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Geneva Initiative stirred debate in Ha'aretz

Article criticizing the Geneva Initiative Security Annex by Shlomo Avinery
Article answering this criticsm by Shaul Arieli
Two "letters to the editor" by Ha'aretz readers who responded


That's no way to make peace
By Shlomo Avineri
An examination of the names of the Palestinian and Israeli authors of the recently-released security annex in the Geneva Initiative reveals that the former are official representatives of the Palestinian Authority, while the latter are retired brigadier generals and colonels from the Israel Defense Forces with no official status.

The text itself leaves the reader wondering whether to laugh or cry. What is clear is that this document is no way to make peace. It is also clear that when security issues are left to former officers - even well-intentioned ones who support the Geneva Initiative - they are only capable of seeing peace through the sight of a rifle. The document is not a peace initiative, but rather a draft for an armed armistice that would make life in Israel and the Palestinian state one of mutual siege, full of suspicion and threats.

These are a few examples of how the security aspect of the Geneva Initiative, without getting into the political issues, make the idea of peace a bad joke. The Palestinian state would have three roads where Israelis could travel without a passport, including Route 443 from Maccabim Junction to the entrance of Jerusalem. An Israeli who wishes to travel on this road would have to have both GPS and SOS capabilities. Not exactly a peace border, especially for those living in Modi'in and working in Jerusalem.
The border crossing would be situated on French Hill. A Palestinian seeking to enter Jerusalem would have to pass through two terminals, an Israeli and a Palestinian one, connected by an underground passage, and would then be able to get on the light rail system. The Israeli terminal would presumably be staffed by security personnel. Not exactly a peace border either.

The Old City would, in effect, have international status. Israeli and Palestinians would be able to enter it without passports, but two international forces would be deployed within the walls. It remains to be determined who would ensure the safety of worshipers at the Western Wall, or prevent Jewish extremists from breaking into the Temple Mount compound. In a utopian state such international arrangements may work, but in reality they exist nowhere in the world. The composition of the forces and who would be in charge is unclear. Would Israel retain any jurisdiction over the Old City's residents, or would they be under the jurisdiction of international forces? This mess is called internationalization.

An Israeli infantry battalion would remain in the Jordan Valley and three international battalions would be deployed along the border with Jordan, with another battalion along the Philadelphi route, which separates the Gaza Strip from Egypt. Such a massive international military presence exists in no other country that has peaceful relations with its neighbors.

The Palestinian state would be demilitarized but have a police force, naval police force, national security forces, internal security organizations, border police and various other security apparatuses. The troops would be equipped with light arms only, and when needed would receive more serious crowd-dispersal equipment from the international forces. Anyone who believes such a mechanism could function under stress during riots is probably an academic.

In short, this is an ineffective and unpractical militarization of peace arrangements. An early alert and security mechanism would have to be part of any arrangement, but a cumbersome, multidimensional and force-oriented system such as this is a recipe not for peace, but for friction and misunderstanding. It would make the people of Israel and Palestine the subjects of countless competing military, local and international authorities. Let's hope the U.S. administration realizes this, in case this bizarre program is ever presented to it.
That's the way to make peace
By: Shaul Arieli
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, fed for more than a century by national, political
and social tensions, has created a climate of suspicion, fear and a feeling of being under threat from both sides, which no final-status agreement can ever change with one stroke of the pen. This is one of the Geneva Initiative's basic assumptions. Although it offers a practical and cohesive outline for establishing a Palestinian state, it aims to secure Israel's vital interests such as preventing the realization of the Palestinian right of return, assuring acknowledgment of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, and most of all, detailed and meticulous security arrangements vital to Israel's existence.
In view of the above, Shlomo Avineri's criticism of the initiative's chapter on security arrangements and its detailed annex ("That's no way to make peace", August 8) is all the more bewildering. Avineri's article appears to ignore the reality of living here, where almost all Israeli and Palestinian families have been scarred by the conflict. All of Avineri's questions are clearly answered in the initiative's security chapter, published six years ago. The international peacekeeping force will only be active in territories of the Palestinian state, so Israeli citizens will not become "the subjects of countless competing military, local and international authorities," as Avineri claims. The Western Wall and other parts of Jerusalem's Old City under Israeli sovereignty will be under Israeli rule, contrary to Avineri's fear that residents of the Old City will live under an internationalized regime that would create a "mess". A serious discussion of the security arrangements (like the demilitarization of Palestine and the involvement of international contingents), which seek to deter the sides from violating the agreement in the short term and ensure a stable reconciliation process in the long term, forces us to consider the assumptions at the core of the arrangements.
They can be summed up as follows. First, to ensure that the threat to Israel's security will not increase if the final status agreement crumbles, no foreign army will be stationed on the border, taking a page from the agreement with Egypt (and someday Syria). Second, in any agreement, the border will be determined after settlements are annexed to Israel, rather than by strategic security considerations. The new border's length will be twice that of the Green Line.
Therefore we must ensure that Palestine can set up an internal security force that
will prevent terrorist attacks even before the perpetrators reach the border. Would
Avineri suggest, for instance, that we take down the security fence between Israel
and Palestine as soon as an agreement is signed?
Third, an agreement with the Palestinians will not instantly remove all threats to Israel. It must therefore ensure the existence of early-warning installations and Israel's ability to fly in Palestine's airspace. Fourth, an international force is supposed to ensure the commitments to Israel's security, but it would also serve as a guarantee to the security of the demilitarized Palestinian state against a rapid deployment by the Israelis.
Finally, a stable agreement would allow the sides to take better care of their vital interests than they could without it. Therefore the security chapter can only be analyzed in the context of a complete package of give-and-take seeing to borders, refugees and Jerusalem.
If we reach an agreement, Israel will have to ensure that the security arrangements do not become, through cynical and belligerent interpretation, the seeds of a future conflict. But it would also need to carefully consider over the years whether the agreement and its stability allow it to remove some of the security arrangements. Until then we must adopt a careful and sober approach; there's no doubt the U.S. administration will understand that.
Translation of two “Letters to the Editor” published on Ha’aretz daily newspaper on Wednesday, August 5th, 2009
On Peace and Security
In response to Shlomo Avinery’s article entitled “That’s No Way to Make Peace” (Ha’aretz, 02.08.2009)
One should welcome Professor Shlomo Avinery’s comments on the Geneva Initiative’s security annex. Indeed, it is interesting to note his comment that the Israeli team comprises mostly of former military generals (“they are only capable of seeing peace through the sight of a rifle”), while the Palestinian delegation comprises of people who represent the PA.
Simultaneously, however, given our legitimate security threat as Israelis, there are those who will see the military background of our representatives as a positive point.
An interesting question emerges from Professor Avinery’s words: why was there no official Israeli representative on the team? And perhaps it should also be asked, why has an official Israeli peace plan not been presented to date in answer to the Arab League Initiative? And why are we constantly avoiding and even ignoring others’ initiatives?
As for the “mess” of the internationalization of the Old City, it appears that the same idea is very much similar to Herzl’s vision: Herzl called to transform Jerusalem into an X-territory “so that it will not belong to anyone and simultaneously belong to everyone, and with it the holy places which will become the collective property of all the worshipers – a massive collective regime of culture and ethics” (Herzl’s diaries, May 7th, 1896).
Dismissing the Geneva Initiative through expressions such as “a delusional plan” and “a bad joke” is not constructive. We need a public discussion regarding our dubious peace policy.
                                                                                                Ze’ev Refael, Haifa
One should welcome the security annex of the Geneva Initiative, even if only because of its illustration that a detailed agreement can be reached. Professor Avinery calls the annex a “militarization of peace”. I see it as a serious effort of both sides to prevent the launching of Kassam rockets on Kfar Saba. This, in short, should be the main goal of the security annex.
Be it the Geneva Initiative or not, any final status agreement that will ever be reached will be extremely similar to the details of the Geneva Initiative. The reason for this is that the pragmatic forces on both sides will not agree to accept any less, and the fanatics will not agree to concede any more.
As for the Initiative’s content – our territorial problem is in the Ariel enclave. Olmert was unable to reach an agreement because he refused to forfeit Ariel. An agreement means forfeiting Ariel (as well).
The tight schedule that the Initiative offers is a hazard which Israel cannot undertake. The Palestinians need to prove that they can run a clean, terror-free government, should the process take one year or ten years. Who they will prove to and how – that will be determined in an agreement.
                                                                                                Zuriel Shivu, Holon