Who is afraid of the Geneva Accords?
The continuing turmoil in the Palestinian lands, the
uncertainty of the future of the Abu Alaa government, and the tragic death
of three American employees of Dyncorp who were working as security guards
for the U.S. Embassy when they were killed in the Gaza Strip all strongly
overshadowed one of the most significant events of the last few months – the
signing of the Geneva Accords between Israeli and Palestinian “doves.” Ten
years have passed since the signing of the Oslo Accords, and just as it was
then, the revelation of an agreement came as thunder on a bright clear day.
The camps of the true believers in a peace solution for both nations in
Ramallah and Jerusalem remain small and secluded just as they were then, if
The bloodshed of the recent years effectively minimized the number of peace
activists with olive braches in hands on both sides.
The images of thousands of murdered and wounded, labeled in the beginning of
the 1990s as “the victims of peace” and then a decade later as “the victims
of terror,” do depress faith in the victory of sanity over fanaticism,
extremism, and emotions. The latter are clearly in fashion these days.
Officials in Jerusalem and Ramallah did not dedicate much time to studying
the Geneva Accords, and the paper quickly found its way to the trashcan.
Their respective statements in Hebrew and Arabic, two languages that differ
tremendously, this time sounded almost alike. The authors of the Geneva
paper were labeled as traitors, who represent only themselves. “There is no
way to enter twice the same river,” claimed Ehud Barak, ex-Prime Minister of
Needless to say, that the Palestinian administration was not too thrilled by
the agreement either. The concession of the right of return to Israel caused
a great deal of rage in the Palestinian Authority. The right of return is
considered a central tenet of Palestinians’ negotiations stance, and until
now has been seen as one of the pillars of Palestinian diplomacy.
Any indication of concession in this field until this day has spurred
violence, as happened with regards to the joint Israeli-Palestinian research
that was conducted by Truman Institute in Jerusalem and the institute of Dr.
Khalil Shikaki in Ramallah. Their survey was conducted in the refugee camps
in the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, and Jordan and indicated that the
majority of refugees were willing to relinquish their right to return in
exchange for a reasonable compensation. Shortly after the survey was
published, a strange, bearded man broke into Shikaki’s center and destroyed
valuable documentation and office furniture. This time, the militant groups
that denounced the agreement merely declared that it is even not worth the
paper it was written upon, so there is a hope that the offices of the
politicians that took part in the negotiations will remain intact.
Getting back to pessimistic prediction of Ehud Barak - even if the old
saying is true, and one can’t step into the same water twice, who said one
cannot even attempt to cross the river if one failed the first time? If
negotiations are the final goal, as declared by Israelis and Palestinians,
why not to try out the table right now? Why not treat the Geneva Accords as
a positive foundation and not as crime against the state, as the Israeli
Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom called the Accords?
Since July 2000, the Israelis have said that there is no adequate partner on
the other side. Well, the recent agreement clearly indicates that there is.
Even in its current and somewhat imperfect shape when plenty of questions
still remain unsolved, the Palestinian delegation that signed the agreement
includes a wide range of political movements and parties in the Palestinian
Authority, from veteran Abed-Rabbo to younger members of Fateh and
emissaries of the imprisoned Marwan Barghoutti.
And still, there is an overall feeling in the Israeli side that these people
are not the mainstream; that they do not represent the will of Palestinian
masses, and they are naturally not entitled to negotiate on their behalf.
Yet, labeling every party that is willing to negotiate as insignificant and
marginal just strengthens the emotional and physical wall of
misunderstanding and hatred that already exists between the two sides.
History teaches us that peace is not always reached between majorities.
Celebrating 25 years of peace between Israel and Egypt this year, it is
about time to recall that when Anwar Sadat decided to travel to Jerusalem,
the overwhelming majority of Egyptians opposed this trip and normalization
of relations with the Jewish state. In 1977 it seemed that the negotiations
that took place in Camp David were being held between Israel and Sadat, not
Israel and Egypt. Does it mean that Menachem Begin made a mistake,
negotiating with the men who didn’t represent the majority of his citizens?
Of course not! Today, 25 years since the historical speech of Sadat in
Knesset, the relations between two countries remain strained, but even a
cold peace is better then the hot war.
The step ahead that was taken by the two sides in Jordan should be taken for
what it is – a leap of faith and a true attempt to move toward the real
“peace of the brave” hand by hand.
Ksenia Svetlova is a columnist in the Israeli Russian
language newspaper “Novosty Nedeli”. Source: AMIN.org, September 17, 2003