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Negotiations: without a one sided victory

By: Yossi Beilin, Yisrael Hayom


On the face of it, it seems that there is a common denominator between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Prime Minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu. They are both interested in reaching a permanent, not an interim, agreement, despite the fact that experienced, pragmatic and cynical advisers tell them there is no chance of reaching such an agreement, and that it is preferable to be satisfied with an interim agreement.

Abbas is worried that any interim agreement might turn out to be a permanent one which would not fulfil the minimum requirements of the Palestinian people. And Netanyahu is worried that in any interim agreement he will be forced to relinquish a sizeable portion of the Territories without receiving a suitable Palestinian, or an overall Arab, exchange in return.
However this common denominator does not suffice and neither does the general agreement regarding the ‘two states for two people’ principle as long as both sides see the negotiations between them as a zero sum game, in which wherever one side loses the other side gains. I think that we have proven the possibility of mutual victory through the Geneva Initiative which was agreed upon six years ago, and the Annexes of which were recently published, encompassing c.500 pages. I would not recommend that every member of the public read these Annexes, and this is also the reason that - as opposed to what we did in 2003 when we sent the original Initiative to every Israeli household - this time we did not approach many people. It is certainly desirable, however, that the leadership read the detailed suggestions with great care.
No, they are not expected to adopt every word. We are talking about negotiations which continued for two years which, if they wish, could be shortened to a few months. It is obvious that the result of their negotiations will differ from the negotiations we held with senior Palestinians during the last decade, but we have demonstrated what can be achieved if both sides really wish to succeed and not just expose the other side’s recalcitrance. In such negotiations both sides could gain meaningful achievements which would stem from their cooperation alone. Accordingly, for instance, the Environment Annex demonstrates the possibility of cooperating in order to bring a cleaner environment west of the Jordan; fighting against ecological hazards and enjoying a renewal of energy. The Water Annex points out the possibility of enlarging the water reservoir by coordinating a more efficient way for the use of existing waters. In short, rather than dealing with divisions and past reckonings, we could work together for a much better future.
Jerusalem, which is described in the Annex in great detail to the resolution of the very last house, will include Western Jerusalem, the neighbourhoods which have been established across the Green Line up to 2003, the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall. The other areas, in Eastern Jerusalem, will comprise the Palestinian capital. Security arrangements will ensure that our neighbouring state will be non-militarized with an international force positioned in its territory. A solution for the Palestinian refugees which does not exacerbate the demographic problem in Israel will be found, and both sides will recognise that Israel and Palestine are the national homes of the Jewish people and the Palestinian people.
The Geneva Initiative: the 2003 document, and the Annexes added to it now, is the only attempt carried out by key people from both Israel and the PLO to seek out a detailed solution. It won’t last forever. The reality on the ground might cause even this paper, which the hawks consider as going too far, as a pipe-dream. Before embarking upon a political move – if such a move is at all plausible in the near future – it is worthwhile for both sides to assess it and understand better what the pragmatic camps of each side could offer, so that negotiations end in two victors.
Thanks to Sarit Bloom for translating this op-ed from Hebrew