When we were children, we played at "President, Deputy, Secretary" - just like a bunch of frustrated Israeli politicians from the left and academics nostalgic for the gay old days of Oslo met last week on the shores of the Dead Sea (a wonderfully appropriate locale for what they were dealing with), and made believe that they were conducting negotiations on the future of the State of Israel. In a meeting with a few representatives of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Fatah, they decided on a document - called "the Geneva Accord" - that is supposedly going to lead to a permanent status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. A fitting headline for the initiative: "Oslo is dead - long live Geneva."
With respect to some of the details, a lack of clarity still prevails, but from what has filtered out via the media, the following picture emerges:
-Israel will agree to "the return" of "only" several tens of thousands of Palestinians to its territory. The method is well-known: First you open a narrow crack in the door, and then you swarm in. In the meantime, one of the Palestinian participants has already announced, contrary to what the Israelis are saying, that officially the demand for "the right of return" has not been withdrawn.
-Israel will relinquish its sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Of this Shimon Peres once said, "When Jesus Christ walked through the alleys of Jerusalem, he didn't see any mosques on the Temple Mount, but rather the Temple."
-Most of East Jerusalem will also be handed over to Palestinian sovereignty. Though we will be allowed to keep the Western Wall, the Palestinians will control it from the heights of the Temple Mount and entry into the Wall Plaza will be subject to the supervision of Palestinian police.
-Israel will return nearly everywhere to within the Green Line (the pre-Six Day War border). It will be allowed to keep settlements in the Etzion Bloc and around Jerusalem, but not in the strategic Jordan Valley. Ariel will be "transferred," as will other settlements. In other words, Israel will withdraw from the essential strategic territory that overlooks most of the coastal plain with its millions of inhabitants, and will have to give up its security border in the area that is most exposed to aggression and terror. Israel's return to its "narrow waist" from before 1967 stands, incidentally, in direct contradiction to the American interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 242.
On the face of things, there is no need to get upset, either because of the meeting or because of the peculiar initiative it engendered, and perhaps the government spokesmen are mistaken in giving it such exposure. Nor would it be illegitimate, if it were another one of the scores of meetings and discussions that are held in various forums, particularly among academics, in which ideas and proposals are debated.
However, in the current case, a random group of people has the gall to conduct negotiations, ostensibly in the name of the State of Israel. In contrast to their Palestinian interlocutors, most of whom have official functions in the top Palestinian echelons, the Israelis represent only themselves. The motives of the Palestinian side, which is linked by its umbilical cord to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, are clear: First we'll let the Israelis make far-reaching concessions and then we'll raise further demands. This is how the "salami method" works, with Israeli help. No wonder, then, that the sides succeeded in reaching agreement. As an American government secretary once said: "When you give the other side everything it wants, there's no difficulty in reaching an agreement."
This is not the first time that bodies on the Israeli left have subverted the legitimate government, and it is possible that this confirms once again David Ben-Gurion's observation that we have still not learned to act like a sovereign and law-abiding state. I can remember personally how, after the Madrid conference, in the Washington talks in which I participated as the Israeli ambassador and a permanent member of the delegation, the Palestinians suddenly stopped taking the discussions seriously. In retrospect it turned out that this was because of the initiatives that led to the Oslo agreements.
Not only Yitzhak Shamir's government was tricked in this way. This is what the late Yitzhak Rabin wrote to Peres on June 7, 1993: "The contacts known as the `Oslo contacts' in the current situation constitute a danger to the continuation of the peace negotiations."
The writer was Israel's ambassador to the United States and a Knesset member during the years 1970-1981 (first on the Mamlachtit list and then on behalf of the Likud), and from 1988 to 1990 on behalf of the Likud.
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