03 May 2007

03 May 2007 – The evolution of peace

Galia Golan has written an impressive, concise and quite balanced book that reviews the past fifteen years of peace proposals in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel and Palestine: Peace Plans from Oslo to Disengagement is a useful guide to the emerging consensus on the expected final agreement—even if no one knows how the two sides will actually conclude it. Here is a crude summary of Golan’s analysis:

The Oslo Accords (1993-99): The original, flawed but historic agreement failed to provide explicitly for a Palestinian state or a settlement freeze; it also failed to create a way to monitor compliance. Palestinian terror and Israeli recalcitrance combined to scupper the agreement; also, “the interim nature of Oslo opened the way for opponents to provoke and cause disruptions of the process.” (33)

Camp David (July 2000): The events are disputed, but it seems the Palestinians were not ready to negotiate a final agreement. Clinton offered a Palestinian state for the first time, and Barak’s initial offer was for Gaza plus 91% of the West Bank (with a 1% land swap elsewhere), plus parts of East Jerusalem; there were hints of a vague compromise on refugees. However, talks foundered over Jerusalem.

Clinton Parameters (December 2000): A two-state solution, 94-96% of the West Bank plus a 1-3% land swap; 80% of the settlers would be accommodated on 6% of the West Bank. Clinton proposed several options for settling the refugee question, favoring Israel’s demographic interests, and a division of Jerusalem on ethnic lines, favoring Palestinian aspirations. Barak accepted the deal but Arafat failed to do so.

Taba (January 2001): Against the backdrop of violence and Israeli elections, the talks produced a territorial compromise that would allow Israel to annex 3.1% of the West Bank, with land swaps of some kind for the Palestinians. There were no solid agreements on security or Jerusalem; however, there was “significant agreement” on refugees, based on Clinton’s proposals, though this was not admitted publicly.

Mitchell-Tenet-Zinni Recommendations (Apr. 2001 – Mar. 2002): The Mitchell Report proposed: “End the Violence, Rebuild Confidence, Resume Negotiations.” Both sides accepted it, interpreted it in their own ways, and failed to implement it. The Tenet ceasefire plan also failed, as did the Zinni plan, which offered slightly different security proposals; direct negotiations on other issues no longer existed.

Saudi Initiative (2002): The Saudis offered “normal relations with Israel in the context of a comprehensive peace” in exchange for full withdrawal to the 1967 borders and a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. The draft adopted by the Arab summit in Beirut added a call for “a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon.” This caused Israel to ignore it.

President Bush (Oct. 2001 – June 2002): Bush became the first U.S. President to endorse the creation of a Palestinian state within three years, though one with provisional borders. Statehood would require comprehensive democratic and market reform. Issues such as refugees and Jerusalem would be decided later. The plan incorporated Bush’s “regime change” policy and Sharansky’s ideas about peace.

The Road Map (April 2003): Presented by the Quartet—U.S., UN, EU and Russia—this plan established a series of “parallel” steps to be achieved en route to a Palestinian state by 2005. Palestinian institutions were to be reformed, and recent Israeli settlements dismantled, among other steps. Progress was to be monitored by the Quartet, with further negotiations conducted by an International Conference.

Geneva Accord (2003): An informal agreement that was, however, designed to appeal to the public on both sides, the plan roughly followed the Clinton plan but included explicit recognition of Jewish sovereignty and Palestinian statehood. It called for compromises on the right of return and the Jerusalem holy sites. It also involved international monitors and civil society more than previous plans.

Nusseibeh-Ayalon Petition (Jul. 2002): Unlike Geneva, which aimed to prove there were partners for peace, this plan aimed to show public support for peace (and did). The proposal called for a two-state solution, full withdrawal of settlers from the territories, right of return only to the Palestinian state, and dividing Jerusalem along ethnic lines with neither side having sovereignty over the holy places.

Disengagement (2003-2005): Spurred, perhaps, by these informal initiatives, as well as demographic challenges that would not subside, the Israeli government carried out a unilateral plan of withdrawal from Gaza and several settlements in the West Bank. At the same time, it built the security barrier in the West Bank to stop terror. The plan was implemented over the objections of the settler movement.

Bush-Weissglas Letters (2004): The U.S. responded to the disengagement by offering Israel two commitments: that the Palestinian refugees would return to a future Palestinian state, and that Israel would not have to withdraw to the 1967 borders. It also supported the security barrier as a temporary measure. In return, Israel committed to the Road Map, conditional on an end to Palestinian terror.

In surveying these various plans, Golan concludes that the positions of both sides have “evolved” towards a negotiated settlement, though the issues of refugees and Jerusalem remain troubled and may require difficult tradeoffs. The question, again, is how to proceed—a question complicated by the ascendancy of Hamas. Golan does not provide the answer but does not rule out some unforeseen, positive change.

In my own view, the slow development of a consensus on the shape of a final agreement—as well as the persistence of differences in key areas—points to the need for, and the potential viability of, shared negotiating institutions. These could work in tandem with other forms of diplomacy, but would allow negotiations to be continuous rather than requiring them to settle on a final, and flawed, formula.

Today, crowds are gathering in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to demand Olmert’s resignation. A complex political game is unfolding behind the scenes between Olmert’s loyalists and Livni’s upstarts. Foreign observers are weighing in with their own opinions—including Hezbollah’s Nasrallah, whose goal of overthrowing the Lebanese government has even led him to praise the Winograd Commission.

It’s hard to see where positive change will come from—but change is definitely in the air. What is required are leadership, new ideas, and fresh commitment.


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