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Israeli-Palestinian Peace: Sharon's speech and Abbas's answer define the gap


The annual Herzliya conference on Israeli security has become an important event for Israel foreign affairs watchers, not least because PM Ariel Sharon has chosen this forum to make major policy announcements.

Two years ago, Sharon announced Israel's adherence to the roadmap, last year he presented the disengagement plan. This year he presented his vision for peace in 2005, along with an invitation to Palestinians to negotiate with Israel over the disengagement in Gaza. For the Palestinians and for Israeli doves, the speech included several pieces of good news:

  • A pledge to allow elections to be held without Israeli interference

  • An offer to negotiate the Gaza withdrawal and turn unilateral disengagement into a part of a negotiated peace process

  • Recognition of Palestinian rights to a state, once opposed by the Likud and by Sharon

  • A public declaration that the occupation is wrong. It is bad for Israel and bad for the Palestinians

The most important point was that Sharon views the disengagement as the starting point for reviving the peace process, rather than a unilateral act designed to isolate Palestinians. This stands in direct contradiction to earlier remarks by Sharon's advisor, Dov Weisglass, which seemed to have realized the worst fears of Palestinians. Weisglass had said:

"The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process..."

"And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress."

"The disengagement is actually formaldehyde... It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."

However, in a total reversal, Sharon now said:

"...Israel will be prepared to coordinate various elements relating to our Disengagement Plan with the future Palestinian government..."

"If this happens, we will have a genuine chance to reach an agreement, and in the future, perhaps also genuine peace...."

" For their part, the Palestinians can then also live in dignity and freedom in an independent state..."

Listening to the speech, I got the impression that it could have been delivered by Yitshak Rabin or Shimon Peres perhaps, but not by a real Likud politician. There was mention of development, investment in infrastructure and education, reminiscent of Itshak Rabin's emphasis on changing national priorities. There was no mention of Greater Israel or the "national camp," nor even any statement that any part of the West Bank is a "part of Israel for ever and ever." An Israeli television commentator said that it was a "Mapai" (Israel Labor Party) speech, and so it was.

The bad news for Palestinians was that Sharon rejects Palestinian right of return, and does not want to return "the large settlement blocks" or Jerusalem. These points are an expression of wide national consensus in Israel, and, except for Jerusalem, are not incompatible with the Geneva Accord. Sharon did not even say these issues are "red lines." He only said they are important areas where Israel should concentrate its efforts, in contrast with the Gaza settlements that are not important:

It is uniting us in distinguishing between goals which deserve to be fought for, since they are truly in our souls - such as Jerusalem, the large settlement blocs, the security zones and maintaining Israel's character as a Jewish state - rather than goals where it is clear to all of us will not be realized, and that most of the public is not ready, justifiably, to sacrifice so much for.

This was a speech addressed primarily to Israelis. The context was set by the opening remarks about coalition negotiations. That is why the speech had to include bad news for Palestinians, as well as good news. Sharon was presenting the platform of what he hoped would be the new Israel unity government, and in fact, the very next day, agreement on a Labor-Likud coalition was announced.

The reaction of the Palestinians was predictable but disappointing. Sharon made a speech about building infrastructure, attracting investors, creating a Palestinian state and living in peace with Israel's neighbors. The Hamas called it a declaration of war and promised more terror attacks. According to Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zohri, Sharon's speech was "a declaration of war against the Palestinian people and the rights of the Palestinian people." He promised, "our answer will be that we will move ahead in our resistance against the occupation."

Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate leader who is inspiring so much optimism for the future of peace, seems to have entirely ignored the invitation to negotiate about the disengagement, which was not tied to acceptance of any of Sharon's conditions, and stated instead, "The terms mentioned by Sharon were not new. They prejudge the final-status negotiations and are unacceptable." Abbas of course, has been doing quite a bit of prejudging of his own, announcing repeatedly that he will not give up Palestinian Right of Return or Jerusalem. Abbas is running his own political campaign, and his statements may reflect local political exigencies, just as Sharon does. While Israeli leaders are required to show flexibility on the Palestinian question in order to win political support, Palestinian leaders win support in proportion to their stubbornness in opposition to Israel. Abbas did take an important step for peace, when he stated that in his opinion the armed violence of the Palestinians was a mistake, and that Palestinians must pursue their goals by peaceful means. This stance was promptly rejected by extremist groups and probably cost him considerable support.

The speeches and statements that Israeli politicians ostensibly direct at Palestinian leaders and vv are often meant more for two other audiences - the home audience and the American and EU mediators. In fact, much of the "peace process" has unfortunately been a show put on by the locals for the benefit of the mediators, who are expected to support one side or the other and to finance it. Donor nations responded to Abu Mazen's call for non-violence with the promise of massive aid if in fact the Palestinians succeed in controlling terrorism. Similarly, Sharon's speech gave Israel a positive moderate image useful for negotiations with Europeans and Americans. However, speeches and statements will not change reality. Israel continues to build up settlement communities and infrastructure, even in Gaza, and the PNA shows no willingness to rein in the terror groups. Abbas wants to organize a "voluntary cease fire" of Palestinian groups, but the extremists are not volunteering. The Palestinians continue to lob mortars and rockets at Israel, as well as attempting suicide attacks, and Israel is still killing Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere. That is the reality behind the speeches and the optimism.

Sharon's speech and Abbas's response were not the rhetoric of extremism that has been characteristic of the last four years of the conflict. They reflect the consensus of moderate opinion in Israel and Palestine respectively, but that is not a cause for hope, but rather a cause for despair. They illustrate the seemingly insurmountable gap between diametrically opposed positions that will make permanent peace very difficult, even with the best of intentions. The Palestinians won't agree to peace without return of the refugees, which would destroy the Jewish state, and the Israelis won't agree to return of the refugees. A majority of Israelis are probably opposed to giving up Ma'aleh Edumim and other large settlements, while Abbas announces that he refuses to budge on that issue. Both sides claim Jerusalem.

Perhaps after the Palestinians and Israelis are done forming governments, it will possible to begin the real work of forging peace. However, the stands of each side are not merely campaign promises. They reflect national consensus as well as strategic goals, and the gap between them is going to make peace-making difficult.

Ami Isseroff

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Address at the Herzliya Conference
December 16, 2004

Good Evening,

I heard the things you have asked of me here. Perhaps I will be able to do these things, but first I will have to overcome the "battle over portfolios" and the "struggle over promotions". It is true that there are very serious things to do in all spheres. During my long career I was able to achieve a few things, but I admit that I have not yet learned to handle the mania over a certain portfolio or a quarter of a portfolio and the frenzy over promotions, but I hope that I will be able to tackle this as well.

Last year, I presented the guidelines of the Disengagement Plan here. Before that, I enumerated the starting points, the national goals we must strive for. The achievement of these goals are always in mind, in every action we take. The Disengagement Plan is intended, inter alia, to achieve these goals.

I outlined the way I view the future State of Israel, a Jewish and democratic state with a solid Jewish majority, in which there is equality of rights and duties among all its citizens. A state which is the beating heart of the Jewish people, and which is a magnet for the Jews of the Diaspora. A state which, in the next 15 years, will absorb over a million immigrants, and where the majority of the world's Jews will live. It will be a State of Israel which lives in peace with its neighbors, and provides
personal security to its residents. It will have an education system which will train our future generation to deal with the technological challenges of tomorrow, and will expose that generation to the eternal treasures of Israel's legacy. It will be a state which has infrastructures compatible
with the 21st century: a system of trains and roads which connect the entire country; a system of desalination and water purification; and electricity produced from natural gas. All these things will improve the quality of our life and will also contribute to maintaining the environment in which we
live. A prosperous Israeli economy, which is integrated into the global economy, and is growing at a rate of 4% to 5% per annum, reaching a production level equal to that of the most developed countries. A society which offers everybody the possibility of a dignified life and financial well-being, which no longer has physical distinction or economic gaps between the center and the periphery.

In the past year, since I set these goals, the State has taken a large step in the right direction, a huge step towards realizing this vision and hope.

Everyone knows that during the past four years, we have been forced to deal with two severe crises simultaneously: the war of terror and the economic recession. We dealt with international isolation and the increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments around the world, along with the feeling among many in Israel that there is no hope. We first had to restore our faith in ourselves and our abilities, find immediate solutions, prevent security or economic collapse, and we did so.

Due to the brave and uncompromising actions of IDF soldiers and members of the security forces, we have succeeded in curbing the terrorist organizations, by carrying out a series of actions beginning with Operation Defensive Shield, and including the determined actions against specific targets, while at the same time implementing difficult stabilizing actions for the economy, including heavy cutbacks on Government activities, thereby preventing financial collapse.

The reforms which we implemented, and will continue to implement, placed the Israeli economy in a position of renewed growth. We can now increase our efforts even more to attract new investors, privatize government companies and be better able to integrate into the global economy. In order to
implement these essential economic reforms, we must expand the national consensus in all fields of activity. I am a great believer in acting within the consensus, and over the last few weeks, in the agreement between theGovernment and the Histadrut, we proved that it is certainly possible to implement consensus.

As long as economic growth and stability continue to thrive, alongside an improvement in the security situation, we can invest many more resources in mending social injustices and assisting weaker sectors. We are one nation and one society, and the values of social solidarity which have always
typified the nation of Israel will continue to guide our actions.

Today, we are investing much more in education, in an effort to rehabilitate the system and place at its center an excellent and high-quality teaching force. This year, we budgeted NIS 1.7 billion to implement the Dovrat Report, and will begin doing so soon. This week, we announced the reversal
of the trend, and an increase in Israeli students' accomplishments. However, we must not be satisfied with a good placing in the middle. The State of Israel cannot accept mediocrity, but must also aspire to being first place in education, in accomplishments and in excellence. This is the key to the future of the State of Israel. Therefore, the implementation of the Dovrat Report has been, and will continue to be, the central aspect of my agenda and that of my Government.

I have participated in the Herzliya Conference for five years now, and try to keep track of the important things which are said every year by the various speakers. I would like to say to you that, in contrast to previous years, this year I felt great optimism from most of the speeches. This feeling did not arise from nothing, and is also a result of the things we implemented, in all spheres.

During 2005, we face an historic opportunity to change, from the ground up, the strategic situation of the State of Israel and take great strides towards the realization of our hopes. A State of Israel which is prosperous, has an economy which is free and open to the world; which has an excellent education system and in which social justice and internal unity prevail; will be a significant force in the new world which is developing as we watch; will be a magnet for tens of thousands of Jews who will come here
and will be a source of pride to all its citizens.

The fact that we succeeded in overcoming the external and internal crises, opens up for the State of Israel, for the first time in many years, important strategic opportunities which we must actualize. 2005 is a year of great opportunity:

- In 2005, we have the opportunity to extricate ourselves from the worst of recession, and begin real and lasting growth which will bring about a reduction in unemployment and close the gaps in Israel.

- In 2005, we have the opportunity to establish a new partnership with the international community in the struggle against terror and regional and global instability. The world, and especially Europe, has learned to understand what we have faced for many years.

- And in 2005, we have the opportunity for an historic breakthrough in the relations between us and the Palestinians, a breakthrough for which we have waited many years.

In order to actualize these opportunities, we must take the initiative. This is the hour, this is the time. This is the national test.

Israel's most important initiative is the Disengagement Plan, leaving Gaza, which we will implement this year, with conviction and without hesitation, according to the schedule already determined. This initiative is the foundation and cornerstone for the great opportunities which lie before us,and is perhaps one of the most important decisions we have made in the last few years.

Disengagement recognizes the demographic reality on the ground specifically, bravely and honestly. Of course it is clear to everyone that we will not be in the Gaza Strip in the final agreement. This recognition, that we will not be in Gaza, and that, even now, we have no reason to be there, does not
divide the people and is not tearing us apart, as the opposing minority claim. Rather, the opposite is true. Disengagement from Gaza is uniting the people. It is uniting us in distinguishing between goals which deserve to be fought for, since they are truly in our souls - such as Jerusalem, the large settlement blocs, the security zones and maintaining Israel's character as a Jewish state - rather than goals where it is clear to all of us will not be realized, and that most of the public is not
ready, justifiably, to sacrifice so much for.

One of the goals of Arab terror was to divide the country and break its spirit. Stopping terror on the one hand, and the Disengagement Plan on the other, a plan which the great majority of the public supports, forges national unity and creates broad national consensus regarding the justness of our struggle for security, tranquility and peace.

The initiative of disengagement has produced a long list of political accomplishments. Because of it, the Palestinians have no excuse not to abandon terror. Because of it, there is no criticism of Israel's
determined actions against terror. Now it is clear to everyone that when Israel declares its willingness to make painful compromises, it indeed intends to make genuine and painful compromises. Very painful.

Israel's international standing has improved immeasurably. The most important accomplishment is the understandings between U.S. President George Bush and myself, which provide a new, more stable basis than ever before for the strategic understandings between Israel and the United States. This week, we heard President Bush repeat his support for these understandings.

The understandings between the U.S. President and me protect Israel's most essential interests: first and foremost, not demanding a return to the '67 borders; allowing Israel to permanently keep large settlement blocs which have high Israeli populations; and the total refusal of allowing Palestinian refugees to return to Israel.

In addition, we agreed, in accordance with the Roadmap - any steps towards realizing the political outlook offered to the Palestinians first obligates them to take genuine action against terror until it is eliminated and stopped, advance real reforms and stop teaching hatred towards Israel which
exists. The United States also recognized Israel's right to act in any way to defend itself against any enemy and against any threat, and promised to prevent any attempt to impose on Israel any other agreement or agenda which is not the Roadmap. The implementation of the Roadmap is also carried
out - and will be carried out - in full agreement.

We have open channels of communication and ongoing dialogue with the Government of Egypt. We look forward to cooperation and effective security coordination prior to, during and subsequent to our expected disengagement from Gaza. Egypt is expected to play an important role, and, with our
cooperation, contribute to stability in Gaza after Israel's relocation. Several days ago, Egypt took an important step towards building trust with us by releasing Azzam Azzam - and I welcome his homecoming and wish to express my gratitude to the President of Egypt for that.

Determined action by the Egyptians to prevent weapons smuggling from Sinai,especially through tunnels on the Philadelphi Route, may ensure a smoother and quieter relocation from Gaza. Stopping the arming of Palestinians in Gaza, together with genuine and extensive Egyptian actions to prevent weapons smuggling, will allow Israel to leave the Philadelphi Route as well, and will reduce Palestinian dependence on Israel.

The most genuine and greatest opportunity for building a new and different relationship with the Palestinians was created following the death of Yasser Arafat, who constituted the primary obstacle to peace. Now there is a real chance that new Palestinian leaders will rise, those who will be elected,
who will truly abandon the path of terror, and instead will advance a strategy of reconciliation and negotiation without violence, terror and hatred.

We hope that the Palestinians will succeed in holding free, democratic and quiet elections. On our part, we will take all the necessary steps to assist them. We will allow free movement and the IDF will be redeployed in order to allow proper elections. We are taking steps for security and administrative coordination with the Palestinian Authority to ensure free elections while maintaining security, law and order, and the prevention of terror.

In light of the new opportunities and potential of a new Palestinian leadership, Israel will be prepared to coordinate various elements relating to our Disengagement Plan with the future Palestinian government - a government which is ready and able to take responsibility for the areas which we leave.

If this happens, we will have a genuine chance to reach an agreement, and in the future, perhaps also genuine peace. We can reach a situation where terror will stop being such a tangible threat to the well-being of the citizens of Israel. For the first time since the establishment of the State, we will be able to live lives of tranquility, develop and build our economy without disturbance or threat and invest more in education, health and welfare.

For their part, the Palestinians can then also live in dignity and freedom in an independent state, and, together with us, enjoy good neighborly relations, while cooperating for the good of both our peoples.

A two-state vision involves great concessions on both sides. We made the historic decision that we were prepared for such a concession. And I emphasize that there will be no concession on anything relating to the security of the citizens of Israel or the State of Israel; on this there will be no concession - not now or in the future. Since the alternative of one nation, where one rules over another, would be a horrible disaster for both peoples. Only so can we grant true hope to our people.

2005 is a year of great opportunity. It can be a year in which terror stops - and the end of a significant threat to Israel and its security, the end of the threat to peace. It can be a year in which we establish the foundation for a long-lasting Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

We will act with all our might to ensure that this year of opportunity will not become a year of missed opportunities. We must remember that there are various forces in the region which are acting to thwart an agreement with the Palestinians and who continue the threats of terror. The threats to
the State of Israel still exist. Iran is publicly calling for the elimination of the State of Israel, and continues in its efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction. Together with Syria, it supports dangerous terror organizations such as Hizbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and act to thwart
the United States' efforts to bring democracy and genuine reforms to the Middle East.

Israel and the moderate Arab states, as well as the entire world, share a common interest to support regional stability, stop terror and defeat the extremism which threatens the entire world. History teaches us that only determination, and non-acceptance of the status quo, will provide a genuine
hindrance to the dangers to regional stability.

On the evening of the vote to approve the Disengagement Plan, I addressed our Arab neighbors from the Knesset podium. Many things have happened since then, and I would like to repeat what I said that day: we stand before a unique window of opportunity. Who knows when we will have this opportunity in the future. We must not miss this opportunity to reach an agreement.

We are forced to defend ourselves against attacks, and we know how to do so successfully. However, when faced with tranquility and a hand extended inpeace, we will know how to react in tranquility and extend an honest and brave hand in return. We desire a life living side-by-side, in understanding and peace. We have no desire to rule over you, we have no desire to run your affairs.

Lately, we made the historic decision that this is our desire. I have paid a heavy personal and political price for my leadership in this decision. You also know this. I hope that in the near future you too will make a historic decision to stop those who support terror, and stop the terror activities, and that, together, we will find a way where both peoples can live here, on this piece of land, in security and peace.

I believe that it is within our grasp.

Thank you.

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Replies: 14 comments

The unilateral disengagement is a brave but VERY dangerous step. It signals to Palestinians Terrorists and other Terrorist Group that violence does produce results. It lessens Israeli negotiating strength as prematurely releasing an important item. It sets a precedent that much more will be given without the Palestinians making major concessions too. They will want all of the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Right of Return. They remain adamant and Israel yields. Giving them the illusion that Israel is weak. It is an untimely and illogical strategic decision. Giving up some settlments that are not populated in the core of Gaza and not easily defensable may have been a more reasonable concession as a symbol if that is deemed necessary at this time. However, without the Settlements in the South of Gaza then this will substantialy reduce Israels ability to monitor it's defense. Why increase the exposure to the accumulation of weapons by Palestinian Terrorists? International Pressure is not a good reason to yeild concessions when the source of that pressure is BIASED!

Posted by Michael Stevens @ 12/19/2004 08:20 PM CST

This is funny it acts like a peace site but in reality it bashes the Palestinians at every chance it could get. What Sharon says amounts to a Barak offer which says the Paslestinians can have a state by name. In reality Israel just wants to give the Palestinians enough to make it look like something happened while not having to give the Palestinians the rights of a normal Israel citizen. Sounds like the Israelis want an apertheid regime and the Palestinians are suppose to recognize it.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 12/20/2004 08:40 PM CST

Unilateralism must strike fear into the hearts of the Palestinian leadership. On one hand it contains all the apparent benefits of Israel complying with 242, but with none of the obligations of 242 for the Arab states being met. In this it appears to be a victory. On the other it signals the failure of the Palestinian leadership to progress from June 1967.
Whilst Butros Dahu may feel that this "peace" site appears to be distinctly anti-Palestinian, he / she fails to recognise the fundamental frustration the successive governments experience at the Palestinians failure to develop effective government.
Unilateralism places an enormous onus upon the Palestinians to rapidly progress from a state of war to a state of peace in relation to their external relations with Israel and their internal relations amongst themselves. This challenge is so great, none of us should underestimate it. It will defacto return the territorial situation back to pre-June 1967. However it will also emphasise to the Palestinians the degree to which they are now isolated from effective Arab support and that Isreal is no longer ostensibly a country just emerging from third world status.
I believe that M. Stevens is in error regarding the defence of Israel. Once Israel is no longer the "occupier", it will be much freer to respond effectively to attacks by the Palestinian forces. Israel will be free to go to the UN and complain that that the Palestinian government is effectively conducting a war. This places the onus upon the Palestinians to rein in their military forces.
In terms of "refugees", Israel can simply slow the whole process down by demanding that refugees presenting themselves as such provide evidence that they are in deed refugees directly displaced by the creation of Israel in 1948. They would also need to demonstrate, in line with int'l law, that they pose no internal threat to Israel.
In respect of the "Palestinian State" in the West Bank & Gaza, Israel would hold absolute power over it as any direct movement between the two could only occur with Israel's agreement, access to export markets etc would also be dependent upon Israel. Thus once Israel extracts itself from the Territories it acquires effectively far more power over the Palestinians than it has now, as it would have no legal obligations to them whatsoever.
Unilateralism would thus bring an fundamental change in the relationship between Israel & Palestine, whereas palestine can at present claim some equality in the negotiations, once withdrawl has occurred they would be reduced to permanent supplicants. No wonder they are so scared of Sharon's proposal.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 12/21/2004 10:49 AM CST

It is strange one blames the Palestinians for failing for making an effective government yet when making their government they receive no help thus like colonial America who created a failed Articles of confederation beefore creating a Constitution. Time will tell if the Palestinians will create an effective with out the International Iraq has received. To change from a state of war to a state of peace is hard when Oslo tried and failed to yeild substantail results. Sharon comments may sound as if they were made with a great heart yet Wiessglass would be heard with eagerness. Peace was promised with Oslo and interim agreements were never met. To believe that things change one Sharon speech is Niaveness that Palestinians should never fall to. When the Palestinians lose favor in the Arab world is it the Arab governments who they lose favor of or the people? If Mubarak of Egypt needed support to keep himself from those who want to keep him from continuing his presidency supporting Israel is a way to get America's favor. If AIPAC was going to stop an arms deal between the US and Jordan wouldn't attacking the Palestinian government gain you favor in American eyes? It could explain why King Abdullah attack the Palestinians verbally just after AIPAC tried to stop an arms deal. One Sharon speech cannot change the perception of actions taken on the ground. As Uzi Arad a former foreign policy adviser pointed out "for the last decade, all Israeli governments have been implementing political disengagement from the Palestinian population of the territories. The cities and towns of the West Bank have long since been evacuated. The number of Palestinians between the river and the sea is no longer relevant to Israel being a Jewish democratic state." (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/17591)
I do not want to trend to path of peace that leads to nowhere. What good is it if the Palestinians make peace now only to have another generation argue that the previous was cheated out of deal? To me that is not peace only a temporary solution. One question will continue to prevail: Does Israel want to be a democracy or ethnic based state? If a democracy are you willing to accept an Arab leader to run Israel if Arab-Israelis begin to outnumber Jewish israelis? If a ethnic based state what happens to Arab-Israelis?

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 12/22/2004 11:19 AM CST

Dear Butros Dahu,
There are many organisations and websites that say they want peace and advocate a two-state solution but in reality want the other side to surrender. There are a lot of Palestinian so called peace groups that say Zionism is racism. If you agree to that, there are other places to go and find your opinion expressed. But please don't think this will lead to peace. Every 'solution' that says "we are right, they did all the wrongs and have to go away or surrender, and we only defend ourselves in our legitimate struggle" will not help a bit to come to peace and reconciliation. This is true for both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups. Mideastweb is one of the few that is looking honestly for peace and unmasks the propaganda on both sides.
The failing of the Oslo peace process is a good example. Easy to blame it on one side. More difficult, but also constructive, to see the failures of both sides. Both didn't meet their obligations, remember that there were several suicide bombings inside Israel in 1995-1996, and that made Netanyahu win the elections against Barak. Baraks' proposal in 2000 was far from perfect, but it was more far reaching than any previous plan, and it could have been a basis to negotiate. If you want to wait till the perfect plan for the Palestinians comes, you can wait till heaven falls on earth. Both sides have to be realistic; no plan is possible that meets fully their demands. Would that be the case, then there would have been peace for a long time now.
You ask if Israel wants to be a democracy or an ethnic based state. I think they want to be both. Giving up their Jewish majority would mean they would become second class citizens under Arab rule in the best case. No Arab state treats its minorities equal, and because of the Palestinian resentment resulting from the occupation I don't think they will treat a Jewish minority nicely. As you advocates Palestinian statehood, why deny statehood to another people? I think both people have a right to self-determination!
Regarding the Arab minority in Israel, they should have equal rights but also equal duties and accept living in a state with a Jewish majority. If they don't like that, they should be able (and get some compensation)to move to the Palestinian state-to-be.

Posted by Ratna Pelle @ 12/23/2004 10:00 AM CST

IMO the fundamental weakness of the Palestinian nation stance is their failure to recognise and explicitly acknowledge that their strategy from the 1920's onward has been a succession of failure. From the accession of Hajj Amin el Husseini to the leadership of the Palestinians the strategy has relied primarily on violent resolution, rather than peaceful negotiation. This approach was applied both externally against the Jews, and internally against any dissention to this strategy. Whilst this strategy may have been appropriate when applied to the Zionists between 1929 to 1992, it was entirely inappropriate in its application to Palestinian dissention. The establishment of this dictatorship precluded the development of a functioning civilian & democratic administration which could facilitate the progression from war to peace. It also debilitated Palestinian wealth creation to the extent that although the Palestinians are the best educated Arabs and the highest per capita recipients of aid in the world, they are impoverished and their economy is almost entirely reliant upon their enemy.
Whilst the Palestinians are only too willing to identify any failure of the part of Israel, they singularly fail to recognise the very things they criticise Israel for are the same things which they are guilty of. If Zionism has an ethnocentric basis, Palestinian nationalism can only be judged as being entirely racist. How many Jews are allowed to live in peace amongst the Palestinians? In 1949 what proportion of the former Jewish population were allowed to remain in the territories controlled by the Palestinians, compared with the number of Palestinians remaining in the territories that composed Israel? Until the Palestinians address these issues they cannot hope that the Israelis will treat them as equals.
Further too frequently when Israel suffers a devastating attack, Palestinians are depicted dancing in the streets and celebrating. When have Israelis danced in the streets, handed out sweets and celebrated when Palestinians suffered a loss? What this is indicative of is an appalling lack of political and social maturity amongst Palestinians, for which no amount of explanation provides justification.
The Palestinians have had to be "dragged" into complying with their most basic obligations that they agreed to in the Oslo agreement. Even the schoolbooks although revised again this year still do not show an acceptance of Israel and its right to exist.
What the Palestinians must seriously consider is what happens after the Israelis pull-out of the West Bank and Gaza. If the Palestinians show no signs of establishing a stable national entity which is capable of existing side by side with Israel in peace, then the outlook is very bleak for the Palestinians. As Tony Blair made clear some months ago, although Israel can be pressured and cajoled into withdrawing, it cannot be compelled to open its borders to the Palestinians and no Western government would even suggest using UN pressure to compel this. The real danger for the Palestinians now is that if the Israelis opt for unilateral disengagement and simply pull back to roughly the 1949 cease-fire line, there is nothing that the UN or others will do to pressure Israel to make accessible its infrastruture or labour markets to the Palestinians. If unilateral withdrawl occurs due to Palestinian incompetance, the Palestinians will have ostensibly written their own national suicide note. Following a unilateral withdrawl there will be a descent into either internal violence as Palestinians prey upon each other or a progression towards a unifying but futile war against Israel. In both cases the world is very unlikely to be very sympathetic.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 12/23/2004 12:26 PM CST

Dear Butros Dadu,

You, and many Palestinians may consider the Geneva Accord to be an "Apartheid" settlement, while many Israelis consider the Geneva Accord to be a "leftist" "defeatist" document. That just illustrates the big gap between what Palestinians and Israelis will consider as fair solutions, which was the subject of the article.

You wrote:
This is funny it acts like a peace site but in reality it bashes the Palestinians at every chance it could get.

I am not aware of any "Bashing" of Palestinians here, though we do "bash" Palestinians, Israelis and Americans when necessary. If you have a different opinion you are welcome to write for Mideastweb too, provided you follow the guidelines.

You wrote:
What Sharon says amounts to a Barak offer which says the Paslestinians can have a state by name. In reality Israel just wants to give the Palestinians enough to make it look like something happened while not having to give the Palestinians the rights of a normal Israel citizen. Sounds like the Israelis want an apertheid regime and the Palestinians are suppose to recognize it.

I couldn't find any of that in the speech, which discussed an independent Palestinian state. If you can find anything about "Apartheid" in the speech, please point it out.

I was discussing the speech, not someone's opinion of it, nor my opinion of what Sharon might do. Two years ago you would most likely have said Sharon would never leave Gaza. There is nothing in Sharon's speech that contradicts the Geneva Accord for example.

There are many opinions about Sharon's speech on either side, but most of them have nothing to do with what he actually said. See here for a discussion.

Ami Isseroff

Posted by Moderator @ 12/23/2004 04:25 PM CST

For those who find it odd that I said what I said. The Geneva Accord is something that I like however to think Sharon accepts this accord I am highly doubtful of.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 12/25/2004 01:25 AM CST

I would desire a one state solution is that is what people desire how can a state be an ethnic based state and a democracy is still beyond me. If Israel wanted to be a Jewish state then why choose to be a democracy? If things were made clearer then perhaps a strategy will be made clearer as well.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 12/25/2004 01:31 AM CST

To Butros Dahu:
You say two contradictory things: you say you support the Geneva Accord, that propagates two states, one Jewish and the other Palestinian. But you also say you advocate a one state solution, and that Jews have no right to self determination.
A Jewish state is no more ethnic based than a Palestinian state. In an ideal world there would be no borders and we all would be world citizens and everybody would be equal and live long and happy. Regarding the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and the big cultural, economic and political differences between both people I think it's not realistic that they can live in peace in one state. A one state solution will probably lead to a bloody civil war because both people want to dominate this country and neither wants to be dominated by the other. Both want self determination, so what is wrong with a solution that grants this to both?
Sharon doesn't support the Geneva Accord, but that is also true for most of the Palestinian leadership. It's no reason to reject the principle of a two state solution.

Posted by Ratna Pelle @ 12/25/2004 07:51 AM CST

I do not say I choose one or a two state solution. Whatever peace is agreed upon by bboth sides I will accept. Also wasn't it Ahed Quera the man who negotiated the Genenva Accords?

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 12/29/2004 12:24 AM CST

By force of arms, the illegal immigrant Jews took land that belonged to the people of Palestine, the Palestinians. Terror worked for the Jews. They declared their own "State" on that usurped land and the USA, its patsy, recognized "Israel", the stolen state. Terror worked for the Israelis. The Israelis have usurped more land, dunam by dunam, and the lion's share of water from the Jordan as the wells of the Palestinians have gone down or dry. American-made bulldozers continue to plow under the agricultural land of the Palestinians. Palestinian farmers who object get shot. Terror is working for the Israelis. The Israeli army invades refugee camps and shoots at buildings and school-children and water tanks. Terror works for the Israelis. Males from adolescence to the 60's are arrested for what? suspicion, trepass, looking like an Arab - Terror works for the Israelis. Apache helicopters shoot missiles into Palestinian homes and during the night Israeli bulldozers, made in Peoria, IL, USA, raze the homes of the Palestinians in refugee camps. Terror works for the Israelis.

How come it's the Palestinians, who have been oppressed since the time of the Romans, and the Ottoman's and the British Mandate, get the blame and the "bad name"? Defamation works for the Israelis. Any lie repeated loud enough and long enough gets accepted as the truth. Now where did Israel and the USA learn that? Oh, I remember - Adolf Hitler.

Posted by Kathryn Manning @ 01/04/2005 02:36 AM CST

To Kathryn Manning:

Dear Kathryn: sind Sie Deutsch?

Posted by Martshin @ 01/07/2005 01:35 AM CST

PD. Dear Kathryn, do you really think that repeating a lie makes it truth? How could Romans "opress" Palestinian Arabs? In the times of Roman empire THERE WAS NO ARABS IN PALESTINE! There were Jews living, suffering the Roman occupation. Then the Jews were expelled from their own land. Please, read some historical books before posting your "revelations".

PD. Have you ever heard of the Palestinian Jews, living there before the Zionism was born? They were minority, that's right, but they lived there. Even if you deny it.

And, finally: you remember Adolf Hitler? Seht Gut, now I remind you something: it was the Germans who killed 6 millions of Jews during the second world war - now they deny the Israel's right to exist..

Posted by Martshin @ 01/07/2005 01:48 AM CST

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