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Geneva Discord By: David Bedein and Yitzhak Sokoloff
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, December 05, 2003


The Geneva Initiative has been offered, with much fanfare, as the final peace solution in the Middle East. However, its significant defects would place Israel in a perpetual state of defense, while doing nothing to curb the radical bent of her implacable Islamist enemies. Worse yet, it appears no one in the West has given any thought to the disturbing questions we posed in response to this accord.

Since U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has scheduled an 11:00 Friday morning meeting with the initiators of the "Geneva Initiative," Yossi Beilin and Yased Abed Rabo, here are the realities of the Geneva Initiative, as we saw it unravel this week in Geneva.

Although polls taken over the past decade confirm that most Israelis are willing to accept a significant territorial compromise with the Palestinian Arab people to achieve a lasting peace, a poll conducted by The Peace Index Project of the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University showed that only 18 percent of the Israeli public expressed support for Yossi Beilin's Geneva Initiative.

Why? Because the Israeli public, including people who are passionately committed to the idea of such a peace process, have become skeptical of those who simultaneously speak of peace and encourage their children to engage in mass murder.

In Geneva this week, at the "launching" of the "Geneva Public Initiative" there were no signs of such skepticism. Ossi Beilin stood beside Yased Abed Rabo, until recently the head of the Palestinian Ministry of Information, and declared, "Now we have a partner," not withstanding the fact that it was Mr. Abed Rabo's own colleagues who produced and broadcast the sermons and musical film clips that deny Israel's right to exist and blatantly incite Palestinian teenagers to become suicide bombers.

Unanswered Questions of the Geneva Initiative Text

We came to Geneva in a journalistic capacity, with questions about the Geneva Initiative, after examining the text of the proposed accord.  Yet none of the spokespeople of the Geneva Initiative was ready to address our serious and substantive questions about the problems in their proposal. Instead, ten Palestinian speakers stood up and cursed Israel as an "apartheid," "criminal," or "racist" state, glorifying their martyrs and praising their people in jail, regardless of their crime.

Ten Israeli speakers also spoke, all in a lethargic tone of apology.

The Palestinians brought singers to sing the "praises of their prisoners."

The contrast could not have been clearer: while no Israeli speaker mentioned any pain suffered as a result of 20,000 terror attacks perpetrated over a period of three years, the Palestinians turned a "peace" event into a plenary session to demonize and justify further discord with Israel.

The Israelis brought a rock group starring Israeli rock star Aviv Gefen who never served in the IDF and who sang about a world "without nations and settlements." There was little opportunity for questions. The five hour Geneva Initiative was a photo-up only, not a media event for inquiry, even though more than 280 news agencies showed up.

Here are some of the unanswered questions that we provided the Geneva Initiative Organizers, for which they had no answer:

Issues Regarding Security

[1] Why is it that while Israel would be required to start withdrawals immediately [under Article 5, Paragraph 7(b)], there is no time element associated with disbanding the PLO terrorist infrastructure-"irregular forces or armed bands" [Article 5, Paragraph 1(b)iv]?

[2] Since the Geneva Initiative provides for a non-militarized Palestinian state, why is there no provision for clearing out such weapons -- smuggled in defiance of Oslo Accord stipulations -- weapons that currently exist in large numbers in areas under control of the PA?

[3] Under the Initiative, the IDF will be barred from patrolling the airspace of parts of Jerusalem that will be under Israeli control [Article 4, Paragraph 1(a)]. How will Israel be able to adequately defend her capital under these conditions?

[4] While the Initiative would detail the weapons the "non-militarized" PLO state's Security Force could possess [to be spelled out in Appendix X,  which has not been agreed upon yet]. This list can be changed at any time.

[5] Without Israel's consent, any proposed changes to Annex X shall be considered by a trilateral committee composed of the two Parties and the Multinational Force. If no agreement is reached in the trilateral committee, the Implementation and Verification Group composed of the U.S., Russian
Federation, EU, UN and others may make its own recommendations. [Article 5, Paragraph 3(b).] How can Israel be asked to relinquish control in this fashion?

[6] The Palestinian state can enter into defense pacts with even the most radical Muslim state as long as the stated objective of the pact does not explicitly include "launching aggression or other acts of hostility " against Israel [Article 4, Paragraph 1(b)iii.] How can Israel, which still faces
hostility and belligerence on the part of several Middle East states, be asked to agree to such an arrangement?

[7] Why are Security Provisions only short-lived: Monitoring of international entry points into the PLO will be by a Implementation and Verification Group composed of the U.S., Russian Federation, EU, UN and others that can terminate after 5 years. [Article 5, Paragraph 11 (d)].

Israel is limited to a "small military presence" in the Jordan Valley under the authority of the Multinational Force and that presence is only guaranteed for 5.5 years [Article 5, Paragraph 7(f]]. The two "Early Warning" Stations provided for Israel under the Initiative are guaranteed for only a period of ten years. [Article 5, Paragraph 8(f)].

[8] In light of ten years of PA non-compliance with the Oslo Accords, how can Israel be asked to trust that security provisions would be required only for a few years?

Recourse and the Right of Self-Defense

The Geneva Initiative is predicated upon the good will of both sides.

Speaking on the record, the head of the European Parliamentarian Delegation to the Geneva Initiative, Mr. Graham Watson, described the planned armed international force that the U.S., Canada, the EU, the Scandinavian countries, Japan and Australia plan to dispatch to patrol the future borders which will run through the middle of Jerusalem and alongside Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Watson confirmed what the Geneva Initiative mandates that an international force would actively prevent the Israeli army from pursuit of terrorists who escape into "Palestinian territory" since that international force is, according to the Geneva Initiative, designed to protect the "integrity of Palestinian territory".

The good will of all future Israeli governments would be moot. The intentions of the Palestinian leadership, on the other hand would be critical. One of the most important lessons of the failure of the Oslo process was that despite the military force at its disposal, the Palestinian Liberation Organization has consistently refused to use force in order to prevent any terrorist attacks against the citizens of Israel.

The Geneva Initiative does not address the issue of what will happen if the Palestinian State will prove itself no more inclined to prevent murderous attacks on Israel by the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad or Arafat's own force, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, than did the Palestinian Authority did
under the Oslo Accords? What if the Palestinian State were more successful at smuggling in weapons and missiles than its predecessor? None of the Geneva Initiative spokespeople were prepared to address that issue.

Under the current situation, Israel can and does exercise its right of self-defense by intervening militarily against the perpetrators of terrorist attacks. Under the Geneva Initiative, this option would require Israel to clash directly and militarily with virtually the entire international community. An Implementation and Verification Group, made up of Americans, Europeans, Russians, the United Nations and "representatives from the region" (presumably from Arab States), would be charged with defending the territorial integrity of the Palestinian State.

In other words, the very same Palestinian leadership that has been caught in the act of smuggling massive quantities of armaments into its "demilitarized" territory under Oslo would be protected from Israeli military action even if terrorist attacks were to be launched against Israel from Palestinian territory. And even if Israeli passenger planes are shot out of the sky by "unofficial" Palestinian missiles.

Refugees

The Geneva Initiative deigns to solve the Palestinian refugee problem by making it the responsibility of the international community, including Israel.

Third countries, including Israel and Palestine would physically absorb the refugees and third countries, including Israel but not including Palestine, would be financially responsible both for funding the population transfer and compensating and indemnifying Palestinians for their having been refugees in the first place. That is because the Geneva Initiative recognizes "the right of states that have hosted Palestinian refugees to remuneration"[Article 7, Paragraph 3(b)], but there is no reference to the possibility of offsetting the value of Palestinian Arab property "at the time of displacement" against the value of lost Jewish property in Arab countries. And since "No further claims related to events prior to this Agreement may be raised by either Party." [Article 1, Paragraph 2], the right to raise this issue of lost Jewish property will be forever forfeited.

Meanwhile, The Geneva Initiative requires Israel to assume the responsibility to identify Arabs who have lived their lives as refugees.

At the same time, there is no mention of the responsibility of the Arab oil states for having launched an invasion of Israel within minutes of its birth to bear such expenses resulting from their actions.

By the same token, Israel is required to release all Palestinian Arab prisoners, including all those who bear responsibility for heinous acts of murder, while the PLO, with all of its mass fortune, is seen to bear no responsibility for compensating the victims of continuous PLO Arab terror attacks during the forty years of the PLO's existence.

Democracy

Following Operation Defensive Shield, the U.S. and the European Union have issued numerous policy statements in favor of exporting western democracy to the Arab world.

We asked the Geneva Initiative promoters why the accords do not require the Palestinian Arab state to have democratic institutions which respect the right of individuals to disagree publicly with the ruling government. Instead, the Geneva initiative continues to invest power in the PLO, which rejects freedom of speech and religion and uses its armed forces to conduct a reign of terror over its own population.

The fact that more than 200 Palestinians currently await execution for a variety of real and imagined offences against the Palestinian authority did not seem to bother any of the Geneva initiative proponents, many of whom are themselves active in human rights and civil liberties.

It should be remembered that one of the most striking lessons of the successful aftermath of World War II was the creation of stable democracies in Japan and Germany, which resulted in 60 years of peace and stability. And the Germans and Japanese have enjoyed life in liberal democracies that respect human rights under the law.

The question remains: Why should Palestinian Arabs be denied the same rights given the Germans and the Japanese?

The answer that the Geneva Initiative proponents gave was that these issues are a matter of internal affairs of the PLO. Indeed, according to the terms of the Geneva Initiative, this would be a purely internal affair of Palestine, despite the presence of so many international representatives charged with defending it against Israeli incursions. Yet the lack of democracy in Palestine would pose the same dangers for Israel that the lack of democracy in Germany once posed for France.

Demography

One of the reasons that many Israelis are willing to cede territories laden with historical connection to the land of Israel is the desire to remain a nation with a Jewish majority that imposes its rule on another people.

In that light, The Geneva Initiative recognizes the right of the Palestinian Arab state to the entirety of Judea Samaria and Gaza, yet fails to consider the implications of maintaining over one million Arabs as citizens of the Jewish State

The Geneva Initiative Proponents would not entertain a question as to why not to include a large part of the Palestinian population currently living in Israel in the Palestinian state in exchange for some empty territories in Judea, Samaria and Gaza?

The Temple Mount

Both Jews and Moslems have deep religious and historical ties to the Temple Mount, where two important mosques stand today and where the First and Second Temples once stood for hundreds of years. The Geneva Initiative rules out the concept of joint sovereignty, or no sovereignty, and reinforces an extreme Islamic argument, which is not even held by all Moslems, which is that at the Jewish presence in the historical land of Israel and especially on the Temple Mount, has no historical basis. Why not share this holy site that is so precious to both sides? Why is a symbolic Jewish presence on the Holiest Site of the Jewish people such an anathema to Palestinian negotiators eager to launch both peoples on the path of reconciliation? The fact that the Geneva Initiative recognizes the historical rights of Moslems to the Temple Mount, but denies them to Jews, puts the fundamental good will of the Palestinian Arab side into question.

Rather than a recipe for peace, the accords are a recipe for disaster. One side capitulates while the other still attacks with words and still seeksto praise the killing. How can anyone see this as "peace"?


David Bedein is the Bureau Chief of the Israel Resource News Agency located at the Beit Agron International Press Center in Jerusalem, Israel. Yitzhak Sokoloff is a fellow of the Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies of Bar Ilan University and the Senior Fellow of the Jerusalem Public Policy Center.


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