Jeremy Pressman writes in a guest column for Informed Comment
One Document in the Annapolis Process
As al-Jazeera continues to release more leaked documents from the negotiation office of the Palestine Authority, what do minutes of the back-and-forth negotiations reveal about the core issues? On April 8, 2008, Abu Ala and Tzipi Livni met in Jerusalem for a two-hour meeting on drawing the West Bank borders for a two-state solution. The document is entitled, “Meeting Minutes: On Borders,” April 8, 2008
The differences between these two suggest that the ghosts of 2000-2001 continue to haunt the peace talks.
1. The two sides continue to operate on different territorial principles. Israel’s stated rationale is to minimize the political fallout from Israeli settlers by keeping as many as possible in their West Bank homes (and annexing them). Livni: “If we do not annex them and if there is bloodshed after the establishment of the state then you will be forced to see our soldiers.” The PA considers an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 line as the starting point before moving to any Israeli annexation. Abu Ala: “The basis is 1967 borders….Then we can talk about modifications.”
2. Regardless of the territorial principle, the two sides agree on only some areas Israel may annex (e.g. some Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem; some parts of the Etzion bloc southwest of Jerusalem). In other cases, they do not agree, with major differences over places like Ma’ale Adumim (east of Jerusalem) and Ariel & Kedumim (northern West Bank). And even the agreements mask differences. The PA was willing to accept annexations with smaller areas around settlements and with fewer of the nearby satellite settlements. Israel wants the reverse for annexation: larger settlement blocs that included smaller neighboring ones as well.
3. The parties continued to disagree not only on how much of the West Bank Israel should annex but also on how to calculate the area of the West Bank. The PA considers East Jerusalem, a quadrant of the Dead Sea, and pre-1967 no man’s land as part of the total area of the West Bank. So not only do they have different percentages for what Israel could keep (Olmert’s 6-7% vs Abu Ala’s 1-2%) but also a different baseline for calculating those percentages. That makes the difference even larger than it appears by just comparing the numbers (the Palestinians want Israel to annex a smaller % of a larger baseline).
4. All these differences mirror differences from the last time the two sides held high-level talks at Camp David and Taba in 2000-2001. If in 2008 they were re-hashing the same gaps, that could mean they have reached a stalemate and there is no two-state solution when you get down to the details. Or it could mean that the two sides still await the right moment for the final grand bargain. As an aside, only Abu Ala mentioned Camp David, Taba, and Oslo at the meeting.
5. Although the attention has been on comments Palestinian negotiators – especially Saeb Erekat – have made that seem too subservient to the Israelis, Livni also made a comment that would displease some Israeli Jewish constituents. In talking about Israel keeping some of the West Bank, Livni told Abu Ala, “I know that every inch hurts you.”
6. Abu Ala’s fallback position at the meeting is a one-state solution, a scenario that is supposed to alarm the Israelis because of the expected Palestinian demographic edge in such a state: “In light of these circumstances and these unrealistic propositions, I see that the only solution is a bi-national state where Moslems, Christians, and Jews live together.”
Alan R. Bennett Honors Professor
Department of Political Science
University of Connecticut