FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Beilin Agreement

by URI AVNERY

The Beilin-Abed-Rabbo agreement is the latest hit on the Middle Eastern market.

This week I made a short visit to Germany, where a book of mine has come out, and was asked about it at every event. At my meetings with President Johannes Rau and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, too, the subject came up at once. I used the opportunity to argue for support of this initiative by all possible means.

To avoid misunderstanding, I pointed out that I have no connections with this initiative. The Israeli participants belong to the left wing of the Labor and Meretz parties, and I do not belong to this circle. But I give this initiative all my blessings ­ all the more so because it continues a process that we ourselves started two years ago.

In August 2001, Gush Shalom published the draft of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. It consisted of 14 paragraphs that included detailed proposals for the solution of all the problems of the conflict. It was an Israeli initiative, but we acted in close consultation with Palestinian colleagues.

The main object of the initiative was educational. The al-Aksa Intifada was in full swing, Ehud Barak’s myth (“There is no one to talk with!”) had captured the public, most of the peace camp had collapsed, hopelessness and impotence reigned supreme.

We wanted to light a candle in the darkness. To prove to the public that there is a solution, that there was somebody to talk to and something to talk about. And, most importantly, to tell the people what the price of peace is, and that it was worthwhile to pay it.

We saw ourselves as an icebreaker, a compact and autonomous vessel that opens the way for much bigger ships to follow.

We published the draft treaty as a full-page ad in Haaretz (August 10, 2001). It did not cause much of a stir. As usual, all the Israeli media boycotted it and even abroad it attracted only limited attention. But we hoped that we had opened a path, and that others would use it in due course.

The first who did so were Sari Nusseibeh and Ami Ayalon, the former the president of an Arab university and the scion of an important Jerusalem family, the latter a former commander of the Israeli navy and a former chief of the Security Service. They presented a small number of basic principles for a peace accord, launched a big publicity campaign and called for mass signatures on both sides. Up to now, some 65,000 Palestinians and 85,000 Israelis have signed.

Now comes the initiative of a group of important Israeli and Palestinian personalities. Like our initiative at the time, it takes the form of a detailed draft peace agreement. In their content, too, the two documents are quite similar. It can be said that 90% of the proposals are the same. And no wonder – after endless plans, endless rounds of negotiations and endless talks, all the problems lie on the table and everyone knows what the parameters of a possible compromise are.

Both drafts are based on the principle of “two states for two peoples”, with their capitals in Jerusalem, a border based on the Green Line, removal of the settlers from the Palestinian territories and a practical solution of the refugee problem.

The differences are mainly due to Beilin-Abed-Rabbo’s desire to sweeten the pill for the Israelis as much as possible. For example: we proposed to cure the historical wound with Israel’s acceptance of its responsibility for the creation of at least part of the refugee problem and its recognition of the principle of the Right of Return. We believe that such a declaration is necessary for the cleaning of the wound.

The new initiative deliberately ignores the painful question of principle and deals only with the practical solution. Beilin says that the Palestinians have “given up” the Right of Return de jure, too ­ a statement the Palestinians will it find difficult to swallow.

Like us, the initiators propose in practice to allow a limited number of Palestinians to return to Israel, but they propose a sophisticated key: a number equivalent to the average number of refugees allowed in by other nations. We have proposed a quite simple method: to allow back a fixed quota (say 50 thousand) every year for 10 years.

On the question of Jerusalem, too, the new draft tries to sweeten the pill. They avoid saying clearly that the Palestinians will be “sovereign” over their part of the city and the Temple Mount. All the paragraphs about Jerusalem are a bit clumsy, in an attempt, so it seems, to make them more palatable to the Israeli public.

The document imposes several limitation on Palestinian sovereignty that may impair the feeling of equality. Also, without seeing the detailed maps it is hard to say how much Beilin wants to swap. It seems that there is a certain disparity between their and our maps.

But these differences are not really important. The people who drafted this document knew that they were preparing only a sample agreement. It will be presented to the public in order to show that peace is possible, that it poses no existential danger to Israel that there is a partner on the other side and that there is something to talk about. Even the refugee problem, which frightens so many Israelis out of their wits, stops being so threatening when one tackles it in real terms. It becomes a practical problem with practical solutions.

The reactions of the leaderships of the two sides is illuminating. Ariel Sharon has attacked the document furiously, as if it constituted high treason and sticks a knife into the back of the nation. That’s no wonder, considering that there is no greater danger to Sharon and his grand design than the danger of peace. Ehud Barak, the man most to blame for the collapse of the Israeli peace camp, has also raged against the initiative. The starling visits the raven, as the Hebrew saying goes.

Yasser Arafat, on the other hand, has blessed the initiative. He cannot accept it formally, because a real peace treaty must be negotiated between governments. No national leader can take official responsibility for terms when the leader of the other side does not. But it can safely be said that the agreement is acceptable to him ­ all the more so since he took part in its formulation behind the scenes. There is, of course, no symmetry: the Israeli doves are in opposition, while their Palestinian counterparts are in power.

Throughout the world, the document was well received by all who wish for an end to the conflict. The great hope is that this initiative, like the “revolt of the pilots”, represents the end of the era of despair.

The first task of Beilin and his colleagues is to raise the Labor and Meretz parties from their ruins (the Labor party chairman, the birthday darling, has not joined the initiative!) and to set up a strong and combative opposition in the spirit of the document.

To quote Churchill again: This is not the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is one of the writers featured in The Other Israel: Voices of Dissent and Refusal. One of his essays is also included in The Politics of Anti-Semitism. He can be reached at: avnery@counterpunch.org.

 

More articles by:

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail