MIDDLE EAST: Peace Plans Background

MIDDLE EAST: Peace Plans Background

February 7, 2005 11:57 am (EST)

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

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Following are brief descriptions of some recent Mideast peace proposals:

1993 Oslo Accords

The most difficult issues, including the right of return and settlements, were deliberately excluded from the Oslo Accords and left to be addressed in so-called permanent status talks. Still, the accords made several breakthroughs. Then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat, the head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), agreed to the creation of the Palestinian Authority as an interim self-government in the Gaza Strip and portions of the West Bank. Israel recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist, renounced its goal of the destruction of the state of Israel, and foreswore armed attacks.

July 2000 Camp David Summit

President Bill Clinton called a summit at Camp David in July 2000 to jump-start negotiations between Arafat and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The Palestinian side insisted on the principle of the right of return for all Palestinian refugees; details of their return would be negotiated. Israel refused. Barak offered the Palestinians 92 percent of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip, and a land swap in exchange for Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The Palestinians refused, claiming Israel wanted to swap unusable areas in the Negev Desert for the West Bank’s most fertile land, and pushed instead for a one-for-one swap to get up to 100 percent of West Bank territory. Israel offered to concede three of the four quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Palestinians demanded full sovereignty over the Temple Mount, which for Jews would have meant risking access to some of their holiest sites. Israel refused. (The Temple Mount, or Al Haram al-Sharif, is sacred to both Judaism and Islam. The compound’s summit includes the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine, and the Al Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s most revered houses of worship. The site is also the historical location of the Temple of Solomon, and part of its outer wall—known as the Western Wall or Wailing Wall—remains. Access to the Temple Mount has always been a contentious point in negotiations between Israel and Palestine.) The Camp David meeting concluded without agreement, but both sides agreed to continue the negotiating process. However, in September 2000 the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, began, derailing the talks.

December 2000 Clinton Parameters

In late December 2000, Clinton mounted a last-ditch effort to make peace before he left office. Known as the Clinton Parameters, the plan offered proposals for dealing with the most protracted problems: settlements, Jerusalem, and refugees.

The plan offered the Palestinians:

  • Control over a sovereign, contiguous, viable state recognized by the international community.
  • Sovereignty over Al Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem.
  • Control over the Arab sections of Jerusalem, which would serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.
  • A comprehensive settlement plan for refugees that offered them several options: return to the new state of Palestine; return to the state of Israel (with restrictions); resettlement in a third country; and/or compensation.

The plan offered Israelis:

  • The right for 80 percent of the West Bank settlers, most of whom live near the 1967 borders, to stay put.
  • Security guarantees.
  • Control over the Jewish sections of Jerusalem, which would be internationally recognized as the capital of Israel.
  • Control over and access to Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem, including sections of the Temple Mount.

Both sides tentatively accepted the deal with reservations; some experts say Arafat later added so many conditions that the agreement fell apart. Clinton left office, and talks continued in January at an Egyptian resort.

January 2001 Taba Talks

At the Egyptian resort of Taba in early 2001, Israel proposed keeping 6 percent of West Bank land; the Palestinians offered 3.1 percent. Disputes at the Taba talks continued over refugees, land swaps, and sovereignty over the Temple Mount. The two sides were unable to reach agreement.

March 2002 Saudi Peace Initiative

Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia proposed a Saudi peace initiative in March 2002 that formally changed the Arab world’s position on Israel. The proposal, endorsed by the Arab League, asked Israel to withdraw to the 1949 borders and establish an independent and sovereign state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. It stipulated that displaced refugees should either be allowed to return to their homes or be compensated for their loss of property. In return, the Arab states would consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over, sign comprehensive peace treaties with Israel, and normalize relations. The proposal was received with skepticism by Israel and had little practical effect.

Road map

In June 2002, Bush became the first U.S. president to call explicitly for an independent Palestinian state existing in peace next to an Israeli state.

In April 2003, the Bush administration publicly committed itself to the road map, calling it “a framework for progress towards lasting peace and security in the Middle East.”

The road map, as developed by the quartet, proposed three phases to a final settlement:

  • Phase I: Palestinians would halt violence, stop funding terrorist groups, begin political reforms (including drafting a constitution), and hold elections. Israel would freeze settlement activity and begin to withdraw from occupied territories as terrorism receded.
  • Phase II: An independent Palestinian state with provisional boundaries would be created. International observers would monitor compliance with the road map and convene an international conference to aid Palestinian economic recovery and revive multilateral talk on water rights, refugees, arms control, and other issues.
  • Phase III: A second international conference would provide a permanent status agreement dealing with final borders, the status of Jerusalem, refugees, and settlements. Arab states would make peace deals with Israel, and the conflict would be considered ended.

In addition to official plans proposed by governments, there have been recent non-governmental initiatives proposed by private parties. The two that have received the most public attention:

The 2002 Nusseibeh-Ayalon Principles

Negotiated by Ami Ayalon, former director of Israel’s security services, and Sari Nusseibeh, the Palestinian president of Al Quds University, the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Principleshas attracted 100,000 Israeli and 70,000 Palestinian signatures in support of its ideas, according to its advocates. The proposal:

  • recognized the right of Israel and Palestine to exist as two sovereign states;
  • established permanent borders based on pre-1967 war lines, the relevant U.N. resolutions, and the Saudi initiative;
  • set up a one-to-one land swap between the two states to facilitate border modifications;
  • resolved that no Israeli settlers would remain in the Palestinian state after the establishment of agreed-upon borders;
  • established Jerusalem as an open city and capital of two states, with freedom of religion and full access to holy sites for all;
  • urged the creation of an international fund to compensate Palestinian refugees;
  • said Palestinians would return only to the state of Palestine, while Jews would return only to the state of Israel;
  • stated that the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and its security guaranteed by the international community.

2003 Geneva Accord

The Geneva Accord built on the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Principles and was developed by former Israeli and Palestinian diplomats, officials, and security experts who had participated in past official negotiations. The accord was an attempt to gain public support and thereby pressure political leaders to seek a negotiated peace. Some observers consider the document significant because it offers detailed ways—agreed to by both sides, albeit unofficially—to resolve the most contentious issues.

Some of its points:

  • Israel and Palestine would each recognize the other as the homeland of their respective peoples.
  • Palestinians would give up the right of return and settle in Palestine or their present host countries—primarily Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Some, with Israel’s permission, would be allowed to return to Israel. Others would be compensated.
  • Palestine would get 98.5 percent of the occupied territories.
  • Most of the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza would be dismantled, requiring Israel to move 110,000 West Bank settlers, nearly half the total settler population. Israel would annex Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev, two large settlements near Jerusalem, in addition to territory in East Jerusalem.
  • Jerusalem would be the capital of the two states, with the Haram al-Sharif under Palestinian control (with access guaranteed by an international force) and the Western Wall and the old Jewish quarter under Israeli control.


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