In a carefully scripted and moving ceremony on the White House lawn, the leaders of Israel, Palestine and the member states of the Arab league, together with US President Obama, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and representatives from the EU, Russia and the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) this morning signed a permanent status agreement determining the disposition of all territories under contention West of the Jordan river, including Jerusalem. They further initialized an end of conflict and end of claims clause, together with a clause determining that the Palestinian “Right of Return” will be have been realized within the framework of the mutual agreement. Palestine will be a country with limited arms.
Under the terms of the agreement, which still needs to be ratified by the legislatures of the respective governments, and by referendum in those countries where that is necessary, Israel will withdraw its troops from West Bank areas B and C within 3 months, except for a brigade level unit that will remain in the Jordan Valley for 10 years, after which it will be replaced by an international force led by the US similar to the MFO contingent in Sinai for another 10 years. The Gaza strip will be connected to the West Bank by an ex-territorial rail corridor permitting a permanent connection between those two parts of Palestine.
While Hamas in Gaza has been kept abreast of developments by the PA it still has not voiced its position on the agreement, that in itself being an indication of the precarious position of the organization finds itself in these days.
As expected, Israel will be able keep the large settlement blocks in the West Bank but settlers who presently live beyond the separation wall (approximately 150,000) will either have to move into Israel or may remain inside Palestine but under Palestinian jurisdiction. Israel already has passed a law enabling settlers who want to return on their own volition to get compensated. It remains to be seen how many of the settlers choose to do so before we will know how many will want to remain under Palestinian rule. In return, Israel will permit a yet to be determined number of Palestinians to return to Israel. That number will be a function of how many Israelis will chose to remain in the West Bank but will not be greater than 50,000. Territorial adjustments based on the 1967 lines with land-swaps on a one to one basis have already been finalized and approximately 95% of the West Bank will be under Palestinian sovereignty.
Jerusalem will be the capital of both Israel and Palestine and will be an open city without physical boundaries run by two separate municipalities, a Palestinian one for the Arab neighborhoods of the city and an Israeli one for the Jewish sections of the city. The Holy Basin will be internationalized and will be governed by a UN Trusteeship and representatives of the Quartet, Israel, Palestine and Jordan and one other Muslim country, on a rotational basis, to guarantee and maintain open access to all the holy places for members of all religions under an agreed upon regimen.
The UN will establish a commission for the restitution of private property and compensation where all claims by all parties will be brought to bear, including claims by Palestinians against Israel and claims by Israelis against their Arab countries of origin.
The member states of the Arab League will endeavor to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel within 6 months of ratification of the agreement. It is expected that most of the member states of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) who are not members of the Arab League, including Iran, and which do not already have diplomatic relations with Israel, will follow suit.
In a related development, the P5+1 countries have invited Iran and Israel to negotiate making the Middle East a nuclear weapons free zone. While these negotiations are expected to proceed slowly, a US government official has suggested that as an initial step, Israel will shortly declare its nuclear arsenal and Iran will likewise declare its military nuclear efforts. The aim of the negotiations is for both countries to eventually become and/or remain nuclear weapons free thus preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
Not surprisingly, the developments both in Washington and the Middle East have had a huge impact on stock markets all over the world which have been rallying ever since the news of the impending ceremony have hit the wires. Major defence contractors appear to be taking losses while firms dealing with agricultural projects and development are making considerable advances. The oil price has been coming down and so have shipping insurance rates.
And then I woke up.