Recycled delusions in Geneva
by Rime Allaf
It is only natural to feel a tingle of hope when rumors of a plan to settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict emerge, especially after three years of unprecedented violence. And when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reacts with his usual hysteria, nearly forgetting his original 14 objections to the roadmap, one can be forgiven for deducing that the plan is relatively beneficial to Palestinians--at the expense of Israelis--or at the very least a fair settlement for a two-state solution.
This is certainly not the case with the Geneva accord, despite the praise sung globally by various personalities. Even a superficial overview of its details should have had Israel rushing to espouse it and overlook its aversion to non-American "honest broker" interference. This accord is so obviously good for Israel that it doesn't even need to whine about it first in order to frame minor steps as painful concessions later.
That Sharon's ruling Likud should attack the plan is expected, given the party's fundamental principle that no Palestinian state (a semblance of which is the bone thrown to Palestinians in the accord) ever be allowed to the west of the River Jordan. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's condemnation would have been less predictable, had he not been vying for a political comeback on a "terrorism" platform. The success of the accord would challenge both parties' pretext that there is no Palestinian party with which to negotiate. But most Israelis should realize that the Geneva accord makes them clear winners, since it would even supercede (to their advantage) existing international laws.
Just like Oslo, and like all subsequent so-called groundbreaking plans, this accord can only spell disaster for Palestinians. Indeed, apart from a Palestinian Authority seemingly determined to maintain power even if it means squandering its people's rights, most understand that the accord robs them of basic human rights (such as the right of return, for which the Nusseibeh-Ayalon plan paved the way), keeps most of East Jerusalem for Israel, and validates illegal Israeli settlements presently in the West Bank and Gaza.
>From the first "land for peace" equation of Madrid's peace conference, to the "peace for land" deal that Sharon pretends to offer (supposedly after resistance stops), a "land for land" barter now surfaces: in exchange for its settlements in the remaining fifth of Palestine's original surface, Israel would offer "equal" bits of desert around the Gaza ghetto, creating a semi-state in patches around Israeli cordons and corridors. A far cry from the tiny country Palestinians had been willing to accept, and which international agreements (including Oslo) already ensured.
But the accord would render previous agreements null and void, including United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (demanding Israel's withdrawal to June 4, 1967 borders) and 194 (guaranteeing Palestinians' right of return). It stops just short of declaring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, also warranting the right of return, obsolete; blatantly, it merely gives refugees the "choice" of staying in their present countries or eventually settling in Palestine, but never in their original land in Israel.
The Palestinian and the international community's will is ignored, but the latter's purses are sought to finance the compensation of refugees and that of their host countries (which have not been consulted). While the victims of World War II atrocities continue to be compensated by their perpetrators' descendants, Israel will make other countries pay for its crimes--and only if Palestinian refugees manage to apply for compensation within two years.
The authors of the proposal suggest its distribution to two million Israeli households, and its dissemination through Palestinian media, supposedly to get the direct response of the people it concerns. But how will Palestinian refugees the world over, whose rights are being so liberally sacrificed, and who have not even voted for the Palestinian Authority, be able to voice their response?
All the Geneva accord presents is a new threshold of concessions, with the Palestinian Authority yielding even more rights than ever before and allowing Israelis to demand new minimums. It legalizes the status quo, and prohibits Palestinians from ever contesting it again.
The solution to the conflict requires neither new proposals nor recycled Oslo, Camp David or Taba terms. United Nations resolutions, distinct peace plans (including the Arab peace initiative of 2002) and basic international laws already spell out the recipe for a just and comprehensive peace, guaranteeing security, territorial integrity and basic human rights for all.
The accord's implementation would give Israel much more than international legality or morality could ever envisage, but it wouldn't give it security in the long term; throughout history, humiliated people have never allowed their quest for justice (and often revenge) to be dampened. Although he says it for different reasons, Sharon is right about one thing: the Geneva accord would be the greatest historical mistake since Oslo.
Rime Allaf is a Syrian writer and broadcaster and specializing in Middle East affairs.