Those of us who wish to see peace between Israel and the Palestinians have long known that the offer made at Taba by Barak’s government pretty much set out the parameters for an eventual peace agreement. What was offered, in brief, was:
*A Palestinians state for the Palestinians
*The right of Palestinian refugees to return to the Palestinian state
*The Palestinian state to encompass about 97% of the West Bank, 100% of Gaza and a connecting road
*Land compensation on a 1:1 ratio from Israel to the Palestinians for the 3% of West Bank land it would keep
*Removal of all settlements and Israelis who are not living within those 3% of land Israel keeps
*Sharing of Jerusalem so that most of east Jerusalem goes to the Palestinians
*Sharing of the Old City of Jerusalem so that Israel remains sovereign over the Jewish Quarter and part of the Armenian Quarter while the Palestinians get sovereignty over the Muslim, Christian and part of the Armenian Quarters.
*Shared sovereignty over the Temple Mount
*Compensation in the vicinity of $30 billion to the new Palestinian state, paid by the international community with assistance from Israel
*An international force guarding the eastern border of the West Bank, with a renewable mandate that expires after several years
*Resolution of numerous other issues such as water rights, sovereign borders, permission for about 40,000 Palestinians to move into Israel, agreement to allow international port and airport in the Palestninian state, etc.
In return, the Israelis get:
*End of conflict; i.e. permanent peace with no further Palestinian ambitions to overtake Israel
*End to Palestinian terrorism
*Control over Palestinian airspace, with permission to use it for military purposes
*Retention of the 3% of West Bank land on which live about 75-80% of “settlers”
*Theoretically, the Arab world stops treating Israel like a pariah
The plan offered by Israel was based on Clinton’s suggestions of late 2000 (here on page 6 you will find the Palestinian version of those suggestions – a view that isn’t shared by the Israelis but their offer at Taba did reflect many of these suggestions) when he was seeking to repair the differences that emerged between the two sides at Camp David. Of course, by then the Palestinians had launched their Palestinians War of 2000. Despite this, Israel made this generous offer to the Palestinians and negotiations were ongoing. Shlomo Ben Ami, who was there, has spoken about the Palestinians finally showing a map where they essentially agreed with the idea of relinquishing the 2.5% of West Bank land to Israel in exchange for Israeli land. That was about the extent of what the Palestinians had agreed to change from their rejection of the deal at Camp David some months earlier.
Despite the minimal progress, Israeli elections were upcoming and Barak recognized that the Israeli public no longer had faith in the Palestinian partner (being victims of a war after offering peace and a state will do that to the public) or in him and that with an election coming up he was about to get his ass whupped and didn’t have the political muscle to push for such a far-reaching deal. He also realized, angrily, that the Palestinians had not moved on issues of substance such as their demands on “right of return.” He backed himself and Israel out of the negotiations, giving the Palestinians a way out because they could and did state in public that this was the closest the two sides had ever come to an agreement. Of course, throughout this period, the Palestinians were at war with Israel – a war that has not abated to this day.
I think most people around the world and in Israel’s political center to the left recognized that the outline for peace set out at Taba was a logical and likely resolution to the conflict if ever the two sides were to reach compromise. The past several years of the Palestinian War of 2000, the victims on both sides, the suicide bombings, the Qassem rockets, the relentless Palestinian propaganda, the growth of Israeli settlements and the Israeli reactions to Palestinian terror have made peace seem a distant and unreachable goal.
For various reasons, the current US Administration has decided that achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians would be good for everybody involved, might provide some relief from the pressures of Iraq and might even give Bush a positive legacy. While Annapolis seemed to be a flop, because there hasn’t been serious follow-through, it seems the Americans didn’t get the memo on the failure of that attempt and are pushing ahead. That’s a good thing, even if some Israelis fear American pressure. Both sides are going to have to compromise and the US is going to be the broker whether the sides wish it or not.
I actually suspect that Olmert’s government does seek American pressure even if they won’t say this in public. American pressure allows Olmert to offer concessions that he can’t offer without good reason. American pressure is a good reason that the public will buy. In this regard, Caroline Glick’s recent assertion that such pressure may resemble rape (because the editor of Ha’aretz told Condoleeza Rice that Israel needed to be raped by the US), is actually flawed. Olmert isn’t being raped, he is being made love to.
The problem is that he isn’t strong enough – and it’s doubtful any Israeli politician could ever become strong enough – to push through the kinds of concessions necessary to make a deal. American pressure could give him the support he needs to push a deal through.
What will the deal look like? It will look very similar to Taba.
…In a dramatic, unscheduled statement read to US-based reporters at the King David Hotel, Bush said the contours of the two-state solution were clear.
“There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967,” Bush said. He added, in language indicating a rejection of the idea of Palestinian refugees flowing into Israel, “The agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people.”
The president went on: “These negotiations must ensure that Israel has secure, recognized, and defensible borders. And they must ensure that the state of Palestine is viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent.”
Bush said that reaching an agreement would require “painful concessions” by both Israel and the Palestinians.
“While territory is an issue for both parties to decide, I believe that any peace agreement between them will require mutually agreed adjustments to the armistice lines of 1949 to reflect current realities and to ensure that the Palestinian state is viable and contiguous,” Bush said. “I believe we need to look to the establishment of a Palestinian state and new international mechanisms, including compensation, to resolve the refugee issue.”
There will be plenty of shouting by Israeli and Palestinians. There will be plenty of people, militants, terrorists, extremists and just regular folks who will try to kill any deal. There will be lots of screaming politicians who blow a lot of hot air and score plenty of points attacking those who will try to make this deal happen. History teaches us that these forces are stronger than the forces seeking peace, and once again they may succeed in killing any deal. To be honest, some facts on the ground could kill a deal. Gaza is still run by Hamas and rockets are launched daily from there. Abbas appears to be weak, untrusted and unloved by his people. Palestinian groups are still launching terror attacks. Some Israeli settlers have no intention of leaving their homes and among them there may be a core that will resort to violence or segregation from Israel if forced to leave.
However, if a deal does happen, we know more or less what it will look like. It will look like Barak’s offer at Taba based on the Clinton parameters.