A summary of a lecture given by Dr. Jerome Segal of the Center of Intl Studies at the University of Maryland given at the Weatherhead Center for Intl Affairs at Harvard on April 16th.
Dr. Segal started his discussion by identifying the fact that the Bush administration arrived to power with a belief that has been propagated by Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Dennis Ross that during the Camp David negotiations, Israel went out of its way with their proposal to the Palestinians who then declined the proposal flat out which is the reason the negotiations failed. This led to a Bush strategy of “managing the conflict” instead of trying to resolve it. In Dr. Segal’s view, the Palestinians made significant compromises during Camp David and the following Taba negotiations. He also pointed out that contrary to propagated beliefs, the negotiations did not end due to the second Intifadah (Palestinian uprising) but continued for four months afterwards.
However, the negotiations ended due to the election of Ariel Sharon. Violence however played a role in bringing about Ariel Sharon’s election.
” The Election of Ariel Sharon put the issue of past history of negotiations besides the point …. . There is no possibility that the permanent status issues can be resolved through bilateral negotiations (under the Sharon government)”
Dr. Segal gave the following examples explaining the concessions that the Palestinians made during these negotiations.
On The Land:
The Palestinians started out with an understanding, based on their interpretation of UN resolutions 242 and 194, that Israel will withdraw from all the land occupied in the 1967 war. Their belief was also based on Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Egyptian lands it occupied in 1967 post the peace negotiations with Egypt. The Israeli proposal however did not offer them anything close to their expectations and only in Taba did Israel agree to withdrawal from 97% of this land (which is only 97% of 22% of the land the Palestinian lived on pre the creation of Israel). Israel proposed a 2-1 land swap (Israel controlled land – land from the occupied territories) for the remaining 3%. The Palestinians accepted the concept of readjustment of the borders to accommodate for the idea of a swap but the ratio was still under debate.
The Palestinian position was that East Jerusalem and the old city, both of which were occupied in the 1967 war, were to be returned to Palestinian control. They had however to make the following concessions to reach an agreement with the Israelis: First, they agreed that Israel would acquire the old city and the Wailing Wall. Second, Jewish neighborhoods who were originally part of the west bank, later assimilated into Jerusalem, would be under Israeli sovereignty which was a major concessions since only around 25% of the Palestinian public agreed to this concession.
On the Right of Return of the Refugees (who were forced to leave their lands and homes and fled to surrounding Arab countries post the Israeli occupation):
The Palestinian position based on UN resolution 194 was that all refugees would return to their homes if they are willing to live in peace with their neighbors and those not willing to return to Israel would be compensated. The Palestinians conceded by only asking for the following: First, the acceptance of Israel in principle of the right of the refugees to return, Second, they would be pragmatic with the implementation of this principle in such a way that Israel would not be demographically threatened. Israel wanted a fixed cap on the number of refugees returning with the Palestinians being reported to give considerable concessions on this cap.
Dr. Segal then went to represent an alternative proposal for peace that has been outlined in published articles by him and a recent book.