It is more than a bit worrying that I, and my Meretz USA and Ameinu khaverim of the Hatikva Progressive Zionist Slate, go to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for the World Zionist Congress at precisely this moment of crisis and escalating violence. I am not sure if I will be able to continue posting from Israel, before I return on June 25.
Ami Isseroff examines the shortcomings of the Palestinian prisoners’ agreement at his Mideast Web site. Mahmoud Abbas is using this as a basis for a projected referendum in July.
The NY Times editorial of June 10, regards this document as a step forward, despite its flaws, only because things look so grim right now:
“… unlike the unfulfilled Oslo agreements of the 1990’s and the Arab League peace plan of 2002, the prisoners’ proposal offers only implicit, not explicit, recognition to Israel. Even worse, it appears to legitimize Palestinian violence against Israelis in the West Bank and other occupied territories. And in contradiction to the spirit of a two-state solution, it asserts the right of Palestinian refugees to return to pre-1967 Israel.”
As for the Arab League’s peace initiative of 2002, which is reportedly still on the table, it’s a good basis for discussions. Israel needs to clarify whether the Arab League would support some formula of a solution to the refugees issue that does not involve a total and unconditional right of return. The Geneva Initiative envisions such a solution, which important Palestinians have signed on to, which speaks of a moral right of return yet would implement it mostly through settlement in permanent homes in the future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and in resettlement to other countries in the region and elsewhere, and/or in monetary compensation. I believe that the Arab League peace plan is amenable to such an interpretation, which fully safeguards Israel’s rights as a sovereign state with a Jewish majority.
Largely for this reason, dovish Israeli analyst Gershon Baskin, sees the Arab League plan as a much better basis for negotiations than the prisoners’ agreement, which has received publicity of late in defining Mahmoud Abbas’s referendum scheduled for July. Baskin, the co-CEO of IPCRI, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, has recently written “Vote Yes, But On the Right Plan,” in the Jerusalem Post Online, which I quote in part:
… I would urge Palestinian President Abbas to reconsider the document that he plans to present to the public for its approval. The so-called ‘Prisoners’ Document’ may have some appeal at the level of the internal Palestinian national dialogue, but is a complete non-starter as far as Israel is concerned…. Without explicit recognition of Israel’s right to exist, a clear denouncement of terrorism and an explicit agreement to adhere to all of the Israel-PLO signed agreements, there is nothing positive that can be achieved by a Palestinian referendum on a document which emphasizes the right of return of the refugees to Israel and recognizes and calls for resistance (violence) against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank.
President Abbas has one shot at a referendum and he cannot afford to waste it on a document that will not leverage the renewal of the political process with Israel. It would be much more valuable for Abbas to put his weight behind the Arab peace Initiative which received the unanimous support of the Arab League in 2002 and then [was] once again ratified in 2006…. The Arab League peace initiative makes many precedents by stating: “The Arab countries … consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region; establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.”
Click below to read more from Baskin’s article.
…. The initiative calls on Israel to support this plan “to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighborliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity.”
…. The Arab League would be well advised to pressure Abbas to use the moment of referendum to gain public support for their peace initiative. The Arab League would be also well advised to launch an aggressive public media and education campaign to gain the support of the Israeli public for the initiative, and then, perhaps; there should be a call for a similar referendum in Israel.
There is no document or initiative around that provides a better package of benefits for the entire region than the Arab League peace plan. During different times, the people of Israel would have danced in the streets to the calls from the Arab world for real and full peace. Clearly no Israeli-Palestinian bilateral initiative could contain such a package of benefits for Israel…. It also calls on the Saudis, Moroccans and others to lend a hand in solving the very complex and sensitive details of creating a workable and acceptable solution for Jerusalem. It also recognizes, for the first time, that the solution for the refugee problem must be agreed to by Israel.