Late last week, thousands of Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters rallied against Palestinian leaders who have spearheaded the Geneva Accord initiative. The majority of Israeli media outlets, which do not exactly excel when it comes to covering events in Palestinian society, chose to ignore these protests. Yet, the question of why the Geneva Accord frightens Palestinian extremists in the territories deserves scrutiny. And answers should also be furnished to Israeli critics of the draft agreement.
Today, a hard look at the facts allows one to conclude categorically that there is a genuine partner in the Palestinian leadership for the forging of a final status peace accord. In fact, these Palestinians are waiting for Israel to produce a partner.
A glance at the list of Palestinian figures who are promoting the Geneva initiative - Yasser Abed Rabbo, Hisham Abd al-Raziq, Mohammed Hourani, Qadura Fares - suffices to rebuff questions that have been aired regarding the status and clout of the delegates from the other side. These Palestinians, it bears mention, continually face stiff criticism. In threatening letters and incendiary speeches that refer to these Palestinian negotiators, they are accused of "betraying the refugees, and forsaking the right of return."
Every one of us harbors complaints and claims against the Palestinian leadership. Indeed, those who warn about the lack of credibility of those leaders and their inability to honor agreements, and also about the possible resumption of terror, deserve answers.
In this connection, the words of the late Yitzhak Rabin should be recalled: "Peace is made with enemies." The simple truth is that nobody could possibly furnish a list of more viable, efficient Palestinian partners.
This answer, however, is incomplete. The most compelling reply to questions about the credibility of the Palestinian leadership is this: We trust ourselves.
On the one hand, Israel maintains the strongest army in the region. Under the agreement, its air force planes can fly in the air space of the neighboring country, and it will operate intelligence warning stations in that country's heartland. For years after the signing of the agreement, Israel would deploy its soldiers in the Jordan Valley; and international peacekeepers would monitor compliance with the agreement within the state of Palestine.
On the other hand, the new state of Palestine would be demilitarized, divided into two regions, weak economically, and dependent upon the goodwill of its neighbors. So, under this scenario, who ought to be afraid of whom?
Nonetheless, for the sake of argument, let's imagine the worst-case scenario. First of all, the period stipulated by the agreement for Israeli withdrawal stretches over two and a half years; during this time, the Palestinians are to be scrutinized mainly for their efforts in the war on terror. Should they not put up a fight in that war, they will forfeit everything that the agreement promises them. And were terror to resume after the agreement is implemented, Israel's position would be solid - we would have carried out a unilateral withdrawal in compliance with an agreement, and with the backing of the international community. Under such circumstances, whoever might still long for the Casbah markets of Nablus, could return to them.
The Geneva Accord incorporates the most important lesson that was learned during the Oslo process. Oslo was referred to as a measured, incremental process. Today it is clear that one can't leap into the water in stages. Only a final status agreement, after which neither side can legitimately retain claims against the other, can build up confidence, and lead to a new reality.
The makers of the Oslo process were afraid to talk about settlements, Jerusalem, refugees - and even about a Palestinian state. The lesson was learned. The Geneva document that has been presented to the public is a model that proves there is a partner with whom all of the problems can be solved, and, indeed, that ultimately all of the problems are soluble in a way that guarantees Israel's existence as a strong, Jewish, democratic state.
Most of us, on the right and the left, understand that a genuine final status agreement will closely resemble the Geneva model. It was Ehud Barak, one of the most vehement critics of the Geneva document, who said the main frames of the future peace agreement are well known, and so the only remaining question is how many people have to die before it is finalized.
Replying to the doomsday prophets, the Geneva Accord negotiators can hardly promise the moon. Whether or not a New Middle East can be created is open to doubt; but the accord would clearly make a New Israel.
Nobody has a guarantee that this is the best way to attain peace. But while the public and its leaders might too often forget it, we are beholden to the biblical commandment, which enjoins us to "seek and pursue peace."
The writer was press spokesman for prime minister Ehud Barak, and today directs the Peace Through Education company, which promotes the Geneva Accord initiative.
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