A Town Hall Conference Call
Levy, Director of the New American Foundation's Middle
East Policy Initiative and Lead Israeli Drafter of the Geneva
Thursday, November 29
Details will follow next
Palestinian Perspectives on Annapolis
By Naomi Chazan and Rafi
Brit Tzedek asked two of our allies, Naomi Chazan,
professor of Political Science and former Member of Knesset with
the Meretz party in Israel, and Rafi Dajani, the Executive
Director of the American Task Force on Palestine, to answer
several questions about the upcoming Annapolis peace conference,
tentatively scheduled for November 27.
1. What is the significance of the upcoming
peace conference for Israelis and Palestinians?
2. Who do you think should be included in the
peace process (state and non-state actors, representatives of
civil society, etc.) and why?
3. What do you see as the issue around Hamas
with the peace conference and how can it be addressed?
4. Which of the final status issues i.e.
Jerusalem, borders, refugees, settlements and security
arrangements, do you believe are most contentious and why? How
do you think the two sides might go about reconciling their
differences on these issues?
5. What are the weaknesses of the Olmert and
Abbas governments and how do you think that might affect the
outcome of the conference?
6. What role would you like to see the U.S. play
in the Annapolis conference and into the future?
1. What is the significance of the
upcoming peace conference for Israelis and
Naomi Chazan (for Israelis): The Annapolis
meeting scheduled to take place next week will be significant
only if it launches a set of negotiations within the framework
of the Arab League Initiative on permanent settlement issues
immediately after the formal ceremonies. These must be
accompanied by clear agreements on monitoring and verification
mechanisms to accompany the process. A series of gestures
to improve the situation on the ground, including release of
prisoners, a settlement freeze, removal of unauthorized
outposts, and dramatic improvements in the flow of peoples and
goods can improve the climate, but are not a replacement for
Israeli public opinion is ambiguous at this time on the
utility of these measures. Anything short of a vigorous
diplomatic effort leading to a sustainable two-state solution is
antithetical to Israeli interests in the long-run.
Rafi Dajani (for Palestinians): The
Annapolis meeting is significant on a number of levels. It
heralds the potential for the resumption of serious
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations leading to a final settlement,
for the first time in seven years. In addition, after six and a
half years of little engagement on the conflict, the United
States, for a number of different reasons, has re-engaged in a
serious fashion in the hope, not so much that a Palestinian
state can be established by the end of the second Bush
Administration, but more that an irreversible process, a
foundation, can be created leading to Palestinian statehood and
an end to the conflict.
Simply holding the meeting does not guarantee its success.
Expectations are realistically low that the meeting will produce
a joint document/declaration that will address the 'core issues'
of borders, Jerusalem and refugees in a substantive way.
More important is what follows the meeting, where success
will be measured by progress on two tracks. The first track is
the initiation of a serious process of negotiations between the
parties, with the active involvement of the United States,
leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on
internationally accepted parameters and the Arab Peace
Initiative. Progress on this track should result in increased
Arab endorsing of and contribution to the process, particularly
from Saudi Arabia. This is the much-mentioned 'political
horizon' that is so critical to re-establish Palestinian faith
in their ability to achieve statehood through political
The second track is a visible and marked improvement of
conditions on the ground. Internally, Palestinians are primarily
concerned with establishing law and order and the rule of law.
Prime Minister Fayyad has taken important steps towards
re-establishing that with the recent deployment of thousands of
Palestinian police across the West Bank, most notably in Nablus.
Parallel to that must be Israeli actions that demonstrate
Israel's commitment to a two-state solution, most critically a
settlement freeze but also including removal of illegal
outposts, release of prisoners, and the facilitation of
Palestinian movement of people and goods throughout the West
Bank and in and out of Gaza in order to resuscitate the
2. Who do you think should be
included in the peace process (state and non-state actors,
representatives of civil society, etc.) and why?
Naomi Chazan: The negotiations should be
transparent, consultative and hence as inclusive as
possible. This means that the number of state actors and
the level of attendance at the Annapolis event will be an
important factor in the success of the Annapolis process that,
hopefully, will commence immediately afterwards. This
international participation will have the effect of granting
legitimacy to the negotiations, and will impose on the
participants obligations as well.
Civil society should also be included at Annapolis. One
of the major reasons for the failure of the Oslo process was the
chasm that developed between decision-makers and the publics
they claimed to represent. This mistake cannot be
repeated. The participation of some civil society
representation can offer a bridge to the Palestinian and Israeli
publics and help promote support for decisions as they are
Rafi Dajani: At this late stage, it is
unrealistic to include actors beyond the parties to the
conflict, the United States and possibly key Arab states at the
Annapolis meeting. However, as the peace process following the
meeting unfolds, it will be important to expand the circle of
state and non-state actors as well as include representatives of
civil and religious society in order to support the process of
negotiations and the difficult decisions the Israeli and
Palestinian leaderships will have to take. A 'staggered' level
of participation is likely most useful, the sequence of which
will depend on the shape of the process itself as it
In terms of the type of participation, the support of Arab
states will give the Palestinians the cover of legitimacy for
their negotiations, as well as the political cover from the
inevitable criticism and resistance that the process will face
from opponents. International participants, particularly the
international donor community, will supply the critical
financial and material backing necessary for building the
institutions and economy of a future Palestinian state. The
upcoming Paris donor conference is an important first step in
the effort. Civil and religious society, particularly among
Israelis and Palestinians, could foster and enhance
communication and dialogue to address the existing skepticism
and suspicion between the two sides.
3. What do you see as the issue
around Hamas with the peace conference and how can it be
Naomi Chazan: Israel's negotiating partner
on the Palestinian side has traditionally been the PLO.
All agreements signed to date have been concluded between the
PLO and the government of Israel. This formula should be
continued in the current round as well. If the PLO
incorporates Hamas representation – a move that would ease
matters given Hamas control of Gaza – that should be
respected by Israel.
Rafi Dajani: As head of the Palestine
Liberation Organization, it is solely within the mandate of
Palestinian President Abbas to negotiate with Israel. This does
not require Hamas permission or acceptance. There will be no
Hamas representation at the Annapolis meeting and neither is it
necessary for the meeting's purposes.
Within Hamas, there are two strains of thought regarding the
Annapolis meeting. One strain advocates actively working to
ensure the meeting's failure. The other advocates waiting for
the inevitable failure it sees resulting. Either way, Hamas
opposes the meeting and predicts its failure.
the longer run, it will be essential for the implementation
stage of an agreement that the issue of Hamas be addressed. It
is impossible that a Palestinian state can come into existence
with the current Palestinian political fracture and West
Bank/Gaza division. Hamas represents a sizable minority of the
Palestinian public, with an Islamist constituency being at its
core and those who have lost faith in the political process as
default supporters. If an unfolding process of negotiations
following the Annapolis meeting improves Palestinian daily life,
brings a political horizon of statehood slowly to the
foreground, and stops Israeli actions contradictory to the
establishment of a Palestinian state, Hamas will find it
difficult to actively oppose the negotiations. It will also
allow President Abbas to negotiate the inevitably needed
Palestinian reconciliation from a position of strength. A
failure of the political process following Annapolis or even a
continuation of the status quo will greatly strengthen Hamas and
may result in increased violence.
4. Which of the final status issues
i.e. Jerusalem, borders, refugees, settlements and security
arrangements, do you believe are most contentious and why? How
do you think the two sides might go about reconciling their
differences on these issues?
Naomi Chazan (Israeli perspective): The
question of the borders is the most immediate issue that must be
resolved. The June 4, 1967 boundaries are the bedrock of
any binding agreement. Any variation from these borders
must be by agreement, on the basis of 1:1 swap. No
transfer of population must be included in this
settlement. The fixing of the borders will facilitate
agreement on the most contentious issues, which remain Jerusalem
and the refugees. Although some contend that it might be
possible to have Israel accept the one capital for two states
formula in Jerusalem in exchange for Palestinian willingness to
agree not to demand implementation of the right of return for
refugees to Israel, it might be more productive to deal with
each issue separately.
Sharing Jerusalem as the capital of two states is a sine qua
non for a lasting agreement. Israeli recognition of its
(partial) responsibility for the creation of the 1948 refugee
problem will go a long way to producing a formula acceptable to
both sides which will address both Palestinian and Israelis
Rafi Dajani (Palestinian perspective):
Palestinian red lines exist on all of the above final status
issues, although there is a great degree of pragmatism regarding
negotiating these issues as long as the principles they are
based on are safeguarded and acknowledged by Israel.
In terms of borders, Palestinians regard an acceptance of the
22% of mandatory Palestine as the future Palestinian state as
their 'historic compromise.' (Note: A state consisting of the
West Bank and Gaza Strip would represent 22% of mandatory
Palestine, while Israel proper makes up 78%) They are not
willing to 'compromise the compromise.' In other words, a future
Palestinian state must be based on the June 1967 borders. Once
that principle is established, the exact borders of the state
are negotiable as long as any variation of the borders resulting
in a land swap to accommodate Israeli settlement blocs are
equitable, negotiated and minimal.
On Jerusalem, the same applies. Palestinians regard all of
occupied East Jerusalem as their future capital, while
understanding that traditionally Jewish areas would revert to
Israel as part of a negotiated process.
The refugee issue is one that most goes to the very heart of
the Palestinian narrative and experience of exile and
dispossession. An agreement will have to include a formula that
recognizes the inherent right of Palestinian refugees to reclaim
their lost homes and land, with implementation exercised through
compensation, third country citizenship, a return to a new
Palestinian state and a negotiated return to Israel for a
limited number. Israeli acknowledgment of its part in the
creation of the refugee issues is also critical.
Finally, on security arrangements, Palestinians recognize
that the energies and resources of a future state should be
focused on building their new state rather than on military
expenditures. However, security arrangements cannot infringe on
Palestinian sovereignty and must also result from
5. What are the weaknesses of
the Olmert and Abbas governments and how do you think that might
affect the outcome of the conference?
Naomi Chazan (for Olmert):The Olmert
government is unstable not only because of the low popularity
levels of the prime minister (stemming from his abysmal
performance during the Second Lebanon War and from ongoing
corruption investigations), but also because of the lack of
support from coalition partners for his diplomatic effort.
Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas are not supportive of the measures
necessary for a resolution of the conflict, and the majority of
the Pensioner's party (Gil) is also hesitant.
Nevertheless, a successful launch stands to fortify Prime
Minister Olmert in the eyes of the public, which is largely
supportive of a renewal of negotiations. In any event, it
would be a grave error to link negotiations to the political
future of any given leader. Formal agreement on a
diplomatic process will bind any future Israeli leader, thus
salubriously dissociating the process from the political fate of
Rafi Dajani (for Abbas): The Abbas
government in the short term is actually stronger than it was
when it was part of a unity government with Hamas. It now has
the ability to make decisions and act decisively without the
paralysis and division that characterized the unity government.
Its long term prognosis is another matter and depends to a
very large degree on the results of the Annapolis meeting,
whether a serious process is launched, and whether the
situation on the ground changes. Much of that will depend on
U.S. and Israeli action or lack of it. The one year period
between the time President Abbas was elected and the
parliamentary elections that Hamas won provides a stark warning
of how the lack of tangible support for President Abbas from
Israel and the U.S. can result in serious consequences. A repeat
of that will seriously weaken the Abbas government to the point
where it will either resign, or be forced to negotiate with
Hamas under unfavorable conditions. It is unlikely that a more
serious and moderate partner for peace than the Abbas/Fayyad
government will be available among the Palestinians in the
foreseeable future, and it is in Israeli and American interests
that he succeed.
6. What role would you like to see
the U.S. play in the Annapolis conference and into the
Naomi Chazan: The United States must be
committed to the conclusion of permanent status negotiations
within the next year. It must also accept its
responsibility to oversee negotiations – including the
studied employment of a series of incentives and disincentives
– to assure its success. The U.S. can best fulfill
this role by including other international and regional
actors (especially the Quartet and the Arab League) in
such an undertaking.
Rafi Dajani: At the conference, the United
States must impress upon the parties that it is committed to
seeing the process through in a sustained and serious manner.
Statements regarding the parameters of a final settlement would
be particularly helpful, especially a reference to a sharing of
Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and a future Palestinian
Following the meeting, the U.S. must continue and expand its
current re-engagement in the process of Israeli-Palestinian
negotiations, and widen the circle of participants to include
all members of the Quartet and the Arab League. This will
require a sustained effort solidly backed by the U.S. president
to conclude final status negotiations by the end of the Bush
Administration. The Administration should also impress upon the
incoming Administration that it must seamlessly continue the
process from where the outgoing Administration left off.
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for
Justice and Peace
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Phone: (312) 341-1205
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