to decide for them. A great point is made about the Mt Olives cemetery being open for Jews. That is very good. I can visit my great grandparents there. But as they have been deceased for a while, they don't make much conversation. No mention is made of the Hebrew University on Mt Scopus. and the approaches to it. The Hebrew University, unlike the cemetery, was a historic landmark of Zionist achievement, but Dr. Beilin didn't ask anyone if we care about it and didn't bother to mention it at all in his agreement.
People - The people who are to be affected by these changes are not asked their opinions at all.
(b) The Parties shall take joint and, in their respective territories, unilateral comprehensive and continuous efforts against all aspects of violence and terrorism. These efforts shall include the prevention and preemption of such acts, and the prosecution of their perpetrators.
(c) To that end, the Parties shall maintain ongoing consultation, cooperation, and exchange of information between their respective security forces.
(d) A Trilateral Security Committee composed of the two Parties and the United States shall be formed to ensure the implementation of this Article. The Trilateral Security Committee shall develop comprehensive policies and guidelines to fight terrorism and violence.
Is it enough? I don't think so."Racism" and "incitement" are in the eye of the beholder. What we learned over the years is that the Palestinian Authority and PLO have a very different idea of "incitement" then Israelis do. Naming a square after Yihyeh Ayash is not considered incitement by the PLO for example.
Yes, the Geneva Accord is a positive step as an educational tool to get people to think about peace and about the real sacrifices that both sides will need to take. No, it can't be the eighth day of Taba because Taba was negotiated by a government. Dr. Beilin is not an elected government and doesn't have a license to go about giving away chunks of Israel. From what we can tell about this agremeent, it is not a good agreement either, because the same people who negotiated the other bad agreements that neither side liked, also negotiated this one, and they didn't ask anyone for their opinion.
However, we Israelis and Palestinians cannot even know for sure if it is a good agreement, because
Whose idea of democracy is this anyway? Not mine.
by Yossi Beilin
On a winter day in February 2001, a few days after Ehud Barak's defeat in the special elections for prime minister, I met with Yasser Abed Rabbo, Palestinian minister for culture and information, in the al Quds editorial offices in Jerusalem's Atarot industrial park. This was a continuation of a corridor discussion between us during the Taba negotiations of January that year.
Abed Rabbo was convinced that the primary mistake at the Camp David summit, where he also participated, was to raise the Jerusalem question at the beginning of the negotiations, rather than at the end. As for Taba, he felt that if only we had had a few more weeks, we could have completed the framework agreement for peace.
We agreed to try and continue the effort that began at Taba--this time informally, without obligating anyone but ourselves. We wanted to prove to ourselves that a final agreement was feasible, to prove to the peace camps on both sides that there is a partner and a plan. Against a backdrop of despair, lack of faith and growing violence, we believed that a model permanent agreement could revitalize the Israeli peace camp (which had not even bothered to participate in the elections a few days earlier) as well as the somnolent Palestinian peace camp.
We did not think it would take so long. Technical difficulties, primarily prohibitions on Palestinians entering Israel and Israelis entering areas A, and political circumstances--Palestinian governmental crises and Israeli elections--delayed completion of the project. Important coalitions were built on both sides: economists, intellectuals and Fatah activists on the Palestinian side, and former security officials, party representatives from the center and left, intellectuals and industrialists on the Israeli side.
The Taba discussions lasted seven days. The eighth day lasted three years. It ended in Jordan on October 12 of this year, with the signing of a letter to Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, to which was attached the agreed version of the draft agreement.
The foundation of our talks was the Clinton Plan, which was accepted by both sides, with reservations, in December 2000. Our basic assumption was that "god is in the details," and that mere agreements in principle are not persuasive with regard to the capacity to get to the root of solutions. The primary package deal or trade-off was an Israeli concession regarding Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount/Harem al Sharif, coupled with a perpetual international presence there, in return for leaving the determination regarding acceptance of Palestinian refugees to a sovereign Israeli decision.
We did not dwell on "narratives", mutual recriminations and assigning responsibility for the past. We did not ask one another to forsake dreams. We sufficed with solutions. All the question marks, all the historical quarrels, all the United Nations decisions that we wasted long years interpreting in our different ways--all these are answered, resolved, and realized in the agreement we reached. It is not an easy agreement for either side, but never has a better one been achieved. It is offered to the decision makers on both sides; they can, if they so desire, integrate it as phase III of the roadmap, i.e., as the final status agreement that is to be achieved by 2005.
If there is broad support among both publics for the agreement we reached, their respective leaderships will not be able to ignore what we have done. Hence we are initiating a broad information campaign: an agreement is possible; the ongoing situation of terrorism and retribution exacts a heavy and unnecessary price from both sides and is pointless; Israeli-Palestinian peace will bring with it economic salvation for both peoples; it will ensure that Israel remains a Jewish and democratic state that does not rule over another people, and will enable the Palestinians to exercise their right to self determination.
A continuation of Israel's present policy, whereby dialogue is forbidden until terrorism ends, awards a prize to terrorists who have no interest in peace. Three years after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised security and peace--and gave us less peace and less security--the time has come to try a different way: the Geneva Accord offers the only practical alternative.-
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Replies: 1 Comment
Shalom to all,
Ami, many of your contentions and problems with the "agreement" are addressed in my report.
I attended the first public forum of signatories to the Geneva Accord that took place at the Tzavta Hall in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, October 22, 2003. The date for the â€śofficialâ€ť presentation of the agreement is still uncertain, but is targeted as November 12, 2003.
After seeing news blurbs about the initiative and recognizing names of the participants in the meetings, I realized that this might be the real hope and alternative that weâ€™ve been waiting for. The evening was announced as a panel discussion with two members of Knesset and a professor, a member of PEACE NOW! being chaired by Prof. Galia Golan. The announcement stated that following the discussion there would be a Q&A session, â€śSo bring all your difficult questions.â€ť
After deciding that I would participate, I did my homework and downloaded the two documents, the Cover Letter and the Permanent Status Agreement, from the PEACE NOW! site:
NOTE! To read my personal comments and about my participation in the initiative (regarding the wording and format of the agreement), please go to the end of this report.
1.) MK Yuli Tamir (Labor-Meimad)
Yuli opened the discussion, clarifying that there is no officially binding agreement proposed here, reiterating that no official (elected) representatives of either party to the talks was in an official capacity that would make this agreement internationally binding. The agreement is between Â±15 Israelis and Â±15 Palestinians (among them, generals, politicians, academics and other public figures on both sides) who negotiated a commonly accepted document that is intended for use by the respective governing bodies as a new path for thought. It paves the way for a permanent status that is concrete and tested for acceptance between the parties. It might be adopted by either government or be the catalyst for either new elections or a plebiscite.
To quote the Cover Letter, â€ś...we consider it to be of the utmost importance to present to the two peoples and the entire world an example of what such a final status agreement could include.â€ť
She stressed that:
Previous accords or attempts to reach agreements were either never officially published for all to read, or were short-term accords that didnâ€™t address problems that can no longer be avoided as they hold the keys to the success of coexistence.
2.) MK Chaim (Jumas) Oron (MERETZ)
Jumas addressed the main points of the agreement, going into only the necessary depth to prove certain points. He told of why he believes that all the participants were sincere in their desire to make this a viable and relevant effort. He wanted to accentuate two main points that prove:
He told of the ironic situation that puts those of us who where among the leading supporters of the Peace Movement (members of the kibbutz movements) as those within Israel who will pay the price for the reciprocal modifications to the June 4, 1967 borders on a 1:1 basis. Thatâ€™s right, the Gaza Strip will be widened by 1 KM at the expense of those kibbutzim on its border and even some land of Kibbutz Lahav (Jumasâ€™ home) on the West Bank border of the Northern Negev.
3.) Ariyeh Arnon (PEACE NOW! rep.)
Ariyeh also addressed many of the points of the agreement. Vis-Ă -vis the Right of Return, he mentioned that the issue will reach a pragmatic end in that the word â€śRightâ€ť will not be included. It will be neither a full return, nor no return (sorry about those double negatives). The exact numbers of returnees will only become known after the Host Countries of the refugees will adopt their own decisions as to how many of the refugees will be accepted there as new citizens. This will be necessary because there will be those that wonâ€™t want to return or move to Palestine, and those that will not be allowed entry by Israel. So, the exact numbers of how many will return to Israel are still unknown and depend on the numbers accepted by all the Host Countries, minus the total number of refugees. Whoever will return will not have claim to their property that was theirs before 1948. They will be given compensation and will find alternative property and/or homes.
Ariyeh also pointed out that this will be an agreement between the Jews of Israel and the Arabs from everywhere but Israel. In other words, without belittling the importance of the other Jews of the world, Israel will not require the approval of the Jews of the Diaspora. Nor will this agreement address the direct needs of the Arabs of Israel. Attention to their problems and the stature of Israel as a democratic state will still need urgent attention, but will not be rectified in the framework of this agreement.
4.) Yael Dayan (MERETZ candidate for Mayor of T. A.)
Yael did not take part in the process. She appeared at Tzavta with her 83 (?) year old mother, Ruth, who both fervently support the initiative. She gave a pep talk that spelled out the struggle ahead, if this initiative is to bring fruit.
My personal note:
I'm sorry that the initiative got the wrong press the day following the leak to the public. The main headlines in the papers here were, "37% In Favor; 63% Opposed," indicating polls that were taken that first day. On the morning TV shows, they held up the papers and stated, "Only 37% in favor..." WHAT? I think that 37% support for an initiative that has yet to be officially announced and detailed is phenomenal! Wait till this really gets going and remember those figures!
My comments for Ami:
Ami, I'm really sorry that you didn't come to the Q&A meeting that took place in Tzavta. Once the meeting started, I felt as if I was participating in a historic event; something similar to my recollection (from photos & newsreels) of the group that met in Tel Aviv to declare independence for the State of Israel. It was invigorating, and only became more impressive as the evening went on. Yet no one was blinded with the hope we were all ingesting. We had serious questions and got direct and serious answers.
It was the 1st public forum since the Geneva Initiative became public, 10 days earlier. Please note my specific choice of words here. So far, only the initiative was "officially" announced, not a signed agreement. The tentative target date for the official publication of the documents is November 12th. As you read above, they are not yet final. As for the maps, the reason that they weren't available was that while we were meeting in T. A., two negotiators were meeting in Geneva to measure each dunam to make the 1:1 land exchange accurate. As far as I could see, every effort was made by these initiators to leave no stone unturned and no cracks in the pavement. The three articles that appear empty in the Final Status Agreement draft (Water, Economic Relations and Legal Cooperation) were left that way on purpose. It's not that each side didn't have their suggestion for compromise or that agreement wasn't reached on those issues.
Although Yossi Beilin does not need my defenses, I am stepping up to pinch hit for him because I'm a fervent supporter of the initiative, as I hope you will be after I make these clarifications. Although I did not participate in the talks, or take part in composing the eloquently and legally worded documents, I have just completed the official edit to the English version. The English is the authoritative version of the three languages. I was given the honor to make my corrections and format the version that is still downloadable at the PEACE NOW! website. My edited version has yet to be accepted, yet I hope it will be before the official "ceremony." So, I present myself as a person who not only heard the explanations of some of the participants in the initiative, but also as one who has weighed every single word, comma and number in the documents.
I'm sorry to say that most of your points of criticism are lacking in basis, some stemming from a misunderstanding of Beilin's words. I'll try to address them one at a time.
When he contends that these discussions were a continuation of those in Taba, he was not implying that he or any of the other participants were elected, as they were when they participated in the Taba discussions. Nor was he implying that these discussions simply continued where those left off. Rather, he is looking at the various discussions that have taken place since (and including) those in Madrid, a long time ago. He's not playing government. The fact that this is not an agreement between governments was reiterated a few times in the course of the evening in Tel Aviv.
What was not accepted at the time of Taba was a set of proposals between governments. That's not the direction of this initiative, whatsoever. This is a concerted effort to bypass the two official parties who have continuously succeeded in missing the boat for a myriad of reasons (some that could even be considered justified, depending by whom). The idea here is to publish three documents (Cover Letter, Preamble and Permanent Status Agreement) that form an overall philosophy with concrete articles that, if adopted by the official parties, would end the conflict; officially and totally.
"Some other things happened during those three years besides Beilin's negotiations with the Palestinians." "You cannot ignore three years of war and violence and the lessons that both sides have learned from them." Ami, no one is ignoring anything that happened in the last three years. Au contraire; those "things" are the impetus and fuel for the urgency of such in-depth and comprehensive points of agreement.
Vis-Ă -vis the Clinton Plan, or any of the others that came before this one, they were all interim agreements (at best) or stages in an elongated plan that were to lead to a permanent status. They all carefully dodged dealing with the toughest issues, believing that slow and short-term progress would pave the way for the long-term end-of-game. We were told that Yossi realized, as Oslo began to unravel, that he had to work toward a final status as quickly as possible.
"...we lost the referendum. The people spoke in Israel and the people said 'no.'" This is a major difference between what's happening here, and what happened at Camp David. Did the Israeli people or any people for that matter (other than the select few persons who participated in those discussions) read the proposals that were made there? We've all heard who blames who for the "failure," but Israelis know how to show their dissatisfaction for having "offered it all and gotten violence in return." They elected the panacea-offering strongman leading the traditional alternative to the bleeding heart liberal "Ma'arach." THAT was the vote. I don't think that most Israelis remember what was on the table at Taba. They just remembered a last-ditch effort to prevent war and save the Democratic White House and Labor Knesset. It appeared pathetic after it was over, however righteous the goal was.
"But the method of achieving the agreement is undemocratic, and the agreement itself is undemocratic..." Again, this initiative does not purport to being an agreement between elected officials or government departmental bureaucrats. The idea, as Yossi stated in his article, is to initiate "a broad information campaign." Once officially presented to the public, donations will pay for putting a printed copy of the initiative in every household of the two parties. Then, no one can say, "Oh...I didn't know that THEY would agree to such a thing." Or, "Yeah, but I bet they gave it all away."
"Suppose that I want peace, but I don't agree with Beilin's particular plan? What then? Too bad. Nobody asked me at all." In all fairness, no one had to ask your permission to meet with Palestinians (Tanzine representatives among them) so as to iron out all the major stumbling blocks that have divided us for so many deaths (years). "Too bad?" Why the facetious stabs? Assuming that all God's chillin want peace, not all will agree with this initiative or any other. That's obvious. But most Americans in the early 1960s didn't agree to oppose the War in Vietnam until there was so much popular opposition to it, that no one could ignore it. It then became obvious and even fashionable to oppose what was unjust to begin with. Not too long ago, very few Israelis even considered the Palestinians an actual entity. Yet so far, two Likud PMs have shaken the hand of THE Palestinian leader. The Geneva Initiative was "only" STARTED by Beilin and Abed-Rabbo. It was developed by generals, professors and members of parliaments; Â±15 from each party). It will become, hopefully, a grass-roots initiative that will lead to plebiscites for both parties and force the approval of most of the points in the Permanent Status Agreement upon our "leaders" (who will then follow...and take credit, of course).
"Dr Beilin gave a copy of his agreement to the Swiss Foregin minister, but not to any Israeli citizens. However, Dr. Beilin wants US to support the agreement." Well of course he wants you to support the agreement! I would want you to support me in whatever I do, that's natural. The agreement documents, as I previously stated, will be officially presented on the Â±12th of November--to ALL Israeli citizens (unlike Camp David).
"We tried it his way in 1993, and the results are visible to all..." Ami, these are the words of most swaying centralists who would try the Likud one election, and Labor the other. I'm sure that you realize that you are playing with "IF." What would have happened "IF" we didn't try it his way in 1993? Would there have been only "2,000 Palestinian dead, 800 Israeli dead," or might there have been a larger war with most of our neighbors, not only the Palestinians? How many Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians and others might have died in a Pandora's Box of warfare? Who is to say how Saddam Hussein might have participatedâ€”or Kaddafi, or...? It's easy to judge the mistakes of the past and point fingers. But the transformations we have all undergone since the War in Lebanon have not only brought us closer to a final, implementable peace with our Palestinian neighbors, but granted us a Peace Treaty with Jordan. In the wake of the Peace Treaty with Egypt, progress with the Jordanians might have been overlooked. But it's no small matter or something to ignore.
"... as soon as the agreement was announced, Hisham Abd-El Razeq said that the Palestinians didn't give up Right of Return." Yes, so? Did you hear any of the statements of prominent Israelis who oppose the initiative as soon as the initiative was announced? The Palestinians who oppose resolution of our differences in peaceful means can point at our opposers and say, "You see? The Israelis backed down as soon as..." So what? The initiative is only starting. It will take many more discussions, like this one, before (& if) this initiative will have effect.
"Gush Etzion will be part of Israel, but apparently not Efrat. If we can believe the maps, Neve Ya'akov will not be part of Israel." I suggest that we all be patient and wait for the official release of all the documents and maps before we judge. Furthermore, as a supporter of a peaceful resolution, I suggest that you find the forum to ask the tough questions to the participants of the meetings in Jordan. Don't simply shoot down specific points or twists of the border. The maps were carefully drawn so that they would be acceptable to all. Don't forget, we're talking about an END to hostilities--a FINAL STATUS! Do the twists in the border between Washington state and British Columbia worry either army? Not now, they don't. Hopefully, after reconciliation with our neighbors, our twists will also be irrelevant. Of course, there will still be the "maj-nu-nim" on both sides that will try to cause trouble and terrorize the region. But we didn't say that we are dissolving Tzahal or becoming instantly naive. I'm sure that there will be incidents and deaths. But the general atmosphere, should this initiative be accepted by both peoples, will slowly but surely change and force terror into a tiny corner of the Middle East.
"...Palestinians are giving up good land in the West Bank, and getting some arid land in the Negev next to Gaza." Hey, ask the religious right in Israel what they are giving up and what they are getting. Ask those who are leaving their homes that were built by Peres, Rabin and Shamir in the territories if they feel they're getting a break here! That's why it's called compromise--nobody wins, but nobody looses. At the same time, everybody wins and everybody looses. I hope we will look back in 20 years and feel sorry about all the wasted years and lives that could have earlier been saved.
"Arabs living in Jerusalem who are annexed to Palestine must stay. If they want to leave they get no compensation. This includes Israeli citizens." Wait a second, are you in favor of occupation, or not? Arab East Jerusalem isn't OURS to keep. This was Jordanian territory. Ramat Eshcol & French Hill will become Israeli. This is one of the main ways to keep Israel both Jewish and democratic. We cannot have our cake and eat it too. We have to draw lines and make decisions. Would it be preferable to continue the mistakes of '48 and '67? Shall we try to be fair to Arabs in East Jerusalem and loose both historic opportunities; a chance to make a Permanent Status Agreement and keep Israel demographically democratic? I don't think so. Sure, that's a difficult choice.
"Naming a square after Yihyeh Ayash is not considered incitement by the PLO for example." We have squares and streets named after Jewish "terrorists" from the War of Independence. Is that not considered incitement by the Israelis? To the Palestinians, I believe that it would be equally insulting. SO WHAT? We must look forward on how to reconcile. Perhaps, in a new atmosphere of cooperation, that square in Palestine could be renamed to less offend the new partners in the future.
Ami, I hope that I have not offended you in any way in the course of my response. I hope we will meet at some get-together to help this initiative move forward.
Posted by Moshe Chertoff @ 10/30/2003 05:40 PM CST
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