Emanuel Shahaf

The hope of Geneva

These days we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Geneva (I) Agreement a.k.a. the Geneva Initiative and that Swiss city appears to keep generating agreements important for us: Geneva (II) on Iran’s nuclear disarmament appears just around a not so distant corner.

To commemorate the signing of Geneva I about 700 people gathered yesterday at the Tel-Aviv Museum to hear former and present activists present an account of what has been achieved and what very much remains to be done.

What has been achieved is nothing short of amazing – an agreement crafted by representatives both, the Palestinians and Israel that faithfully guards the most important interests of both people while addressing every single issue on the agenda including the refugees, settlements, borders, security arrangements, Jerusalem, the holy places, end of claims and mutual recognition as nation states along lines that even Netanyahu would be able to consider seriously. All those who haven’t read it and and are basing their opinions on hearsay are well advised to read it here.

While it is easy to discount an agreement that was signed ten years ago but hasn’t been implemented, it remains nevertheless the only agreement that actually deals with the conflict in its entirety. Even President Clinton recognized that it is a better arrangement than the “Clinton Parameters” which came about in the wake of the ill fated Camp David II talks.

At yesterday’s event one of the founders of the Initiative, former Minister of Justice Yossi Beilin praised the creativity of the Geneva accord. He expressed his understanding that Netanyahu’s greatest fear is dealing with the potential displacement of close to 150,000 Jewish settlers from the West Bank and proposed an addendum to the accord which would let settlers who chose to do so, remain in the areas of Judea and Samaria to be evacuated by Israel. The number of settlers remaining in the future Palestinian State, after an agreed upon period, would be counted as the minimum number of Palestinians permitted to return to Israel, in the framework of a final agreement.

Beilin was critical of Secretary of State Kerry for intending to table a proposed security arrangement with the Palestinians. In Beilin’s opinion this is a waste of time since there is no evidence whatsoever that PM Netanyahu would be willingly concede the 67 borders and mutual agreed upon land swaps as a basis for an agreement, or else consider to introduce an Israeli proposal for mutual agreed borders.

The keynote speaker at the event was former Head of the ISA (Shabak) Yuval Diskin who, without maintaining any political correctness  methodically dissembled the present policy of the Netanyahu government and clearly and convincingly explained why he considers the Palestinian issue a far greater threat to Israel’s long term survival than Iranian nukes. He warned in stark words of the likelihood of widespread public unrest in the territories unless an agreement would be forthcoming and couldn’t resist taking a jab at Minister of Trade Bennett who had stated some time ago that the Palestinians are just shrapnel in our behind. Diskin clarified that it is by no means clear who is the shrapnel and who is the behind…

He emphasized the necessity to involve both Egypt and Jordan in any upcoming peace arrangement and, insisting that the two state solution is the only way to go ahead, discounted those who thought that Jordan could be the Palestinian State. He clarified that just as Uganda and Birobijan could not, in the end have become the Jewish Nation State neither can Jordan become Palestine. Diskin severely criticized the prisoner exchange with the Palestinian Authority which never should have been part of intermediate agreements but became so only because of Netanyahu’s steadfast refusal to freeze construction in the settlements, something he should have done, primarily as a confidence building measure: The Palestinians just don’t trust our Prime Minister. Diskin, as others pointed out as well, said that trust between leaders is a necessity to permit them to make the mutual concessions that are part and parcel of any peace agreement.

The regional approach should draw in the second tier countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE as well and would in the end result in huge economical and political benefits to the area as a whole. Diskin was not concerned about Gaza not being part of an agreement initially since any accord starting with the West Bank would create a lot of hope among the local Palestinian population which is presently near desperation, hope that could presumably be leveraged to draw Gaza in at a later stage. Diskin’s regional approach jove well with the remarks made earlier by the Swiss Assistant State Secretary Wolgang Amadeus Bruelhart who related in his speech that his government, in communications with countries in the Middle East, is presently making an effort to integrate the Geneva accord into the Arab Peace Initiative.

Attorney Talia Sasson who closed the event with a question and answer session with three MKs, Moshe Mizrachi and Omer Bar Lev from Labour and Dov Hanin from Hadash, pointed to the ever increasing threat to human rights and the rule of law posed by the ongoing occupation and the need to address this threat incessantly.

If there was one message that Diskin (and others) sounded throughout the event, it was the sad truth that our leaders, may it be PM Netanyahu or Minister of Trade Bennett do not perform their elementary duty of inspiring hope with regard to the peace process. And that is the inspiration of the Geneva accord – it does inspire hope, the hope that Palestinians and Israeli can sit together and work out an agreement for future generations, as the Geneva accord has proven.

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".
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