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Friday, December 5, 2003
Excerpts: Geneva frolics.Jordanian opposition to Geneva and Israel

HAARETZ 5 Dec.'03:"The cat's meow"By Uzi Benziman

"Jibril Rajoub wasn't so keen on having his picture taken shaking the
hand of Amnon Lipkin-Shahak"

"came off as more of a gimmick ... that is having an international impact
... but still no more than a bit of media razzle-dazzle."

"the parallel Palestinian segments were reminiscent of Bolshevik

"the politicians in the group initially wanted it to be on the
anniversary of the Rabin assassination."

"On the eve of trhe event, Yasser Arafat pulled one of his familiar

"While not one of the Israelis mentioned Yasser Arafat, in either
positive or negative fashion, the name of Ariel Sharon echoed in
denunciation in the vast auditorium whenever it was uttered by the
Palestinian speakers."

"The Israelis were restrained and gentlemanly, and the Palestinians were
blunt and aggressive."

"the English version ... bears the title 'draft' while the Hebrew version
is presented as a final, agreed-upon version."
1. Razzle-dazzle

The Swiss tried very hard this week in Geneva: The chef of the
Intercontinental Hotel prepared a Middle Eastern menu, the set designer put
an olive tree on the stage, the Israeli partners brought a planeful of
well-meaning people, the Palestinian partners arrived at the launch event
without any difficulties. Everything was perfectly orchestrated to run as
smoothly as a Swiss watch. But something still went wrong: Jibril Rajoub
wasn't so keen on having his picture taken shaking the hand of Amnon
Lipkin-Shahak; there was no great friendship between the Israelis and the
Palestinians, no lifting of spirits. It was a highly calculated affair that
was meant to generate support for the model of a final status accord crafted
by Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo and their staffs. But because of its
cold, technical nature, it came off as more of a gimmick - a gimmick that is
having an international impact and reverberating from the Jordan River to
the Potomac, but still no more than a bit of media razzle-dazzle.

Peace is too serious an issue to be left to publicists; the spirit of public
relations specialists seems to constantly hover over the Geneva Accord,
emasculating it of its content and turning it into another ad campaign.
Which is why the gathering in Geneva had the taste of Swiss hummus: a
superficial show rather than a real human encounter, a programmed display
and not an emotional connection, a sound and light show rather than a
genuinely uplifting experience. The style that the organizers gave the event
sealed its fate: It drew media interest in Israel and in the Palestinian
Authority and, to a lesser degree, in other places, but it did not become a
watershed moment in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It lacked soul and
spontaneity, some kind of inner fire that would burst out and convince the
leaders of the two sides that their nations have had their fill of the
conflict and are truly ready to put an end to it. The event had all the
power of an election campaign ad, not of a historical moment.

The Swiss patrons of the event are the ones who initially determined what
kind of ceremony there would be. In the original planning, the event was
going to be like a stodgy board of directors meeting with a list of
speakers, each given a precise time limit. The Israelis wanted to liven it
up a little, with some video clips, some musical interludes, and brief
statements from "ordinary people." The Swiss hosts agreed. And so the event
turned into an overly long tapestry of speeches and appearances by artists,
with a number of off-key moments.

The video segments showing the "voice of the masses" in Israel seemed
staged; the parallel Palestinian segments were reminiscent of Bolshevik
recitations; an elegantly dressed young man introduced himself as a
"representative of the poverty" in Israel and protested that the leaders of
the two peoples are putting their national resources into weapons and
destruction; a young Arab woman called for sexual equality. It was all as
authentic as the artificially illuminated olive tree.

Geneva was selected to host the ceremony because it could not be held in
Israel or in the Palestinian Authority territories. Yossi Beilin and his
people say that the conference was held primarily to meet the needs of the
Palestinian colleagues: They are the ones who need international support for
their readiness to adopt a proposal for a final status accord. This was also
the argument that persuaded Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey to
fund the event.

In fact, the event was also meant to serve the needs of the Israeli side:
Among the group involved in the Geneva Accord, there was disagreement over
when it should be held; the politicians in the group initially wanted it to
be on November 4, to connect it with the anniversary of the Rabin
assassination and to sear it into the public's consciousness as a
continuation of the peace efforts of the late prime minister. The retired
military officers warned that the choice of November 4 would be perceived as
a publicity stunt. And also that first, copies of the Geneva agreement had
to be distributed to every household in Israel. The event was postponed for
a month.

On the eve of the event, Yasser Arafat pulled one of his familiar tricks: He
gave a green light to protest demonstrations and angrily berated Yasser Abed
Rabbo and his cohorts. Arafat had wanted to play a part in the event. Two of
the Palestinian signatories decided to cancel their trips. Others did what
they could to mollify Arafat. In the end, an agreement was reached: Arafat
would provide Jibril Rajoub with a speech that he would give from the stage
in Geneva. When the Israeli delegation learned of this, it objected. The
Palestinians made clear that this was the condition that Arafat stipulated
for their coming. The Israelis acceded, but extracted this modification from
the Palestinians: Instead of Rajoub reciting Arafat's speech, it would be
presented by the president of Bethlehem University, and only parts of the
speech would be delivered.

This was the most blatant example of the difference between the approach of
the two delegations to the ceremony: While not one of the Israelis mentioned
Yasser Arafat, in either positive or negative fashion, the name of Ariel
Sharon echoed in denunciation in the vast auditorium whenever it was uttered
by the Palestinian speakers. While the Palestinians preached their version
of Israeli injustices to the world, the Israeli speakers did not make any
mention of Palestinian terror and its horrors. The Israelis were restrained
and gentlemanly, and the Palestinians were blunt and aggressive. They also
left some in the Israeli delegation with the sour feeling that they had not
adhered to previous understandings about the text and spirit of the event.

2. Beilin answers back

The Geneva Accord risks being perceived as a huge gimmick that has no
genuine agreement behind it. Right-wing detractors are already claiming that
Beilin is misleading the public by presenting the understandings as a
finished and accepted document on the Palestinian side. They point out that
the English version of the document bears the title "draft" while the Hebrew
version is presented as a final, agreed-upon version. People ask where the
Arabic version is, and why it hasn't been distributed to every household in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and whether the document is only a draft or a
final version of an agreement. Some on the right also point out that there
aren't any signatures on the document, and so it is being falsely presented
as being binding on its authors. Beilin is portrayed as throwing sand in the
public's eyes, or as a sucker who repeatedly allows himself to get bitten by
the Palestinian snake.

On the plane on the way to Geneva, Yossi Beilin challenged his critics:
Which one of them has a better formula for solving the four main issues that
his plan addresses: Israel's security (by the demilitarization of the
Palestinian state); guaranteeing the Jewish character of the state (by
separating from most of the territories and from the Palestinian
neighborhoods in East Jerusalem; ensuring the state's democratic character
(by ending the occupation); improving Israel's international standing (by
garnering support for the plan). After the ceremony, his aides insisted that
an Arabic version was disseminated in the Palestinian Authority, not from
house to house because of logistical difficulties, but in the newspapers,
and that it is totally identical to the binding English version. Authors of
the agreement from both sides examined the Hebrew and Arabic translations
and verified their accuracy.

Beilin learned some lessons from the Oslo Accords (which he believes were
not really tried because of the interference of Benjamin Netanyahu) - to
establish a mechanism for arbitration and compromise for settling
disagreements that arise between the parties in the course of implementing
the agreement; and to emphasize the need to end incitement. Beilin cites the
preface to the agreement and the sections regarding arrangements for the
Temple Mount to refute the argument that it does not make any mention of the
Jewish people. He also rejects the arguments that say the document does not
really do away with the Palestinian demand of the right of return, and that
the very mention of UN Resolution 194 gives the Palestinians a basis for
seeking to realize that demand. He explains that the Israeli side did agree
to include mention of the UN resolutions that are important to the
Palestinians, but in return, got their agreement to the statement that the
proposed solution resolves the refugee problem once and for all.

He emphasizes that the document was deliberately given the status of a draft
only, so that it would not be perceived as offering an official, final
version. His aides note that the Palestinian side's commitment to the
agreement is ostensibly greater than that of the Israeli side, because the
Palestinian side includes ministers who are active in the Palestinian
government while the Israeli side has no official government
representatives. "What would they say on the right if three Israeli
ministers signed a document like this, which they had formulated with a
Palestinian group?" Beilin's people were asking the other day.

According to the Geneva understandings, about 100,000 settlers will return
to Israel, and about 200,000 Palestinian refuges - now living in Lebanon -
would be absorbed in various countries, including Israel. And thus the
refugee problem would be removed from the international agenda. Israel would
pay compensation for the loss of the refugees' property and the world would
pay for their repatriation and rehabilitation. According to the calculations
of Beilin's team, the cost of settling the two sides' claims would amount to
$30 billion.

Shaul Arieli, who worked on the maps in the plan, said this week that even
if it turns out, once the agreement is implemented, that the Palestinians
have misled Israel, Israel could then take unilateral steps and would find
international support for this.

+++JORDAN TIMES 5 Dec.'03;
"Opposition parties, associations and activists condemn Geneva
Initiative" By Alia Shukri Hamzeh
[IMRA: Did the King tell Bush about these hostile views?]

"The Professional Associations Council (PAC) ... condemned the
Geneva initiative and expressed total rejection of ... 'all treaties that
compromise Palestinians' right of repatriation'."

"armed resistance was the only viable option for Palestinians"

AMMAN - The Professional Associations Council (PAC) ... condemned the
Geneva Initiative and expressed total rejection of ..."all treaties that
compromise Palestinians' right of repatriation."
In a statement issued yesterday, the 14-member council reiterated
their belief in Palestinians' right to return to their homeland, saying any
attempt at settlement and compensation was unacceptable.

The informal accord, ...has created widespread controversy. Although
the initiative promises an independent state for Palestinians, its suggested
solutions to core disputes remain questionable.

. . .

In Jordan, Minister of State and Government Spokesperson Asma Khader
said Jordan backs all efforts aimed at helping the Palestinian people
achieve their rights and establishing peace ... She said the initiative
was a Palestinian internal affair.

. . .

... Muslim Brotherhood Movement said no party has the authority to
waive Palestinians' rights to their homeland. "Anyone who signs off a grain
of sand from Palestine to the Jews and usurpers is an enemy of Allah and the
Prophet Mohammad and is damned in this life and hereafter."

The influential movement demanded that those who authored and signed
the document be tried in public, and called on all Arabs to join in
condemning the initiative.

In their statement, the associations called on Arab countries to scrap
any peace treaties they have with the Jewish state and to reject all
settlement deals that aim at "liquidating the Palestinian cause."

The statement also called on the countries to cut all diplomatic and
economic ties with Israel, saying armed resistance was the only viable
option for Palestinians at such a time. The associations had launched a
signature collection campaign expressing Jordanians' rejection of the
initiative, and agreed to organise a public event for that purpose.

Dr. Joseph Lerner, Co-Director IMRA

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