Ever since the Six-Day War, Gaza and the West Bank have been presided over by Israel. The genesis of the conflict harkens back to Israel’s founding and the advent of the Arab nationalist and Zionist projects of the 19th century. This analysis by Tomas Nordberg examines many of the initiatives that we have seen so far and why they have all failed to bring enduring peace to the region.
This article was originally published by Tomas Nordberg via Global Bar Magazine
US President Jimmy Carter invited Prime Minister Begin of Israel and President Sadat of Egypt to Camp David for negotiations in 1978. The first of the two agreements that were concluded was named ”A Camp David Accords: The Framework for Peace in the Middle East”. The agreement refers to Article 2 of the UN Charter, including Article 2 (3) which states: ”All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.” The agreement says in the Preamble: ”To achieve a relationship of peace, in the spirit of Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, future negotiations between Israel and any neighbour prepared to negotiate peace and security with it are necessary for the purpose of carrying out all the provisions and principles of Resolutions 242 and 338.” The Palestinians were not a party to the agreement. The European Community (EC) voiced in 1979 that a two-state solution is required for sustained peace.
Israel withdrew its soldiers and evicted Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 under the so labelled Disengament Plan. Territorial control was transferred to the PA but Israel remained in charge of the seafront, access (except from the border crossing with Egypt) and airspace, including the deliverance of humanitarian assistance.
Peace through Territorial Arrangements: The Case of Secretary of State John Kerry
US Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to find a peaceful solution between the parties during the Obama administration. As facilitator, he tried to address all the core and final status issues and reach a final status agreement. Secretary of State Kerry focused on peace dividends and on convincing the parties that they both have an interest in the sucess of the other. Economic initiatives would strengthen the Palestinian economy which were to become a partner with Israel who would prosper. Sustainable peace with Arab and Muslim states would put an end to the charges that Israel was not a legit state. Security matters was dealt with by expanding the capacity of Palestinians to deal with these issues. Israel helped in improving conditions in the occupied territories which was appreciated by Palestinian security agencies and followed by a drop in attacks on Israelis.
Furthermore, the Arab League reconfirmed that they stand behind the Arab Peace Plan of 2002. And world leaders tried to convince the parties to seek peace based on this initiative. Kerry intended to facilitate sustained, continuous and substantive negotations on the core subjects such as how Jerusalem is to be divided up and the creation of a Palestinian state that respects human rights and is able to survive. Kerry is a firm believer in the two-state solution as the only sustainable way for a democratic and Jewish Israel to last.
President Obama did veto a UNSC Resolutions that condemned settlements. The US has traditionally been in opposition to settlements, a sentiment that is widely shared in the world community. The Palestinians try to take advantage of this to create a state of their own via international organisations. We saw how President Trump changed the bipartisan consensus since fifty years regarding settlements, paving the way for complete Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Kerry, on the other hand, had ever since he was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee strived for bilateral negotiations between the parties with the US as a facilitator.
We must try to understand the legal context. The Geneva Conventions forbid a country that has taken over territory during an armed conflict to move its citizens into the territory of an occupied country. Israel accepted already in 1947 the notion of a Palestinian state but the Arabs refused this idea. The United Nations came up with the two-state solution which has been the basis for subsequent peace negotiations. It was argued that Jerusalem should be the capital of two states, a concept that President Bill Clinton incorporated in the Clinton Parameters. Under the UN plan, the Jewish sections would constitute the capital of Israel and vice versa for the state of Palestine. Of course Jerusalem in 1947 was a smaller city than it is now. Israel annexed large swaths of territory in 1967 to the north, south and east of Jerusalem, areas that were part of the West Bank but that Israel viewed as part of Jerusalem.
Back in 2002, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia made an attempt to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for ”full withdrawal from all the occupied territory, in accordance with UN resolutions, including in Jerusalem.” Israel asserts that the settlements are excogitated by the settlers with the intent of settling state land which is not owned by the Palestinians. The late Saeb Erekat worked all his life for what he called a comprehensive peace with an independent, sovereign Palestinian state and all Israelis and Palestinians living in peace, freedom and dignity. John Kerry worked with Saeb Erekat to resuscitate the Arab Peace Initiative. It aspires for Israel to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and full normalization between the Arab States and Israel. Israel refused land swaps during the Obama Administration because it wanted to proceed with settlements. The Palestinian state would set up a postal service under the Arab Peace Initiative but it would not be allowed to control the borders of the state or have an army. It was glaringly obvious during Kerry´s negotiation rounds as a facilitator that the very border referred to in the Arab Peace Plan is missing.
The Clinton Parameters said that a Palestinian state should include 94-96 % of the West Bank and allowed for Israeli annexation of settlements in blocs, with 80 % of the settler population at the time. Further, the Parameters included Arab areas for the Palestinians in East Jerusalem and Jewish ones for the Israeli; temporary international and Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley and the long-term presence of three Israeli-controled ”early warning stations”; Palestinian sovereignty over its own airspace and return of refugees only to the Palestinian state. Gaza was not mentioned; however, President Clinton declared publiclty that the Palestinian state would include the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, Israel vowed to acknowledge the ”moral and material suffering caused to the Palestinian people by the 1948 war, and the need to assist the international community in addressing the problem”.
The main problem of this peace proposal was that it didn´t provide for a geographically contiguous Palestinian state. The Palestinian Negotiating Team (NAD) went as far as saying that the parameters divided the Palestinian state, including East Jerusalem, into separate cantons. The team also refused to relinquish the right to return. And it was naturally against the Israeli annexation of settlement blocs in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem. Interestingly, a Hebrew University opinion poll found in 2011 that 58% of Israelis and 50% of Palestinians supported a two-state solution based on the Clinton Parameters, compared with 47% of Israelis and 39% of Palestinians in 2003, the first year the poll was conducted.
Both sides did agree that a solution should be found along the lines of UNGA Resolution 242 and lead to the implementation of UNGA Resolution 194. The main critique levelled against the Clinton/Barak plan of 2001 was that it would afford Israel around nine percent of the West Bank, deprived the Palestinian state of good land and water and almost split the Palestinian state by Israeli annexation flowing east from Jerusalem.
Part 3 will be published on Monday 2021-04-05