Thursday, October 16, 2003

There was something fishy about Beilin-Abed Rabbo's "solution to the refugees issue" as reported in the initial descriptions of the "plan".

Now it's clearer what's actually going on: At Taba, the Palis strenously attempted to force their interpretation of UN General Assembly resolution 194 as the basis for dealing with the refugees of 1948 and their descendents (despite the non-binding nature of the resolution and other issues). As described in this important article, Beilin essentially consented by presenting some draft language which included the text "The realization of the aspirations of the Palestinian people, as recognized in this agreement, .... the comprehensive and just solution for the Palestinian refugees, based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194, providing for their return". In a laughable attempt at consideration for Israeli interests, Beilin also included language that stated that the "return" will preserve the Jewish identity of Israel and that the influx of refugees would be limited to a specific but unspecified number of returnees. (See here for Beilin's response to Ari Shavit's article)

According to this report, (by Akiva "it's all our fault" Eldar), the still-secret "Geneva documents" address the refugee issue along the same lines, but with some significant differences.

First, since the notion of a Palestinian "right of return" to pre-67 Israel is anathema to the Israeli public (as is the explicit reference to UNGAR 194), the new documents don't mention them, but instead they (or rather their Palestinian interpretation) are incorporated into Article 7:

Second, the stipulations about retaining the Jewish character of Israel and capping the number of "returnees" are still present. Thus far, the contradictions of the Taba proposal are still present. But a single sentence seems to resolve everything in Israel's direction :

On the face of it, that means that there is no mandated "return" of refugees whatsoever, while fully erasing Article 7. But if so, why is Article 7 there at all? Clearly Israel is expected to accept some non-trivial number of "refugees".

Note: The above is in the middle of being rewritten.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Backseat Drivers blog wasn't impressed with a play performed in Dublin by Tel Aviv's Cameri Theater ("a cast of fourteen Israeli, Palestinian-Israeli and Ethiopian-Israeli actors")

Monday, October 13, 2003

On Army Radio this AM, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom was doing his best to dismiss the whole "Geneva discussions" business: it's "entirely virtual", the Israelis involved are not elected representatives etc. He's correct of course, but that won't matter at all to the Europeans, Kofi Annan etc.

Oslo architect Ron Pundak was asked how these "agreements" managed to attain consent from the Palis when the Clinton plan did not. Pundak's answer was that the Clinton plan was 1) too general on issues like Jerusalem 2) had Israel receiving 3% of territory for which it offered nothing in return. Pundak's response is preposterous: if such were really the case, Arafat would have had no reason to walk away from Camp David. Moreover Clinton would never had permitted him to do so. And it's well known that the Pali list of objections to the Clinton plan included foremost what the Palis call the "right of return" for descendents of 1948 refugees.

And Pundak was evasive when interviewer Udi Segal tried to understand the details in the "agreements" regarding the refugee issue. As I wrote yesterday, it sounds like their solution is that Israel should accept an unspeciifed number of descendents of 1948 refugees into its pre-1967 borders, without it being called the "right of return". I'm certain that if Palestinian officials describe these discussions to their own people, they will insist that the "right of return" has been preserved.

When (or if) at sometime in the future there is a "real" attempt at a permanent solution agreement, it will involve a certain amount of ambivalence and risk-taking. The fact that Ron Pundak ecstatically describes the "agreements" as "a classic win/win situation" and seems to harbor no doubts whatsoever about Pali intentions makes the whole thing even more questionable.

More: In the US there is apparently a law called the "Logan Act" which specifically outlaws the type of thing that Beilin and co. have done here.
Ultraleftists Yossi Beilin and co. have been play-negotiating again with a Palestinian team in Amman, and - as they did in real negotiations at Taba - they're "offering" outlandish concessions that would never receive a mandate from the Israeli public (report). These include settling an unspecified number of residents of refugee camps into pre-1967 Israel, and relinquishing border control to an international force, no Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. For years Beilin has been saying that Israel must accept in principle what the Palestinians call the "right of return" in order to strike an agreement; now he's saying that we should accept it only in practice and not in principle.

The Pali team say they "will pledge to prevent terror and incitement and disarm all militias" ("and we really really mean it this time") and agree that their state will be demilitarized (yeah right). I don't see that the Palis anywhere agree that this package would "end the conflict", rather than (as in the past) merely being the stepping stone to their next set of demands

Beilin and co. have provided a major propaganda coup for the Palis and have complicated any attempts to establish stability or agreements through other mechanisms. Good going Yossi.

More: Ynet adds (Hebrew link) that the 4-day discussions were quite tempestuous and that last-minute Swiss intervention and an Israeli threat to walk out rescued the discussions. Doesn't sound like a considered piece of statecraft if you ask me.

Oh, and the "signing" is going to be on the anniversary of the Rabin assassination in the presence of luminaries including Bill Clinton.
Adrian says he heard an apparent bombing in Haifa.
Shoom is an interesting world-music type group based here in Jerusalem.

Avant-garde saxophonist Daniel Zamir has a new ensemble called "Ad Matai" that will be appearing at a jazz festival in Mizpe Ramon in late October.

The pop group Hamadregot will have a new CD out soon.