Behind the Geneva Agreement
By Rod Holt
Israel has developed two basic ways to get what it wants: Start a war with the connivance of Western imperialism or negotiate forever. Since Zionisms war of aggression in 1948, Israel has been negotiating with the victims (or whoever Israel pretended was the latters representative), a world record period of over 55 years.
The most recent period of negotiations started with the failure of the Madrid conference then followed by the secretly negotiated Oslo Accords of 1993. At Oslo, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) headed by Yasser Arafat agreed to become the Palestinian National Authority (PA) and return from exile in Tunisia with a billion dollar yearly budget to become a benevolent substitute for Israels army of occupation, and, by the way, to stop the first Intifada (1989-1993). Israel promised to negotiate a resolution of all disputes remaining, that is, everything.
This was Oslo I.
Negotiations have dragged on ever since with the U.S. proposing various mechanisms to keep Israel happyincluding one having the CIA sit in on the PAs security and police planning meetings, which the PA accepted! It must be said that the PA tried for years to get Israel to simply carry out what it had agreed to on paper. Israel refused, finding or manufacturing one excuse after another.
More negotiations followed Oslo. There was the Cairo Agreement, then Oslo II, followed by the Hebron Agreement. Those were succeeded by the Wye River Memorandum and then the Sharm El-Sheikh Agreement. After all this, by 1999, Israel had withdrawn its troops from only 11 percent of the West Bank. During these years, Israel continuously nibbled away at occupied Palestinian lands, pouring hundreds of thousands of settlers into occupied Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem.
While Israel built militarized outposts, military bases and encircled Gaza with barbed wire, it pretended to negotiateCamp David with Clinton in July 2000 and at Taba in 2001. Israel kept every agreement conditionalconditional on Israels good will.
All along Israel continued its policy of ethnic cleansing (such a sanitary phrase!), determined to force the Palestinian people to leave their homes and lands by terror and heaping unbearable indignities upon them. They drove out over a million in 1948, fought tooth and nail to keep them out, drove out another million in the 1967 war, and then surrounded and imprisoned the remaining three million.
In 2002 the Saudi Crown prince Abdullah with the consensus of the Arab League introduced what is now called The Arab Peace Initiative. Israel objected; so nothing happened. Then President Bush launched the road map in a vague way and in April of this year, the U.S. State Department published it and the so-called, Quartet, consisting of Russia, The U.S., the European Union and the United Nations, agreed to the road map as a de facto substitute for Oslo. Israel issued its 14-point objections to the road map almost immediately (May 2003).
However, as usual, the conservative Likud party with Ariel Sharon at its head has avoided negotiations for over two years.
By this Fall, Israel has to start negotiating about something, after all. So the worlds press received a leak on October 12 from a quasi-official source saying that a wholly new peace plan had been adopted by representatives from Israels Labor party (which lost the last elections by a wide margin) and representatives from the PA. And the plan is to be signed with great ceremony in Geneva with official representatives present from Europe, Canada, Japan, etc., and former President Carter. Thus, the agreement is named The Geneva Agreement, The Geneva Accord, or The Geneva Initiative.
This is a bombshell. A summary of the agreement was printed in Haaretz (Jerusalem) on October 13th and by the end of the month, a full official text with the names of the negotiators had been obtained by Haaretz. By the end of October, every columnist, editor, and prominent leader in or about the Near East had written about the Geneva Agreement. The top officials in Israel denounced the agreement in no uncertain terms. Sharon said the authors were traitors to Israel. Arafat and the PA said nothing.
The negotiators from Israel are well known leftish Labor party figures who are peaceniks when out of power and warriors when in power. (They were part of Baraks government.) The PA people are the same old guard PLO cronies of Arafat. They inspire no trust or admiration from the Palestinians.
There are several difficulties in reading all the various commentaries on the Agreement. Most were written before the full text was published. In addition, the text is incomplete in a strange way; the details and provisions for implementing the Agreement is left to Appendix X, a document that is still being negotiated. Does this sound familiar? Implementation is left for further negotiation!
In general, those commentators who in the past favored a separate Palestinian state now favor the Agreement. They differ over the East Jerusalem proposals that leave 200,000 settlers in place. They differ over how much territory is given Israel from the Palestinian West Bank and how much barren desert land in the Negev is given to the Palestinians in return. There are differences over border control and many more of this sort.
The big issue is the rights of the refugees, the families who once lived and worked in the Palestine that was seized by Israel. What is to become of them? The PA says that exercising the full right of return is impossible and the refugees had better take what they can get. Furthermore, the Agreements guarantee that Israel will remain a Jewish state forever, casting a dark shadow over the rights and future of the one-and-a-quarter Arab Israelis currently living in the western side of the Green Line.
As far as the Israeli left Zionists are concerned, the hope is that the Geneva Agreement will provide another interminable round of negotiations.