Ari Shavit believes that the root of all evil in the negotiations with the Palestinians is the notion that only a full peace deal is acceptable, and has noted "to my credit" that even I have abandoned this approach. (Haaretz, September 2). He is wrong.
Since its establishment, Israel has sought full peace agreements with all its neighbors. That was the path of mainstream Zionism, with the intention of ensuring that the Jewish state would not be a foreign body in the region. That was the aim of the Camp David Accords in 1978, which referred to an agreement with the Palestinians after five years of self-rule.
When I started the Oslo process, my aim was to overcome obstacles in the talks in Washington between Israel and the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, and to agree on the parameters of an interim agreement leading to a permanent settlement within five years. I proposed to the late Yitzhak Rabin that we seize the opportunity and try to begin negotiations on a permanent settlement, but he rejected this, saying that if such negotiations failed, it would not be possible to talk about an interim agreement and we would lose out both ways.
Immediately after the signing of the Oslo Accords, I began talks with Mahmoud Abbas on a statement of principles for a peace agreement. The work was completed after two years. Then-prime minister Shimon Peres rejected the document. Benjamin Netanyahu, as prime minister, did everything in his power to avoid reaching the moment of truth of a permanent settlement.
Ehud Barak, who was elected in 1999, wanted to reach a permanent settlement, but refused an American proposal to put what was then called the Beilin-Abu Mazen Document (though it was not a signed document) on the negotiating table at Camp David. The talks with the Palestinians failed because both sides did not try hard enough to reach a permanent agreement.
After the talks on a permanent settlement did not succeed, I proposed to Yasser Abed Rabbo, the Palestinian minister of information, to maintain an informal channel to prepare a detailed proposal for a permanent settlement, and prove to the two peoples that every issue could be resolved. That is the Geneva Initiative, signed seven years ago by a group of Israeli and Palestinian notables; it became the only detailed document acceptable to a large constituency of Israelis and Palestinians.
The prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, decided on a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. This withdrawal completely contradicted the spirit of the Geneva Initiative, but I supported it nonetheless because I understood that this was what Sharon was prepared to do, and that it was preferable to leave Gaza with Sharon than wait for another prime minister. Had Sharon's successor, Ehud Olmert, continued down the unilateral path, I would have supported him. Happily, for me, he attempted the bigger move, but it too was a far cry from the agreements we reached in the Geneva Initiative, and the Palestinians were not enthusiastic about it.
Netanyahu was elected a second time, unfortunately. He is miles away from a peace agreement along the lines of the Clinton parameters or the Geneva Initiative. Im not sure he's prepared for an interim agreement, but to me it seems more practical than futile talks about security, the environment, water and the Jewish character of the State of Israel. That's why I propose trying the partial move.
I am not disillusioned. I think the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was foolish and that an interim agreement is also undesirable. If it were up to me, I would undoubtedly prefer to reach a full peace agreement now.
The question is whether it is preferable to wait for a prime minister who is prepared to pay the price of peace, or do the most that is possible right now. I prefer not to wait.
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