Israel Palestine Infos
September 11, 2010
Satan of the Details
THERE IS a story about the man who dictated his will. He divided his property generously, provided for all the members of his family, rewarded his friends and did not forget his servants.
He finished off with a short paragraph: “In case of my death, this will is null and void.”
I RATHER fear that such a paragraph will be added to the “framework agreement” that Binyamin Netanyahu promises to sign within a year, after honest and fruitful negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, mediated by Hillary Clinton, to the greater glory of President Barack Obama.
At the end of 12 months,
there will be agreement on a perfect framework. All the “core issues” will be
settled – the founding of the Palestinian state, borders based on the Green
Line, the division of
And then, on the eve of the impressive signing ceremony on the White house lawn, Netanyahu will ask for the addition of a short paragraph: “With the beginning of the negotiations for the permanent peace treaty, this agreement will be null and void.”
A FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT is not a peace treaty. It is the opposite of a peace treaty.
A peace treaty is a final agreement. It contains the details of the compromises that have been achieved in long and exhausting negotiations. Neither of the two parties will be completely happy with the results, but each of them will know that he has achieved much and that he can live with it.
After the signing, the time will come for the implementation. Since all the details have been worked out in the treaty itself, there will be no more controversy; except about negligible technicalities. These will be adjudicated by the American referee.
A framework agreement is the very opposite. It leaves all the details open. Every paragraph of it allows for at least a dozen different interpretations, since the agreement glosses over fundamental differences with verbal compromises.
It can well be said that the negotiations for the framework agreement are but the prologue for the real negotiations, a corridor leading to the drawing room.
If a framework agreement is achieved within a year – blessed be the believer – the real negotiations for the final treaty can last for five years, ten years, a hundred years, two hundred years. Ask Yitzhak Shamir.
HOW DO I know? We have already been to this opera.
At the time it was called a historic agreement, and rightly so. The solemn ceremony on the White House lawn was quite justified. Its importance was derived from the event that preceded it, on September 10 (which happened to be my birthday), when the leader of the Palestinian liberation movement formally recognized the State of Israel, and the Prime Minister of Israel formally recognized the existence of the Palestinian people and its liberation movement.
(This is the place to
remark that the 1993
What happened after the
two parties signed the
Negotiations on every detail. Controversy on every detail.
FOR EXAMPLE: the
agreement said that four “safe passages” were to be opened between the West Bank
And the passages? They were never opened.
Another example: in long
negotiations, the West Bank was divided into three areas: A, B and C. (Ever
since Julius Caesar started his book about the conquest of
Area A was turned over to
the Palestinian Authority, which was set up under the agreement, and the Israeli
army invades it only from time to time. Area B is governed formally by the
Palestinian Authority, but ruled in practice by
Furthermore, it was
Some provisions led to
farce. For example, there was no agreement about whether the official title of
Yasser Arafat would be only “chairman”, as demanded by
Or the long debate about
the Palestinian passport.
According to the Oslo agreement, the negotiations about the core issues – borders, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements etc – were to begin in 1994 and end with a permanent peace treaty within five years.
The negotiations did not end by 1999, because they never started.
Why? Very simple: without
a real and final agreement, the conflict continued in all its fury. Israel set
up settlements at a frantic pace, so as to create “facts on the ground” before
the opening of the real negotiations. The Palestinians started violent attacks,
in order to speed the Israelis on their way out, believing that “
The devil who – as is well known – resides in the details, took revenge on those who postponed the decision on the details. Every detail turned into a road mine on the way to peace.
That is the nature of a framework agreement: it allows for negotiations about every single issue again and again, starting every time from the beginning. The Israeli negotiators used this possibility to the hilt: each Israeli “concession” was sold in successive negotiations again and again. First in the negotiations for the “Declaration of Principles”, then in the negotiations for interim agreements, we will sell them again, to be sure, for a third, fourth and fifth time in the negotiations for the permanent agreements. Every time for a hefty price.
DOES THIS mean that a Declaration of Principles is worthless?
I would not say so. In diplomacy, declarations are important even if they are not accompanied by immediate acts. They turn up again and again. Words that have been spoken cannot be unspoken, even though they are only words. The genie cannot be returned to the bottle.
When the Israeli government recognized the Palestinian people, it put an end to an argument that had dominated Zionist propaganda for almost a hundred years: that there isn’t, and never has been, a Palestinian people. “There is no such thing’” as the (alas) unforgettable Golda Meir repeatedly declared.
When the Palestinians
recognized the State of
When the leader of the Israeli Right recognizes, before the entire world, the “two states for two peoples” solution, he draws a line from which there is no way back. Even if he says so without really meaning it, as a gimmick for the moment, the words have a life of their own. They have become a political fact: from here on no Israeli government can turn back.
That’s why the extreme rightists were correct when they recently accused Netanyahu of executing – God forbid! – the “Uri Avnery design”. They do not want to pay me a compliment, they want to condemn him. It’s like accusing the pope of acting in the service of the Ayatollahs.
If Netanyahu would be compelled in the end to sign a “framework agreement” or a “shelf agreement” saying that a Palestinian state will be set up on the June 4, 1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem, with limited swaps of territory, it would direct every future diplomatic process. However, I do not believe that he will sign, and even if he did – that does not mean that he would implement it.
THEREFORE I insist: there should be no agreement on a process that is designed to lead to a “declaration of principles” or a “framework agreement”.
There should be – here and now! – negotiations for a full and final peace treaty.
Satan resides in framework agreements. God resides – if anywhere – in a peace treaty.