Why don't Israelis and Palestinians just end the conflict and come to the negotiating table?
The two groups have come to the negotiation table many times and the various statements and accords they have agreed upon have been broken by one side or by both.
This is a conflict between an occupying power and the occupied people and not a conflict between two equal and sovereign countries. Israel exercises massive military, economic, political and diplomatic advantages and there exists a strong Palestinian resistance movement. Negotiations are difficult under such circumstances. In addition, the United States has disproportionately supported Israel and has not been truly neutral or even- handed as a mediator, even when it claims the status as negotiator. In 2004, President George W. Bush declared his support of the settlements in the West Bank, reversing the stance of the United States. President Barack Obama stated that negotiations toward resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict area a priority.
Why did the Oslo Peace Process (Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements in 1993) fail?
The Oslo Accords defined a process and established a time line to resolve the outstanding issues but it was not a peace treaty in itself. Jonathan Kuttab, a well-known Palestinian human rights lawyer, suggested that there were flaws in the Accords themselves: they neutralized international law; they failed to provide a meaningful method of resolving disputes; they divided the Occupied Territories into three types of areas without contiguity; they left the most serious issues until last; there were no means of enforcement or monitoring; the Palestinian leadership was expected to enforce Israeli decisions on the Palestinian people. (Witness Magazine, September 2001)
What is more, between 1993 and 2000, Palestinians experienced a continuation of the military occupation, further settlement expansion, closures of towns or large areas, home demolitions, land confiscation and human rights violations. In signing the Oslo Accords, Palestinians made the compromise to accept the State of Israel on 78% of the original land of Mandated Palestine and their own State on 22%. The Peace Process left the Palestinians worse off than before and with even less land.
What is the meaning of Areas A, B, and C in the Oslo Process and beyond?
Since the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, the West Bank is divided into areas with alphabetic designations. "A" areas contain densely populated communities such as Bethlehem, Nablus, Ramallah, and Jenin and they were to be under Palestinian civil and security control. The "B" areas have Palestinian civilian authority but Israeli "security control" (military) and are located around Palestinian villages. Area C is under Israeli civil and military control and comprises what is left after areas A and B are designated. Since areas A and B are not contiguous, Israel can and does separate them from each other, leaving the West Bank cut up into isolated areas.
Why did Yasir Arafat turn down the "generous offer" made in July 2000 at Camp David?
At the time, each side blamed the other and the most vocal rhetoric included the idea that Mr. Arafat turned down a generous offer. Subsequently the fact-finding committee led by Senator George J. Mitchell did not find either side responsible for the violence that followed the breakdown of negotiations. Lost in the conflict that ensued in September 2000, were a number of facts about the Camp David meeting:
- There had been prior peace meetings and negotiations that spring and this was not a one-time meeting;
- Mr. Arafat had been reluctant to engage in a major summit meeting at that time before he had chance to deal with other internal issues but President Clinton insisted. Mr. Arafat, in stating his reluctance, received President Clinton's promise not to blame him if the negotiations were unsuccessful, but Mr. Clinton broke that promise.
- The exact dimensions of the "generous offer" were not disclosed at the time but have been since. The offer would have left Palestine with a non-contiguous state on significantly less than 22% of mandated Palestine. The West Bank itself would have been divided into three main non-contiguous areas, along with Israeli control over the internal borders and water supplies as well as the external borders. (The Palestinians had already conceded that they were dealing only with the 22% of mandated Palestine in the Oslo Accords.) Settlement blocs, to be controlled by Israel, would incorporate Palestinian villages with about 90,000 inhabitants and much of the West Bank's fertile land. Mr. Arafat did not see this as a generous offer. The status of Jerusalem and refugees was not resolved.
In the summer of 2001 a number of articles were published by respected people about the 2000 meeting at Camp David. See the July 26th front page story in TheNew York Times and the August 9, 2001, New York Review of Books article on"Camp David: Tragedy of Errors" by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley. These articles brought to the fore a broader consensus on the Camp David failure and indicated that all parties, not just Mr. Arafat, were to blame.
What was different about the Taba (Egypt) meeting in 2001 and why did it fail to bring an agreement?
After Camp David, negotiations continued. In late December 2000, President Clinton presented a new proposal that included Palestinian control over nearly 96% of the West Bank, the guaranteed right of refugees to return to Palestine and a negotiated possibility of living in Israel, Palestinian control of Arab sections of Jerusalem, and Israeli control of Jewish section of Jerusalem. Israel would have sovereignty over the Western Wall and Palestine over the Noble Sanctuary (Haram ash-Sharif). This did not take Jerusalem back to the pre-1967 borders but conceded parts of the Old City and the new Jewish "neighborhoods" to Israel.
Both Israelis and Palestinians felt that the session in Taba was positive and that tangible steps were taken. The discussions were suspended because of the impending elections in Israel. After Mr. Ariel Sharon was elected Prime Minister on February 6, 2001, Mr. Barak repudiated Clinton's offers and Mr. Sharon has never renewed negotiations.
Were their other initiatives toward peace in 2001 and beyond?
Yes, there are several: the Zinni Plan, the Tenet Plan, the Arab Peace Initiative, the Road Map and the Geneva Accords.
What is the Arab Peace Initiative?
The Saudi Crown Prince proposed a peace plan, which was endorsed by the Arab League. It promised recognition of Israel and normalization of relations by Arab League states in exchange for ending the Israeli occupation
What is the Road Map?
A group of four entities called the Quartet (United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations) set out a Road Map calling for a negotiated settlement to result in a democratic, independent and viable Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel by 2005. It is not a final status plan but a series of steps for the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel designed to calm the conflict, create a provisional Palestinian state and allow for negotiation of a final status agreement. It is a performance-based plan.
What is the Geneva Accord (Geneva Peace Initiative) ?
The Geneva Accord is an agreement made in 2003 between an Israeli delegation led by Yossi Beilin, who had major responsibility in negotiating the Oslo Agreement, and a Palestinian delegation led by Yasser Abed Rabbo, former Minister of Information of the Palestinian Authority. Although they were not actually representing their governments, the leaders had been involved in previous negotiations and wanted to prove that negotiations were possible. Unlike the Oslo Agreement, this plan did not call for confidence building measures but an immediate settlement of many of the outstanding issues. It has no relation to the Geneva Conventions signed in 1949 other than the location of the city.
What Does the Geneva Accord call for?
Some of the major points are:
- There will be a two state solution.
- The Palestinians will recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
- Israel will recognize the state of Palestine and withdraw settlers from inside it.
- The pre-1967 border will be the border between the states with some adjustments.
- Adjustments will be made to allow parts of the settlement population to be annexed to Israel in exchange for comparable Israeli land.
- Palestinian refugees will be entitled to compensation for their refugee status and loss of property, but they will not have rights to return to Israel. They may return to Palestine or remain in diaspora.
- Sovereignty over Jerusalem will be divided.
- An international peacekeeping force will be invited in to help in its implementation.
Is there an Israeli peace movement?
Yes, there are a number of organizations working on peace and human rights within Israel. There are branches in other countries as well. Some groups are Rabbis for Human Rights, Coalition of Women for a Just Peace (Israeli and Palestinian), Gush Shalom, Yesh Gvul, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Bat Shalom, Women in Black, B'Tselem, and Peace Now, Machsom Watch, Bereaved Parents Circle (with Palestinians), Physicians for Human Rights, and others.
Is there a Palestinian peace movement?
Yes, but the Palestinians are under occupation and want justice, human rights and their independence in a peace settlement so those issues dominate the agenda. It can be described as a Just Peace movement. Some groups are Sabeel Liberation Theology Center, Palestinian Center for Rapproachment Between People, Al Haq: Law in the Service of Man, Bir Zeit Human Rights Action Project, Palestine Human Rights Information Center, Wi'am (Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center), BADIL, the Association of Arab Students, Defense for Children International and the International Center of Bethlehem.
Are there Arab groups in the U.S. supporting an Israeli/Palestinian peace?
Arab organizations include the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the American Committee on Jerusalem, Al-Awda Palestinian Right to Return Coalition. Many Christian denominations working on this issue include Arabs in their staff and have Arabs in their congregations.
Are there Christian or Muslim Groups in the U.S. supporting an Israeli/Palestinian peace?
Specific groups include the National Council of Churches of Christ, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding, American Friends Service Committee, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Americans for Middle East Understanding, Friends of Sabeel North America, and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program for Palestine and Israel (sponsored by the World Council of Churches) are Christian organizations. The Muslim Peace Fellowship, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) are Muslim organizations.
The National Interreligious Leadership Initiative is a coalition of Jewish and Muslim organizations and Christian churches advocating for a two-state solution and a robust U.S. involvement in bringing that about. Many Christian denominations support peace through resolutions passed at national meetings, special groups of churches and parishioners, and through staff working on the issue.