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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace

Plenary Address by Naomi Chazan
The Road Map Leads to Geneva
Brit Tzedek vShaloms 2nd National Conference
October 31, 2003
Boston, MASSACHUSETTS

Good evening. Shabbat Shalom. Happy Halloween. It really is a pleasure to be here, and I want you to know I think I have half a mind to transport you all to Israel, because the Israeli left needs reinforcements. And I have a feeling that a lot of reinforcements are in this room.

I want to thank you for all your work, and especially thank you because I accepted this invitation about 3 months ago, and I wrote Marcia and asked her, "What do you want me to talk about?" and she said "Whatever is relevant at the time. And until 2 weeks ago I thought this was going to be the most depressing of a series of depressing presentations I've made in the United States. Some of you have heard these presentations (one or two people are nodding), because they complained that the last time I was here, it was so depressing they didn't sleep at night. Now, this was almost going to be a depressing presentation, but then 2 weeks ago something else happened.

I really do think Israel was on a path of destruction and despair, and almost anybody serious could not see any light until the announcement of the agreement that is known now as the Geneva Initiative or the Geneva Accord or the Geneva Agreement.

(Let's make a deal now-if you clap after every sentence, they'll shut me up, so leave it all until the end, okay?)

The Geneva Initiative was constructed from the beginning in such a way that it was necessary to change strategy and provide a realistic, doable, hopeful alternative to what has been going on-this path of destruction and despair. With your indulgence, I'll spend my half hour (and unless it really excites you, don't clap in the middle)-what I want to do is talk about the Geneva Initiative, and I want to do four things:

I want to place it in context. I'll be extremely systematic, but in places very telegraphic. I want to discuss the premises of the agreement; some of the main elements, very briefly and spend the last ten minutes-if my signal giver is doing his job-discussing some of the challenges ahead. Because I think for the first time in 3 years, and, frankly, maybe for the first time since the '67 war, we have in hand something that is really very promising, but will require a tremendous amount of hard work, energy, wisdom, and sophistication to make it succeed, but in order to do all of these things we have to understand where it's coming from.

I'll contextualize for you first. This is the depressing part of the presentation. I'm warning you because I see some over there already looking very unhappy. I don't recall a period in Israel's history that has been as difficult, really quite as awful, as the last year or two. People in Israel greet each other and they say, "How are you? And don't tell me in general, tell me specifically how you are." Why? Because all around us is a feeling of desperation, of frustration, and most significantly, a feeling of sheer and utter systematic deterioration. It has four main components that have to be highlighted:

First of all, ongoing, incessant, relentless and ruthless violence. And it is, I insist, a cycle of violence, where the suicide bombs and the suicide bombers are conducting crimes against humanity (and there is no other description); where suicide bombs lead to Israeli aerial attacks on Palestinians, with destruction of civilians on the Palestinian side, and it goes on. It is cruel, it is untenable, and it has become a part of life.

So, one element of this downward destructive path is the continuation of the impossible violence, when everybody knows full well that there is no military solution to the conflict, and to put it in very specific terms: Palestinians know that terrorism will not end the occupation, and Israel-even the chief of staff, as of this week, admits that re-occupation of the territories will not eliminate terrorism, nevertheless it's continued. So one element of the context is the continuation of what I constantly call cruel violence; it really is.

Second element-a natural outgrowth-is that we have two populations that are totally traumatized. Israelis are traumatized, and Palestinians are traumatized; maybe even more traumatized. And I never argue and suggest that none of us argue with hysteria, panic, fear. It exists, it's got reasons for existing, and it exists. Part of living in a terrible situation, and part of this downward spiral, is that people are walking around having been and constantly being traumatized, with no sign of any kind of help.

Third element, not surprising, is that each side seems-and Israel does this very well under the present administration-each side seems to be intent on defying and taunting the other side. So you sign an agreement called the Road Map, which says specifically that all outposts established after March 2001 have to be dismantled, so you dismantle to the established size and legalize it. Or, it says very seriously, no settlement expansion, including no expansion for natural reasons. And then every other week you approve and allocate funds for new housing in the Occupied Territories. Eighty percent of housing finances in the past year have been across the Green Line-amazing-and so an element is that the situation is getting worse while it's standing still.

There is no status quo. We all know that; anything that is not moving forward is moving backward.

And the fourth element-and I'm just flagging it for you, because if I get into it I'll get excited by it, and that's not what I'm here to talk about-is that there is a major humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories, and there is a grave socioeconomic crisis within Israel. That means the reverberation of the situation into the domestic life of Israelis and Palestinians has become an integral part of the conflict. Really. There's going to be a strike Monday; Israel's going to be paralyzed. Once again, for the second time in sixth months, given us an indication of the fact that as long as the conflict continues, everything is going to go wrong.

And this is the context. And until recently, most people were saying there's nothing we can do about it. And that is incorrect. Another strategy has [been] and is possible.

There are three major obstacles that have been known now for three years. I just want to pinpoint these obstacles, because it makes Geneva much more understandable. The first obstacle is a crisis of leadership. If you run a nightmare negotiating situation, take Arik Sharon and Yasser Arafat and have them make peace. Really. For very different reasons, these are very poor candidates for peace. There is a leadership crisis, both within Israel and the Palestinian territories, and this obstacle makes overcoming the situation more difficult.

Second obstacle is that, for three years, without acknowledging it, but knowing it somewhere, we have witnessed the fact that it's the extremists-both within Israel and within Palestine-that have taken control of the agenda and essentially taken control of politics in both countries, totally paralyzing the mainstream. The extremists are in control. How do you overcome an obstacle like control by the extremists even when they're not in power? Second obstacle.

The third obstacle is that, with all due respect to the international community, and to the Quartet, and to the Bush vision, and to the Road Map, which is essentially a Quartet document, the international community has constantly been-how shall I put it?-the international community has constantly been concerned. But there's a very big difference between concern and action, and the conflict has not led the international community to action and that's a serious obstacle, too. So what do you do?

Two and a half years ago, roughly-and one has to give credit where credit is due-Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abdel Rabbo had a series of meetings in very different parts of the world. Some of us were in South Africa, others were in Japan, some of us were in Europe several times, with an idea to overcome the three obstacles by taking leadership, exerting moderation, and insisting once again that what Israel and Palestine, Israelis and Palestinians, do together will force the international community to follow through.

And the basic idea behind this, in a major strategic shift in comparison to Oslo and the Road Map, is to first define in detail-and I emphasize, in detail-where you're going, the destination, the objective. In other words, negotiate the permanent settlement in all its aspects, and when that is done, you have an alternative, you have hope, and you have a map, a real map this time on implementation. That is the strategy that was used in the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, in the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty. It was one of the fatal flaws of the Oslo process and was resurrected, justifiably and correctly, in a series of meetings that culminated in this document, which is titled, by the way "A Draft Permanent Status Agreement". You can download it; many of you have read the major points.

The Geneva Initiative, or this document, is one of the most serious documents-I think it's the most serious document that we've seen in an attempt to negotiate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is serious, it is professional, it is detailed. It should be read. Everything I say is not a replacement for reading it, because if there ever is an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, 95% of that agreement is going to be what's in this document. Really. And so, please, all the verbiage is no substitute for the reading.

So let me go into the premises very quickly:

The first premise of this document is that there is no other resolution of the conflict besides a two-state solution. A Palestinian state alongside Israel. And that is an answer to the both groups, not one, and it is an answer to the extremists-both the Jewish extremists and the Palestinian extremists-because the extremists have a one-state solution in their heads. The only problem is that each of their one-state solutions eliminates the other.

And it is an answer to a second group of people-and I'm going to be rather provocative on this point-who have now decided that it is very chic to talk about a bi-national secular democratic state., where everybody is going to get along with each other, which by the way sounds good theoretically might be-might be-what will happen in 15 or 20 or 30 years' time. The only problem with it is that this is an absolute prescription for misery, violence, and apartheid in the interim, and any one who invites continued conflict should not be applauded. And so the first premise is: the only fair solution is a two-state solution. I would argue strongly that the only Zionist solution is a two-state solution. Marcia said it very well. Premise number one.

Premise number two: Directly related to this premise, for the first time, it's a joy, it's a pleasure, in black and white, it's written-two states, one state for the Palestinians, and one state for the Jews. This is legitimation of the Jewish right to a state which does not come from any other Arab source in any official document. Tremendously important.

Third premise: That the fulfillment of this agreement will bring an end to the conflict. Ehud Barak, I must remind you, was insistent on end of conflict. This is in here, and a renunciation of all further claims. Do it, despite the fact that it is painful-and it is a tremendously painful agreement for Palestinians and Israelis. When it is concluded and implemented it will mean the end of the conflict and the renunciation of further claims.

And the fourth premise-and I must admit the least fleshed out of all the premises-is that this is all about reconciliation, and that the ultimate purpose and goal of the agreement is to bring about a historic reconciliation. That language is the same language as one finds in the Preamble to the Oslo agreement, but here there is an insistence on restraint. I wish it had the detail of other elements.

So what do we have? We have an agreement which sees itself as a just and difficult solution to a real conflict. The main elements, very quickly:

The borders are fleshed out in such detail, that I get stopped on the streets of Jerusalem now by people who say to me "I'm from Efrat, am I in or out?" And I say, "You're from Efrat, you are on the wrong side of the road. You're out; start moving."

And to make Brit Tzedek v'Shalom happy, part of the border arrangements, which is-frankly it is 97% of the territories, West Bank and Gaza, 2% is annexed to Israel, mostly around Jerusalem, but not entirely. In return, the Palestinians get exactly the same amount-2.4%, a whole strip that widens Gaza, which is a densely populated area. And another area south of the Hebron, which I keep saying is on-all this are-

Kibbutz Artzi lands. That's Meretz-Mapam lands. And the part that is added to the West Bank is from the pigsty of Lahav. So it's very interesting. It will make Israel more kosher, if it's ever carried out.

The good part for Brit Tzedek v'Shalom is that all the other settlements will be dismantled and evacuated and compensation given. So the notion of evacuation and compensation is written specifically into the agreement.

The second major chapter deals with Jerusalem. And for most of you who've been to Jerusalem, the resolution is so detailed that in some cases half blocks are divided and you can almost picture Jaffa Gate remains under Palestinian sovereignty, for example, but the whole route to the Wailing Wall is protected. It has been, by the way, since '67-realistically-in Palestinian hands, but the Western Wall is under Israeli sovereignty. The notion of sharing Jerusalem by creating 2 capitals for 2 states in Jerusalem is explicated in immense detail in the agreement

The third element is security. You know, all of these generals, all of them men, on both sides, working on this agreement, but they say demilitarize Palestine. Very strong provisions, by the way, on terrorism. Very detailed security arrangements including early warning systems, etc.

The fourth element is the refugees. Nobody wanted to touch the refugees, but the refugees-there is a just solution to the refugee problem, agreed upon by major Palestinians in this agreement, very much along the lines of the Clinton proposals-I won't go into detail, but if you press me I'll do it in a minute it in the Question and Answers.

And there are provisions on public places and on roads and on access, and there are a lot of Annex X, which means they haven't been written yet.

Throughout the document, there is an understanding that we cannot allow for the third time a situation which occurred in Oslo and after the Road Map, and that is that there is no clear monitoring and enforcing mechanism, and there are no standards for implementation. And therefore, when you read this, you will see, everywhere there's a potential problem, and everywhere that there's a potential problem, there's a mechanism. Lots of mechanisms. Mechanisms are good things, because they set standards and ensure enforcement. Read it. You won't find anything more serious around. That's the good news.

(Do I have ten minutes? You didn't give me a 10 minute signal! Okay, I'll try and do it in five.)

In the last 3 weeks I have been traveling so much that I don't even know what my bed looks like-or it's 2 weeks-in Europe several times, because we're trying-Israelis and Palestinians together, to mobilize support in Europe, and I've been partner with Jamal Zakut, who's a Palestinian leader. One of the interesting things is that the young leaders of the Palestinians, with the Tanzim, were heavily involved in this drafting. And he stood up in the European Parliament and he keeps stealing my lines-I told him you can't do that to a woman, especially at my age, but his line, and now I'm quoting Jamal, who stole my line, after a year-his first time in Florence-and in Strasbourg-- he said: "That's the easy part-the agreement is the easy part-now is the difficult part."

And now I want to give you four of the challenges that face us in Israel, that I think face you in the United States:

First of all is the challenge of the official reaction. The challenge In Israel from the Sharon government has been vicious. It has attempted to delegitimize the initiators of the Geneva Initiative in order to delegitimize the substance, without referring to it entirely. Now that has a good side and a bad side. The good side is, you have no idea what a pleasure it is after having been ignored for 3 years, to be in the headlines every single day-it's marvelous! All of us, I must admit, are in some form or another, gloating. Every time we wipe our nose, somebody is on us. And I mean this seriously.

The bad side is that in Israel, a mantra, however fallacious and distorted, when repeated begins to sink in, and people start believing that the undertaken enterprise is not legitimate and therefore the substance is unworthy, and we have to prevent that. We cannot allow it to happen. It's happened before; and this time it's much too important. So that's problem number one.

Problem number two: It's not what the officials are saying, but what they're doing. I think that most of you know that the government and its leader have an uncanny ability to talk talk, talk, divert attention, and then go ahead and act, that's the way he built his political career. And a government faced with an initiative like this can do theoretically one of two things. Number one is to go for an all-out war, which I'm not sure will happen because of the mood of the country, but I don't dismiss that possibility. And the second thing a government can do, especially one led by the cast of characters of this government, is to go ahead and implement unilaterally what it is willing to do, which is 40% of the territories, and that means speeding up the building of the fence-slash-wall, and creating facts on the ground. They must not be permitted to continue and to take unilateral action-it can create a physical barrier which will make it impossible to overcome. Second problem.

Third problem (and I'm really going fast now) relates to the left, the peace process. Now, we are a united, civil, loving group of people who always cooperate with each other, no bickering whatsoever. So, there are two bits of bad news and one bit of good news. The two bits of bad news: the bickering has started. The Labor Party, like everything in Israel, divides into three. One third was in Jordan at the signing, one third said this is not worth the paper it was printed on (and one of them was a female; I won't mention her name), and one third (like the leader of the party) says, "This is interesting, this is not new." In other words, if it works, you will begin to believe that he is the mastermind behind the undertaking, and if it doesn't work, then he will join another third. So that's one bit of bad news.

Second bit of bad news, which worries me incredibly, is that people have tried to pit the Geneva Initiative against the Ayalon-Nusseibeh initiative. It's ridiculous, don't do it. The Ayalon-Nusseibeh document sets down the principles, this brings the details; they are totally complementary, and by the way these two documents are totally complementary with the Road Map. I just got a fax of my op-ed piece in the Post today, which-the title says everything: "The Road Map leads to Geneva". I think it's clear.

The bad side of this quibbling on the left is that takes a tremendous amount of energy, as you can see. The good side is that we're in the process of really moving forward quickly on a social-democratic party. I think we'll be able to coalesce the left in the next few months; not all of Labor but some of Labor as well.

On the other hand, I'm not sure we'll be able to translate it into power, and that's something to think about.

The fourth problem is the hardest, and you have the same problem here as we do in Israel. We have to deal with public opinion, which means dealing with elusive factors, and the elusive factors are fear and mistrust. Terrible mistrust. And an unwillingness to go beyond the official narrative and to shift narratives, and that's very hard work. But it's essential because it's not going to work unless we overcome this elusive factor as well. So there are official reactions, official action, the situation of our own capacities in dealing with public opinion in psychological and emotional terms and not only in rational terms.

So why do it? Well, we're eventually going to sign this in Geneva on 20 of November-that's the new date. I want you to know I think this is the last real call to action; either this works, or we're going to have to rethink everything, because there's no more time. And therefore, finally we have hope and we have substance and we are aware of the difficulties. But we need help and we need support. So I want to thank you, because this is the time to make decisions for Israel and for Jews-this is what citizens' diplomacy is all about, and all the help and support and good sense you can give us will be very welcome indeed. And for that: todah rabah [thank you very much].
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