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Should the US propose an Israeli-Palestinian final settlement?

10/24/2007

How active should the US be in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

At first glance, it looks like Oded Eran is telling us that the US should intervene to impose a solution on the Israelis and Palestinians at Annapolis in order to make real progress in the negotiations.

But evidently Eran is really proposing something else:

Such a result might make it possible to manage the Israeli-Palestinian conflict until January 2009, when the new US president is sworn-in.

The American DoP would apparently just be another bit of paper that would fool nobody. Eran seems to want a repeat of the disastrous "creative ambiguity" of the Oslo Declaration of Principles, which is now remembered fondly by nobody:

Such a declaration could contain general references to an independent, sovereign and demilitarized Palestinian state with its capital in the Greater Jerusalem area or a similar term that does not deal with any aspect of the city itself.

This, or a similarly drafted DoP, grants the Palestinians some new elements such as the mention of Jerusalem in the context of their capital and the mention of 1967 in the context of the borders. It is not in conflict with any of Israel's concerns or with US President George W. Bush's letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of April 2005. The Greater Jerusalem area may be interpreted as extending beyond the current municipal area. In certain sectors like Tulkarm or Qalqilya, the 1967 line has to be the border unless Israel wishes to annex these two Palestinian towns.

In other words, Eran is proposing yet another ambiguous document that says different things to different folks, just like all the documents that were produced before, and that are the root of all the problems detailed so ably by Eran Lehrman. It is a document that will have artificial Jerusalem flavor and simulated refugee solution flavor for the Palestinians, and artificial peace and security flavor for the Israelis, but all these artificial flavors will not be real nourishment, and they will just give everyone terrible belly aches.

Like Eran Lerman, Oded Eran is apparently proposing a procrastination device, that would give positive spin to inevitable failure. It is evident that Palestinians do not trust the Americans, and this will certainly not be helped by an outcome that is all fluff. They will not accept this DoP and it would simply become another marker on the road to disaster.

Ami Isseroff



The US should submit a DoP

by Oded Eran

It is too late to question the wisdom of floating the idea of a Middle East "meeting". The challenge now is to manage or minimize the potential liabilities and damages that may result from either holding the meeting in Annapolis without ensuring in advance even a limited success, or postponing it sine dei.

For different reasons, four central Israeli ministers have strong reservations about the declaration of principles that is supposed to be the Annapolis meeting's product. Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni prefers a general statement that does not deal with the conflict's core issues. Minister of Defense Ehud Barak strongly doubts the wisdom of negotiations with the current Palestinian leadership. Eli Yishai from Shas threatens to pull out of the government if Jerusalem is mentioned in the DoP. So does Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beitenu.

In any event, a DoP that emerges from bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, bridges between Palestinian demands and Israeli positions on Jerusalem, refugees and borders and specifies a date certain for reaching a full agreement on permanent status seems as remote as ever. Faced with the gaps between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the United States should be concerned with the implications of failure to reach an agreed DoP. A failed meeting in Annapolis, like announcing its abandonment, is an unaffordable luxury. It could destabilize Fateh's control over the West Bank and ignite intensified Palestinian terrorist activity. It could further erode the US position as the major mediator in the Middle East and have wider regional implications for the US as well as for local actors.

The US might, however, consider two other options.

It could further postpone the meeting in Annapolis. During Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit last week to the region, her Egyptian and Jordanian hosts were not averse to the idea. Postponement should be considered only as a measure of last resort. Given the US presidential primaries in February-March 2008 and the accelerated pace of the race to the White House, the postponement might be viewed, with justification, as the abandonment of the meeting idea with all the ramifications explained above.

The more sensible option for the US would be to convene the Annapolis meeting and submit, with the advance knowledge of those convened, an American and/or Quartet statement that addresses two sets of issues: the principles that would guide final status negotiations whenever they take place, and the measures Israel could take in the next few months to bolster the position of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). Such a declaration could contain general references to an independent, sovereign and demilitarized Palestinian state with its capital in the Greater Jerusalem area or a similar term that does not deal with any aspect of the city itself. Borders would be decided on the basis of the 1967 lines, demographic changes and security considerations. Refugees could be settled in the Palestinian state to be. Israel, upon its own decision, could take in 1948 refugees that suffer severe humanitarian problems. Compensation would be given for property abandoned by the 1948 refugees.

This, or a similarly drafted DoP, grants the Palestinians some new elements such as the mention of Jerusalem in the context of their capital and the mention of 1967 in the context of the borders. It is not in conflict with any of Israel's concerns or with US President George W. Bush's letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of April 2005. The Greater Jerusalem area may be interpreted as extending beyond the current municipal area. In certain sectors like Tulkarm or Qalqilya, the 1967 line has to be the border unless Israel wishes to annex these two Palestinian towns.

The second part of such a DoP would recommend further releases of Palestinian prisoners, the removal of roadblocks and illegal outposts and applying measures to enhance economic activity in the West Bank (and Gaza, if the Abu Mazen government restores its control there).

A third part would deal with issues of process and procedure such as the creation of an Annapolis Forum that might convene twice a year, a monitoring group, etc. Endorsement by the participants of such a DoP at the end of the meeting is the preferred outcome. A set of chair's conclusions, however, is a result that would at least reduce the sense of despair and prevent the forces of rejection in the Middle East from claiming another US defeat and maintaining that the only way to "solve" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the use of terror and violence.

Such a result might make it possible to manage the Israeli-Palestinian conflict until January 2009, when the new US president is sworn-in.



Oded Eran was head of the negotiations team with the Palestinians until the Camp David Summit, 2000. Eran's article first appeared at bitterlemons.org on 22/10/2007 and is copyright by bitterlemons.org

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