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Geneva: Right idea, difficult premises


The article below by Yossi Alpher illustrates to me how "peace" can mean different things to the different sides.

Under a view of openess, of willing to achieve a true peace, Yossi Alpher sees only the disturbances it can bring to Israelis.

For instance, there is no water clause and it is a key issue, writes he. Still, why is it a key issue ? Because, since 1967 Tel Aviv and other Israeli places do get free Palestinian underground waters. Why should it continue that way ? It seems just evident to him.

In the following paragraph, he says that if settlements are hard to defend, they should not be annexed. Without thinking that if a true peace is achieved, there is no need to defend Ariel. Contrarywise, he doesn’t ask himself why the Palestinians should accept a peace that leaves them at most 60% of the territories occupied since 1967. Why, in addition, they should accept to convince millions of people that the ROR is impossible while it is impossible to any "conceivable Israeli
government" to evacuate 100.000 settlers instead of 60.000.

In addition, he suggests to compensate the Palestinians with « Arab Israeli towns in Triangle and Wadi Ara areas, thereby also addressing Israel's long term demographic needs and confronting the ongoing radicalization of Israeli Arab society. » Does he ask himself if Arab israeli would agree to become citizens of Palestine ? No, he has only in mind the demographic problem of the jewish state.

I could go on but the above is enough to demonstrate that with such peace searchers as Yossi Alpher, war has still fine days in the Middle east.


bitterlemons.org - Palestinian-Israeli crossfire on
"The Geneva Accord"

October 27, 2003 Edition AN ISRAELI VIEW
Right idea, difficult premises
by Yossi Alpher

The Geneva Accord between Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo and their colleagues signals the public
on both sides that peace is possible. It is a courageous act, and a positive major event in the
annals of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. On the Israeli side it might constitute at least a
partial turning point in the sad fortunes of the political left. The Palestinian moderate camp, too,
now has ammunition for persuading the public that peace is possible--if Palestinian leader Yasir
Arafat allows it to happen.
One key difficulty with what we have been shown of the Geneva agreement (note that important annexes
and entire clauses on key issues like water are missing) is not with the idea, but with the
premises, at least from the Israeli standpoint. Beilin and his team make no secret of their strategy
of picking up where the Taba talks of January 2001 left off. As an apparent consequence, the
agreement seems to ignore too many of the lessons that should have been drawn from the tragic events
of the past three years. The results are evident in the clauses of the agreement that deal with
territory, security, refugees and Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state:

* Beilin is right not to annex settlements, even large ones like Ariel, if annexation would render
them hard to defend. But the result is the evacuation of over 100,000 settlers, whereas at Camp
David/Taba the agreed premise was the evacuation of around 60,000. What conceivable Israeli
government will evacuate over 100,000? Better to annex as many settlements as possible, rather than
as few as possible, with sufficient territory to defend them, and at least examine the option of
compensating the Palestinian state (generously, in territorial terms) with Israeli Arab towns in the
Triangle and Wadi Ara areas, thereby also addressing Israel's long term demographic needs and
confronting the ongoing radicalization of Israeli Arab society. The parties never discussed this

* As reflected in the Geneva agreements, Israel's security demands for a short-term military
presence in the Jordan Valley and a virtual or invisible presence at border crossings are no more
exacting than they were three years ago. Yet the past three years have dramatically demonstrated
Palestinian intentions and capabilities for smuggling in and home-producing weaponry for use against
Israel. The upshot should have been a dramatically tougher Israeli position on these security
issues. Instead it is an expanded international presence.

* While Geneva is happily devoid of any mention of the right of return or the origins of the refugee
issue, it still does not reflect the near consensus in Israel that one key lesson of the past three
years is to avoid absorbing any refugees at all or in any way even implying recognition of the right
of return. Palestinians will almost certainly interpret Beilin's acceptance of United Nations
General Assembly Resolution 194 and his readiness to absorb refugees (a process no longer termed
"family reunification", with numbers to be determined at least partially not by Israel but through a
link to the willingness of third countries like Australia to absorb refugees) as acknowledgment of
the right of return--thereby leaving open the door for future attempts to raise the issue and
"Palestinize" Israel. True, this agreement does end Palestinian refugee status and rules out any
further claims. But the Ayalon-Nusseibeh formulation that "Palestinian refugees will return only to
the S!
tate of Palestine" is far preferable from this standpoint. And where in Geneva are the provisions
for Jewish refugees from Arab states that were agreed on at Camp David?

* This brings us to the issue of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state--a key demand that has
been reinforced over the past three years by the perception that the Palestinian leadership's
inability to mouth this phrase is linked to its pursuit of a terrorist agenda and its rejection of
the two state peace option. On the one hand, according to Geneva, "this agreement marks the
recognition of the right of the Jewish people to statehood. . . . " Yet on the other, "The Parties
recognize Palestine and Israel as the homelands of their respective peoples." In other words, even
in this agreement the Palestinians do not quite recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish
people, since Israel's "people" could in Palestinian eyes be Palestinians and the Jews' right to
statehood does not necessarily apply to the territory of Israel. If this sounds like quibbling, it
seems clear that the parties to Geneva quibbled over the wording regarding this and the refugee
issue at considerable!
length, and that the Palestinian side emerged with wording that does not necessarily close its
"Israel file" for the future. Again, compare Nusseibeh-Ayalon: "Israel is the only state of the
Jewish people."

At the conceptual level, Geneva is based on an Israeli assumption that the parties are capable of
delivering and are likely to produce leaders interested in an agreement like this, which is intended
to ensure Israel's long term survival as a Jewish and democratic state. Otherwise, why bother?
Despite my objections, if the agreement were presented to me on a take-it-or-leave-it basis in a
national referendum, I would vote for it--because it is a good agreement, and because nearly any
agreement is better than the future that confronts us: the virtual collapse of the two state
solution and the South Africanization of our conflict. Yet in our reality of disastrous leadership
and prolonged conflict, no such referendum is likely.

So how do we keep off this disastrous slippery slope of geography (settlements) and demography? With
all due respect to the Geneva Accord, we had best also invest our energies in alternative ways, like
unilateral withdrawal.-Published 27/10/2003(c)bitterlemons.org

Yossi Alpher is coeditor of bitterlemons.org and bitterlemons-international.org. He is former
director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University and a former senior
adviser to PM Ehud Barak.

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000096.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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