December 8, 2003 - The latest peace plan to be receiving a lot of attention is the so-called "Geneva Initiative." This is an informal agreement negotiated by Yossi Beilin, former Israeli Minister of Justice and now leader of the Shahar ("Morning") Party, and former Palestinian Information Minister and peace negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo. Since it was not negotiated by official representatives of the Israeli Government and Palestinian Authority, it has no official standing. But it has been getting a lot of support from notable people such as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. It seems on the verge of being taken seriously.
The Geneva Accord has been advertised as a great breakthrough, in essence consisting of Israel's willingness to give up its settlements plus sovereignty over the Temple Mount in exchange for diplomatic recognition and the Palestinians' conceding the Right of Return (of Palestinian refugees to Israel proper). A report in Haaretz put it this way:
At the heart of the proposal is a Palestinian concession on the right of return to lands within the State of Israel, in exchange for sovereignty over the Temple Mount. The plan also calls for an Israeli withdrawal from most of the West Bank and the entire Gaza Strip.
While I did and still do strongly support the Roadmap, I cannot give my support to the Geneva plan. I believe it would be a disaster for Israel. The plan has already been subject to detailed critical analysis (see sources). I will mention just a couple of key points, enough to invalidate the plan as any kind of realistic measure for solving the conflict. I will also supplement these analyses by quoting the language of the plan itself - this to ensure there is no doubt about what the plan actually says.
Article 3 of the Geneva plan calls for the establishment of an Implementation and Verification Group (IVG), as follows:
An Implementation and Verification Group (IVG) shall hereby be established to facilitate, assist in, guarantee, monitor, and resolve disputes relating to the implementation of this Agreement.
The IVG shall include the U.S., the Russian Federation, the EU, the UN, and other parties, both regional and international, to be agreed on by the Parties....
The Multinational Force (MF) established under Article 5 shall be an integral part of the IVG.
Article 5 stipulates that the IVG will include a Multinational Force to supervise implementation of the agreement:
A Multinational Force (MF) shall be established to provide security guarantees to the Parties, act as a deterrent, and oversee the implementation of the relevant provisions of this Agreement....
To perform the functions specified in this Agreement, the MF shall be deployed in the state of Palestine. The MF shall enter into the appropriate Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the state of Palestine.
In accordance with this Agreement... the MF shall:
In light of the non-militarized nature of the Palestinian state, protect the territorial integrity of the state of Palestine.
The major terrorist groups have already announced their rejection of the Geneva Accord. Their attacks on Israeli civilians are likely to continue. But under these provisions Israel could not defend itself or go after these terrorists without directly confronting the Multinational Force, some of whose members will be drawn from countries hostile to Israel (European Union, UN). While the Multinational Force protects the territorial integrity of the state of Palestine, who will protect Israeli targets of terrorism?
The Geneva Accord does not nullify the Palestinian demand for a right of return of Palestinian refugees into Israel (which the Palestinians surely know would destroy the Jewish state). It actually supports that demand. The Geneva plan is a bait-and-switch of gigantic proportions: its main selling point to Israel was its promise to relinquish the Right of Return, but contrary to all the advertising it does no such thing. Let's look at the relevant language from Article 7 (emphasis added):
Choice of Permanent Place of Residence (PPR)
The solution to the PPR aspect of the refugee problem shall entail an act of informed choice on the part of the refugee to be exercised in accordance with the options and modalities set forth in this agreement. PPR options from which the refugees may choose shall be as follows:
i. The state of Palestine, in accordance with clause (a) below.
ii. Areas in Israel being transferred to Palestine in the land swap, following assumption of Palestinian sovereignty, in accordance with clause (a) below.
iii. Third Countries, in accordance with clause (b) below.
iv. The state of Israel, in accordance with clause (c) below.
v. Present Host countries, in accordance with clause (d) below.
clause (a): PPR options i and ii shall be the right of all Palestinian refugees and shall be in accordance with the laws of the State of Palestine.
clause (b): Option iii shall be at the sovereign discretion of third countries and shall be in accordance with numbers that each third country will submit to the International Commission. These numbers shall represent the total number of Palestinian refugees that each third country shall accept.
clause (c): Option iv shall be at the sovereign discretion of Israel and will be in accordance with a number that Israel will submit to the International Commission. This number shall represent the total number of Palestinian refugees that Israel shall accept. As a basis, Israel will consider the average of the total numbers submitted by the different third countries to the International Commission.
clause (d): Option v shall be in accordance with the sovereign discretion of present host countries. Where exercised this shall be in the context of prompt and extensive development and rehabilitation programs for the refugee communities.
In other words, Palestinian refugees are free to choose Israel as their place of return if they wish, and as the Article goes on to state, their choice is to be completely free, without "any attempts at interference or organized pressure on the process of choice." Israel therefore cannot deny them the right to choose Israel as their place of return. Furthermore, Israel must consider the mathematical average of figures submitted by "third countries" (which include Israel's implacable enemies) as the basis for the number of refugees it will accept. At the very least this will result in enormous international pressure on Israel to accept as many refugees as possible. So much for concession on the Right of Return.
It should be obvious that the whole idea of partition is to have one living space for Jews and another for Palestinian Arabs. The purpose of the Palestinian State is to become a homeland for Palestinian refugees. To make Israel yet another homeland for Palestinians (as if there were not also 22 Arab countries that could absorb great numbers of them) would effectively eliminate the State of Israel and place its Jewish population in mortal danger. This is obviously the reason Palestinians are so strongly pushing the Right of Return, a strategy for Israel's destruction that does not deserve international cooperation.
It should also be noted that the refugee problem has persisted because these "third countries" have refused to settle the Palestinian refugees, unlike Israel, which has welcomed and incorporated the equivalent number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands. Under the Right of Return and Geneva Accord, Israel is asked to shoulder the burden not only of these Jewish refugees but of the Arab refugees as well.
In conclusion the Geneva Accord would require Israel to give up virtually everything - even sovereignty over the Temple Mount - in exchange for virtually nothing. Israel would lose the right to defend itself, and would not even gain any meaningful concessions on the Right of Return. Even now some Palestinian leaders, including signatories to the Accord, are denying that it concedes the Right of Return. No greater proof of the emptiness of this document is needed. It is an expression of Israeli desperation, and an invitation to disaster.
This agreement, negotiated by people who have no official standing and already rejected by the terrorists, is nevertheless gaining in popularity and momentum. Israel could have avoided this, by giving stronger support to the Roadmap. Unfortunately the pro-settlement faction in Israel, while not representing the majority, is strong enough to retard Israel's progress in taking measures to protect its continued existence. Even now some in that faction have proposed a plan of their own that would create a binational state in order to keep the territories under Israeli control. If the Geneva plan is a disaster from the Left, this settler plan is a disaster from the Right. Both would undermine Israel's security, perhaps fatally.
Unfortunately, because of pressure from extremes on both Left and Right, Israel seems paralyzed when it comes to taking diplomatic steps that might truly help to extract itself from its dilemma. Such steps might include using the Roadmap as a basis for a settlement much more favorable to Israel's security needs and long-term viability. The Roadmap should have become both a way for Israel to shed its liabilities in the territories from a position of strength, and a means of solidifying the U.S.-Israel alliance. Both the Israeli Left, with its peace-at-any-price mentality, and the Israeli Right, with its reluctance to give an inch on settlements, are leading Israel to an uncertain and possibly calamitous fate. It can only be hoped that the Israeli Center will find the strength to confront these two extremes before time finally runs out.
Ain, Stewart. "Settler Peace Plan Unveiled." Jewish Week, November 28, 2003.
Bedein, David and Yitzhak Sokoloff. "Geneva Discord." FrontPageMagazine.com, December 5, 2003.
"The Geneva Accord." Haaretz, December 5, 2003.
The Geneva Initiative. October 12, 2003.
Gutman, Matthew. "Settlement Plan Calls for Binational State." Jerusalem Post, November 26, 2003.
Halevi, Yossi Klein and Michael B. Oren. "Fantasy." The New Republic, December 15, 2003.
Peace with Realism