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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace

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Wake Up, Sharon - Here Is a Chance for Progress

By Marcia Freedman, President
J. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California
December 4, 2003

"There Is a Partner," "There Is a Plan" and "Peace is Possible" read the banners adorning the stage at the ceremonies in Geneva inaugurating a new era of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. That is the hope of the Geneva accords, an extra-governmental final status agreement negotiated by moderate Israelis and Palestinians that specifies every last detail with accompanying maps for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and lasting peace.

As hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians arrived at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva to mark a public commitment to working toward peace once more, the atmosphere was charged with a sense of hope and cautious optimism. That was in sharp contrast to the atmosphere here in Israel, where cab drivers and friends alike can talk of little else than economic hardship, fear and a sense that their government's policy is bankrupt. The promise of peace and security upon which Ariel Sharon was overwhelmingly elected has turned out to be empty, and Sharon's approval rating is plummeting downward.

The promise of the Geneva accords is far from implementation. But what it demonstrates beyond any doubt is that if there was a political will on the part of the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, all outstanding issues can be resolved in a way that meets the basic needs and demands of both sides. The Geneva accords is the third stage of the Bush administration's road map to peace. All that remains is to restart good-faith negotiations.

The two-state solution is more than possible. The maps that delineate it have already been drawn. The state of Palestine will occupy 97.5 percent of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip. The state of Israel will include slightly expanded borders around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that will allow three-quarters of the settlers to remain in place. Jerusalem will be divided in accordance with its already separate Arab and Jewish neighborhoods, with each state having sovereignty over its holiest sites. The Palestinians will have no right of return to Israel, but will be entitled to compensation and reparations.

Perhaps the most important thing about the Geneva accords is the list of those who were involved in the negotiations. On the Israeli side, former Cabinet ministers, current members of the Knesset, and an array of military and security figures were represented in Geneva. On the Palestinian side, representatives of the leadership of both the old guard and the young guard of the Fatah leadership, security officials and those who are very close to Yasser Arafat, including Jabril Rajoub and Abed Rabbo himself. Perhaps most promising is the fact that Arafat himself sent a message of support for the Geneva accords.

In contrast, the message from the Sharon government was to wholly reject both the details and the spirit of the Geneva accords. This is not surprising. Ariel Sharon, the architect of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, has dedicated his entire career to the dream of the "Greater Land of Israel." He rejects any territorial compromise that would require the evacuation of even a single settlement. He still believes that there is a military solution in spite of the increasing cost to Israel in life and livelihood. The Geneva accords is anathema to everything that Sharon stands for. But already one-third of Israelis fully support it, and another third are as yet undecided. Only a third of Israelis agree with Sharon and his right-wing government and the settler movement in opposing it outright.

The Jewish community in the United States bears a special responsibility. Without the active support of the United States, the promise of Geneva cannot be realized. We here in California must get behind the efforts of Sen. Dianne Feinstein to pressure the Bush administration to embrace the Geneva accords. We must get him to work proactively and with determination to bring both the Palestinian Authority and the government of Israel back to the bargaining table.

Marcia Freedman, who was in Geneva for the signing of the accords, lives part time in Berkeley and part time in Israel. She is a former member of the Knesset and president of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace.

Copyright 2003, San Francisco Jewish Community Publications Inc., dba J. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California. All rights reserved.
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