In 2001: Dramatic Agreement on Core Issues

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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The Palestinian Authority vehemently rejected most of Israel's security demands in negotiations at Camp David and Taba in 2000 and 2001, but contrary to what has been assumed for years, significant agreement was reached on parts of three core issues: borders, refugees and Jerusalem.

According to a document obtained by Haaretz, details of the Palestinians' objections - revealed here for the first time, on the very day the two sides resumed official reopening of talks - show the precise differences in the respective negotiating positions when the talks were frozen in early 2001.

The document also reveals that as early as June 2000, an "initiated separation" plan that would eventually become the basis for Israel's withdrawal from territories were being formulated, in the event talks with the Palestinians break down.

That plan received the cabinet's final approval in October 2000. The separation plan was to encompass all aspects of life, and would take place over a number of years, even while negotiations would be kept on the back burner as an option, should conditions change.

The 26-page document, signed by Gilad Sher, bureau chief to prime minister Ehud Barak, was entitled, "The Status of the Diplomatic Process with the Palestinians - Points to Update the Incoming Prime Minister."

It was presented to Barak two weeks after elections on February 6, 2001, in which Barak lost to Ariel Sharon, and a few days before Sharon assumed office.

Among the PA's objections were the demilitarization of the PA; the proposed timeline for the Israel Defense Forces to withdraw from the territories; the IDF's right to emergency deployment in the Jordan Valley; and control of the skies.

The document notes that "at the Camp David negotiations, President [Bill] Clinton agreed on the security issue in the spirit of Israel's positions, but after the summit, the Palestinians reneged on most of the understandings.

Some of the details have been revealed over the years in books and articles, but most have remained ambiguous or unknown.

According to the plan:

b Israel would keep settlement blocs comprising 80 percent of the settlers in the West Bank.

b No evacuation of settlements was planned for the initial phase of the plan. At an appropriate time, it stated, isolated settlements outside the blocs or security zones would be transfered to one of the settlement blocks or to Israel.

b A wide security zone would be maintained along the Dead Sea as far north as Meholah in the Jordan Valley.

b Security forces would be beefed up in the Old City and East Jerusalem, and its environs.

The 26-page booklet was written during a long series of discussions by a team headed by Sher, which included former deputy head of the Shin Bet security service Israel Hasson; Barak's political adviser, Pini Meidan; the IDF chief of planning and strategy, Brigadier General Mike Herzog; head of the Military Advocate General's international law department, Colonel Daniel Reisner; the secretary of the negotiating team, Gidi Grinstein; the head of the negotiation administration, Colonel Shaul Arieli; his deputy, Moti Kristal; and Foreign Ministry representative Oded Eran. Then-head of the National Security Council, Major General Uzi Dayan, also contributed comments. The booklet summed up in almost obsessively thorough and precise detail all diplomatic action that had been taken vis-a-vis the Palestinians during Barak's term in office.

Far-reaching ideas

The main principle toward which Israel was working, according to the document prepared by Sher's team, was not to offer any more territory to the Palestinians before understandings were reached on all the core issues. Israel was prepared to discuss far-reaching ideas, but continually emphasized that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."

Another rule was that "no issues could be agreed upon separately from other others," because of the interlocking connection among all the issues. These two messages were emphasized frequently during the talks in 2000.

In preparation for the current renewal of talks, the documents were presented to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her team a month before the Annapolis summit. The Israeli and the Palestinian teams, headed by Livni and Ahmed Qureia, met yesterday in what was intended as the official reopening of talks, seven years after they were frozen.

During the talks at Camp David and Taba, the parties worked toward a Framework Agreement for Permanent Status (FAPS). The agreement was supposed to encompass all the core issues and offer guidelines and time tables to arrive at a solution.

In comparison, during the opening of talks yesterday, the parties avoided defining the legal status of the document toward which they were working. The joint statement at Annapolis stated that the goal was a "peace agreement," a term open to interpretation.

Olmert has not yet given guidelines to the negotiating team on the present talks. However, the 2001 booklet documents 12 guidelines given by Barak to the negotiating teams.

Gaps revealed

The 2001 document reveals the gaps between the parties on all the core issues:

The parties were divided over when to make a declaration on the end of the conflict. Israel wanted the end-of-conflict declaration to be at the time of the signing of the FAPS. The Palestinians refused, and wanted all prisoners incarcerated in Israel to be released with the signing of the FAPS. Israel proposed that the prisoners be released with the Palestinian end-of-conflict declaration.

The document also reveals the nature of the Palestinian state, constituting the implementation of the right of the entire Palestinian people to self-determination. Among the differences noted was "a disagreement among the Palestinians with regard to formal recognition of the State of Israel as a Jewish state."

With regard to borders, the booklet states that the Palestinians were willing to show flexibility, and had agreed to adjustments to the June 4, 1967, borders, which were "equal in their extent and quality to meet Israel's demographic needs." The talks failed to reach an agreement over the Latrun area, the area annexed to Jerusalem after 1967, and the Dead Sea.

In addition, while Israel sought to exchange territory for 6 to 8 percent of the West Bank in order to keep the settlement blocks, the Palestinians demanded that all territorial exchanges be at a 1:1 ratio, and would not be greater than 2.3 percent of the West Bank.

In terms of safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza, Israel wanted the passage to remain under its sovereignty, but controlled by the Palestinians; the Palestinians wanted a land corridor through Israel that would be under its sovereignty.

Jerusalem

With regard to Jerusalem, it was determined that there would be two capitals, Jerusalem and Al-Quds, and that special arrangements would be made on matters of security, planning, construction and law enforcement. The Palestinians emphasized the idea of the "open city" - that the two capitals would constitute one urban unit separate from its surroundings, both Israeli and Palestinian.

In the areas outside the Old City walls, Israel's guiding principle was that Arab areas would be Palestinian, but presented a map with Jewish territorial contiguity that created Palestinian "bubbles." The Palestinians, for their part, demanded Palestinian territorial contiguity with Israeli "bubbles" connected to Jewish Jerusalem via roads.

In the matter of the "sacred basin" and the Old City, Israel wanted a "special regime," and to keep the Jewish and the Armenian quarters under its aegis. The Palestinians, however, wanted sovereignty over the Muslim, Christian and most of the Armenian quarters.

In terms of the Jewish holy sites outside the walls, the Palestinians proposed special arrangements that would benefit Israel but would not constitute sovereignty.

An even more complicated issue was that of the Temple Mount. Israel suggested that sovereignty would be "ambiguous," and that powers of administration and control would be shared, or alternatively, that sovereignty would be determined based on the bond of each party to the site. The Palestinians refused both alternatives and rejected any compromise on the Temple Mount.

Refugees

On refugees, Israel refused to accept sole responsibility for the creation of the refugee problem and to any right of return, theoretical or actual. Israel did agree to recognize the suffering of the 1948 refugees; to take part in an international effort to bring in a small number of refugees - 20,000-40,000 - at its discretion based on humanitarian considerations only; and to contribute funds to refugee rehabilitation. Israel's condition was that the "implementation of the final status agreement would bring an end to demands and a solution to the problem."

The Palestinians demanded that Israel recognize its sole responsibility for the creation and perpetuation of the refugee problem, and wanted Israel to recognize the Palestinian right of return as per UN resolution 194. However a document written during the talks stated that the Palestinians "showed understanding of the sensitivity of the issue for Israel, and willingness to find a formulation that would balance these feelings with their national needs."

The gaps on the issue of water remained at a legal level, while on the practical level agreement was extensive.

On the process of ratifying the agreement, Israel declared its intention to hold a referendum, while the Palestinians said nothing about this part of the process.