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Geneva Accord: A Popular Initiative?

Dr. Mohamed Mosaad

October 27, 2003

On October 21, 2003, Ha'aretz newspaper published a draft of the Geneva Accord, signed the previous week by both Palestinian and Israeli negotiators. Even before this disclosure, the accord had already been cursed by both sides. By both sides, I mean not only the Israeli and Arab sides, but the left and right as well. Everyone could, of course, find something to criticize. No one, nevertheless, gave us a genuine alternative. Would it be something proposed by the Israeli and/or the Palestinian government, by the Quartet Fathers of the Road Map or by the Arab neighbors and/or the Jews outside Israel?

Thus far a normal Palestinian government seems to be an impossible goal; it is meaningless to expect inspiring leadership from something that does not exist yet. The Israeli government's plans, ambitions and dreams have been reduced to building a big wall. Their success in solving the serious problems is currently measured by kilometers. Had a Palestinian government existed and had the Israeli wall been completed, both parties would have fallen, once again, into bitter internal conflicts among the Israeli political parties and the Palestinian fragmented factions, conflicts that obviously have no end. All the initiatives which so far came from outside the region have been dovetailed into the Road Map, sponsored and drawn up by the four powers most in need of road maps to get them out of their respective labyrinths. The US needs a way out of Iraq; Russia needs a way out of Chechnya and the Russian economic crises; the fragmented European Union needs a road map to a union; and last, but certainly not least, the UN needs someone to show it the "exit" gate from history.

Arab neighbors and Diaspora Jewish communities, if we are waiting for them to propose a peace plan, have always shown in every possible way how much they are willing to see a happy and peaceful Middle East. They emphasize their kind intentions in warm words, usually accompanied by charming smiles and best wishes in conferences and meetings conducted mostly in Europe and the US and so rarely in Israel/Palestine. Unfortunately, when it comes to the details, each of them overbids the official positions of their respective sides. Large groups of American Jews will not accept a Palestinian State, and equally, a vast majority of Arabs refuses any settlement of refugees outside the Green Line.

Only the other day a Palestinian movie director received a prize in a Cairo Cinema Festival, accompanied by angry shouting from the attendees. When the TV interviewer asked him why people were shouting, he said, "They wanted to see a Palestinian movie of fighting and resistance where the world is colored in black and white. This is not the drama I want to produce. We (the Palestinians) want hospitals, schools, universities, human rights, democracy and so many steps forward to women's rights." The angry audience, who wanted to be more Palestinian than the Palestinian, wanted only Intifada, something that was not on the agenda of the Palestinian director. In other words the Palestinians want to live and build their state while a majority of Arabs want them to die and destroy the Israeli State.

The argument of this article is simple and twofold; the solution will come from the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves; and it must come from the peoples, not their presumed representatives. What we had before was a strange and failing double track peace process; politicians discussing the details of the agreement, and popular organizations emphasizing the general and most uncontroversial principles of love and peace. When an agreement comes to its final stage, each representative starts to worry about the public and is reluctant to sign it. We should not forget that those who made Geneva Accord are those who conducted much of the previous negotiations. The consequent failure is soon condemned by the public and the vicious circle goes on and on.

What we need, then, and what this Geneva Accord could offer us, is a popular serious involvement in the details. By no means am I saying this is the accord both sides should accept. What I am stressing is that this is an accord to be dealt with publicly, to be addressed and even developed through serious engagement and faithful dialogue. Meetings to reiterate the noble intentions and general principles are meaningless, unless they address these specific articles and points of Geneva Accord. Both parties, who do not stop speaking about peace, should know quite well what is the nature and details of this peace. The Israeli public must know that there is no peace with Netzarim, and the Palestinian public must know there is no peace with right of return to inside green line Israel. Rights, historical discourses and power considerations should be abandoned for the sake of peace if we still want it. All criticisms of this accord should be only in the context of developing it, not turning it into another missed chance.

There have been and are several magnificent non-governmental solutions, which go into the details of a possible agreement and address the public. A recent poll showed that when it comes down to details the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians, which certainly wants “peace” would vote against a peace accord. Clearly, it will be an uphill fight to convince the public on both sides to accept a realistic solution that meets the minimal needs of the other side. Non-governmental 'agreements' and initiatives for peace are major educational tools in this struggle. The IPCRI, Bat Shalom, Seeds of Peace Youth group, Silent No Longer and Gush Shalom initiatives are wonderful examples. These and similar initiatives are aimed at the public, not the political authorities. They must evolve and inspire, create and enrich a collective public debate. It is the public, not the political authorities, who can understand and accept or, on the other hand, deny and refuse any future agreement. It is also the same public that will endorse or repudiate their politicians according to their understanding of the nature of peace or their impression of those inciting and competing politicians.

Dr. Mohamed Mosaad

Cairo, Egypt

Dr Mosaad is an Egyptian psychiatrist, sociologist, educator and  peace activist. His is coordinator of the Abrahamic Forum,  and member of the Abrahamic Forum Council, an International Interfaith  dialog. He is a member of the Global Council of the United Religions Initiative URI.  He may be reached at .

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