US might save face by accepting interim agreement – which Israel wants
1) Back channel Indyk staffs up to intensify Israeli Palestinian peace push, Al Monitor on US efforts to intensify their labour input to talks; 2) IPS: Hope and Pessimism as Israelis and Palestinians Resume Talks, Mitchell Plitnick, an interim agreement would be a disaster for Palestinians ; 3) BICOM: Livni stresses aim for talks is final-status accord, not interim deal, attempt to quash Palestinians doubts; 4) J Street Conference 2013: Meet the Young People Who Want to Bring Peace to Palestine and Israel J Street’s annual conference – rising in the Administration’s scale of importance; 5) Israel Hayom: ‘The Palestinians always run away at the decisive moment’, the view from the army right; 6) Al Monitor: Israel-Palestine Interim Agreements Block Final Deal, Akiva Eldar foresees the problem, February 2013;
Secretary of State John Kerry with Martin Indyk, President Obama’s Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations. He is on leave from his position as vice president and director of the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Here speaking during the US-Islamic World Forum in Doha, June 9, 2013.
By Laura Rozen, Back Channel/ Al Monitor October 08, 2013
US Middle East peace envoy Martin Indyk is expanding his team as the U.S. prepares to intensify its role facilitating Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. “We’ve agreed that those talks should now be intensified and American involvement should be increased to facilitate these discussions,” Indyk told the J Street conference last week. (Sept. 30). “Our common objective is a final status agreement, not an interim agreement.” To that end, he has grown his office’s ranks. Julie Sawyer, a career civil service officer who most recently served as Persian Gulf director on the National Security Staff, has joined Indyk’s team as his traveling senior aide. Sawyer previously served as a Middle East advisor to Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns. Sawyer joins a team that already includes deputy envoy and longtime Kerry confidante Frank Lowenstein. Ilan Goldenberg, a former Middle East advisor at the Pentagon and Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff, has joined the office as chief of staff. USAID deputy assistant Middle East administrator Hady Amr has joined the envoy’s team as an economics advisor. Michael Yaffe, a career foreign service officer specializing in Middle East and arms control issues, has joined the envoy’s office to do international outreach with organizations such as the Arab League and the Quartet. Yaffe came to the envoy’s office—next to the State Department’s Near East Affairs bureau—after serving as a professor and dean at the National Defense University’s Near East South Asia center for strategic studies. The Pentagon has seconded an official to work with the team on security issues. David Wallsh, a Fletcher PhD candidate in Middle East and international security studies, joined Indyk’s team last week to work on security issues related to the peace process. In addition, retired Marine Corps Gen. Jon Allen, the former Afghanistan and Centcom commander, has been leading a security dialogue with the Israel Defense Forces to help address Israel’s security requirements, Indyk told the J Street conference. Indyk’s shop is expected to bring on someone to do outreach to the press, think tanks and the Hill, but sources would not yet disclose who that will be. The growing ranks signal the seriousness of the negotiations effort, and the commitment to it by Secretary Kerry and President Obama, officials say. “All core issues are on the table,” Indyk told the J Street conference last week. “Our common objective is a final status agreement, not an interim agreement.” While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking Sunday at Bar Ilan University, said negotiations were stuck over the Palestinian refusal to date to recognize Israel as a state of the Jewish people and to thereby give up the right of return, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly made reassuring comments in a meeting Monday with some members of the Israeli Knesset. Relatively little has leaked from the talks to date, which have been conducted with little fanfare or publicity in the region since Kerry formally relaunched talks in Washington in July and named Indyk as envoy.
Hope and Pessimism as Israelis and Palestinians Resume Talks By Mitchell Plitnick, IPS news agency October 04, 2013 WASHINGTON, – Israeli and Palestinian negotiators returned to the negotiating table on Thursday, ready to put claims by the United States that it will engage more forcefully in the negotiating process to the test. The talks, which paused for the meetings of the United Nations General Assembly, have been struggling amidst Palestinian complaints of Israeli foot-dragging and the lack of U.S. participation.
“The publics on both sides have hardened their positions in the last 20 years. So the selling of a deal is harder than it was.” — J Street’s Jeremy Ben Ami
Yet for all the enthusiasm around the revived peace talks, there remains considerable doubt about the prospects for ultimate success. Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Jerusalem Fund, a non-profit organisation working to raise funds to aid the Palestinian people, believes it unlikely that a permanent agreement will be possible. “Ideally, all parties would like a comprehensive agreement, except Israel wants one on their terms, the Palestinians want on their terms, and the U.S. wants something that can stick,” he told IPS. “None of these goals are really in line now. Israeli and Palestinian positions are so far apart that the U.S. may want to save face with an interim agreement. It would be in Israel’s interest at very little cost to them but at a high cost to the Palestinians. And this would be a disaster.” Yet some see hope as dovish lobbying groups are gaining more prominence in Washington. The moderate group J Street appears to have overcome attempts by more hawkish pro-Israel groups, such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), to marginalise it. This week, U.S. President Barack Obama dispatched his vice president, Joe Biden, to speak at J Street’s annual conference and rally its supporters behind the peace-making efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry. Biden’s appearance, along with those of Obama’s special envoy Martin Indyk, Israel’s lead negotiator Tzipi Livni and Israeli opposition leader Shelly Yachimovitch, as well as House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, offered strong evidence that J Street has established itself as a significant force here. “It’s become an accepted notion that there is not only one mass movement lobbying org in DC, which is AIPAC,” Ori Nir, spokesperson for Americans for Peace Now (APN) told IPS. “What J Street can do now, having been around for five years, it can authentically and credibly claim that its positions [supporting robust negotiations for peace] represent the pro-Israel community much more authentically than the traditional leadership. That puts wind in the sails of the Obama administration.” Indyk, a former ambassador to Israel and a top Middle East policymaker under former President Bill Clinton, believes there is a real chance for success in the current talks. “We’ve agreed to intensify the talks, and the U.S. will increase its involvement,” Indyk said at the conference. “All the core issues are on the table and our common objective is a final status agreement, not an interim one. “The parties have agreed to resolve all the issues in nine months,” he continued. “Both sides have negotiated for years. The outline of an agreement is clear. What is needed is leadership and political decisions.” However, Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Affairs, and former senior policy adviser to Oslo Accords architect Yossi Beilin, expressed strong scepticism about the current talks. “I don’t see [Netanyahu] as having walked toward a realistic two-state solution,” Levy said. “From what I understand there is a refusal to present a map, not even of the borders of the settlement blocs. He wants to not remove any settlements and maintain an ongoing military presence… “I fear that we may repeat some of the old mistakes: an over-emphasis on bilateral negotiations, lack of a frame of reference, and a fetishisation of process [over results].” J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben Ami, laid out his vision for a two-state solution, emphasising that both sides would have to make sacrifices. On the Israeli side, this includes sharing Jerusalem and evacuating some settlements. On the Palestinian side, it means accepting a de-militarised state, which many Palestinians see as a denial of their full sovereignty, and acknowledging that virtually no Palestinian refugees would return to Israel, a key Palestinian national aspiration. “The two-state solution is the only solution for the Israeli people and the Palestinian people and the only way we can secure the future of the region for all their children,” Ben-Ami told his supporters. Asked by IPS if he was concerned that the proposed solution might not prevail in referendums, which both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority have conditionally set as requirements for any final agreement, Ben-Ami said, “The publics on both sides have hardened their positions in the last 20 years. So the selling of a deal is harder than it was. “I think the ultimate deal will involve sacrifices and compromises. I don’t know what they will be but they will be hard to sell and all of us will have a tough selling job to do and we have to be ready to do that.” But Husam Zomlot, the executive deputy commissioner for international affairs of the Palestinian Authority, spoke passionately at the conference about the rights of Palestinian refugees. “Some of [the refugees] want to stay where they are. Some of them might want to resettle somewhere else in a third country. Some of them might want to come back to the State of Palestine. And some of them might want to return to their original homes. But all of them want one thing: full recognition of the Nakba (catastrophe, referring to the dispersion of Palestinians during Israel’s war of independence from 1947-49) that has befallen our people.” Zomlot cushioned his point by indicating that his own father would not choose to physically return, suggesting that many Palestinian refugees would feel similarly. Still, this issue seems far from easily resolved. As far as Palestinians are concerned the right of return is a human right,” Munayyer said. “In my view, human rights are not negotiable.”
Livni stresses aim for talks is final-status accord, not interim deal From BICOM October 03, 2013 Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who heads Israel’s delegation in the current peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA), has said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post that her goal is a final-status peace accord and not an interim agreement. Several rounds of talks have taken place over the past few weeks, but few details have been released. As a result, little is known about the framework, modalities or content of the talks. However, in the interview Livni clarified the purpose of the negotiations, saying “My goal is an agreement that will end the conflict and all claims for both sides,” adding “I have never used the term ‘interim agreement.’” She explained that there could be no ‘give and take’ in negotiations if the end goal to resolve all issues was unclear. Some Palestinian sources had claimed Israel was pushing for an interim agreement, an option Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas forcefully rejected in a speech to the UN General Assembly last week. Elaborating on the status of the current talks, Livni expressed cautious optimism, saying “If there wasn’t hope of achieving peace, I wouldn’t be doing this.” However, she added that “I don’t want to raise false expectations… But I see we are generating hope and people are crossing their fingers for us.” However, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, considered a strong voice on the right of the party, yesterday questioned the wisdom of attempting to achieve a final-status agreement. Speaking at a conference of pro-settlement activists in Jerusalem, Hotovely said “I am scared because going for the whole pot is the most dangerous approach,” adding that “US pressure could make Israel give up everything without the Palestinians declaring an end to the conflict.” Meanwhile, Israel’s Environment Minister Amir Peretz yesterday froze plans to build a national park in East Jerusalem which opponents say would block development of two adjacent Palestinian neighbourhoods. Peretz said that the area has no “particularly sensitive natural value.”
The Americans for Peace Now booth at the J Street National Conference. The US admin despatched Martin Indyk and V-P Joe Biden to address their annual conference, according the ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace group an importance which hitherto has only been enjoyed by AIPAC. Photo courtesy of J Street. J Street Conference 2013: Meet the Young People Who Want to Bring Peace to Palestine and Israel By Lindsay Funkin, policymic.com October 04, 2013 Nearly three thousand pro-Israel, pro-peace activists descended upon D.C. last weekend to attend the 4th National J Street Conference, Our Time to Lead. J Street describes itself as “the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans” and supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. J Street has grown dramatically since its inception in 2007. The organization has attracted particularly strong support from millennials, reflecting the pro-peace movement’s resonance among the younger generation. J Street’s student organizing arm, J Street U, brought the largest millennial contingent to the conference with over 900 students in its delegation. These students hailed from over 125 campuses in the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, and Canada. J Street U currently has over 50 chapters on campuses across America. “What was really striking about this year’s J Street conference was the energy in the room brought by students — 900 of us, or in other words, nearly one-third of the conference attendees,” said Mil Dranoff, a senior at Washington University in St. Louis who currently serves as the Midwest representative to the J Street U Student Board. “While J Street may be the future of pro-Israel, J Street U is the future of the movement, organizing on college campuses across the country to bring about a two-state solution.” Some millennials attending the J Street conference were affiliated with other organizations that also mobilize youth to bring an end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. These organizations often partner with J Street and/or have significant overlap in membership. OneVoice, a frequent J Street partner, is a grassroots movement mobilizing young Israelis and Palestinians in parallel organizations towards the same goal: a two-state solution. “In OneVoice Palestine, we train thousands of youth leaders. We have over 700 members and over 18 chapters,” said Samer Maklouf, the executive director of OneVoice Palestine. These members participate in nonviolent political actions, such as organizing protests against land seizures in the West Bank. Makhouf’s Israeli counterpart Tal Harris described how OneVoice Israel focused on effecting change through the Israeli political system, such as introducing a “two-state” bill in the Israeli parliament and rallying support for pro-peace politicians. OneVoice “is very focused on the future. At the end of the day, we will never agree on the past,” said Harris, the executive director. “The most important thing is to find practical solutions to the problems we are facing.” Aaron Mann, who leads the campus outreach efforts of Americans for Peace Now, also spoke about the importance of focusing on youth in pro-peace advocacy in the United States. “There’s a lot of untapped potential in this generation,” Mann said. “This generation is not reflexively supporting the government of Israel but feels a kinship with Israel.” “For me, being an activist is the best way to be connected to Israel,” said refugee-rights activist Maya Paley, who illustrates Mann’s observation about how American Jews feel connected to the state of Israel despite having concerns about some policies of the Israeli government. Paley is the co-founder of the Right Now campaign, which advocates for the rights of non-Jewish African asylum seekers in Israel. Many of these asylum seekers are fleeing brutal regimes and violent conflicts and would likely have refugee status under international law. “Instead of treating them the way that we should, as people who have been refugees all over the world, we’re treating them like they are criminals just for coming to the country and seeking shelter and safety,” Paley said of the 60,000 African asylum seekers in Israel right now. While this issue may not appear to be related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Paley explained that the problem is in fact a consequence of the ongoing conflict. “It’s connected to the fact that Israel doesn’t have a proper refugee status determination procedure because they haven’t dealt with the occupation, because they still have that conflict.” Paley is referring to the Palestinian “right of return,” which will be one of the most difficult issues to resolve in the current peace negotiations. In order for Israel to address the issue of non-Jewish asylum seekers, it must first reach a comprehensive peace settlement with the Palestinians that settles the refugee question. Makhouf and Harris of OneVoice both emphasized the importance of millennials in bringing this about. “The youth are the backbone of any movement that will be leading toward a better future and leading toward achieving Palestinian rights,” said Makhouf. Harris agreed. “I love the fact that [OneVoice] is driven by youth, driven by those with very big stakes in the future, much more than the adults who make the decisions for us.” Harris’ sentiment was echoed by Joshua Leifer, a member of All That’s Left. All That’s Left is an anti-occupation collective based in Israel that focuses on building resistance to the occupation among Diaspora Jews. “It always surprises me when people are fascinated about young people being involved in activism,” said Leifer, a Princeton University student. “It seems like there’s a sense that young people are supposed to sit back and wait for their turn to rise to leadership positions…Maybe it’s that millennial arrogance that people always talk about, but I have no interest in sitting and watching other people mess up the future for me and my peers and my children when I can do something.” “We can’t afford to wait. It’s already been too long,” added Isaac Kates Rose, a student at University of Toronto and fellow member of All That’s Left. Both Leifer and Rose joined All That’s Left during their time in Israel earlier this year. “Forty-five years is a generation,” said Leifer, referring to the amount of time elapsed since the 1967 war and the subsequent Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. “It’s not going to be our generation.” Editor’s Note: While the author is an active member of J Street U, this article is neither endorsed nor sponsored by J Street.
‘The Palestinians always run away at the decisive moment’ Brig. Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel, who was party to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for over 20 years, has a disillusioned view of the peace process • “Chance of achieving peace are slim. Differences on core issues have only grown,” he says. By Shlomo Cesana, Israel Hayom October 04, 2013 Nine months. That’s the amount of time the people running the American-sponsored talks between Israel and the Palestinians allotted for reaching a peace treaty. If a permanent agreement is reached, Brig. Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel will eat his hat. But if you ask Dekel, who for two decades closely followed the various attempts to hold talks with the Palestinians, the chance of that happening is slim. So he supports the idea of an interim agreement with the Palestinians, as do formerly high-ranking figures such as Yossi Beilin. Dekel has been following the talks with the Palestinians from up close for many years. Today he is the deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. Recently he presented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a 1600-page book summing up all the talks that have ever taken place between Israel and the Palestinians. From 2007 to 2009, Dekel served as the head of Israel’s negotiating team in Ehud Olmert’s government. Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak appointed Dekel after he left the Israel Defense Forces at the rank of brigadier-general, after having served as the head of the Strategic Planning Division in the General Staff’s Planning Directorate. Before that, he served as the chief of staff’s assistant for diplomatic agreements. There really is such a position — it is filled by the army official responsible for the peace talks, and his job is to provide the security-related perspective, which is an essential part of any peace agreement. Before that, Dekel served as head of the Research Division in Air Force Intelligence and as the IAF’s representative in discussions about peace agreements. “Oslo started with a progressive approach of stage-by-stage progress,” Dekel says in a special interview. “It didn’t work. Ehud Olmert changed the approach. He came along and said, ‘Enough working on the process. Let’s work on the question of the conclusion, the question of the final-status agreement. Let’s decide what we want in the final-status agreement, and then we’ll see how to get there.’ That was the idea of the Annapolis summit: to discuss the final-status arrangement while continuing to move forward according to the road map. “We had 12 committees at Annapolis that discussed issues such as the economy, infrastructures, environmental quality, border crossings, water transfer, various legal issues such as extradition agreements, and also the issue of the Palestinian prisoners. One of the committees even discussed the culture of peace. We reached agreements on all topics. Tzipi Livni coordinated all the teams’ work. She ran the talks very responsibly and seriously. She examined every issue thoroughly. She did not rush things. She did not promise things she could not commit to. At the same time, she built trust among the Palestinians; they saw that she was truly striving to reach an agreement with them. That was very important. It created a positive approach in the rooms where the meetings took place. “The subject of Jerusalem wasn’t discussed in the teams. Olmert put it on the table at the end. A partition plan for the city was suggested that got to the level of street names. The basis of the Jerusalem partition plan was that the Jewish neighborhoods would be on the Israeli side, and the Arab neighborhoods would be on the Palestinian side. They suggested a partition of the Old City and the creation of a joint municipal agency. A special status was discussed for the Holy Basin that would include the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion and the City of David. “The land would be managed by a third party. An international force would be established that would serve as a police force in the area. For example, the commander would be American and have two deputies, an Israeli and a Palestinian. The Waqf would keep managing the Temple Mount, and an international force would be in charge of security. Regarding sovereignty, a decision was made not to decide. Neither they nor we would give up sovereignty. We demand sovereignty over the place. Now, on the strength of our sovereignty, we give authority to a third party there.” The result is well known. “We accomplished nothing because the Palestinians decided to run away,” Dekel says. “The moment Olmert put the things on the table, with a generous proposal from our perspective, they decided to vanish. They didn’t want to say yes or no. They avoided saying no because they wanted to keep all the flexibility that Israel had put on the table. “As much as we love to blame ourselves — and we do — the other side is as much to blame as we are that there is no agreement. At Camp David, too, in the talks between Arafat, Barak and Clinton and in the talks with Olmert, the other side refused to accept things in which we met them halfway. Every time it reached the testing point, the Palestinians decided not to make the hard decisions.” Q: What about Olmert? “Olmert took the whole package and wanted to play give-and-take with it. So we make territorial concessions, and they make security-related concessions. The Palestinians wanted to take Olmert’s proposal and break it up into the 12 committees that we established in Annapolis so they could benefit from Israel’s flexibility without having to give anything in return.” According to Dekel, “The Palestinians didn’t want to close with Olmert. Later, they said that the reason they didn’t take the proposal was that Olmert didn’t stay on as prime minister, and the next prime minister was evidently going to be Netanyahu and not Livni. Regarding Netanyahu, they didn’t believe he would carry out the agreement that Olmert had proposed, so what would they gain by agreeing to Olmert’s proposal? A situation would be created in which the plan would be revealed and Mahmoud Abbas would be considered a traitor, since all the Palestinians’ flexibility would be exposed, and no agreement was reached. “When the critical moment arrives where the tough decisions have to be made, they don’t have the courage, leadership or the drive to make those tough decisions. Then it’s easy for them to find some issue and get the process stuck on it, and gain what they can at that moment. Back in Olmert’s time, the Palestinians decided that they were going to play on the international court. They believed that there, it would be easier for them to gain much more.” According to Dekel, the Palestinians say they have “natural rights to the land, and that they don’t need anything from Israel. They say Israel came from a position of strength, as rulers, with the strong army, but they come with a natural right. Now, with their right, they are coming to receive recognition from the international community.” They’re still doing that today, aren’t they? “Yes. Today, too, their purpose in going into the talks is to prove that Israel is not a partner, that Israel is not willing to move forward. Even now, we understand from the leaks on the Palestinian side that they’re saying Israel is not flexible enough and isn’t moving enough, in the talks, in the direction they want. This is an obvious trend whose purpose is to prepare the ground so that later, they will be able to come to the international community and say: ‘We tried, but Israel isn’t willing to move forward and reach an agreement, so go ahead and give us what we want.’ “I don’t see any chance that we will reach a permanent agreement. The gaps in the core issues haven’t narrowed from the talks in Olmert’s time to those in Netanyahu’s. They’ve only grown wider.” Dekel is the one who coined the phrase “Anything agreed upon will be implemented” — the same motto uttered frequently by those known as “the Oslo people,” who, like Dekel, favor an interim agreement. “It’s true that I’m the one who came up with that sentence, and people were angry with me when I said it then,” he says, and hastens to explain the idea behind it. “The rule that governed the talks with the Palestinians during Ehud Olmert’s time was that nothing would be agreed upon until everything had been agreed upon. The idea on which this approach was based was to create flexibility in the negotiating room. What it really did was create stubbornness. My understanding is that to change a reality, you have to take steps that change that reality all the time. My idea says that if something was agreed upon — for example, today we can agree about water — why not implement it? “The game where you’re not willing to make any concessions as long as there’s no permanent arrangement isn’t relevant. My approach, and that of those who were involved in past negotiations, is that the chance of reaching a final-status agreement is slim. Now, as long as there’s positive potential in the talks, there’s a chance to build an alternative.” Dekel suggests looking at the possibility of an interim agreement or “independent step,” as he puts it. “A final-status agreement will remain the final goal, but we need to decide that we’re going to change the reality in stages. Israel has an interest in the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders and in anchoring the two-state solution. So let’s get there, and we’ll catch up on the details later. “There’s no need to determine the borders — just the principle of the borders. Tomorrow morning, we can establish a state for the Palestinians that includes more than 60 percent of the land in the West Bank without evacuating the settlements, with complete freedom of movement for them, as well as control of the area. It’s true that it isn’t completely a sovereign state, but it’s a significant leap from their current situation. “While the concepts of ‘unilateral’ and ‘disengagement’ are unpopular, we must also plan unilateral measures as a relevant option. We’re busy with strategic planning in a changing environment. We can no longer plan something and figure out the goal as we go. The new policy has to be that at each point in time, you have to create as many options as you can that will anchor the main principle. “Now the main thing is to protect Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and anchor the two-state solution. There is broad agreement on these two principles. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition agree on them, and there is agreement outside the coalition as well. After all, we’ve been trying unsuccessfully to reach an agreement for the past 20 years. “It’s obvious that a permanent agreement is preferable, but if there is no chance of that, then we need to find a solution that is good for us. An interim agreement will anchor what is good for us. It makes no mention of the return of the refugees. There is no change in Jerusalem. We are keeping the settlement blocs in our control and deploying along the route of the security barrier. We are keeping the army deployed in the Jordan Valley. It’s true that the demands are endless, but a new situation has been created that the world will have to deal with. “What will we accomplish by that? You are giving up land and making concessions on many topics, the conflict is continuing, the other side has made no commitment to stop what it is doing in the international arena and the conflict on the ground is continuing. “The new strategic approach says: ‘Let’s take the tools we have and shape the situation without depending on what the other side wants. Staying in place is a bad thing because all you do is accumulate demerits without making progress toward your goals, with or without the other side.'” Dekel adds that the process of unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip is not like the measures that would be taken in a unilateral interim agreement in Judea and Samaria — first, because there would be no evacuation of settlements; second, because the Jordan Valley would remain under Israeli control. “We’re not making the border porous. We’re preventing the entry of arms and of people whom we don’t want to go inside the Palestinian state,” he says. “One way or another, we reserve the right to defend ourselves, and if we must take security-related measures within it, we will do so.”
Israel-Palestine Interim Agreements Block Final Deal Israelis and Palestinians have negotiated one interim arrangement after another, but a final-status agreement has yet to be reached By Akiva Eldar for Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, translated by Ruti Sinai February 18, 2013. The director of one of the top UN agencies operating in the West Bank told me of a fascinating conversation he had with a senior IDF officer. “Do you know the difference between Areas A, B and C?” the officer asked. “Of course”, the director responded, citing published details of the 1995 Interim Agreement [between Israel and the Palestinians, also known as Oslo II). “Area A is a region under the complete control of the Palestinian Authority, Area B is under Israeli military control and Palestinian civilian control, and Area C is Israel’s responsibility. This applies until a permanent arrangement is reached.” The Israeli officer smiled and answered the foreign diplomat: “You’re wrong. A is for Arafat, B is for balagan [mess] and C (which covers 60% of the West Bank area, including all of the Jordan Valley, A.E.) is Chelanu [Hebrew for “ours”]. He wasn’t kidding. The words of the Israeli officer fully reflect the Israeli establishment’s attitude toward the Interim Agreement. The traditional concern of the Israelis over Palestinian willingness to accept Israel’s existence in the region, nurtured by Arafat’s old “Phased Plan”, convinced the Israelis that a permanent arrangement with the Palestinians is only temporary. At the same time, the wave of settlement construction during the whole interim period taught the Palestinians that there are no greater experts than Israelis in turning the provisional into permanent. This game of mirrors between the temporary and the permanent is the reason that for decades Israelis and Palestinians have been going from one interim arrangement to another, with short intervals in-between for barren negotiations over a permanent arrangement. What is [the meaning of] that term reiterated over and over, especially in advance of meetings with US presidents? What is that interim arrangement? And why, given the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is the interim arrangement actually the only permanent one? The term “transitional arrangement” first appeared in our region with the signing of the Camp David Accords between Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in September 1978. The sides agreed that “in order to ensure a peaceful and orderly transfer of authority, and taking into account the security concerns of all the parties, there should be transitional arrangements for the West Bank and Gaza for a period not exceeding five years”. It was further agreed that negotiations over a permanent arrangement in the West Bank and Gaza would be based on UN [Security Council] Resolution 242 (a withdrawal from the territories, or from territories captured in June 1967, to secure and recognizable borders). At that time, the settlers numbered fewer than 8,000 (these data exclude the Jewish neighborhoods across the Green Line in East Jerusalem). Instead of taking advantage of the five years provided by the interim arrangement in order to establish a Palestinian autonomy and to conduct final status negotiations, the sides used this time to plan terror attacks, to expand settlements and to wage a bloody war in Lebanon. It was only in December 1988, after Yasser Arafat fled from Beirut to Tunis, that the PLO decided to adopt Resolution 242 and to exchange its armed struggle for diplomatic negotiations. But by then, the number of settlers had reached 50,000. Five additional years later, in the First Oslo Accord (Declaration of Principles) signed at the White House in September 1993 between the [Prime Minister] Yitzhak Rabin and [Palestinian Authority Chairperson] Yasser Arafat, it was agreed that “the aim of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations within the current Middle East peace process is, among other things, to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority”. Once again, the interim stage, during which negotiations over a permanent agreement were to be conducted, was limited to no more than five years. The agreement stressed that “the two parties agree that the outcome of the permanent status negotiations should not be prejudiced or preempted by agreements reached for the interim period”. Both sides also reiterated their mutual commitment to immediate and effective action against acts or threats of terror, violence or incitement. Palestinian terrorism and settler violence, which peaked with the  Hebron massacre and the  Rabin assassination, led to the postponement of final status talks. The next interim agreement (the Wye River Memorandum) was signed at the White House by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Chairperson of the Palestinian Authority Arafat at the end of October 1998. Both leaders committed to “immediately resume permanent status negotiations on an accelerated basis” and to make “a determined effort” to reach an agreement by May 4th, 1999. In accordance with the terms of the Interim Agreement, they pledged not to initiate any change in the status of the territories. The Palestinians also pledged a “zero tolerance policy” toward terrorism. A little less than a year later, Prime Minister Ehud Barak signed an additional document – the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, in which both sides committed to “reaching a framework final status agreement” by February 2000 and to signing a comprehensive permanent status agreement leading to implementation of Resolution 242 by September of that year. At that time housing starts in the settlements reached an all-time high (4,700 units). The unsuccessful attempt by then Prime Minister Ehud Barak and late Palestinian Chairperson Yasser Arafat to reach a final-status agreement ended when a violent Intifada erupted – the second Intifada. This Second Intifada gave birth in June 2002 to the “Bush Vision”, as detailed in the 2003 “Road Map” [for Israeli-Palestinian peace], which in turn was translated in November of that year into Security Council Resolution 1515 (despite the objections of the Sharon government). This time it was clearly stated that negotiations would be aimed at establishment of a Palestinian state and a permanent agreement ending the occupation begun in 1967 and terminating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The target date was set at the time for the end of 2005. Meanwhile, since the previous agreement, despite the fact that the Road Map called for a total freeze on construction in the settlements (including construction to provide for “natural growth”), the settler population continued to grow. In November 2007, in the town of Annapolis near Washington, another interim agreement was born. This time the blissful parents were Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. The godfather, President Bush, announced to the world that the two had agreed to begin immediate, ongoing and continuous negotiations for the establishment of a Palestinian state. This time, too, the agreement was provided with an ambitious timetable: a permanent agreement within one year. The President noted that both sides had pledged to immediately implement their commitments to the Road Map and that the United States would monitor implementation of their promises. The result: Olmert resigned, Abbas grew weak, the number of terror attacks rose, settlements flowered and chances of a permanent arrangement became virtually nil. In September 2011, 18 years after the launch of the Oslo Accord, Abu Mazen decided to try his luck at the UN and asked that Palestine be recognized as a member state. At the last minute, in order to avoid a crisis, the Quartet (the United States, Russia, the European Union and the UN) proposed a plan for resumption of diplomatic negotiations with a limited and ambitious timetable, of course: Israel and the Palestinian Authority were asked to resume direct negotiations within a month, to present proposals regarding borders and security within three months and to reach a final agreement by the end of 2012. Needless to say, this did not happen. All the above mentioned temporary arrangements did not bring the two people any nearer to a permanent arrangement. On the other hand, they proved that given the realities of the Middle East conflict, a temporary arrangement is a dangerous arrangement. Proof of this can be found in the deaths of 1,500 Israelis during those years of interim arrangements, a third of them in suicide bombings, and of some 5,000 Palestinians. During that “temporary” period, the settlements turned into permanent fixtures. Suffice it to say that in the two decades since the signing of the Oslo Agreement, the number of settlers has more than tripled (from 110,000 to 350,000). It is thus no wonder that the Palestinians, as well as the Israeli peace camp, “break out in a rash” each time they hear the words “interim arrangement” or “temporary arrangement” or any other variation on the theme. During the coalition talks, Netanyahu expressed doubt about the prospects of reaching a permanent arrangement, but hinted at his willingness to pledge that if he is proven wrong, he will submit such an agreement to the people for a referendum. Abu Mazen, too, has promised more than once to present any final status agreement for approval of the Palestinian people. I believe that in order for this to happen, the order between the temporary and the permanent must be reversed; we must start with the permanent. First, one must agree on permanent borders, based on the 1967 lines with an exchange of land and security arrangements, and only then to set (temporary) milestones along the way and a reasonable timetable for implementation. There, at the final stage, a meeting can be held with heads of the Arab League to sign peace and normalization accords based on the Arab peace initiative. But beforehand, some way must be found to bridge the gap between those who suspect that anything permanent will become temporary – and those who fear that the temporary will become lasting. Akiva Eldar is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse. He was formerly a senior columnist and editorial writer for Haaretz and also served as the Hebrew daily’s US bureau chief and diplomatic correspondent.