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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
Perspectives from the President
March 24, 2004
Geneva Initiative Update
By Marcia Freedman
Dear Members and Supporters,
First, I want to thank the many of you who responded so generously to our recent Hanukah solicitation. The response was heart-warming, and we thank you for your vote of confidence.
Our work for the coming year is very much informed by the remarkable achievement of the Geneva Initiative -- the fact that moderate Israelis and Palestinians were able to reach such a detailed agreement on all the most sensitive issues. This is the hope that informs our work -- our continuing commitment to a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is what we are calling the "Spirit of Geneva."
The Sharon government responded to the domestic and international attention paid the Geneva Initiative with a proposal to withdraw unilaterally from most of the Gaza Strip. This marks an enormous shift in the public discourse, in Israel and internationally. The bubble of the Greater Land of Israel has been burst once and for all, fully exposed as the impossible dream of messianic nationalists that it always was.
On the other hand, there is the security barrier, telling the world, kilometer by kilometer, where the Sharon government wishes to draw the northern, southern and western borders of the as-yet nonexistent Palestinian state. As planned, the security barrier serves political interests as much as security interests. By trying to include as many settlements as possible on the Israeli side of the barrier, the government is also distancing Israel even further from the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution.
We cannot let this latest twist in Sharon's plan for the West Bank succeed without a fight. What we are calling the "Spirit of Geneva" must become a rallying cry for all those who support a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the 1967 borders.
Recent opinion polls in Israel show that a clear majority of people lack confidence in the current government. More than half believe that Prime Minister Sharon--facing possible indictments for a number of corruption and tax-evasion charges--should resign. At the same time, the Palestinian Authority is in danger of imploding. The situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories is extremely fluid and seems ominous.
On the other hand, we may be on the verge of renewed opportunity for a negotiated settlement. It is a critical moment for U.S. policy in the Middle East. The U.S. government is showing the first signs of renewed interest in engaging with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It has made clear its intentions to have a strong say about the issues of unilateral withdrawal and the route of the security barrier. As a result, the Sharon government is currently negotiating both plans with the U.S. but not with the Palestinians.
The U.S. can give its consent to Israel government policy with minor alterations, or it can firmly set Israel on the path to its own redemption - a negotiated settlement, based on the principles of the Geneva Accord. This is the least that moderate Palestinians can accept, and while the moderates are still the majority, this may not continue indefinitely into the future.
This is the spirit of Geneva: Israel gives up most of the settlements, not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank, and withdraws to something close to the 1967 borders in return for genuine and enforceable guarantees of security. It is our work to keep this eminently sensible spirit alive.
American-born Marcia Freedman is a Former Member of the Israeli Knesset and president of the American Jewish organization Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace.