Alternative Insight

Evolution of Madness
Peace Process or Peace Treaty

Destruction of a Forest-Construction of a West Bank Settlement

The use of negotiations to resolve a stalemated dispute requires that the two nations have near equal power so that one cannot use its strength to force a favorable decision. Unless the much weaker power receives a compensating strength from an outside source, negotiations are doomed to follow a direction that greatly favors the superior power. Take the case of the Mid-East peace process.

The flip side to assertions that Barak offered fair peace proposals that a hateful and aggressive Arafat unwisely rejected, is the view that Barak only dictated a peace treaty that would end a 50 year war and have the Palestinians and other Arab countries accept Israel's gains in the long war. If the latter view is correct, by balancing the power of the two contestants, the United States might have prevented the Palestinians from viewing the process as a victorious Israel attempting to impose surrender terms in a peace treaty. With a softened view, the Palestinians might have been less militant.

The Peace Treaty Dictates

In 1947, the United Nations partitioned Palestine and awarded Israel about 1/3 of the land. Immediately after this action, in a 1948 war, the new Israel captured another 1/3 of the previous Palestinian lands. After the 1967 war, all of Palestine came under Israel's rule. Israel governed the West Bank as captured Israeli territory and several UN resolutions declared their military occupation to be illegal. After a 1973 war with Arab neighbors, a war in Lebanon, increased terrorism, and a Palestinian uprising (Intifada), Israel sought means to obtain peace and security. Israel's surprising acceptance of a formal organization that represented the Palestinians initiated a procedure to end the conflict. A Palestinian National Authority that eliminated the word "liberation" in its title became a reality. For the Palestinians the transformation of the Palestine Liberation Organization gave them the possibility of translating a destructive PLO into a constructive Palestinian government. This government could engage Israel in deliberations for a just peace and establish a Palestine nation. A disbursed and stateless people would become integral and prosperous. Israel's objectives- gain recognition by the Palestinians and by Arab states of an Israel nation and its territorial limits, bring peace to itself by neutralizing the PLO, create a governing body that could fill the vacuum after it abandoned territories that it no longer wanted to occupy,such as Gaza, and provide the Palestinians with a recognized entity that could sign a peace treaty and bring an official end to the half-century war.

The initial treaty satisfied Israel's principal objective; A Palestinian Authority recognized an Israel state composed of the area that the UN awarded in the 1947 proclamation and the land it had occupied in the1948 war. A previous impediment to the recognition, Israel's complicity in the transfer of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 and an additional 400,000 in 1967 to refugee status, became "a to be later" resolved issue. Israel partially ceased its occupation in Gaza and agreed to a timetable for withdrawal of its troops from Palestinian heavily populated areas in the West Bank. In years of uncomfortable and slow negotiations, Israel consistently delayed the fulfilling of its agreement to remove its forces from the designated West Bank areas while it strengthened its presence and control in other parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem. After finally withdrawing its forces from Gaza (except for one settlement and from the Gaza airport) and moving them back from Palestinian populated areas in the West Bank, the United States prompted Israel to finalize the negotiations. Israel had a determined objective for the final peace treaty- recognition of Israel's sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.

Most essential provisions of the final treaty are described below.
Note: Media reports contradicted one another and used vague terms to describe the final Jerusalem proposal. Some talked only of Palestinian administrative control of parts of East Jerusalem or autonomous control of neighborhoods. Others used the word sovereignty in large Arab neigborhoods, and didn't indicate if this included a large amount of neighborhoods. For what it is worth, the Time Magazine report is used.

By Monday night, however, it was clear that Barak and Arafat wouldn't move further until they knew what they would have to give up on Jerusalem. Clinton presented a compromise, which Barak approved if Arafat accepted: Israel would have sovereignty over West Jerusalem and much of East Jerusalem, but the Palestinians would run municipal services in East Jerusalem and have formal sovereignty over some of its neighborhoods. The Palestinians would also control Muslim holy sites.

Any finally prepared agreement raises questions and invites analysis:

(1) Israel would obtain the West Bank land it had settled and therefore undoubtedly wanted, most of which was close to Jerusalem. It was prepared to give the Palestinians land it obviously did not want. Why didn't Israel first settle the Israel territory before sending the settlers to settle in the West bank? Why doesn't Israel transfer the settlers to that same territory? After all, can an equivalent land parcel be determined and also be acceptable to both parties? Hardly likely.
(2) The agreement mentioned the obvious; the Palestinian Authority would control their own citizens. It did not accurately define the composition of the area of the West Bank that remained as part of a Palestinian state and contained those citizens. Israel had already constructed a network of roads that separated West Bank villages and complicated communications and transportation between the villages and all of Palestine. The agreement did not describe the future status of these roads.
(3) By leaving 50,000 settlers in Palestine, the agreement established a flash point. What if the settlers elected to remain and then later complained that they were not being treating fairly. Would Israel intervene to protect the settlers?
(4) Vague agreement clauses gave the Palestinians a part of the Jordan valley and sought repatriation of ~ 100,000 refugees to their former "homes." Anyone asked to sign these accords would expect detailed and surveyed maps that defined the distribution of Jordan valley lands and a fully prepared document that specified exactly what Israel was prepared to do to resolve the refugee problem. The lack of details and specifications turned the agreement into a careless document and more of a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding.
(5) The Time Magazine report states that Israel would have political sovereignty in West Jerusalem, in much of East Jerusalem and in the Old City. Descriptions of areas, and what constitutes Palestinian sovereignty in East Jerusalem, are vague. The Palestinians would control Moslem holy sites. Similar to the Christian denominations that control their holy sites, don't the Moslems (not the Palestinians) have the right to control their own holy sites? Every religious institution in every place in the world controls its own holy sites. Why would Israel want to incorporate approximately 200,000 Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the Old City into their country? Wouldn't a compromising peace be better assisted if all of East Jerusalem that contained Palestinians would join the Palestinian Authority. Israel could then permit 200,000 Palestinian refugees to return to their previous homes and still maintain their quota on the number of Arabs they will permit in Israel-a much better "strike for peace."

Although Israel and its proponents characterized the treaty proposals as "historical compromises" made by an Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority thought otherwise. Could they support a "peace process" that had vague provisions regarding their benefits, and did not completely guarantee that Israel would eventually abide by the agreements? What benefit would it be to Arafat to contradict UN resolutions 242, 338 and 478 that already ruled as illegal Israel's occupation of Jerusalem. Did Arafat have the authority to sign an agreement that gave Israel political sovereignty and eternally compromised the parts of Jerusalem that had been totally sovereign to the Moslem religion? Moslems had controlled and administered the Old City for a millenium. Could Arafat yield any part of an East Jerusalem that has been inhabited and owned by Palestinians for centuries? What legal right did Israel have to any Palestinian owned territory?

The rejection of the final treaty provisions brought angry comments from the Israel government. Sharon and 1000 soldiers, who could only have come if they had government support, arrived to start a claim on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Israel's activities provoked the Moslem masses. A flawed "peace initiative" that promised to evolve the Middle East to a lasting peace, instead evolved the region into madness.

A dictated peace treaty is posed as a negotiated peace process.

The peace initiative promoted land for peace and implied the emergence of recognized and secure states for Israel and the Palestinians. While Israel received recognition from a new Palestine Authority, the Palestinian Authority received economic and physical roadblocks from Israel that prevented a Palestine from becoming a viable and secure state. The negotiations on Jerusalem had been planned as the final negotiations, after the other negotiations had concluded and the two parties had implemented the provisions. Israel had many years to resolve the refugee and settler crises and implement solutions that would show to the Palestinians their good faith in following a peace process. Yet, Israel did not reduce its total forces in the West bank and did nothing to show an intent to implement solutions to other key proposals. Its posture alerted the Palestinians to the possibility that Israel only cared to obtain their signature for approving an annexation of all of Jerusalem, the vast portiions of which are legally owned by Palestinians.

If the earlier proposals serve as a guide, then the latest proposals expected the Palestinian Authority to immediately abide with the provisions while Israel's enforcement of its agreements still remained in doubt. Israel constantly referred to the Palestine Authority as an Arafat dictatorship and implied that Palestinian enforcement of peace provisions required only Arafat's signature. Meanwhile, Israel being a "democracy" had to follow "democratic" considerations and submit the proposals to its Knesset and its people for ratification. Considering Israel's periodic change of governments that interfered with an orderly peace process, and the opinion by some that this has been a deliberate maneuver on the part of Israel, the Israeli enforcement process could have taken several years. More likely it would have never materialized. If Arafat had signed the final Camp David accords, would he have signed the final provision of an agreement that surrendered Jerusalem to Israel, and then received nothing in return?

Israel's behavior during the negotiations reinforces the proposition that the peace process was actually an imposed peace treaty. During all the years of "negotiations" Israel constantly increased and supported the settlements, constructed a huge assortment of roads around Palestinian villages, confiscated West Bank Palestinian lands to construct army bases, denied housing permits in Jerusalem to Palestine's growing population and attempted to strangle the Palestinian economy. Israel regulated major parts of Palestinian commerce and forced the Palestinians to export most products through Israel and import mainly Israeli products. Israeli security forces impeded Palestinian communication and transportation within the West Bank and at border crossings. On occasions, Israeli authorities and settlers destroyed valuable Palestinian wells and olive trees and denied sufficient water to Palestinian agriculture and civilians. Israel's aggressive and militant actions and their continuous harassment of the Palestinians and their economy indicated that Israel was not party to a "peace process." Just the contrary. Israel continued a policy of augmenting Israel's position, deteriorating Palestine's bargaining positions and attempting to force the Palestinians into further compromises. Clinton prided himself by asking the American people if they are better off after eight years of his presidency. Before supporting Israel in the final peace initiative, Clinton should have asked the Palestinians if they are better off after eight years of Clinton brokering the peace treaty. The failure of a peace process and the realization by the Palestinians that the process disguised an imposed peace treaty (which they may have known from the beginning) changed their perspective and that of other Arab and Moslem countries towards Israel and the Mid-East situation.

The Changed Perspective of the Mid-East Situation

Considering their plight as a displaced people and knowing they still did not completely control their economic and political lives, the Palestinians would have accepted the most minimal of fair conditions. Their militant attitude shows they didn't consider the Camp David II accords to be minimally fair and felt betrayed.

The belief that Israel's actions threatened Moslem holy sites, coupled with sympathy for the Palestinian people, changed the perspective of the Arab and Moslem world, from Indonesia to Morocco. The unbalanced power and casualties in the confrontations highlighted to the world the fragility and dilemma of the Palestinian Authority. The world perspective of the Mid-East crisis changed drastically.

(1) The Palestinians have demonstrated they don't intend to be passive bystanders to their own fate. They intend to be militant and confrontational.
(2) Arab and other Moslem nations are prepared to assist the Palestinians in their effort to liberate themselves from occupation.
(3) Arab peoples in western countries have started to more forcibly demonstrate in support of the Palestinians and counter the efforts of pro-Israel groups.
(4) Support for Palestinian objectives has increased throughout the world and is more vocal.
(5) Peace groups in Israel and among American Jews have become less vocal. Many feel Israel is threatened and have abandoned support for a "peace process."
(6) The realignment of peace forces, and the partiality that Moslems display for the Palestinians and the Jews for Israel, has escalated the confrontation from an Israel/Palestinian conflict to a Jewish/Moslem polarization and possible raw conflict.
(7) The uncontrolled violence and anger has spilled beyond the Palestine borders and threatens to engulf the western world.
(8) The failure of a peace process that had only a single country, United States, as a mediator, and the serious consequences of inattention to the Mid-East crisis, has moved the United Nations in both the Security Council and General Assembly to exert a more commanding role in securing a peaceful and just solution.

Can there still be a just solution?

Neither Israel and the Palestinians, and evidently not the United States, can define that solution. They have failed themselves and a world that depended upon them for a resolution of the conflict.

The United Nations, by only one vote, agreed to partition Palestine into two states and realign the physical and human geography of a small part of the Mid-East. The UN did not intend for the area to engage in 50 years of hostilities and then proceed to offer the world an eternity of conflict and violence. The crisis has grown so that it now affects the entire world and has become a world problem. In past years innocent people of many nations had been harmed by attacks related to the Mid-East conflict. Now again, innocent people throughout the world face increased violence and terrorism. The people and institutions that are closely identified with either of the Mid-East antagonists, Jewish and Moslem, are subject to attack. Already American sailors have been killed in a terrorist action and scores of attacks have been committed against Jewish interests and persons in several countries. Israel and the Palestinian Authority have forfeited the right to determine the outcome of the Mid-East crisis. Their decisions can only bring further harm to themselves and to the world's peoples. Only an international body with enforcement potential can resolve the situation.

As mundane as it may seem, and as impractical it may appear, the United Nations Assembly is the only world body that can undertake the mission.The UN should form a commision consisting of the nations in the Mid-East region that are most affected by the conflict and other nations that are considered impartial. The UN resolutions on the conflict, 181, 242,etc. and recent security council decisions can be a guide to solutions of the problems.

What are the problems:

(1) The borders of the Mid-East countries are still not defined,
(2) The rights of all peoples in Israel and Palestine are not protected,
(3) The refugee situation is not resolved.

A United Nations can propose solutions to these problems.

The legality of the UN participation will be contested. Those who declared the UN 1947 partition plan legal will probably declare any UN recommendations to be illegal and vice-versa. Legality is not the issue. The UN partition plan evidently failed to identify the problems that prevented total acceptance of its plan. After realizing their failure, the UN delegated Count Folke Bernadotte, a well respected Swedish diplomat, to investigate and make his recommendations for stopping the war that erupted after the effective date of the UN proclamation. Extremists assassinated Bernadotte and his report never became studied and implemented. By not investigating this terrorist action and bringing to justice its protagonists, the UN pardoned the action and allowed an extremist operation to direct the Mid-East to future violence. In 1947, emotional upheavals from WWII guided the UN partition plan. Now, the UN can apply the knowledge and experience from the last 50 years to guide it to a more rational solution. The UN failed in its obligations in 1948. It's time for the UN to take charge of a situation of its own creation. It had that obligation in 1948. It still has that obligation today.

October, 2000