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Who is Afraid of the Geneva Accords?
Last uploaded : Sunday 2nd Nov 2003 at 22:47
Contributed by : Ksenia Svetlova


The continuing turmoil in the Palestinian lands, the uncertainty of the future of the Abu Alaa government, and the tragic death of three American employees of Dyncorp who were working as security guards for the U.S. Embassy when they were killed in the Gaza Strip all strongly overshadowed one of the most significant events of the last few months ? the signing of the Geneva Accords between Israeli and Palestinian ?doves.?

Ten years have passed since the signing of the Oslo Accords, and just as it was then, the revelation of an agreement came as thunder on a bright clear day. The camps of the true believers in a peace solution for both nations in Ramallah and Jerusalem remain small and secluded just as they were then, if not smaller. The bloodshed of the recent years effectively minimized the number of peace activists with olive braches in hands on both sides.

The images of thousands of murdered and wounded, labeled in the beginning of the 1990s as ?the victims of peace? and then a decade later as ?the victims of terror,? do depress faith in the victory of sanity over fanaticism, extremism, and emotions. The latter are clearly in fashion these days.

Officials in Jerusalem and Ramallah did not dedicate much time to studying the Geneva Accords, and the paper quickly found its way to the trashcan. Their respective statements in Hebrew and Arabic, two languages that differ tremendously, this time sounded almost alike. The authors of the Geneva paper were labeled as traitors, who represent only themselves. ?There is no way to enter twice the same river,? claimed Ehud Barak, ex-Prime Minister of Israel.

Needless to say, that the Palestinian administration was not too thrilled by the agreement either. The concession of the right of return to Israel caused a great deal of rage in the Palestinian Authority. The right of return is considered a central tenet of Palestinians? negotiations stance, and until now has been seen as one of the pillars of Palestinian diplomacy.

Any indication of concession in this field until this day has spurred violence, as happened with regards to the joint Israeli-Palestinian research that was conducted by Truman Institute in Jerusalem and the institute of Dr. Khalil Shikaki in Ramallah. Their survey was conducted in the refugee camps in the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, and Jordan and indicated that the majority of refugees were willing to relinquish their right to return in exchange for a reasonable compensation. Shortly after the survey was published, a strange, bearded man broke into Shikaki?s center and destroyed valuable documentation and office furniture.

This time, the militant groups that denounced the agreement merely declared that it is even not worth the paper it was written upon, so there is a hope that the offices of the politicians that took part in the negotiations will remain intact.

Getting back to pessimistic prediction of Ehud Barak - even if the old saying is true, and one can?t step into the same water twice, who said one cannot even attempt to cross the river if one failed the first time? If negotiations are the final goal, as declared by Israelis and Palestinians, why not to try out the table right now? Why not treat the Geneva Accords as a positive foundation and not as crime against the state, as the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom called the Accords?

Since July 2000, the Israelis have said that there is no adequate partner on the other side. Well, the recent agreement clearly indicates that there is. Even in its current and somewhat imperfect shape when plenty of questions still remain unsolved, the Palestinian delegation that signed the agreement includes a wide range of political movements and parties in the Palestinian Authority, from veteran Abed-Rabbo to younger members of Fateh and emissaries of the imprisoned Marwan Barghoutti.

And still, there is an overall feeling in the Israeli side that these people are not the mainstream; that they do not represent the will of Palestinian masses, and they are naturally not entitled to negotiate on their behalf. Yet, labeling every party that is willing to negotiate as insignificant and marginal just strengthens the emotional and physical wall of misunderstanding and hatred that already exists between the two sides.

History teaches us that peace is not always reached between majorities. Celebrating 25 years of peace between Israel and Egypt this year, it is about time to recall that when Anwar Sadat decided to travel to Jerusalem, the overwhelming majority of Egyptians opposed this trip and normalization of relations with the Jewish state.

In 1977 it seemed that the negotiations that took place in Camp David were being held between Israel and Sadat, not Israel and Egypt. Does it mean that Menachem Begin made a mistake, negotiating with the men who didn?t represent the majority of his citizens? Of course not! Today, 25 years since the historical speech of Sadat in Knesset, the relations between two countries remain strained, but even a cold peace is better then the hot war.

The step ahead that was taken by the two sides in Jordan should be taken for what it is ? a leap of faith and a true attempt to move toward the real ?peace of the brave? hand by hand.
Ksenia Svetlova is a columnist for the Israeli-Russian language newspaper 'Novosty Nedeli.'

This article first appeared in AMIN.org magazine and JewishComment is grateful to Common Ground News Service for copyright clearance.



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