Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Annapolis: Naomi and Rafi

Israeli and Palestinian Perspectives on Annapolis
By Naomi Chazan and Rafi Dajani

Brit Tzedek asked two of our allies, Naomi Chazan, professor of Political Science and former Member of Knesset with the Meretz party in Israel, and Rafi Dajani, the Executive Director of the American Task Force on Palestine, to answer several questions about the upcoming Annapolis peace conference, tentatively scheduled for November 27.

1. What is the significance of the upcoming peace conference for Israelis and Palestinians?
2. Who do you think should be included in the peace process (state and non-state actors, representatives of civil society, etc.) and why?
3. What do you see as the issue around Hamas with the peace conference and how can it be addressed?
4. Which of the final status issues i.e. Jerusalem, borders, refugees, settlements and security arrangements, do you believe are most contentious and why? How do you think the two sides might go about reconciling their differences on these issues?
5. What are the weaknesses of the Olmert and Abbas governments and how do you think that might affect the outcome of the conference?
6. What role would you like to see the U.S. play in the Annapolis conference and into the future?

1. What is the significance of the upcoming peace conference for Israelis and Palestinians?
Naomi Chazan (for Israelis): The Annapolis meeting scheduled to take place next week will be significant only if it launches a set of negotiations within the framework of the Arab League Initiative on permanent settlement issues immediately after the formal ceremonies. These must be accompanied by clear agreements on monitoring and verification mechanisms to accompany the process. A series of gestures to improve the situation on the ground, including release of prisoners, a settlement freeze, removal of unauthorized outposts, and dramatic improvements in the flow of peoples and goods can improve the climate, but are not a replacement for such negotiations.

Israeli public opinion is ambiguous at this time on the utility of these measures. Anything short of a vigorous diplomatic effort leading to a sustainable two-state solution is antithetical to Israeli interests in the long-run.

Rafi Dajani (for Palestinians): The Annapolis meeting is significant on a number of levels. It heralds the potential for the resumption of serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiations leading to a final settlement, for the first time in seven years. In addition, after six and a half years of little engagement on the conflict, the United States, for a number of different reasons, has re-engaged in a serious fashion in the hope, not so much that a Palestinian state can be established by the end of the second Bush Administration, but more that an irreversible process, a foundation, can be created leading to Palestinian statehood and an end to the conflict.

Simply holding the meeting does not guarantee its success. Expectations are realistically low that the meeting will produce a joint document/declaration that will address the 'core issues' of borders, Jerusalem and refugees in a substantive way.

More important is what follows the meeting, where success will be measured by progress on two tracks. The first track is the initiation of a serious process of negotiations between the parties, with the active involvement of the United States, leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on internationally accepted parameters and the Arab Peace Initiative. Progress on this track should result in increased Arab endorsing of and contribution to the process, particularly from Saudi Arabia. This is the much-mentioned 'political horizon' that is so critical to re-establish Palestinian faith in their ability to achieve statehood through political negotiations.
The second track is a visible and marked improvement of conditions on the ground. Internally, Palestinians are primarily concerned with establishing law and order and the rule of law. Prime Minister Fayyad has taken important steps towards re-establishing that with the recent deployment of thousands of Palestinian police across the West Bank, most notably in Nablus.
Parallel to that must be Israeli actions that demonstrate Israel's commitment to a two-state solution, most critically a settlement freeze but also including removal of illegal outposts, release of prisoners, and the facilitation of Palestinian movement of people and goods throughout the West Bank and in and out of Gaza in order to resuscitate the devastated economy.

2. Who do you think should be included in the peace process (state and non-state actors, representatives of civil society, etc.) and why?

Naomi Chazan: The negotiations should be transparent, consultative and hence as inclusive as possible. This means that the number of state actors and the level of attendance at the Annapolis event will be an important factor in the success of the Annapolis process that, hopefully, will commence immediately afterwards. This international participation will have the effect of granting legitimacy to the negotiations, and will impose on the participants obligations as well.

Civil society should also be included at Annapolis. One of the major reasons for the failure of the Oslo process was the chasm that developed between decision-makers and the publics they claimed to represent. This mistake cannot be repeated. The participation of some civil society representation can offer a bridge to the Palestinian and Israeli publics and help promote support for decisions as they are taken.

Rafi Dajani: At this late stage, it is unrealistic to include actors beyond the parties to the conflict, the United States and possibly key Arab states at the Annapolis meeting. However, as the peace process following the meeting unfolds, it will be important to expand the circle of state and non-state actors as well as include representatives of civil and religious society in order to support the process of negotiations and the difficult decisions the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships will have to take. A 'staggered' level of participation is likely most useful, the sequence of which will depend on the shape of the process itself as it unfolds.

In terms of the type of participation, the support of Arab states will give the Palestinians the cover of legitimacy for their negotiations, as well as the political cover from the inevitable criticism and resistance that the process will face from opponents. International participants, particularly the international donor community, will supply the critical financial and material backing necessary for building the institutions and economy of a future Palestinian state. The upcoming Paris donor conference is an important first step in the effort. Civil and religious society, particularly among Israelis and Palestinians, could foster and enhance communication and dialogue to address the existing skepticism and suspicion between the two sides.

3. What do you see as the issue around Hamas with the peace conference and how can it be addressed?

Naomi Chazan: Israel's negotiating partner on the Palestinian side has traditionally been the PLO. All agreements signed to date have been concluded between the PLO and the government of Israel. This formula should be continued in the current round as well. If the PLO incorporates Hamas representation – a move that would ease matters given Hamas control of Gaza – that should be respected by Israel.

Rafi Dajani: As head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, it is solely within the mandate of Palestinian President Abbas to negotiate with Israel. This does not require Hamas permission or acceptance. There will be no Hamas representation at the Annapolis meeting and neither is it necessary for the meeting's purposes.

Within Hamas, there are two strains of thought regarding the Annapolis meeting. One strain advocates actively working to ensure the meeting's failure. The other advocates waiting for the inevitable failure it sees resulting. Either way, Hamas opposes the meeting and predicts its failure.

In the longer run, it will be essential for the implementation stage of an agreement that the issue of Hamas be addressed. It is impossible that a Palestinian state can come into existence with the current Palestinian political fracture and West Bank/Gaza division. Hamas represents a sizable minority of the Palestinian public, with an Islamist constituency being at its core and those who have lost faith in the political process as default supporters. If an unfolding process of negotiations following the Annapolis meeting improves Palestinian daily life, brings a political horizon of statehood slowly to the foreground, and stops Israeli actions contradictory to the establishment of a Palestinian state, Hamas will find it difficult to actively oppose the negotiations. It will also allow President Abbas to negotiate the inevitably needed Palestinian reconciliation from a position of strength. A failure of the political process following Annapolis or even a continuation of the status quo will greatly strengthen Hamas and may result in increased violence.

4. Which of the final status issues i.e. Jerusalem, borders, refugees, settlements and security arrangements, do you believe are most contentious and why? How do you think the two sides might go about reconciling their differences on these issues?

Naomi Chazan (Israeli perspective): The question of the borders is the most immediate issue that must be resolved. The June 4, 1967 boundaries are the bedrock of any binding agreement. Any variation from these borders must be by agreement, on the basis of 1:1 swap. No transfer of population must be included in this settlement. The fixing of the borders will facilitate agreement on the most contentious issues, which remain Jerusalem and the refugees. Although some contend that it might be possible to have Israel accept the "two [surely she meant “one capital for two states”?] capitals for two-states" formula in Jerusalem in exchange of Palestinian willingness to agree not to demand implementation of the right of return for refugees to Israel, it might be more productive to deal with each issue separately.

Sharing Jerusalem as the capital of two states is a sine qua non for a lasting agreement. Israeli recognition of its (partial) responsibility for the creation of the 1948 refugee problem will go a long way to producing a formula acceptable to both sides which will address both Palestinian and Israelis concerns.

Rafi Dajani (Palestinian perspective): Palestinian red lines exist on all of the above final status issues, although there is a great degree of pragmatism regarding negotiating these issues as long as the principles they are based on are safeguarded and acknowledged by Israel.

In terms of borders, Palestinians regard an acceptance of the 22% of mandatory Palestine as the future Palestinian state as their 'historic compromise.' (Note: A state consisting of the West Bank and Gaza Strip would represent 22% of mandatory Palestine, while Israel proper makes up 78%) They are not willing to 'compromise the compromise.' In other words, a future Palestinian state must be based on the June 1967 borders. Once that principle is established, the exact borders of the state are negotiable as long as any variation of the borders resulting in a land swap to accommodate Israeli settlement blocs are equitable, negotiated and minimal.
On Jerusalem, the same applies. Palestinians regard all of occupied East Jerusalem as their future capital, while understanding that traditionally Jewish areas would revert to Israel as part of a negotiated process.

The refugee issue is one that most goes to the very heart of the Palestinian narrative and experience of exile and dispossession. An agreement will have to include a formula that recognizes the inherent right of Palestinian refugees to reclaim their lost homes and land, with implementation exercised through compensation, third country citizenship, a return to a new Palestinian state and a negotiated return to Israel for a limited number. Israeli acknowledgment of its part in the creation of the refugee issues is also critical.

Finally, on security arrangements, Palestinians recognize that the energies and resources of a future state should be focused on building their new state rather than on military expenditures. However, security arrangements cannot infringe on Palestinian sovereignty and must also result from negotiations.

5. What are the weaknesses of the Olmert and Abbas governments and how do you think that might affect the outcome of the conference?

Naomi Chazan (for Olmert):The Olmert government is unstable not only because of the low popularity levels of the prime minister (stemming from his abysmal performance during the Second Lebanon War and from ongoing corruption investigations), but also because of the lack of support from coalition partners for his diplomatic effort. Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas are not supportive of the measures necessary for a resolution of the conflict, and the majority of the Pensioner's party (Gil) is also hesitant.

Nevertheless, a successful launch stands to fortify Prime Minister Olmert in the eyes of the public, which is largely supportive of a renewal of negotiations. In any event, it would be a grave error to link negotiations to the political future of any given leader. Formal agreement on a diplomatic process will bind any future Israeli leader, thus salubriously dissociating the process from the political fate of any individual.

Rafi Dajani (for Abbas): The Abbas government in the short term is actually stronger than it was when it was part of a unity government with Hamas. It now has the ability to make decisions and act decisively without the paralysis and division that characterized the unity government.

Its long term prognosis is another matter and depends to a very large degree on the results of the Annapolis meeting, whether a serious process is launched, and whether the situation on the ground changes. Much of that will depend on U.S. and Israeli action or lack of it. The one year period between the time President Abbas was elected and the parliamentary elections that Hamas won provides a stark warning of how the lack of tangible support for President Abbas from Israel and the U.S. can result in serious consequences. A repeat of that will seriously weaken the Abbas government to the point where it will either resign, or be forced to negotiate with Hamas under unfavorable conditions. It is unlikely that a more serious and moderate partner for peace than the Abbas/Fayyad government will be available among the Palestinians in the foreseeable future, and it is in Israeli and American interests that he succeed.

6. What role would you like to see the U.S. play in the Annapolis conference and into the future?

Naomi Chazan: The United States must be committed to the conclusion of permanent status negotiations within the next year. It must also accept its responsibility to oversee negotiations – including the studied employment of a series of incentives and disincentives – to assure its success. The U.S. can best fulfill this role by including other international and regional actors (especially the Quartet and the Arab League) in such an undertaking.

Rafi Dajani: At the conference, the United States must impress upon the parties that it is committed to seeing the process through in a sustained and serious manner. Statements regarding the parameters of a final settlement would be particularly helpful, especially a reference to a sharing of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and a future Palestinian state.
Following the meeting, the U.S. must continue and expand its current re-engagement in the process of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and widen the circle of participants to include all members of the Quartet and the Arab League. This will require a sustained effort solidly backed by the U.S. president to conclude final status negotiations by the end of the Bush Administration. The Administration should also impress upon the incoming Administration that it must seamlessly continue the process from where the outgoing Administration left off.

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