People and Politics / Who Never Misses an Opportunity to Miss an Opportunity?

In a meeting with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists last week on the east side of the Dead Sea, Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher proposed paying attention to how, despite the deterioration in the territories, even Muammer Gaddafi hasn't rescinded his signature of support for last year's Arab League peace plan.

Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar
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Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar

In a meeting with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists last week on the east side of the Dead Sea, Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher proposed paying attention to how, despite the deterioration in the territories, even Muammer Gaddafi hasn't rescinded his signature of support for last year's Arab League peace plan.

The league in Beirut accepted the principles of a peace agreement between Israel and the Arab states, based on the Saudi initiative - two states for two peoples, Arab security guarantees to Israel, and an agreed solution of the refugee problem.

Entirely by coincidence, that same week in Athens, Saif el Islam Gaddafi appeared before a small group of visitors from the Middle East, including some Israelis. The speaker, whose name means Sword of Islam, is a London School of Economics doctoral candidate and considered the successful son and the leading candidate to inherit his father's seat as ruler of Libya.

Among academics, diplomats and politicians invited by the Greeks to two lectures was Ephraim Sneh, MK (Labor), who until recently a senior member of the Israeli government. Sneh yesterday said that due to the layers of secrecy imposed on the participants, he is not at liberty to provide details about young Gaddafi's speech.

But from the little information that did leak from the closed room it appears that Israelis and Palestinians who are worried that as the years go by the idea of two states for two peoples is fading, are not alone. Saif el Islam, like his father, believes the missed peace is turning the idea of a binational solution - for Israstine, as Gaddafi called it - is becoming the only solution.

Missing the peace with Arab neighbors is the subject of a documentary by Danny Siton and Tor Ben Mayor, "Shattered Dreams of Peace." Three senior officials who participated in the negotiations say unequivocally that in December 1999 Israel missed the chance for peace with Syria. According to them, if not for Ehud Barak's cold feet, the residents of the Golan Heights would have had to say goodbye to their homes while the residents of Kiryat Shmona and Shlomi would be sleeping soundly in their beds at night.

One after the other the three refute Barak's claim that Hafez Assad ordered Farouk Shara to halt the negotiations because of the American bridging document that was leaked to Haaretz. At a conference last month at Tel Aviv University Barak accused a senior American official of the leak because he decided, said Barak, to foil the Syrian negotiations to clear the arena for negotiations with the Palestinians.

Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and a member of the American delegation in Shepardstown says he met Barak at the airport, at the end of the round of talks and a few days before the publication of the document. "He called me to the plane, while everyone waited below, and said `I cannot do it.' I asked what he meant. `After all, you were ready to do it and you were ready to pass the bridging document to the Syrians?' He said it was too quick and the Israeli public wouldn't understand how suddenly, at the opening of negotiations, he was committed to a withdrawal from all of the Golan. Barak said he needed time to prepare the public. I got off the plane and went to meet [secretary of state] Madeleine Albright and Dennis Ross. I told them `we have a problem.' We applied heavy pressure on the Syrians and they made a series of concessions. They came expecting to hear the magic words, withdrawal to the `67 borders."

Dennis Ross, who headed the American peace team says: "For the first time Assad agreed to open talks at a high level ... Barak raised explanations why he could not do certain things without admitting he got cold feet. He reached all the way to the end and then had a panic attack that he couldn't sell the agreement. That was a legitimate concern. But he should have raised it before we arrived at Shepardstown and not after."

Maj. Gen. Uri Saguy, who headed the negotiating team with Syria on behalf of Barak says: "It was clear to me and I still hold the view that it was possible to reach an agreement."

But as is well known, others, including Prof. Itamar Rabinovich, who knew about the negotiations with Syria and conducted them for some years, do not think so.

Tzachi divides Jerusalem

The division of (Arab) Jerusalem is taking place like a military diversion. While the entire world is bothered by the question whether the separation fence goes east of Ariel or leaves out the large Samarian city, the real action is taking place in the south.

The first wave of new expropriation orders were handed out in East Jerusalem two weeks ago, just as Abu Mazen was making his way to the White House. The first order said a 2.3-kilometer fence would go up in the heart of Tsur Baher.

A cursory glance at the map shows that hundreds of Israeli residents - Palestinians, not Jews, it's almost unnecessary to say - will find themselves on the eastern side of the fence. Their jobs, schools, hospitals, relatives and neighbors will be on the other side, in the west.

A similar order expropriates 950 meters of Abu Dis, in Jerusalem's east. The third order makes do with two dunams from the neighborhood of Sheikh Sa'ad, which is outside the official jurisdiction of the Israeli capital, but the only road exiting the neighborhood is under in territory Israel claims as its own. A resident wanting to leave his neighborhood will need a special pass - or a donkey.

The next wave of expropriations arrived last week, at the same time reports began coming in that the U.S. is considering discounting investments in the fence from the loan guarantees that it is making available to the Israeli government. Two new orders announced the expropriations of land along a 6.5-km route near Azzariyeh and Abu Dis.

According to a security source involved in planning the "Jerusalem envelope," the expropriation orders are an indication that the government intends to use the fence to create a broad, contiguous corridor around all of East Jerusalem. The source said that the missing sections of the fence, those meant to cross Jerusalem inside the jurisdiction of the city are waiting for expropriation orders from Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi.

The corridor is meant to go from Anata in the north to Ma'ale Adumim and Michmash in the east, and form there to Har Homa in the south all the way to Gilo. By the way, the Housing Ministry is about to issue tenders to contractors for another 500 housing units at Har Homa.

Apparently that's the prime minister's way to fulfill his commitments to the road map made at Aqaba, where he promised to avoid creating any facts that could predispose the outcome of negotiations for a final agreement.

In two to three months, all of southeast Jerusalem will be cut off from the West Bank and thus the "Jerusalem envelope" program will be complete. Those Arab neighborhoods that are in the way of the fence, like Anata, will be simply shoved out.

Others, like Abu Dis, Azzariyeh, A Zaim, and Hizme, will be turned into enclaves. This some 20,000 residents of Jerusalem "with blue identity cards" from the other side of the fence and thousands others will be closed up in ghettoes, cut off from their cultural, social, political, and economic hinterland in the West Bank.

Attorney Danny Zeidman, who was a member of the Jerusalem team put together by Ehud Barak has long been an observer of changes in Jerusalem and says that not since 1967 has there been such a dramatic change taking place in East Jerusalem - without any public debate. "In a few months, maybe weeks, the lives of thousands of East Jerusalemites and their neighbors will, on the best of days, be far worse than anything they experienced before the intifada," he says.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has just received an up to date report from his consulate in Jerusalem on the new expropriation orders and has asked the government for clarifications.

By the time Sharon explains how the new map of the city fits in with the principles of the road map - a credible process, preserving the status quo, freedom of movement for Palestinians, and territorial contiguity - Hanegbi can divide Jerusalem. Well, the Arab parts of Jerusalem, because that's allowed.