IPCRI

מרכז ישראל/פלסטין למחקר ולמידע

مركز إسرائيل فلسطين للأبحاث و المعلومات

Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information

POLICY PAPER

 

Dialogue and Convergence: Not sequenced – only in Parallel

May 16, 2006

 

Executive Summary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Proposed Model

 

Under the auspices of IPCRI and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, on May 6, 2006 members of IPCRI’s STAT – Strategic Thinking and Analysis Team, composed of Israeli and Palestinian academics, media people, former high ranking security personnel and peace activists convened in Jerusalem. The meeting focused on assessing the political reality in the Israeli-Palestinian arena.  The intensive day-long deliberations presented a very bleak picture, but also brought up a number of insights and recommendations that are included in this document with the hope that they will make a contribution towards improving the situation.

 

In our comprehensive view of the situation, it seems that the chances of implementing the convergence plan as presented by Prime Minister Olmert are very slim. It may be possible to bring the plans towards implementation, however in order for that to happen; there must be a change in the way that the Palestinian side is related to.

 

The path of impassable obstacles that the convergence plan will face can be seen from every angle from which it is examined: Despite what may seem like a meeting of interests of the GOI and the Hamas, the unilateral nature emanating from the attitude that there is no partner is completely rejected by the Palestinian people. The GOI’s plan does not relate to what will happen on the “other side” of the convergence, but if the West Bank erupts into total internal chaos and violence towards Israel (that may drag Israel back into the area), the Israeli cabinet will have to be accountable to the public and therefore, it should reconsider the very concept of unilateralism once again.

 

The approach of the international community to the convergence plan is far from resembling their approach towards the disengagement from Gaza. The White House may be indicating its willingness to back Olmert, but the US Administration is not monolithic and there are other voices of support in the Administration for Mahmoud Abbas there as well. The international community is not only is not only composed of the United States. There are members of the International Community which embraced Israel’s disengagement from Gaza but are much more hesitant regarding the new convergence plans. There are certainly temptations (every square meter from which the label “occupation” can be removed will be supported), however some of the central anchors of the plan have raised significant concerns and fears such as: leaving large reinforced settlement blocs under Israeli sovereignty, freedom of action for the IDF in areas that will be vacated, the Jordan Valley as a “security border”, and, of course, the unilateral determination of a permanent border. It is clear that the international community will not support all of this.  

 

If, upon his departure to Washington, Prime Minister Olmert has given up on his idea of American acceptance of unilaterally setting the permanent borders and is willing to accept the concept of “security borders”, what then is the virtue of the entire plan? Strengthening the American acceptance of the idea of settlement blocs is not a sufficient enough product in exchange for the painful impacts of the plan that the nation will have to absorb. This is also a significant decrease in the target that the government presented to the public prior and even after the elections, something for which there may be a high internal political price to be paid – which should also be taken into account by Olmert.

 

These issues may also become convoluted in the internal Israeli arena. Amir Peretz has called to negotiate with Abbas as a legitimate partner in a sincere dialogue with the goal of reaching agreements (and not as a form of lip-service which would enable the abandonment of the dialogue in order to jump within 6 -18 months to the implementations of the convergence plan). Peretz and his colleagues in the Labour party are signaling a completely different political strategy than the official program presented by Olmert.  If, as can be expected, Shas will desert the government at the moment of truth, and the Arab parties will refuse to support the approval of the convergence plans (and one should not expect a different decision on their part), the convergence plan will have no chance to gain a majority support of the Government and the Knesset.  Add to this the possible dramatic developments in the Palestinian arena (a possible humanitarian disaster, moving towards civil war, the possible fall of the Hamas-led government, the possible disappearance of Abbas from the arena).  Additionally there are other factors within the Israeli arena (escalation of terrorism, violence surrounding the removal of outposts and settlements) or in the international arena (further deterioration in Iraq, crisis in Iran, further weakening of the Bush Presidency after the Congressional elections), with all this, the convergence plan may be left in the drawers unimplemented and unfulfilled.

 

 

 

What should be done?

 

The Government of Israel:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Palestinians

 

 

 

 

 

The Quartet

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusions

 

This proposed model has significant benefits.

 

For the Government of Israel: the GOI will not be accused of paying only “lip-service” to a bilateral political process; it will win international support for a fair attitude towards its neighbors (especially if it goes in this direction by its own initiative and not by the pressure of world leaders); it will reduce the dangers involved in Palestinian reactions to Israeli unilateralism; it will strengthen the internal consensus within the Israeli coalition and will win the support of the Arab political parties in the Knesset.  Most important, Israel will be able to go forward with the immediate planning and implementation of the convergence plans (and even forgo the six month waiting period); moreover, if the negotiations conducted in good faith become deadlocked or lead to nowhere, Israel will be able to return to its unilateral plans without any bad conscience and without doubt, and with the significant support of the outside players.

 

For the Palestinians, this model enables them to re-emerge as a partner, after years of feeling discrimination and humiliation. This model enables them to swallow the sour taste of the convergence plan, especially if it is fully incorporated as part of a permanent status agreement.  The model puts forth the chance of reaching a bilateral agreement that will provide significant backing of the people for the President and another opportunity to reach internal agreement and a permanent status agreement that perhaps this time will not be missed.