Palestinian-Israeli Peace Process

III. Peace Process after Second Intifada

US President Clinton Peace Initiative 'Bridging Proposals' 22
After failing to resume peace talks at Camp David in July 2000, and the outbreak of Al Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak resigned on December 10, 2000. Nevertheless, the US President, in a last minute effort to bring both sides to a settlement, called for Palestinian and Israeli negotiators to meet at Bolling Air Force Base in the USA, as his guests. On December 20, 2000, Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Sa'eb Erekat met in the White House with President Clinton and Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. These talks did not produce much in the way of tangible results, but nonetheless, on December 23, 2000, President Clinton made a bridging offer, summarizing the differences between the sides and proposing potential paths to resolution on issues of Territory, Security, Jerusalem, Refugees, and Ending the Conflict.
The proposals were principles rather than detailed borders, but President Clinton asked for replies by December 27, 2000. Later, on January 7, 2000, he reported that both sides had accepted the proposals as a basis for further negotiations.
Middle East Peace Summit at Sharm Al Sheikh 23
After the breakout of the Second Palestinian Intifada, US President Clinton convened a summit meeting at Sharm El Sheikh, hosted by the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and attended by the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, and the United States, the United Nations and the European Union, in an effort to return the Palestinians and the Israelis to the negotiating table.
On October 17, 2000, at the conclusion of the Conference, both parties agreed to the resumption of bilateral security cooperation, the easing of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian life and an effort by both sides to control the violence.
In addition, a Commission of Inquiry was set up (later known as the Mitchell Report) at the insistence of the Palestinian delegation, in order to investigate the causes of the violence and to make recommendations. The Commission was a result of a compromise, for Israel did not want a commission at all, and the Palestinians wanted an UN-appointed commission that would be empowered to make mandatory recommendations for execution.
The Commission was headed by George J. Mitchell, former Member and Majority Leader of the United States' Senate, and included Suleyman Demirel, 9th President of the Republic of Turkey, Thorbjoern Jagland, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Warren B. Rudman, former Member of the United States' Senate, and Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, European Union.24
Mitchell Report
The Inquiry Commission, set at Sharm El Sheikh Conferencein October 2000, returned its report in April 2001 for the consideration of the conflicting sides and wasreleased to the public on May 21, 2001.
The chief recommendations included the resumption of negotiations, the taking of confidence-building measures, security cooperation and cessation of violence. Among the measures recommended was a freeze on new settlement activities. This issue was soon magnified and discussed, as if it was the only or main recommendation of the report, for Israel first responded with a modified settlement-freeze initiative of an unclear significance. 25
The Palestinians accepted the Mitchell Report recommendations on its release and the Israeli government declared a unilateral cease fire, but it took until May 30, 2001, in a Knesset speech for the Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, for Israel to accept the Mitchell report in full. 26
Subsequent events showed that neither side lived up to their commitments. The Israeli violence did not stop, neither was action taken to stop settlement expansion and suicide attacks were resumed inside Israel.
Tenet Plan
Following the failure of the Mitchell Plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian violence, which had begun in September 2000, US CIA Director George Tenet worked out a detailed plan for ending the violence and resuming negotiations, with the consent of the parties. The objective of this plan was to get the security organizations of Israel and of the Palestinian Authority to reaffirm their commitment to the security agreements forged at Sharm al-Sheikh in October 2000 which were then embedded in the Mitchell Report of April 2001.
The Tenet Plan was very detailed, listing specific steps and points of agreement to resume security cooperation, enforce strict adherence to the cease-fire, suppress terrorism, and redeploy the Israeli forces to positions as of September 28, 2000.The plan went into effect on June 13, 2001, but resumption of negotiations was conditional on there being a single week free of violence. No such week occurred. By March 2002, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would be willing to forego the week of quiet. However, Israeli forces had invaded Palestinian areas by this time, and Palestinians refused to negotiate until Israel withdrew its forces.
Taba Negotiations
The US President Bill Clinton was in his final weeks in the White House and the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had Prime Ministerial elections looming in February 2001. During this time and between January 21 and 29, 2001, a new round of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians was held in Taba, Egypt, under European sponsorship.
Pro-Palestinian analysts claimed that Barak proposed a Palestinian state of enclaves, separated by zones of Israeli control and large areas of temporary Israeli sovereignty. On the other hand, pro-Israeli analysts claimed that Barak had made a generous offer, comprising 97% of the area of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. 27 "In actuality, there were several stages in the negotiations, and, if informal reports are correct, the final offer of the Israeli side was indeed generous relative to earlier offers - but it is not clear that the offer was really made."  28
On January 27, 2001, both sides published a statement, stating that they had never been closer to agreement. The statement's conclusion provided that: "We leave Taba in a spirit of hope and mutual achievement, acknowledging that the foundations have been laid both in reestablishing mutual confidence and in having progressed in a substantive engagement on all core issues." 29 However, Barak, facing elections, suspended the talks.30
Nevertheless, according to the 'non-paper' of Miguel Moratinos, then the European Union Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, which summarized the negotiations, there was still disagreement between both sides about borders, Jerusalem and refugees. Moratinos noted that the Israelis made an offer, which Barak later rescinded as invalid. 31
Saudi Peace Initiative
In an interview with the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah Ben Abdel Aziz, (currently King of Saudi Arabia), Thomas Friedman wrote in the 'New York Times' on February 17, 2002 that the Crown Prince told him "he had prepared a speech for the upcoming Arab League summit in Beirut, in which he would announce Saudi Arabia's willingness to establish full diplomatic relations, normalize trade and guarantee Israel's security if Israel would fully withdraw from the territories occupied at the end of the 1967 war." 32
The Saudi Initiative was presented in Beirut during the Summit of the Arab League in March 2003. It called for full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab Territories occupied since June 1967, in implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, reaffirmed by the Madrid Conference of 1991 and the 'Land-for-Peace' principle, and Israel's acceptance of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel. At first, the Saudi Initiative overlooked the refugees' problem; however, it was adjusted in the Beirut Summit.
Nonetheless, Israel rejected this Initiative. From the Israeli point of view, the plan had certain problems. Israel was not willing to give up all of the Golan Heights, and a Palestinian political and administrative presence in Jerusalem was out of question, as was the dismantling of all Israeli settlements in Golan, the West Bank and Gaza and granting the 'Right of Return' for Palestinian refugees.33
Emmanuel Nachshon, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson, was quoted in a March 28, 2000 PBS 'Online News Hour' article entitled 'Arab Leaders Approve Saudi plan':
"The Saudi initiative as it was presented by the [Beirut] summit of the Arab League represents a non-starter. We cannot accept on the one hand to have negotiations for the creation of a Palestinian state, an independent Palestinian state, and on the other hand have all the Palestinians come into Israel. This means the destruction of the state of Israel and obviously we cannot agree." 34
Quartet and the Road Map
On June 24, 2002, US President George Bush gave a speech outlining a plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but setting reform, the implementation of democracy and the abandonment of terror as conditions for establishment of the state.35
The United States of America, joined by representatives from the European Union, the United Nations and Russia formed a group known as 'The Quartet', and issued on September 17, 2002, a statement regarding a 'Roadmap', outlining their plan to reach a final peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. The Quartet envisioned a political settlement between the two sides within three years, emphasizing that the plan would not succeed unless it addressed political, economic, humanitarian, and institutional dimensions. Additionally, it had to spell out mutual steps to be taken by the parties in each of its phases.36
In October 2002, President Bush Jr. issued his version of a more detailed 'Roadmap', based on Israeli and Palestinian inputs. A further version was issued in December 2002. But the official text of the latest version of the roadmap was announced on April 30, 2003, and published on May 1, 2003, following the election of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority.37
The Quartet Statement was passed under the title: 'A performance-based roadmap to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict', and constituted the following three phases: 38
Phase I
The first phase of the plan, ending in mid 2003, called for an Israeli withdrawal to positions it occupied in September 2000 and for the Palestinians to hold free, fair, and credible elections. It called for security, Palestinian institution building, humanitarian response, civil society and settlements.
Phase II
The second phase was to be a 'Transition Phase', lasting from June 2003 until December 2003, during which efforts were to be focused to help create an independent Palestinian state "with provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty, based on the new constitution, as a way station to a permanent status settlement." 39
Phase II was scheduled to start after Palestinian elections and end with possible creation of an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders in 2003, while efforts for further building on and sustaining of the goals outlined in Phase I continued, as well as ratification of a democratic Palestinian constitution, formal establishment of an office of prime minister, consolidation of political reform, and the creation of a Palestinian State with provisional borders.
Phase III
Phase III objectives were to attain permanent status agreement and put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2005, "through a settlement negotiated between the parties based on UNSCR 242, 338, and 1397, that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and includes an agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue, and a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide, and fulfills the vision of two states, Israel and sovereign, independent, democratic and viable Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security." 40
The 'Road Map' proved to be a failure, for now, two years past the deadline and nothing seems to have been accomplished. Subsequent events showed that neither side lived up to their commitments.
Binyamin Elon, Israeli Cabinet Minister, on July 18, 2003, in a 'Front Page' Symposium, entitled "Road Map to What?" stated the following:
"The road map does not touch the real problems at all. It does not solve the issue of the refugees, not those in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and not those who are scattered around the world. It gives the Palestinians again the illusion called: 'a Palestinian State'. Why is it an illusion? -- Since it would be a pseudo-state, without economic viability and real sovereignty." 41
Edward Said, the late Palestinian-American intellectual and late Columbia University Professor of Literature, in a June 14, 2003 'Counterpunch' editorial entitled "The Latest Peace Plan: A Roadmap to What and Where?" wrote the following:
"Anyone who believes that the road map actually offers anything resembling a settlement or that it tackles the basic issues is wrong. Like so much of the prevailing peace discourse, it places the need for restraint and renunciation and sacrifice squarely on Palestinian shoulders, thus denying the density and sheer gravity of Palestinian history." 42
Rashid Khalidi, another Palestinian-American intellectual, who is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, wrote in 'The Nation', on May 22, 2003, acommentary entitled, "Road Map or Road Kill?" In which he gave the following statement:
"In failing to focus on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, about to enter its thirty-seventh year, and on Israeli settlements, which underpin that occupation, the road map misses an opportunity to end this conflict. Instead, it concentrates on Palestinian violence and how to combat it--as if it came out of nowhere, and as if, were it to be halted, the situation of occupation and settlement would be normal."43
Kathleen Christison, former CIA analyst, in a May 6, 2003 'Counterpunch' editorial entitled, "Warning: Pile-up Ahead! A Roadmap to Nowhere," wrote:
"The 'roadmap' to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, finally released with little fanfare or enthusiasm on May 1 after almost a year of aimless wandering, is surely doomed. Near fatal internal flaws and severe political constraints on its implementation render it a roadmap to nowhere." 44
Al-Aqaba Summit
On June 4, 2003, a summit was held in Al Aqaba, Jordan, hosted by King Abdullah II of Jordan. The Summit came to start with the implementation of the 'Roadmap' peace plan to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It was attended by King Abdullah, the US President George W. Bush, the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and the Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).
Geneva Initiative 45
After the failure of Taba Talks in 2001, the talks leading to the Geneva Accord began. Present were teams comprised of professionals, some of whom were previous Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
The teams were led by Dr. Yossi Beilin, from the Israeli side, and Mr. Yasser Abed Rabbo, from the Palestinian side. As the negotiations progressed, they were joined by other prominent individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds including political, security, business, and academic and civil society activists.
The work was completed after nearly two years of intensive talks. In October 2003, a detailed and comprehensive draft model for a permanent status agreement was produced [see map]. This status included Jerusalem, refugees, territory, security, water border regime, economic relation, prisoners, settlements and all the cases to reach a final peace agreement between the two sides.
The two parties were invited by the Swiss Foreign Minister to Geneva on December 1, 2003 to launch the Initiative and reaffirm their commitment to advancing it amongst their respective publics and governments.
In brief, the Initiative "gives [a] quite detailed solutions on all issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There will be two independent states – Israel and Palestine, side by side, recognizing each others sovereignty and territorial integrity and establishing full diplomatic relations. The borders will be based on the 1967 lines (or green line) with minor, mutual modifications, whereby the vast majority of Israeli settlers will stay and be part of Israel’s new borders while the rest are evacuated and the Palestinians will receive an equal amount of land from within Israel in exchange – partly to expand the densely populated Gaza Strip. The Israeli and Palestinian areas of Jerusalem will be the capitals of the respective states with each side’s holy places fully under its sovereignty. Palestinian refugees will be given options from 5 permanent places residence – the Palestinian State with its new swapped lands will be open to all, other options, Israel included, are at the sovereign discretion of the State concerned. Refugees will receive compensation and an international body established to oversee this entire process. Security arrangements will provide guarantees to Israel, without violating Palestinian sovereignty and will be overseen by a Multinational Force stationed in Palestine. All parties are committed to preventing and opposing any terror or incitement. These detailed articles along with agreements on many other issues would constitute an end to the conflict and all claims." 46
Sharm Al-Sheikh Summit 47
On February 8, 2005, four leaders met in Sharm Al-Sheikh, Egypt, in order to put an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. These leaders were the Jordanian King Abdullah II, the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The main outcomes of the Summit were mutual ceasefire, release of several hundred Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, the formation of four committees to coordinate the implementation of the agreements, and the future Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and an initial agreement to hold more summit meetings between the Palestinian and Israeli leaders.
Cairo Talks 'Palestinian Factions National Dialogue'
A new round of Palestinian National Dialogue (intra Palestinian Dialogue) was held in Cairo during March 16-17, 2005, in which 13 Palestinian factions participated. The result of the dialogue was that the Palestinian factions adopted a ceasefire with Israel and at the same time Israel executed its obligations of Sharm Al-Sheikh Summit in 2005 to cease military operations against Palestinians, free the 900 Palestinian prisoners and return security control of 5 West Bank cities to the Palestinian administration. 48


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