Terrorist attack overshadows geneva agreement

The new Israeli-Palastinian peace plan, which is rejected by the Israeli and American governments, could gain momentum

Shortly after the U.S. government vetoed a resolution in the U.N. Security Council condemning Israel’s construction of a wall in the West Bank, three American security forces from Dyncorp were killed Wednesday in an attack in the Gaza Strip on a convoy of U.S. vehicles carrying American diplomats. Palestinian President Yasser Arafat condemned the attack, Hamas and Islamic Jihad declared they had nothing to do with it, U.S. President Bush accused the Palestinian Authority of failure to fight terrorism and implement reforms.

Palestinian police yesterday arrested five suspected members of the previously unknown "Committees for Popular Resistance" and are associated with the attack. They are said to be former security forces of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah members.

.With the attack, the just-announced peace plan of the "Israeli-Palestinian peace coalition" Possibly failed from the outset. Israeli and American governments reject the alternative to the "Roadmap" from. The terrorist attack, the chaotic Palestinian autonomy authority, the American veto, and the Israeli army’s continued crackdown in the Palestinian city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip overshadow the new peace proposal. Israel is to return almost all of the territories occupied in 1967, and Palestinian refugees are to waive their right to return to Israel.

Palestinians and Israelis have never completely stopped talking to each other. In addition to the cooperation of some civil society initiatives, contacts are still maintained at a higher level. In the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Coalition, former Israeli Justice Minister Jossi Beilin and former Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, among others, have joined forces in order to reach an end to the conflict on the basis of the Taba Agreement (January 2001).

On the Palestinian side, Yasser Arafat’s Autonomy Authority (PA) is closely involved. Abed Rabbo is considered a close confidant of the president. Arafat himself emphasizes over and over again that he is "Peace of the brave", thus remains committed to the Oslo peace treaty of 1993. From the Israeli side, the initiative is a matter for a tiny part of the opposition, which is opposed by the government and the parliamentary majority.

This group, after many meetings and with the support of the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has now drafted the so-called "Geneva Agreement" . The final catch is expected on 4. The film will be shown to the public on the eighth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Jizhak Rabin by an Israeli right-wing extremist.

Content of the Geneva Agreement

The proposed peace agreement is based on two main principles. Israel to return to the Palestinians the West Bank and Gaza Strip territories it has occupied for 37 years. About five percent of the West Bank, mainly the rough exclusive Jewish colonies of Giv’at Se’ev near Ramallah and Ma’ale Adumim near East Jerusalem are to be annexed by Israel. The Palestinian territory shall be extended by the same area with a piece of desert west of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian parts of East Jerusalem shall be administered by Palestine, the Jewish parts by Israel, under international supervision.

The Palestinians are required to renounce the right of return for Palestinian refugees (UN Resolution 194). A small part of the total of 6.5 million displaced persons and "Displaced Persons" und ihren Nachkommen soll die Wiederansiedlung in Israel gestattet werden. All others should settle in the future state of Palestine or in a third host country. This is realistic. According to the results of a July 2003 survey, only an average of ten percent of those questioned in Jordan, Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied territories said they wanted to return to Israel at all. About four-fifths of all respondents would like to be citizens of a Palestinian state to be founded, or would opt for compensation payments and absorption by a third country.

A symbolic recognition of Israel’s guilt for the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948 and 1967 is not foreseen in the Geneva Agreement. However, Palestinians repeatedly declare that without this agreement, peaceful relations between the two states could never develop.

An opportunity for the Israeli opposition

Actually, the plan was supposed to be kept secret until it was made public, it says. But one of them talked. Just in time for the Jewish holiday week of Sukkot, when public life in Israel is at a standstill and the news is scarce. "And that has worked", comments an insider on the Israeli side, "people talk about it. Even Beilin’s hope that his arch-enemy (Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon will lash out at him has been confirmed."

In Israel, which likes to think of itself as a "the only democracy in the Middle East" presented, the opposition has sided with the Likud government of ex-militars. The army, which in democratic states is normally the executive body, is an active part of political decision-making. The divided Labor Party could not even offer a credible alternative to Sharon’s armored policy in the last elections. It was convenient for the prime minister. That’s why the peace initiative infuriates him all the more. "Als grobter historischer Fehler seit (den Friedensvertragen von) Oslo", Sharon called the plan. "These people have been sidelined by the public, they have been thrown out of positions of responsibility in Israel, and yet they look at these things", scolded Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "This is serious because they act in full knowledge as levers in the hands of foreign powers to exert prere on Israel."

For the respected Jossi Beilin and his comrades-in-arms, the scolding is great. They can not only repeat Sharon’s mantra of "Non-existence of Palestinian interlocutors" but even present a solution to the years of bloodshed that is not based on conquest and domination, and that is even approved by the Palestinian leadership.

In Palestine they are already further along

"We pick up where the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators left off at Camp David (2002) and Taba (2001)", sagt Hisham Abdel Raseq, fruherer PA-Minister zum "Swiss agreements", as the peace initiative is called by Palestinians. However, the renunciation of the right of return for refugees is a matter of beating around the bush. Co-negotiator Qadura Faris, a member of the House, explains the various options for refugees provided in the plan, but believes: "The agreement recognizes the right of return." The "Geneva Agreement" arises with the support of Arafat. It would be difficult to imagine anything else in Palestine.

Now, the plan could easily be dismissed as a fixed idea by the aloof Palestinian leadership, a means to deflect Israeli and international prere. With Abed Rabbo, Abdel Raseq and Nabil Kasis not only the corrupt leadership is represented. The participation of Qadura Faris and Muhammad Hurani also confirms the support of the so-called New Guard in the Fatah movement. They stand for negotiations with Israel and at the same time armed resistance against occupation soldiers and settlers. Thus, they represent a widespread catchment in the population and have influence. And now that everything is public anyway, they want to promote their plan in Palestine.

Arafat himself is holding back from making public statements on the Geneva Agreement. As long as from the Israeli side only unofficial privateers are behind the ambitious plan, Arafat can only lose by announcing the right of return.

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