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Talking Peace Between Geneva and Ramallah

By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz

The big news from Sunday's visit to Ramallah by Geneva Initiative supporters may be that there is still a peace camp in both the Palestinian territories and Israel.
RAMALLAH - It may be that the big news from yesterday's visit to Ramallah of the Geneva Initiative supporters is that somewhere, out there in the Palestinian territories and in Israel, there is still a peace camp that appeared to have entirely disappeared. In other words, to use the slogan of the Geneva Initiative, "there is a partner."
More than 200 people, Israelis and Palestinians, crowded the conference room of the Muqata yesterday to hear their host, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and have lunch.
It is hard to imagine Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inviting to his office or home dozens of senior Palestinian figures belonging to various groups, some of them former members of the security forces who had participated in the fighting against Israel. However, a little before noon, dozens of Israeli supporters of the Geneva Initiative arrived at the Muqata. Some of them are or were Knesset MKs, from Labor, Meretz, Kadima and even Likud. Others are former IDF officers, some of whom had participated in the siege against Yasser Arafat at the same site. They were joined by members of well-known leftists groups such as the Bereaved Families Forum, the Peres Peace Center and Peace Now.
They were joined by dozens of senior figures in Fatah and the PLO. Nearly all the members of the Fatah Central Committee and members of the PLO Executive Committee, along with the Palestinian members of the Geneva Initiative, headed by Yasser Abed Rabbo, also attended.
Abbas took the floor and had very positive things to say, and perhaps the biggest mistake of the Palestinian organizers is that they did not allow television cameras on site. Apparently the Palestinians too have domestic political considerations.
Abbas, who appeared on occasion to present a log of his meetings with senior Israeli and U.S. figures, focused on the issues that Israel and the PA had agreed on in the past, during the negotiations between himself and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The Palestinian leader described how agreement was reached on security arrangements - about the deployment of a third force, most likely from NATO, led by the U.S., after an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.
Abbas said that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II welcomed these understandings, which came under the heading of the "Jones Agreement."
On the issue of borders, Abbas said the two sides had minimal differences remaining, after Olmert asked that 6.5 percent of the West Bank remain under Israel's control and Abbas offered 1.9 percent. Another issue was the quality of the land that the Palestinians would receive in exchange.
"We felt that if we would resolve the issue of borders," Abbas said, "it will be possible to also resolve all the others [refugees, Jerusalem]."