The PA Papers: A Political Opportunity

The PA Papers: A Political Opportunity

By Yossi Beilin, Yisrael Hayom

via Yisrael Hayom, translated by GI staff (click for Hebrew original)

President Bill Clinton’s Parameters from December 2000 succeeded in outlining the details of a possible peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Neither of the sides endorsed them as they had been presented, and the proposal was supposedly removed from the agenda with the end of Clinton’s term a month later. And still, this is the most concrete proposal in town. Based on it, the two delegations held official talks in Taba a decade ago. Based on it, we reached the unofficial understandings of the Geneva Initiative in 2003. And based on it, the PLO headed by Mahmoud Abbas and the Olmert Government held talks in 2008.

One of the important parameters of the Clinton proposal was that all the Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem would comprise the Palestinian capital, while the Jewish neighborhoods which Israel built in the Eastern part of the city since the 1967 War would be annexed to Western Jerusalem. The Palestinians accepted this principle. The fact that someone whose agenda is to harm the pragmatic Palestinian leadership is presenting this public and well-known acceptance as an Israeli-Palestinian conspiracy does not turn it into one.

The leaked documents present the truth regarding the negotiations that took place after Oslo and particularly in the last decade: both sides have come very close but not close enough.

Israel has accepted the two-state solution, the division of East Jerusalem, and the return to 1967 borders with mutual land swap modifications which range between 3 and 6 percent. Israel will not recognize a right of return for Palestinian Refugees and will definitely not be willing to implement it, but is ready to grant financial compensation and enable a symbolic return of a limited number of refugees under the state’s sovereign decision.

The Palestinians insist on an Israeli land annexation that ranges between 2 to 4 percent, not more, and are interested in a larger number of refugees being absorbed into Israel (the dispute between Olmert and Abbas was on 25,000 to 100,000 over the course of a decade). No understandings were reached regarding the Holy Basin (such understandings were reached in the Geneva Initiative), but with respect to security arrangements, including air space, satisfactory solutions were achieved.

This is the real story. The revelation of the documents confirmed it. The Palestinians do not need to be ashamed that they made significant progress towards a compromise. Israel also has nothing to be embarrassed about. Both sides surpassed their slogans from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. They did not reach an agreement because no Israeli government has been willing to pay the price suggested in the Geneva Initiative – which the Palestinian side never officially committed to but has informally suggested it would be willing to endorse.

It is possible that the momentum created could be utilized to approach the sides and ask them if as a result of Israel’s insistence on including a far-off settlement at the heart of the West Bank--Ariel for example--the small gaps which remain are unbridgeable.

Perhaps this is the moment when the Americans should ask the sides if they stand up to the documents publicized, and if they are ready for intensive negotiations for an agreement based on the Clinton Parameters, the Taba talks, the Ayalon-Nusseibeh Initiative, the Geneva Initiative, the Olmert-Abbas talks, and the Netanyahu-Abbas talks. Are they ready and willing to put an end to this conflict, which has persisted since World War II, before all the region’s fundamentalists celebrate at the expense of the weakness of compromise and the absence of Israeli and Palestinian national strength?