The Israeli Strategy and the Palestinian Response

            The Israeli-Palestinian track of the Middle East peace process deadlocked recently.  The immediate causes were the insistence of the Israeli side to act unilaterally - without agreement or negotiations with the Palestinian side regarding the 3rd stage of redeployment from 6.1% of the West Bank, as well as the Israeli attempt to escape the 3rd phase of redeployment and its attempts to evade the time limits set for the framework agreement and beyond. 

            These immediate causes are reflective of the broader strategy of the current Israeli government.  In this respect, despite the soft approach of this government, its strategy does not differ much from the same broad strategy pursued by previous governments.  This should not be understood as an attempt to equate Barak with Netanyahu, as the latter could not be trusted by any party.  However, when it comes to substance in the peace process, the strategy is very much the same.  This is characterized by the following: non-compliance with the existing agreements and undermining the basis of the peace process in an attempt to achieve Israeli expansion beyond the armistice lines and, in service of this, the continuation of illegal Israeli actions such as settlements and actions in Jerusalem, aimed at imposing a fait accompli

            The present Israeli government, for instance, is trying to evade implementation of many provisions of the existing agreements, including the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum.  Another tactic has been the Israeli attempt to give those provisions totally illogical interpretations and then unilaterally impose them, as it has precisely done with regard to both the 3rd stage of the redeployment and the 3rd phase under the absurd guise of combining it with final settlement negotiations. 

The Israeli government is also consistently trying to evade the agreed time limit.  First through postponing the time limit of the framework agreement and then using that to destroy the agreed upon overall time line. 

            In addition all of the above, the Israeli government persists in its attempts to depict the problem as a conflict over the West Bank and Gaza, rather than Mandated Palestine, along with creating more illegal settlements and transferring more illegal settlers.  Moreover there are the Israeli positions that have been raised during the final settlement negotiations, which effectively destroy the basis of the peace process, i.e. U.N. Security Council resolution 242 (1967), and totally violate every provision of the resolution.  The situation with regard to these final settlement negotiations cannot be described as one where there is a big gap between the parties or even that of a huge disagreement.  Rather, it is one in which the parties do not have a common basis at all since the Israeli side is intentionally violating the agreed upon basis of the process. 

            Whether the above described strategy is the final one of the Israeli government or whether it is the product of other considerations, such as attempting to further reduce Palestinian expectations, or Baraks attempts to keep his broad coalition together with the least possible internal friction, or even his belief that the time has not yet come to make real progress on the Palestinian track, remains to be seen.  But one thing is clear.  This peace process cannot continue and peace cannot be achieved while this Israeli strategy remains the same.  It cannot continue without drastic changes towards compliance with the existing agreements and, more importantly, compliance with the basis of the peace process, that is Security Council resolution 242 and the principle of land for peace. 

            For this to happen, all parties must make their positions known clearly to the Israeli government.  The U.S., which has special responsibilities in this regard, must do so, as should Russia, the European Union, and all other important players.  The Arab front must be revitalized and the increased effect of Arab and international pressure must be realized.  

            Perhaps more important than the above is the need for a clear, detailed, and firm Palestinian position.  It should be one which is public and on the basis of which negotiations are conducted with the Israelis and engagement of all other players is achieved. 

This position must also be one which adheres to the basis of the process and the provisions of the existing agreements and, of course, one which insists on the realization of the rights of the Palestinian people in accordance with international legitimacy, including U.N. resolutions 242, 181 (II), and 194 (III).  In this regard, and in addition to the general position, concrete positions on specific problems, based on concepts countering prevalent Israeli concepts, are needed.  The following should be presented and pursued: 

Israeli Settlements:

These are illegal and they violate the spirit and letter of the existing agreements.  This issue must be faced seriously, including the resumption of the Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention to adopt measures for enforcement of the Convention, to ensure full cessation of such illegal activities. 

Third Phase of Israeli Redeployment:

This is an important part of the existing agreements and it must be implemented in total separation from, and prior to, the final settlement.  It should be substantial, in accordance with the agreements reached, and it should bring an end to the senseless classification of areas as A, B, C.   As such, the classification will revert to a clear differentiation between areas where Israeli presence has ceased to exist and areas where it is still in existence. 

Other Obligations of the Transitional Period:

These should be completed in a speedy manner.  This includes the northern safe passage as well as the effective establishment of the Gaza seaport, in addition of course to the release of Palestinian prisoners and the return of the displaced persons. 

The Framework Agreement:

This extraneous idea was added to the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum as a result of Israeli insistence.  The framework agreement should be comprehensive, detailed, and unambiguous in any of its parts.  Failure to do so should lead to forgoing the idea altogether towards the treaty of the final settlement. 

The Time Limit:

The main point here is to stress September as the final deadline for achieving the final settlement.  There has been international consensus on this time limit and it has been accepted by both of the parties.  No delay in implementing any provisions of the existing agreement, including the framework agreement, could or should affect September 2000 as the agreed-upon and final deadline. 

Final Settlement Negotiations:

The Palestinian side should not only insist on implementing resolution 242 and should not only insist on the realization of the rights of the Palestinian people; it should refuse discussing any Israeli position that is not in line with the agreed basis of negotiations.

            Of all of the above, the two issues where the international dimension could be of great help are: 1) the resumption of the Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention, and 2) in relation to the time limit, the participation of Palestine as a full Member State of the United Nations in the work of the Millennium Summit, which will be convened on 6 September 2000.  These two issues along with the other issues mentioned above, when pursued vigorously and seriously, can make a real difference. 

Please place the following in a text box: 

Two issues where the international dimension could be of great help are: 1) the resumption of the Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention, and 2) in relation to the time limit, the participation of Palestine as a full Member State of the United Nations in the work of the Millennium Summit