A Brief History of the Peace Talks

With talks between Israel and Palestine about to begin (kind of), it is important to remember where they left off
With talks between Israel and Palestine about to begin (kind of), it is important to remember where they left off

[tweetmeme] With proximity talks set to start next week, it is helpful to look back at where talks last stalled.  The last peace talks between Israel and Palestine occurred in 2007-2008 after the Annapolis Conference with President Bush.  Middle East Progress – a subsidiary of the Center for American Progress has a great overview of where talks ended, highlighting the status of the major issues – borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security.  Take is away:

When Israelis and Palestinians renew negotiations, one of the main questions will be where negotiations on the core issues should begin. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wants negotiations to start from the point where they ended in his discussions with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as part of the Annapolis process, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want to, as these were offers and no agreement was made.

Below is an overview of where negotiations left off.

Post-Annapolis Talks

Background
Following the November 2007 Annapolis conference, negotiations began on a three-level model: direct talks on the core issues between then Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and lead Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei; negotiating teams discussing the issues in detail; and Olmert and Abbas stepping in to resolve disagreements.

Details
Olmert and Abbas presented plans in late 2008 based on the progress made on each of the core issues—borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security. According to reports, the plans addressed the issues as such:

� Borders: Olmert says that in his plan, the Palestinian state would be based on 1967 borders with minor adjustments taking into account changes on the ground. Israel would annex around 6.3 or 6.4 percent of the West Bank with the Palestinians receiving lands equal to 5.8 percent of the area of the West Bank. Examples of settlements that Israel would retain include Ariel, Beit Aryeh, Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim and those around East Jerusalem. Palestinians would receive land adjacent to Gaza, and the southern, western and northern West Bank. The West Bank and Gaza would be connected by a tunnel controlled by the Palestinians but underIsraeli sovereignty. Abbas says that he presented maps that included a land swap of 1.9 percent of the West Bank.

� JerusalemOlmert and Abbas said that both agreed the neighborhoods of the city would be split, with the Palestinians controlling the Arab neighborhoods, which would serve as the capital of the Palestinian state and Israel retaining control of the Jewish neighborhoods. Olmert said that his plan included having the holy basin—home to Christian, Jewish and Muslim holy sites—jointly administered by Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian state, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

� Refugees: Olmert said that he told Abbas he could not accept a right of return; instead, Israel would accept 1,000 Palestinians on a humanitarian basis each year for five years. An international fund would also be created to compensate Palestinians.

� Security: Abbas said both he and Olmert, along with the United States and Egypt, agreed to have UNIFIL provide a third-party presence in the West Bank and Gaza. In August 2009, Haaretz reported that the Israelis had presented a detailed plan for security arrangements. They were seeking a demilitarized Palestinian state without an army, but the Palestinians sought the ability to defend against “outside threats.”

Outcome
Olmert says that he never received a response from Abbas to his offer on September 16; Abbas says that the Palestinians did not stop the negotiations, nor did either side reject the negotiations, and there was a planned meeting in Washington for January 3, 2009 that never happened because of the escalation of fighting in Gaza.

Photo from Enduring America

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3 thoughts on “A Brief History of the Peace Talks

  1. Why the hell should America have anything to do with the administration of Jerusalem’s “holy basin”? Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t the last official word (1947) that Jerusalem would be a ‘corpus separatum’ under UN sovereignty? What’s wrong with that?

    1. Woody,

      The question of Jerusalem is incredibly complex. I am far from an expert, but this is what I know. International law – via a UN resolution sometime in the early 1980’s – states that the entirety of Jerusalem does not belong to Israel. As far as international law is concerned, East Jerusalem is not part of Israel proper and Israeli claims stating otherwise are simple annexationist excuses. There are some international law folk who argue that after the British left the British Mandate Palestine in the 40’s, Israel took de facto control of Jerusalem. Thus, when Jordan took control of the city it was effectively taking an Israeli city. Therefore the argument can be made that Israel was simply reacquiring an Israeli city in 1967.

      I don’t personally belief this – and current international law runs counter to this argument as well. I believe that Israel is the only country in the world who accepts Jerusalem as its undivided capital. There are obviously very strong religious attachments to the city for Muslims, Christians and Jews. If Israel can somehow keep all of the city, it will – the ‘corpus separatum’ does not appeal to them (as it is also not ideal for Muslims or Christians).

      As far as America is concerned, I would say that America – considering its past and current support for Israel – is the only outside power that can force Israel to accept a Palestinian state. This doesn’t mean it will happen (personally I think the best solution is for Israel to willingly make the necessary concessions for peace in order to preserve its Jewish character), but it seems as thought the world has accepted American mediation.

      Good comment!

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