Along the "Green Line"

Along the "Green Line"

By Guy Frankowitcz, RelevantInfo

via [translated by a Geneva Initiative staff--click here for original article]
At the end of last week, a new Palestinian government, led by Dr. Rami Hamdallah, was sworn into office. The ceremony was held at the PA’s Mukatah compound in Ramallah. Hamdallah is a scientist and until recently was the president of the University of Nablus. Hamdallah replaces Salam Fayyad, a 54-year-old linguist and well-known figure among Palestinian intellectuals. Fayyad was known as an independent person who was not a member of majority party Fatah.

Many people are wondering what the motivation is behind Abu Mazen’s latest appointment and what effect, if any, it will have on the resumption of the negotiations with the Israeli government. Despite attempts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in recent months, there has yet to be a commitment from either the Israelis or Palestinians to revive peace talks, and the chances for the resumption of a dialogue in the foreseeable future seems unlikely. Pessimists believe that in the absence of negotiations, chances for solving the conflict on the principle of “two states for two peoples” are shrinking with each passing day, with the two sides moving steadily in the direction of a single state. This idea is supported by Israeli right wing and left-wing radicals, and according to experts, is also beginning to penetrate the consciousness of people in the West Bank.

So what awaits us in the foreseeable future? Is it still possible to divide the country and create a Palestinian state alongside Israel? Where exactly is the Green Line and what is its history? If peace talks resume, should Israelis recommit to the oral agreements (on borders and the exchange of territories of East Jerusalem) that former Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert made at Camp David and Annapolis? And what precisely did said agreements entail?

Perhaps the most competent person in Israel on these matters is Col. (res.) Shaul Arieli, author of the book The Right to Think (Zhut Hashiva), which was published three years ago and has become an encyclopedia on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Arieli commanded combat troops in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon and served as security advisor to the Netanyahu government from 1997 to 1999. He also took part in negotiations with the Palestinians at Camp David (2000) and Annapolis (2007), and is a signatory of the Geneva Initiative (2003).

In late May, the organization Our Heritage – Democratic Charter partnered with the Geneva Initiative to hold a seminar for Russian-speaking Israelis, including members of the Russian-language media. The tour, led by Col. Arieli, was called “One Day, Two Countries” and visited strategically significant points along the Green Line in order to give an idea of past and possible future borders.

After seeing the Green Line, participants visited the West Bank city of Ramallah, where they visited the Mahmoud Darwish Museum and met with representatives of the Palestinian people.

Did the trip answer all of the participants’ questions? It is hard to say because of the highly complex nature of the conflict. One trip is certainly not enough to understand all the many aspects of the conflict, but there is no doubt that many who participated in the tour came away with a much more clear and tangible understanding of what the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” really means.