Roundtable Discussion of an Interim Proposal:
A Palestinian State with Sovereignty over Gaza/Jericho and Administrative Authority over the West Bank
The following is an edited transcript of a discussion held at the Middle East Policy Council on May 15, 1995. The springboard was the 20 points set out at the beginning by Jerome Segal, research scholar at the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies and president of the Jewish Peace Lobby. Dr. Segal presented this proposal to Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat last April. Council President George McGovern hosted the meeting, which included the following participants (in alphabetical order): Robert O. Freedman, Peter Gubser, Khalil Jahshan, Omar Kader, Thomas Mattair, Don Peretz, Hasan Abdel Rahman, Jerome Segal and Shibley Telhami (see text for affiliations).
A Proposal for a Palestinian State Now: 20 Dimensions
- Current negotiations progress leading to redeployment and elections.
- Through negotiations and prior to the next Israeli election, a Palestinian State is established.
- Israel recognizes this State of Palestine and accepts its de jure and de facto sovereignty over Gaza and Jericho.
- The State of Palestine asserts its claim to sovereignty over East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
- Israel announces that it does not, at this point recognize Palestinian sovereignty beyond Gaza and Jericho, but that it is prepared to negotiate, in final status negotiations, the issue of the permanent borders of the Palestinian State.
- Israel recognizes a Palestinian right to self-determination, but states that like all rights it is not absolute and needs to be adjudicated in reference to Israel’s right to peace and security. It defines the negotiations as an attempt to satisfy these two rights.
- Henceforth the negotiations will be inter-state negotiations between the two states.
- It is agreed that during the remainder of the five-year interim period, the State of Palestine will, in accord with treaty arrangements, exercise administrative control over West Bank territory. Thus the Palestine National Authority (PNA) is either dissolved or absorbed into the state.
- Thus the State of Palestine comes to the West Bank. Within the bounds of whatever treaty on administration during the interim period is reached, the State delivers the mail, employs the police, appoints the judiciary, determines the laws, creates and regulates the currency, etc.
- As a sovereign state, the State of Palestine determines its own political and economic institutions.
- As a sovereign state, the State of Palestine sets its own criteria for citizenship, extending it to all Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem, and if it wishes to Palestinians in the diaspora.
- As a sovereign state, it determines criteria for voting in Palestinian elections and holding office.
- In the first treaty between Palestine and Israel, the parties agree on either a freeze or a process governing growth of settlements, until a permanent status agreement on settlements is reached. This first treaty is “countersigned” by the United States. The United States accepts the role of monitor of treaty compliance.
- Israel further agrees to use reverse subsidies to encourage settler migration out of at least part of the West Bank.
- The United States recognizes the Palestinian State and supports its application for admission to the United Nations and other international bodies.
- Israel agrees to the establishment of a high-speed rail linkage connecting Gaza and the West Bank.
- Israel agrees that all of Gaza is sovereign Palestinian territory, but leases existing settlement areas for a fixed period of time.
- As a sovereign state, Palestine controls its border with Egypt and the Mediterranean.
- As a sovereign state, Palestine determines its own immigration policy into Gaza and Jericho.
- The PLO goes out of existence, taking the Covenant issue with it. Palestinian nationalism crosses into the ethos of the world of states with leadership’s responsibility to protect the national interest. The State asserts its monopoly over use or threat of violence and the establishment of foreign policy.
Dr. Jerome Segal: First of all, let me try to establish the context of this proposal. It is not a proposal for final status. It deals with some of the final-status issues, but it responds to a different kind of problem. The time frame that it is concerned with is from now until the next Israeli elections. The problem that it is primarily directed toward is, what happens if Likud returns to power?
As some of you may remember in my writings over the years, I was very critical of the idea of separating interim-status from final-status negotiations. I thought the whole idea of a testing period didn’t make sense for a variety of reasons and that whatever happened it wouldn’t give Israelis a real test of what it was like to live with a Palestinian state. You have to live with a state to find that out, not live with an ill-defined “authority.” But that’s the framework we’re in, and in some sense the most fateful decision that [Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin made when he came to power was to decide that he wasn’t going to try to achieve final status within the four years of his elected mandate. What that meant, of course, is that before the conflict is resolved there’s going to be another Israeli election, and from the polls, it looks like there’s a 50-50 chance that the Likud will return to power.
From my point of view, that means that the prospect that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will soon be resolved has been left to something akin to the flip of a coin. I view this willingness to put off resolution until after another election as the most serious mistake the Israelis made in approaching the negotiations. But that’s the world that we’re in, and I’ve been very concerned with what happens if Likud comes back. What can be put in place before the elections that would make a real difference? The best thing, were it possible, would be to leap to final status and conclude all the final-status issues before the next election. If I thought that could happen and the outcome would be a reasonably good treaty, I would view that as preferable to what I’m proposing here. My starting point is that it’s too late in the day for that.
Second, I view this proposal as a serious policy option. It clearly has pros and cons. It’s not a question of an idea that doesn’t some reasons not to do it. Like any real-world option, there are some reasons for it, some against it. It’s a question of sorting them out, weighing them, and then comparing alternative options. I stress this because the decision on this proposal doesn’t have to do with its perfection. There are many reasons one could come up with to be reluctant to do this. It’s a question of how the pros and cons net out in comparison with other alternatives. I see the primary alternative as the deferral of final-status issues until after the Israeli elections.
Third, the proposal here has no relationship to the offer that the Israeli government made of statehood in Gaza as an alternative to moving ahead with redeployment in the West Bank. My proposal is intended to emerge after Israel redeploys in the West Bank or as it redeploys. It’s intended, in other words, to build upon redeployment and elections.
There are two things to call attention to. One is that if this proposal is adopted it would be a major step forward that would actually resolve some of the biggest final status issues. It’s not just that there would be Palestinian sovereignty over Gaza (I don’t like to talk about this as a Palestinian state in Gaza). It’s a proposal for a Palestinian state to come into existence in the short term. That state would have, in relationship to the Gaza territory, sovereign authority. In relationship to much of the West Bank territory, it would have interim administrative authority. So it would have two different levels of authority, but the state itself would have a presence throughout the territories, in both the West Bank and Gaza. When meeting with Yasser Arafat and when presenting it to Shimon Peres, I made clear that this is not a proposal for a Palestinian state in Gaza. It’s a proposal for a Palestinian state that starts out with sovereign control in the Gaza Strip and exercises administrative control, for whatever interim period that is agreed to, in the West Bank. What I’m talking about is a proposal that brings the Palestinian state from Gaza throughout the West Bank.
An interesting question to reflect upon with respect to the question of the West Bank emerges. Realistically, the most the Palestinians will achieve vis-à-vis the West Bank is some form of limited sovereignty. We know, for example, that no Israeli government is going to allow a Palestinian state in the West Bank to have a major missile program or to emerge as a significant military power or to have a nuclear-weapons program. So we know that one way or another, whether it’s a de facto understanding or something explicitly laid out in final-status documents, there are going to be certain limitations on the sovereignty of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. Let’s look at two alternatives: A Palestinian state with sovereignty over Gaza territory sits in the United Nations, is recognized around the world, exchanges ambassadors with the United States and other countries, has control of its own borders in Gaza, plus has extensive administrative powers over the West Bank, with all the people in both of the those territories citizens of the state, but exercises only administrative authority over West Bank territory. That’s one alternative. The second alternative is, the Palestinian state sits in the United Nations, is recognized, etc., has sovereignty over Gaza, etc., and has limited sovereignty over the West Bank. There is some significant difference here, but it’s much smaller than people imagine. In both instances there is sovereignty in Gaza, but in one case there is limited sovereignty over the West Bank, and in the second case there is administrative authority over the West Bank.
If you can get a state with administrative authority over the West Bank before the next Israeli elections, you’ve narrowed the gap on final-status negotiations a long way. If Labor wins, then what remains to be negotiated is the gap between administrative authority and limited sovereignty. There may be other issues as well, but on this specific issue of powers, it’s that gap. It can be wide, depending on what the administrative authorities are, or it can be very narrow. So this plan can move a long way towards the most that is achievable. It’s a route that in many ways would be much easier for the Israeli public to accept.
What happens if Likud wins? If this proposal isn’t enacted and Likud wins, the negotiations probably collapse. Maybe they will go on for a little while because Likud will say they will continue the negotiations. But as it becomes clear that the negotiations are a farce, and the Palestinian Authority loses support insofar as it continues to negotiate, Hamas and others will turn on the heat. The Authority will withdraw from the negotiations, and the negotiations will collapse. Likud will pursue a very vigorous effort with respect to settlements. It will say, “Whew, we had a narrow escape. Labor was here for four years. They had an opportunity to make peace, and they didn’t really seize the opportunity. Now we’re going to go back to our ‘facts on the ground’ strategy and put so many settlements in place so we’ll never run that risk again.” In response there will be a reinvigorated intifada. But it will be a more violent insurgency than what we’ve seen, with an Israeli governmental response of equal or greater violence. This bloodbath scenario is a likely alternative if Likud comes back.
If, on the other hand, this proposal is enacted, when Likud comes back it will find that an internationally recognized Palestinian state exists. It’s in the United Nations; it’s recognized by the United States and by the previous Israeli government. There’s already been an exchange of ambassadors, and there’s a formal treaty between the two states on the settlement issue. The treaty does not resolve the permanent status of settlements. That is left as a permanent-status issue until after the elections. Rather the treaty establishes, for an interim period, the regulation of settlement expansion, land expropriation and other issues. And hopefully the agreement would provide some kind of international monitoring, and perhaps mediation or arbitration, on certainly some observer role with regard to settlements.
If Likud comes in, it has to make a decision. Does it tear up the treaty and rush ahead with a Sharon-like effort to put a bar million people into the territories, or does I respect the treaty. My own view is that under these circumstances Likud would split, for a whole variety of reasons. One is simply that there is a major precedent in Israel that governments respect treaties of prier governments. There’s a major cost internationally and domestically that might threaten stability if a Likud government were to tear up a treaty.
But there is a more fundamental reason many in Likud would hesitate to tear up the treaty. Likud has never articulated a viable concept of final status. Some in Likud, if they came in under these circumstances would say, “Hold it! We’ve never actually been able to spell out an answer other than ‘permanent autonomy.’ What is it that we’re proposing for final status? Labor and the PLO have negotiated this interim agreement. Let’s look at it. There’s a Palestinian state already in existence. All of these Palestinians in the territories are citizens; Palestinian statelessness in that sense has been solved, you can’t say that they’re stateless. It’s true that they’ve tied our hands about further building and expansion in the West Bank, but that was never an end in itself; it was a means. The objective was to prevent the emergence of Palestinian sovereignty over the West Bank.” The quasi-moderates in Likud would say what was negotiated here as interim status, if r: can become the permanent status, is something that they can live with. So the last thing this group will want to do is to upset tile agreement, restart the intifada, suffer all tile costs of doing so and maybe be thrown out of office.
The moderates might actually triumph, and Likud would seek to find a modus vivendi with the Palestinian state. Of course, for the Palestinians this proposal is not acceptable as final status, and they wouldn’t agree to it as such. But it provides a possibility, maybe a strong one, that the bloodbath scenario can be avoided. Nonviolently the Palestinians would continue their struggle. Then there would be the possibility, if another Labor government subsequently returns, of a serious continuation of the remaining final-status issues, including extending administrative control into limited sovereignty.
Those are the key points. There are pros and cons, risks and costs to any proposal. It’s a question of weighing them and comparing them to alternatives.
Dr. Thomas Mattair, policy analyst for the Middle East Policy Council: Jerry has noted the possibility of a Likud victory and has presented a plausible scenario of what might follow from it. Yitzhak Shamir made it clear that Likud intended to drag the negotiations out interminably and to fill the West Bank with Israeli settlers. Now Benjamin Netanyahu is indicating that Likud wouldn’t be committed to the agreements that have already been reached with the Palestinians. I think it’s worth noting that David Levy’s feud with Netanyahu could cost the Likud precious Sephardi votes in the next election and could possibly enable Labor to prevail. Labor, which has seen its support eroding over the last year, is now displaying a new confidence about its electoral prospects. But it’s certainly far too early to draw any conclusions from these recent events, and certainly the possibility of a Likud victory has to be considered.
I just have a few general observations to make. First, I think it’s critical to the legitimacy of the government of what would be a truncated mini-state that Jerry’s idea of a curb on settlements has to be achieved and enshrined in the treaty that recognizes Palestinian statehood. I think it has to curb both public and private settlement building. In fact, I would include a halt to the building of these bypass roads meant to avoid Palestinian population centers and link Israeli settlements with Israel proper. They use lands which have been expropriated; they are meant to protect, not only to protect but also to preserve in the long run the integrity of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank; and they also have the effect of dividing Palestinians into noncontiguous homelands, Bantustans or cantons. Bringing all of this to a halt is critical to the legitimacy of the Palestinian government, particularly because Jerry is arguing that the Palestinian state ought to rely upon its legitimacy in doing everything necessary to curb Palestinian violence against Israelis. It’s important because Jerry is arguing that the record of the Palestinian mini-state in controlling Palestinian violence against Israelis will be a test of how a larger Palestinian state will behave. If the mini-state fails to curb violence, it will provide the Israelis with a rationale for confining that state to its borders and not expanding them throughout the rest of the West Bank in final-status talks. So if they’re expected to undertake this responsibility, and if it’s going to be a test, I think it’s very important that the curb on settlements be part of this treaty, for the sake of the legitimacy of the government.
Second, Jerry is arguing that the Palestinian state should exercise administrative authority over “whatever West Bank areas Israeli troops redeploy from.” But it appears that Israel doesn’t wish to redeploy from more than Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Ramallah and Bethlehem and that they may want to test the results one town at a time. Israel isn’t really talking about redeploying its troops very much, and the Palestinian state wouldn’t have administrative authority over much land if this is what Israel intends to do. Furthermore, this would complicate the Palestinian elections that Jerry wants to see take place within six months of the signing of this treaty. The Palestinians, therefore, have some reason to fear that there would be less pressure on Israel to redeploy its troops in the short run, and less pressure on Israel to turn over the West Bank in the final-status talks if the world, and particularly the U.S. administration, is relieved by the establishment of a Palestinian mini-state and relaxes its diplomatic efforts.
In conclusion, I think the achievement of Palestinian statehood and admission to the United Nations would enhance the legitimacy of Arafat and his associates. I think elections would further enhance the legitimacy of the Palestinian government of a mini-state. But the treaty with Israel has to resolve the root causes of violence, namely Israeli military control over land and water and Israeli restrictions over the Palestinian economy. Otherwise, the government of the Palestinian mini-state will be discredited and handicapped in its ongoing efforts to curb Palestinian extremism, which Jerry hopes will be one of the results of this statehood and this legitimacy.
Finally, I think the U.S. peace-process team would have to take a strong stand to push these ideas, and I just don’t see much evidence that they would do so.
Dr. Robert O. Freedman, Peggy Meyerhoff Pearlstone professor of political science and vice-president for political affairs, Baltimore Hebrew University: It’s always a pleasure to respond to a paper written by Jerry Segal, whether one agrees with him or not. His ideas are not only highly stimulating, they also shift the discourse about a problem toward solving it practically. I think his ideas do move this process forward. I would like to talk about both the strengths in the argument and a couple of areas where I think it might be improved.
First of all, and here I certainly agree with my colleague, it’s a way of dealing with the problem of settlement-building, which after Jerusalem is perhaps the major irritant for the Palestinians, and it also gets the United States involved in the issue. However, here we have to differentiate the building of settlements from the expansion of settlements, and I think that would have to be in the agreement as well. Second, it is a way of dealing with the PLO-covenant issue, which remains a symbolic red flag not only for Israeli Jews but also for American Jews, whose support is needed for the peace process to go forward. Third, and rather important I think, it provides a fall-back position for those Israelis who are what I call the “swing third” in the electorate: those who want peace with the Palestinians but are afraid that Arafat is either unwilling or perhaps unable to control terrorist groups. They could agree with Jerry because they have the fall-back position that, if it doesn’t work, they haven’t given up the West Bank. Fourth, the idea of leasing the settlements in Gaza following the Jordanian model perhaps is a good one. I might suggest a 25-year limit like Jordan’s. Palestinians would know there’s an end, and it would be a signal for the Israelis to move out. Again, as a reminder, most Israelis came not for ideological or nationalistic reasons to the settlements but because they got cheap mortgages. So this might be a device to get them out.
Now, some questions and some areas where the idea might be improved. Even a sovereign Palestinian state in Gaza would have to agree on arms limitations. You haven’t really talked about that, Jerry. No Israeli government would remain in power if the Gaza state imported Katyusha rockets or heavy artillery. It might put Tel Aviv at risk. Second, you need to elaborate a little bit on what control over a border around Jericho might look like, given its isolation. Would it be linked by rail to Gaza and the West Bank, and who would pay for this high-speed rail system? Third, I would suggest that elections come first rather than later. You abolish the covenant, establish the state, get statehood and U.N. membership, get control over passports. My concern throughout this interim process is that if Arafat gets himself assassinated, then, as one of the West Bank Arabs I recently interviewed noted, chaos might ensue. And four, how would the Palestinian state run the West Bank administratively during the interim period? You have an example of what’s going on in Jerusalem now where both sides are pushing their own sovereignty as much as possible, and I think that would have to be looked at. Finally, I think it’s a good interim solution. In the long run, however, if there is no agreement between Israel and the Palestinian state in Gaza over the key issues, then the Palestinian state that emerges under Jerry’s plan in Gaza will inevitably exert an irredentist pull not only on the Palestinians in the West Bank but on Israeli Arabs as well, and that is not a good prescription for the future. Interim, yes, but you’ve got to go further than that.
Khalil Jhashan, executive director of the National Association of Arab-Americans: I agree with the basic premises underlying Jerry’s proposal, namely that the status quo is untenable and that the negotiations, particularly on the Palestinian track, have reached a dead end, even with the Golan agreement in the offing-and I hope it is-accompanied by redeployment of Israeli troops and the elections in the West Bank and Gaza. Let me just respond to a couple of things, more from the Palestinian perspective than a general objective assessment. I think it would be very difficult at this time to convince the Palestinian electorate, the Palestinian people, to drop the PLO, in spite of the fact that the PLO at this time is in its weakest form and that most of its institutions are probably defunct and inoperative. It will become every more difficult as the Palestinians realize that they have reached a dead end. There is a revival of the symbolic nature of the PLO; therefore, most supporters of the PLO would refuse to get rid of it. There are even opponents of the PLO who now call for freezing the Palestine National Authority, pulling out of the peace process and reviving PLO institutions to restore some sense of direction.
Sen. George McGovern, president of the Middle East Policy Council: Wouldn’t there be a possibility that even the Israelis would be nervous about the abandonment of the PLO?
Mr. Jashan: I think everybody would be nervous. The United States and the Israelis would be nervous, in the sense that the process has been reduced to Yasser Arafat personally and the PLO in its current weakened condition. What if Arafat disappears? It’s a nightmare for Warren Christopher and Dennis Ross and others who are managing the process right now.
In terms of the hope that this plan would reduce the conflict to an interim-state situation, again, from a Palestinian perspective, what state? Does this satisfy the basic minimum requirement of a state? I would venture to say no, for several reasons. It would revive the fear on the Palestinian side that this would institutionalize the status quo, i.e., the Gaza/Jericho phenomenon, in an even more permanent fashion. The Palestine National Authority is one thing; it’s weak, but there is room for change. As for the semi-sovereign state proposed by Jerry, if Israel decides not to proceed—whether under Likud or Labor—it would really institutionalize the status quo a bit further, and that is what most Palestinians fear at this time. This proposal would probably be opposed by Palestinians because it is really an interim proposal within a transitional arrangement. It is part of that diplomatic geometric regression that most Palestinians are tired of, another piecemeal approach rather than a tangible move toward a state. I understand that jumping into the final-status situation is not viable at this time, but I’m not sure whether your proposal has more viability or potential for implementation than jumping immediately into the final-status solution. Others might say your proposal is another attempt to save Israel from itself, making it more palatable to avoid tough decisions it has to face sooner or later. As for Likud versus Labor, using the specter of the return of the Likud to move forward, fewer and fewer Palestinians are convinced that would be the case, even though I personally agree with you that there are certainly very solid differences between the two. But one cannot dismiss the fact that when it comes to the Palestinians, as Uri Avnery once stated, the difference between Labor and Likud is like the difference between a psychotic and a neurotic: for the first, two plus two equals five, for the second two plus two equals four, but it makes him mad.
Dr. Segal: Let me describe my meeting with Arafat on this. It took place during the last days of March or the very first couple of days of April. I had specifically asked for an opportunity to make a presentation and was given that. I walked through the 20-point proposal you have seen. Most of the meeting consisted of this presentation. At one point Arafat said, “The Israelis already offered us a state in Gaza” but as an alternative to redeployment on the West Bank. He went on to say that was Israel’s effort to bring the Jordanians back into the West Bank. He did not seem to have any doubt about this. That was how he saw it. It was obvious to me that he was embittered by this. It was very foolish for the Israelis to have made that proposal. It certainly deepened suspicions about Israeli willingness to fulfill the terms of what they’ve already agreed to and their ultimate intentions. It was clear to me that the fact that this had happened made it very difficult to talk about any proposal that took as its starting point the idea that Palestinian sovereignty in Gaza would precede Palestinian sovereignty elsewhere. I made an effort to make clear that talking about sovereignty in Gaza is in a sense a genre. It can mean one thing at one end of the spectrum or something very different at the other. Before Oslo, I had proposed to get out of the negotiating log-jam, a Gaza-first proposal, but it was sovereignty in Gaza first, not autonomy. I was saying this two years ago. So what I tried to do in meeting with Arafat was to disassociate this proposal from what the Israelis had put on the table. But at the end of March, given where the negotiations on redeployment were, psychologically, it was difficult to cross that divide. What he actually said about the proposal is that they would study it. That’s where it was left.
Dr. Peter Gubser, president, American Near East Refuge Aid: What did Peres say?
Dr. Segal: I met with Peres first. It was a very similar kind of meeting. I did most of the talking.
Hasan Abdel Rahman, chief representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United States: Did he also say this is a matter between the Jordanians and him?
Dr. Segal: No. We didn’t talk about an Israeli proposal. I don’t have the exact date for when they made the proposal. My guess is they made it in early March. But they were still at that point very much experiencing the aftermath of the Beit Lid [suicide bomb] attack and the changes in Israeli public opinion. They were despairing about the possibility of working out any redeployment agreement.
Mr. Jashan: Have any of the Israeli leaders confirmed to you that they made that proposal to Arafat?
Dr. Segal: No. [Ed. note: Subsequently, Dr. Segal reports the offer of a state in Gaza was confirmed by a top Israeli official]
Mr. Jashan: Because I’m curious about the source where that proposal came from on the Israeli side.
Dr. Don Peretz, professor emeritus, SUNY Binghamton: There were references in the press.
Mr. Rahman: Let me just settle this: it was made to Arafat by Rabin personally, at a meeting at Erez checkpoint.
Mr. Rahman: No. But this was confirmed by people who were present at that meeting.
Dr. Peretz: Gaza with or without the Jewish settlements?
Mr. Rahman: I don’t think that the Israelis are serious about the Jewish settlements in Gaza. They are not a problem for the Israelis. I think they are keeping them as a negotiating card. I have no doubt in my mind that the Gaza settlements are going to
Dr. Segal: I actually heard a different account as to how the proposal was made, that it actually came from Peres, that Peres made it to Nabil Shaath. It’s possible that it was both. It’s possible also there’s some difference between Rabin and Peres here, both as to motivation and specifics of the proposal.
Going back to the question about my meeting with Peres. He said very little about specifics. What he said was, “Go talk to the Palestinians and let us know if they’re interested.” But the Israelis were interested in hearing about it. The meeting I had with Peres occurred 24 hours after requesting it. The Israelis were interested in seeing that there was publicity for my meeting with Peres and Arafat. There were two Haaretz articles and the press pursued Peres and Rabin and Arafat on the issue. The Israeli interest in publicity suggests another possible motivation for their “Gaza state instead of redeployment” proposal. One is that they were despairing about the negotiations. Believing it impossible to work out a redeployment, they sought something that they could give the Palestinians that would keep the process alive. It may have been a foolish idea, but it was done out of despair. Second, there’s the Jordanian interpretation of Arafat. And a third possibility is that the target of all of this was not the Palestinians in the first place, but the Israeli public. It was a way of crossing a conceptual line-altering the Israeli government’s position on a Palestinian state by doing it this way, through a proposal that they knew the Palestinians would reject. It was the safest way for an Israeli government, for the first time, to say that it would accept a Palestinian state. And in fact, except for a little static on the right wing, virtually no outcry has emerged about the Israeli government’s crossing this very important line.
Mr. Rahman: I believe that even Likud would accept a Palestinian state in Gaza. But I myself have trouble dealing with this proposal. There are elements in it that are attractive and there are elements that are negative. They provoke the worst fears among the Palestinians that again we are being divided, categorized. There are Gaza Palestinians, Jericho Palestinians, West Bank Palestinians, diaspora Palestinians, Jerusalem Palestinians.
Second, I don’t see any legal terms of reference. Where are we heading in the next negotiations about Jerusalem? I don’t see any mention whatsoever of Resolutions 242 and 338. Oslo, at least, in spite of all its shortcomings, said that the goal of the negotiations is to implement 242 and 338. There is an internationally accepted legal framework for Oslo.
Another point. Palestinians have been struggling for a long time to assert the integrity of the territory of West Bank and Gaza. In Oslo this was accepted. And that the elected Palestinian self-government council will have jurisdiction over the West Bank and Gaza (with the exception, of course, of final-status issues) and the Palestinians in those territories. What would be the role of the council? Is it going to be abolished? Or are its responsibilities going to be in two categories, one (full sovereignty), in Gaza and Jericho and a totally different function in the rest of the West Bank?
Third, from our own experience—I just spent three weeks in the West Bank and Gaza—this whole issue about Jericho linked to Gaza is a farce in the minds of many Palestinians. Gaza is a big ghetto and Jericho is a much, much smaller ghetto for the Palestinians at this point. And they are not linked to each other. I wanted to leave Gaza to go to the West Bank the day before the festival of Eid al-Adha. I had to call a car from Ramle at Erez checkpoint. Not one single car in Gaza is allowed to travel to the West Bank or to Jericho. You have people who stay in Gaza for two, three or four days waiting for permission to travel from Gaza to Jericho, and they don’t get it.
Dr. Peretz: Vice versa, too?
Mr. Rahman: Yes, of course. Even from Jericho to the rest of the West Bank. What makes the Palestinians tolerate this is that it is an interim thing, that in a few days or a few weeks we will come to an agreement on how to integrate Jericho into the West Bank and how to have some sort of connection between the West Bank and Gaza.
What we really need to look at in this proposal is not really to divert attention from the objective of the negotiations. We are locked with the Israelis into a deadline, July 1. I just heard Yossi Sarid after his meeting with Yasser Arafat say that it is improbable and impractical to expect that all that is left can be negotiated in the next 15 days, so we’ll have to extend the timetable, but certainly limited agreements are going to be achieved. Other agreements are not going to be possible. That’s now being reported, as I heard from the BBC in Gaza. Here we have another problem in pinning down the Israelis to a timetable for fulfilling their commitments. First, it was a June 1 target date proposed to us by Shimon Peres, then it was extended to July 1, and now I expect it to extend to the beginning of August, if we ever reach an agreement with the Israelis.
Mr. Jashan: 1996?
Mr. Rahman: They never mentioned the year! When I look at how the Israelis behave with us, I’m reminded about the story of the man who, after 30 years of marriage, sits down with his wife and tells her, “Listen, I must confess to you that I’m colorblind.” She looks at him and says, “Well since you’ve confessed to me that you’re colorblind, I must confess to you that I’m Sudanese, I’m not Swedish.” I hope that this is not the case with the Israelis. We need really to establish from the very beginning that we are Sudanese, not Swedes, and move from there.
Dr. Freedman: A very small footnote: There is no Jewish religious claim to Gaza. The settlements have no religious legitimacy. Historically that was Philistine territory, and in the Talmud and the Bible there are no religious claims to Gaza, so unlike the settlements in the West Bank, it’s a lot easier to give them up than it would be West Bank settlements.
Dr. Peretz: First a few background observations. With regard to Israeli politics, I think there is also a possibility in addition to those that you mentioned, not of a collapse of the peace process, but total stalemate. Remember, in the next election, there’s going to be a separate election for the prime minister. So it will not be impossible to have a prime minister of one party and a Knesset of another party, which could lead to complete stalemate. Even if there is an agreement such as the type you envisage, this I don’t think obligates Likud to accept the agreement, because the Likud position is that this whole Palestine entity is illegitimate. They still regard Arafat as illegitimate. They won’t accept negotiations with either the PLO or Arafat. I agree with Tom that removal of settlements should be part of any agreement, but I’m not at all optimistic about whether such an agreement can be reached, because, after all, Rabin is no de Gaulle. Israel at present has no leader of that stature but such a personality could possibly make a breakthrough.
An observation on the semi-sovereign Palestinian state. The basis for that already exists in the Algiers declaration of independence of 1988. And the Palestinian state was recognized by over 100 countries, wasn’t it? They have ambassadors in how many countries now?
Mr. Rahman: Over 100.
Dr. Peretz: And what’s the international legal status of these ambassadors. Are they representing a country, a state?
Mr. Rahman: The State of Palestine.
Mr. Jashan: It varies from country to country, and that was when the PLO had funds to sustain these offices
Dr. Omar Kadar, CEO, Pal-Tech, Inc.: It depends on whether they’ve paid their rent-and salaries.
Dr. Peretz: So there is, in effect, a Palestinian state already, isn’t there, according to the Algiers declaration?
Mr. Jashan: Yes, but it is self-declared.
Dr. Peretz: But recognized by several dozen countries.
Mr. Jashan: No, because every country of the 115 countries which had relations with the PLO over the years treated it differently. Each country had a totally different status attached to the PLO presence in it, and this did not constitute recognition of sovereignty over territory in Palestine.
Dr. Peretz: I have reservations about dissolving the PLO. I don’t see how this would occur, how you get from here to there. I think it’s important to consider that the PLO represents not only the Palestinians in the occupied territories but the Palestinians in the diaspora. What happens to their representation if you dissolve the PLO? In effect, the PLO is something like what the World Zionist Organization was. After the establishment of Israel it continued to operate. It appears to me that the PLO would have a similar function in the event that there is a Palestinian state. I think that the major emphasis at this point in the whole process should be on the elections and the election process. Without elections I don’t think it’s possible to have a legitimate Palestinian state. I don’t see how the Palestinian state could be constituted without a democratically elected body that would constitute the state. Do you have any precedents of other international instances of this type?
Dr. Segal: No, I don’t have precedents.
Dr. Gubser: Ireland. You’ve got southern Ireland as an independent state which has a claim over northern Ireland, and now Britain is actually acknowledging some sort of claim.
Jerry, as usual, has provided a very intriguing and positive proposal. A freeze on settlements is extremely important in order to move the negotiations on the West Bank forward. Second, Hasan’s point that 242 and 338 should be referred to as the legitimization of the agreement, I think, would be essential. A couple of aspects that one should take a look at are the advantages of your proposal. One is economic. The economy of Gaza and the West Bank are a disaster-tremendous unemployment, per capita income has dropped precipitously, largely due to labor not being allowed to go to Israel. In the near and medium term, I would speculate that Palestinian workers are not going to be able to go to Israel in large numbers. By setting up a Palestinian state with sovereignty, they could start dealing with their Arab neighbors and other countries of the world. Suddenly the Palestinians would be in a position to do what they are going to have to do in the long term, export labor. They’re going to have to start competing with Egyptians and maybe experience a lower standard of living than they’ve been used to over the last few years. There will not be a lot of jobs in Gaza over the short or medium term, even ifthese industrial parks that people are talking about are set up. With sovereignty, people having passports, having agreements with Saudi Arabia and other places that may want to import labor, there is a way to start relieving some of the economic pressure. A lot of people have been saying that unless the people benefit economically they are not going to buy into this whole peace process. This gives them a little more opportunity to do that.
Second, to take Don’s last point and sort of reverse it, with some sovereign area, the Palestinians will finally have an opportunity for elections and democracy. Doing this in an autonomous situation is not easy. The soldiers are still there. But in this semi-sovereign entity, one could actually go through a round of elections, a second round of elections, whatever, and sort of put democracy into place.
If we look back at the history of Israel and Palestine, we find that the Israelis took full advantage of documents that were not the best for Israel. If you look at the Balfour Declaration, it had a lot of lumps in it from the Zionist standpoint. If you look at the 1947 U.N. resolution dividing the land of Palestine between the Arabs and Jews, a lot of Jews didn’t like a good part of it. However, they accepted it and took full advantage of it and established their state. Palestinians didn’t take advantage of Camp David. If they had, in my mind, they would probably already have their state and be a going concern. The Palestinians should take advantage of any opportunity they have.
- SHIBLEY TELHAMI, associate professor of government, Cornell University; visiting fellow, Brookings Institution: I think this is a serious proposal that merits discussion, but I see some flaws in it from both the Palestinian and the Israeli points of view. Let’s first keep in mind the premises. This is not a proposal about the best way to move forward in the peace process, but about how to get around the possibility that Likud might get elected. Presumably, if Likud’s chances were smaller than they appear, one could come up with more effective proposals. Second, it’s not a proposal oriented toward Gaza and Jericho, because nobody really believes that Likud is going to reoccupy Gaza. And it’s not about Palestinian statehood in only Gaza or Jericho, because no one really believes that such a state would be either viable or acceptable to the Palestinians. This proposal is primarily aimed at protecting the possibility of Palestinian statehood or control over parts of the West Bank, and at minimizing the chance of expanding Jewish settlement there if Likud takes control.
Let’s see how the proposal affects these two issues, beginning with the Israeli side, since this is largely about Israeli politics. Put yourself in Labor’s position. If they argue for a solution predicated on the suggestion that Likud might win, it’s like acknowledging that Likud is going to win. They are not going to support this proposal unless they think it’s going to help their electoral chances. I think it can only help them electorally if it is shown that an Israeli compromise on granting Palestinian statehood in Gaza and Jericho (which most Israelis see as a major concession to the Palestinians) will minimize Israeli concessions on issues they care more deeply about in die West Bank. That is, if the Israeli government grants statehood to the Palestinians, it is going to be considerably less able to freeze settlement building in the West Bank, which it might otherwise be able to do without granting statehood. In essence, the Labor government will be reducing the chance of establishing “facts on the ground” in the West Bank, which defeats the central purpose of this proposal. In my judgment, this is a fundamental flaw in Jerry’s plan.
From the Palestinian point of view, the proposal is equally problematic in terms of both attainability and desirability. Mr. Arafat would certainly have a tough time selling this idea to his constituency: it plays into the hands of those who feared all along that a “Gaza-Jericho first” agreement is a “Gaza-Jericho only” plan. Given the increasing suspicion among Palestinians since the signing of the Declaration of Principles, this fear is not to be underestimated. Moreover, there is a prevalent Palestinian feeling that existing agreements are not being respected and implemented and that new ideas often legitimize perceived Israeli non-compliance, even when not so intended, as in this case. But let’s assume for the moment that Mr. Arafat can persuade his constituency to accept this proposal if he can prove its strategic utility. Is this proposal even desirable from the Palestinian point of view?
Given the premises of this proposal, its desirability depends on establishing the following proposition: If Likud wins the next elections in Israel, the chance of Palestinian control over the rest of the West Bank would be greater if this proposal were implemented before the elections than would otherwise be the case. Yet, an assessment of the likely consequences of a Likud government following the establishment of a Jericho-Gaza state works against this proposition. Palestinian statehood would probably legitimize further Likud intentions to build additional settlements on the West Bank and make them increasingly irreversible. The will of the international community to intervene would be reduced by the mere existence of a Palestinian state in Jericho and Gaza. And since Palestinian violence is likely to continue within the West Bank under Israeli occupation, few international sympathizers would be found to take up the West Bankers’ cause. At the same time, it would be determined that the weak Palestinian state, not economically viable in the limited areas of Gaza and Jericho, will be less able to expand its control beyond its original boundaries. In short, statehood in Gaza-Jericho increases the opportunities for Likud designs over the West Bank, not the other way around.
The proposal does stipulate that the agreement on Palestinian statehood would be accompanied by an agreement on a settlement freeze in the rest of the West Bank. It is this component that is ultimately thought to tie Likud’s hands. But why does one need statehood in Gaza and Jericho in order to have an agreement on a settlement freeze? How does statehood increase the incentives for a Likud government to abide by an agreement on a settlement freeze? As I have said, the very act of agreeing to a Palestinian state by the current Israeli government reduces the chance of a firm agreement on a settlement freeze. The very existence of a Palestinian state would reduce the incentives of a future Likud government to abide by such a freeze. In short, if a settlement freeze and a Gaza-Jericho state are related at all, they are only negatively related.
This leads to the final two flaws of the proposal. The first is the erroneous assumption that the choice we face is between this proposal and the status quo. There is a better and more realistic alternative: effective implementation of Phase Two of the Declaration of Principles, including Israeli military redeployment from Palestinian population centers, an effective freeze on settlement building, Palestinian elections, and international measures to create economic growth-without Palestinian statehood in Gaza-Jericho. This alternative is easier to sell to both Israelis and Palestinians because it’s part of the DOP agreement, which has already been sold to them; and it can even help gain the confidence of both publics in the process of reaching and implementing agreements. As for the international community, the dubious status of “autonomy” in world affairs, as opposed to the permanent status of sovereignty, will ensure that states and international organizations remain engaged in the process, pending a final settlement. At the same time, the settlement freeze could be in place anyway, and that’s ultimately what will help tie Likud’s hands, not Palestinian statehood in Gaza and Jericho.
Finally, this proposal begins with projections about Israeli politics but seems paradoxically detached from the political process. It is driven by the fear that Likud might win the elections in Israel, without asking how this possibility might be increased by implementing Palestinian statehood in Gaza-Jericho prior to the elections. Labor’s chances are far better aided if it successfully implements an agreement (the DOP) that it negotiated in secret and on which it expended substantial political capital at home and abroad, than by abandoning the implementation process midway in favor of another revolutionary idea just before the next elections. But then again, the test of ideas is not always in their intrinsic value but in the degree to which they inspire useful debate. In that, Jerry’s ideas have certainly succeeded.
Dr. Segal: First, let me clear up a misconception about what the proposal is. Shibley Telhami just spoke about the inadvisability of “abandoning the implementation process [of the DOP] midway in favor of another revolutionary idea just before the elections.” This is a misunderstanding. Point One of my proposal is that the current negotiations must progress, leading to redeployment and elections. What I have proposed is the next step. I am assuming that there will be roughly a year separating the Palestinian elections and the Israeli elections, and I am concerned with identifying what should be accomplished during that year. It is useful to separate the arguments that are on the table into two groups, the ones that say the proposal is not possible, and the ones that say it is not desirable. Of these, it is the ones about desirability that should get the primary attention. If the proposal is not desirable, it should be rejected regardless of whether it is possible. And if it is desirable, then we should work to make it possible.
First a word on what is possible and what is not. As one who sat on the White House lawn and saw Yasser Arafat shake hands with Yitzhak Rabin under the smiling gaze of Bill Clinton, I think we have to recognize that we too often have very limited horizons about what is possible.
In 1988 I put forward a more radical idea than this one. I proposed that the Palestinians unilaterally declare independence and, without negotiating concessions from the Israeli side, unilaterally recognize Resolutions 242 and 338 and Israel’s right to exist. By the end of the year this is exactly what happened, and the U.S.-PLO dialogue opened. So, I am understandably not too impressed by the claim that the current proposal is politically impossible. It all depends on whether the players see it as desirable, and that depends on the alternatives.
We are short on alternatives. One is to go into the Israeli elections with the “facts of peace” being Palestinian elections and Israeli redeployment. I have viewed this as an important but insufficient accomplishment, one that risks disaster should Likud win. The second alternative, my 20-point proposal, says that by the time of the Israeli elections there should be a Palestinian state with initial sovereignty over Gaza and Jericho and an interim treaty governing settlement activity in the West Bank. And then there is Shibley’s scaled down alternative:
“Yes” to the idea of a negotiated halt to settlement activity, but “No” to negotiating initial sovereignty over Gaza and Jericho.
I believe that the fuller proposal is greatly superior for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it means that if Likud wins the election it will come to power facing an established and recognized Palestinian state that sits in the United Nations and exercises sovereign control over Gaza and Jericho and administrative control over most of the West Bank. We must not dismiss this as if it were nothing. It represents a major step towards Palestinian independence, and it is a fact that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to sweep away. Putting aside any other reasons for this proposal, I am very much in favor of giving the Palestinians sovereignty over Gaza and Jericho during the interim period.
But let us for the moment look at the alternatives in terms of just one issue: on which scenario is it most likely that Likud will be checked in its desire to push forward with a vast program of settlement activity? On which scenario can a terrible bloodbath best be prevented?
Let me say that I am pleased that it seems that everyone around the table has accepted two basic points. First, that it is critical to use the time prior to the Israeli election to build facts of peace that might withstand a Likud victory, and second, that a negotiated agreement freezing or regulating settlement activity is a central objective. Would that the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators reach this much consensus.
Our disagreement is about two options. The first is a freestanding agreement on settlements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The second is an international treaty on settlements between two states, Israel and Palestine.
We have heard several claims in favor of the first option: that agreeing to a Palestinian state reduces the. chance that Israel will agree to a firm agreement on settlements; that if there is a state, Likud would be more likely to abrogate a settlement agreement; that the international community would be less likely to oppose Likud settlement activity if there were a Palestinian state; and finally that if the Israeli government agrees to a Palestinian state, it will be less likely to be re-elected.
Of these, I find the first three novel and counter-intuitive. The last one, that such an agreement might affect Labor’s chances in the elections, has for some time been of concern to me.
On the first three let me be brief. If the Rabin government agrees to early Palestinian statehood, I see no reason why it would agree to less, where settlements are concerned, just because it has agreed to statehood. The relationship is not mechanical. Indeed, it might agree to more because it will have crossed a decisive psychological barrier over statehood. Second, I believe a full international treaty between two states will have more staying power than an agreement between Israel and the PNA or the PLO. Likud will be under enormous inner tensions over whether to respect or abrogate an accord on settlements. The fact that a Palestinian state already exists will tend to move Likud into thinking about how to live with it and how to remain part of the international community that will have just welcomed the Palestinian state into its midst.
On the other perhaps more serious consideration, the effect this will have on Labor’s chances for re-election, my tendency is to say, “Let Labor sort this out themselves.” If they judge it a deficit, then they will not go ahead; hopefully, they will at least agree to an interim agreement on halting settlement activity.
But beyond this, my proposal has several components that might be assets to Labor. One is the suggestion that when a state comes into existence, the PLO should go out of existence. The second is that with statehood, Palestinian ability to prevent attacks on Israel will be enhanced.
Also it is possible that worries over the electoral consequences of agreeing to a Palestinian state with interim sovereignty over Gaza-Jericho are overblown. I’m not sure. I believe most Israelis are ready for this next step; it may not create a great uproar. After all, reports of Peres’s offer of a Gaza state hardly made a stir.
Dr. Kader: Like everything else that Jerry Segal writes, this is very provocative and it conjures up a lot of implications. I don’t think it’s practical or even possible, but it should be advanced vigorously. It should be supported and debated for one reason, which you yourself raised earlier: to get people to debate it and to put it on the agenda. You say it would change the debate to a state-to-state issue. You’re laying out what it would be like for the Israelis to live with the Palestinians in the future. You’re giving them a glimpse of their own future, helping them visualize where they’re going to end up, when peace is a reality. It allows the Palestinians to become a legitimate state and begin to think of themselves as equals among nations. That goes a long way towards closing the gap between their current status of humiliated refugees and that of normal citizens. This goes beyond human rights and justice issues and begins to promote national interests. Having state status gives the Palestinians more power to control violence, get public support, limit the opposition to the realm of polities and not violence. It serves as a bulwark against Likud’s attempt to abrogate treaties. If the issues you’ve raised succeed, it probably gives Labor a greater chance of returning to power.
But I have four general observations. Number one, I don’t think that the present negotiations are stalemated. They are slow but not dead. The peace process is delicate. I want to read a piece out of The New York Times this week, after the announcement of the Syrian agreement: “In this complex and emotional stew, any glitch, any false move, any hostile statement instantly revives all the old recriminations and threatens the fragile web of negotiations and agreements that together make up the peace process. Christopher says there can be no illusion about the difficulty of the issues that remain and the pressure on the negotiators.” The Segal proposal is a diversion. It sidetracks valuable conventional diplomacy. The gains you’re gambling on could produce more than current negotiations might produce.
Second, public opinion supports elections, and progress is being made toward them. Third, conventional, slow diplomatic efforts produce valuable results in shaping positions and influencing public opinion. Agreements come from political reality, not declarations. Those realities are always behind-the-scenes negotiations—sometimes secret, sometimes public—that have to be ground out one sentence at a time. The value of this public process is to move from elite agreements to public support of conventional negotiations and to get away from the one-man rule and centralized authority that has typified Arafat’s leadership style. These public negotiations, however difficult they are, bring public opinion along with them. The strength of this proposal is that the very debate on Palestinian statehood is put on the front burner. That’s why your ideas should be advanced vigorously.
My final point is a suggestion. You haven’t addressed the domestic obstacles to this proposal. The president of the United States is limited in his actions in his third year of office. The most effective time for a president is in the first year of his second term. So I doubt you’ll get the United States to buy into this. We are letting Israel drive the process. You also need to address the domestic issues, not just of Israel and the United States but of the Syrians and Palestinians. The basic premise of your proposal is that Likud has a chance of winning. Domestic politics in Israel are very fluid, and the election is a year away. A lot could happen between now and then. This bold move could derail the Syrian negotiations. The Egyptians have played an integral role in this process. They must endorse the process, and I don’t think they will. You must get the PLO on board. Arafat still has a foot in Tunis and a foot in Gaza, and he isn’t quite strong enough to lift one or the other. He cannot unilaterally end the existence of the PLO. He either leads it or lets someone else lead it. But it will not cease to exist if he stops. He’s better off leading it into atrophy. I don’t think he has consolidated his support in Gaza yet to be able to make a declaration of the end of the PLO.
This proposal is not strategic in nature. It’s a tactical approach aimed at Likud. How can you move it from tactical to strategic? One of the ways might be to get broader support beyond the Palestinian community. That would broaden Arafat’s base and legitimize the effort. But I think it’s too narrow. I don’t think a 50-50 chance that Likud would win is enough justification for this bold an action. Fear of Likud is a genuine concern-progress in talks is dependent on a Labor and a Clinton victory. How to consolidate hard-won gains without disrupting the current talks is a delicate balancing act. I believe pushing through to elections and creating, not declaring a Palestinian state has more promise. The proposal does not address two very critical elements, settlements and Jerusalem. Resolving the outstanding issues under the Segal proposal will be no less difficult than it will be under current efforts.
Dr. Segal: A word of clarification. This proposal is not about a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood. It is about what should be negotiated with Israel after Palestinian elections, but prior to Israeli elections.
It does not deal with a host of final-status issues, such as Jerusalem and the settlements. These it sees as part of the permanent-status negotiations, not likely to be solved until well after the next Israeli elections. What it would do is to make those unresolved issues the matters to be negotiated between two existing states, Israel and Palestine.
Mr. Rahman: In response to the question about the PLO, first of all, the PLO is not a self-dissolving entity. Arafat can’t stand in Gaza and issue a decree to dissolve the PLO. The PLO must heed the National Council, which must declare by a two-thirds majority that it ceases to exist or transforms itself into something else. And that is next to impossible at this time.
It is easier to meet to abrogate the points in the covenant than to dissolve itself, because the PLO is the framework of Palestinian national identity. Unless we have a final-status solution for the Palestinian problem as a whole, the PLO cannot dissolve itself. Who is going to represent Palestinians in Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere? The Palestinian state in Gaza and Jericho cannot. There is contention over the interim period, let alone the final status. So it is not going to be possible to call the PLO to dissolve itself.
But let me emphasize once again, Jerry, with all due respect and appreciation for your ideas, this is not the time for this kind of initiative. We need to pin down the Israelis to the timetables that we agreed upon. There is a process, there’s the second phase of the agreement that needs to be implemented, and from there we continue to move to final-status negotiations, which will come next year.
Regardless of how the second phase of the interim agreement is going to be implemented, we need elections. We need the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to feel that they are one people, under one jurisdiction, limited as it may be. That’s the only way to have support for the peace process. The moment the Palestinians view Gaza as different from the West Bank, the Palestinians are going to rebel against the Palestinian National Authority. Second, I’m not really concerned about Jordan’s coming back to the West Bank. There is no constituency for Jordan in the West Bank. None. I know that, and everybody who knows the West Bank knows it. But there is a threat of separating Gaza from the West Bank, and it comes from the Israelis. The Israelis view the West Bank as a problem for them. They see a triangular authority in the West Bank—Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians—but the three legs of the triangle are not equal. They would like for this situation to continue because it saves them from what Don spoke about—taking a strong, historic vision on the question of the settlements, on the question of Jerusalem. I personally asked Shimon Peres two weeks ago when he was here at the Madison Hotel, “You acknowledge today that the main obstacle to the peace process and to reaching an agreement with the Palestinians is the settlements. Why don’t you take a courageous initiative—and you have the power to do it—on the question of the settlements.” He looked at me and said, “We may have the power, but we do not have the majority to do it.”
Dr. Segal: Let me suggest a different way of thinking about my proposal. Suppose we ask the questions, “What will the process look like whereby Palestinians attain sovereignty over Gaza, the West Bank and parts of East Jerusalem? Will it be gradual and incremental, or will it be possible for the Palestinians to negotiate a great leap to sovereignty?”
Up to this point the entire negotiation process has been one of incremental steps. This has not necessarily been wise, and it certainly has not been what the Palestinians have desired. But it has not been up to the Palestinians. Ultimately Israel limits the pace, and, for a variety of reasons, it has wanted to proceed very gradually.
I doubt this will change. In the end, Palestinians may not have a choice over whether or not their state will go through a period of “sovereignty over Gaza first.” It may well be that just as autonomy came with the Gaza-first framework, when the Israelis are ultimately ready to start talking about sovereignty for the Palestinians, they are going to insist on a testing period in which Palestinian sovereignty comes to Gaza first. So the choice for Palestinians about having sovereignty over Gaza before sovereignty over the West Bank may not be an option. The real choice may be sooner versus later, and a very powerful argument can be made for sooner. The bottom line is the vast disproportionality in the strengths of the two parties. At the end of the day, the Israelis may say, “We are prepared to consider Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank, but we’ve gone through the Gaza-Jericho precedent, and for our people it’s necessary to go through a testing period. We’ll say in advance, if you pass the test, we’re willing to extend sovereignty to the West Bank, but you’re going to go through a three-year or five-year testing period of a Palestinian state that has sovereignty over Gaza and administrative control over the West Bank.” If the Israelis say, “Take it or leave it,” I think the Palestinians will take it.
If it looks as though Likud may win the elections, the arguments for doing this now are very powerful. From the point of view of Labor , they are faced with the sad historical legacy of having had four years to make peace and leaving office with nothing permanent left behind. Faced with that, there might be plenty of people who would say, we may be going down to electoral defeat, but at least let there be an existing Palestinian state when we leave, and an international treaty on settlements. If Likud wants to tear it up and restart the intifada, let them bear the onus for that.
Dr. Peretz: What’s the rationale for the PLO to go out of existence?
Dr. Segal: The PLO has always presented itself as “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” Once there is a democratically elected government of a Palestinian state, it can no longer make that claim. Certainly it is no longer “the sole legitimate representative.” And given that the leadership of the PLO is not elected, once there is a democratically elected government, its claim to legitimacy has a shadow on it.
Assume that the PLO continues to exist alongside the government of the Palestinian state. What can its relationship be to that state? With respect to the Palestinian Authority, it was possible for the PLO to maintain that it is the ultimate authority and the PNA its agent. After all, the PLO negotiated the agreement with Israel, and the Palestinian Authority has limited powers and responsibilities. For instance, it does not have authority over foreign relations.
But if there is a Palestinian state, this relationship is untenable. The state will be sovereign and responsible to its citizens; it will not be an agent of the PLO. Moreover, the PLO currently maintains a vast foreign service that represents the Palestinians in their dealings with foreign states. A Palestinian state will have its own foreign service. There will not be two such services, the representatives of the PLO and those of the state of Palestine. Thus, much of the PLO’s functions, personnel, property and budget will be taken over by the state.
What remains for the PLO as a separate function? It can claim to be the sole representative of Palestinians in the diaspora, but why should not the Palestinian state also represent diaspora Palestinians and extend citizenship to them?
Perhaps there is a role for some voluntary non-state organization, but it is a far cry from anything that we now identify as the PLO. If so, perhaps it should be renamed and reconstituted as the Palestinian Agency.
If this comes to pass, there are important advantages for the peace process. This may be the only way to deal with the PLO covenant-render the issue moot by replacing the PLO with the government of a democratic state based on a constitution committed to coexistence. If this were done, it would mean a great deal in terms of the Israeli elections. I believe it would make it possible for the Labor government to negotiate the creation of such a state, with initial sovereignty over Gaza and Jericho.
Dr. Peretz: Will Palestinians in the diaspora sit in the Palestinian parliament?
Dr. Segal: That’s up to them, as a sovereign state. They’ll figure out some way to do this if they want to.
As to whether or not the PLO actually has to convene and get a two-thirds vote in order to be supplanted by the state of Palestine, from the inside perspective of the PLO there’s a formal process. But we all know that there are millions of organizations, corporations, peace movements, whatever, that change and dissolve and don’t do things according to their processes. But the reason I put this in as part of the proposal is that it speaks to an Israeli audience. It would eliminate certain kinds of counterarguments about non-fulfillment of Oslo commitments with respect to amending the covenant.
And ending the PLO would symbolize a new day. It would also strengthen the idea of new sources of legitimacy and authority. There finally would be a state, and because there is a state, even if you disagree with it, there are limits. Today Hamas and others can say, “We never recognized the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” You are not able to draw strength from principles such as “obedience to law” or such as “loyalty to a state” when you’re in the pre-state stage of a national movement. When you have a state, the concept of “a loyal opposition” arises. In 1988 at the PNC in Algeria, George Habash talked about being the loyal opposition when a state emerges. If you move into a state framework it affects the range of behaviors and responses of even the opposition. That’s part of why this is of value to the Israelis. A state can more adequately deal with the security issues. And if it does, this will open up new possibilities for moving ahead in the negotiations.
Dr. Mattair: Do you think it’s going to be possible to achieve this without the United States playing a role? If not, what kind of role do you expect the United States to play?
Dr. Segal: The short answer is that I don’t see the United States as having any major role in bringing this about. On the other hand, if Israel did this, I believe the United States would recognize the state of Palestine after it was recognized by Israel. It’s not up to the Congress. The recognition would be extended by the president.
Dr. Gubser: Not this president.
Dr. Segal: Actually, there was a conference not long ago in which a fellow from the NSC...
Dr. Mattair: David Satterfield [see symposium proceedings in this issue].
Dr. Segal: Right. David Satterfield was asked that specific question: “Why don’t you do something constructive and say that if Israel and Palestine negotiate a state, a Palestinian state, the United States will recognize it?” And to some people’s
Dr. Mattair: He said, “We will accept anything that the Palestinians and Israelis agree to.”
Mr. Rahman: But that’s not accurate, because the PLO and Israel have a mutual recognition while the United States does not recognize the PLO.
Dr. Telhami: But in response to statehood, that has been the case. I think Bush made a clearer statement at the time, and it’s still part of foreign policy.
Mr. Rahman: They said we will not oppose anything that the Palestinians and the Israelis accept. But they did not say they would endorse; they said they would not oppose.
Dr. Segal: The issue of separation of the West Bank from Gaza came up. One other thing about my meeting with Peres was that when I proposed that there be a rail link between Gaza and the West Bank, Peres responded, “Who’s going to pay for it?” I simply said, “Not Israel,” and Peres said, “Israel agrees.” So the one concrete thing that came out of this is that the state of Israel has agreed to a rail link. So if nothing else is seized upon here, seize on the railroad.
Dr. Telhami: Let me just make a couple of remarks about the possibility or desirability of the proposal. There’s no question that there were two kinds of arguments here. One, is it possible to sell this proposal? And, two, is it desirable? You’ve heard a lot of arguments about why it’s not desirable even if it’s possible, so you’ve got to take those into account. The issues of possibility and desirability are related. To make the proposal more possible is to make it less desirable, particularly in the selling, because there’s going to be compromise on issues that you’re trying to protect in the process. But ultimately you have to persuade people, you have to build an argument on a very narrow issue: what is it about establishing a Palestinian state in Gaza and Jericho that will make it more difficult for Likud to expand settlements in the territories? And you have not so far constructed a persuasive argument on this issue. You’re probably right that if there is an agreement that established the Palestinian state in Gaza and Jericho, Likud will honor it. They will not go and invade Jericho and Gaza. They will deal with it as a state. But there is nothing about that that will make them less likely to expand settlements in the rest of the West Bank. In fact, such expansion will be more likely. But the treaty prohibiting it can be made without a Palestinian state, and it would be very difficult to argue that a Palestinian state legally can make that kind of treaty with the state of Israel on land that is not sovereign territory of the Palestinian state, any more than Israel can make that agreement with the PLO now. In contrast, there is a process that Likud cannot ignore. The cumulative effect now of an agreement that already has international legitimacy and acceptance is that, with the redeployment and elections, a side agreement about settlements can be concluded that will be equally binding on Likud, without limited statehood in Gaza and Jericho.
Dr. Segal: Bringing into existence a Palestinian state, even one which for an interim period has initial sovereignty over only Gaza and Jericho, is an enormous achievement. I think there is a general failure to appreciate this. First of all, it allows Palestinians to break through the barrier against Palestinian statehood at its weakest point—when the immediate issue is Gaza, not the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
I believe this may prove to be the only way to move towards wider sovereignty. So please, let’s not dismiss it as if it were trivial. In the end, regardless of what we say here, I expect that there will be a Palestinian state, and it will come through this route. Yes, there will be dangers here for Palestinians, most significantly the danger that they might get stopped at this point. But this is not a danger that they will be able to avoid. They could not avoid “autonomy in Gaza first,” and I doubt they will be able to avoid “sovereignty in Gaza first.” What they can do is speed it up, but this will require political courage. It will not be popular.
Second, rather than trivial, the accomplishment is historic. We are talking about sovereign control of Gaza and Jericho and wide administrative authority over the West Bank. Palestinians will control the borders of their state. They will control and create its economic and political institutions, set its immigration and citizenship policy, and make citizens of all Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, if they so choose. True, it will, during an interim period, exercise only administrative authority over West Bank territory. But this is no less than under all other options, and in this case it will be the state of Palestine that will be administering the West Bank. If the security issue is adequately dealt with, the movement from administrative control to limited sovereignty will be a natural step, hard to resist even by those most opposed.
As to the specific issue of why a treaty with the state of Palestine will be a more adequate barrier to settlement expansion should Likud return, there are two arguments. The first is that an international treaty with a recognized state simply constitutes a higher level of agreement than one between a sovereign state and an ambiguous authority. The psychological, political and international repercussions of tearing up such a treaty are greater.
But, more powerfully, there is the internal dynamic within Likud. If they return to power, their inner logic is to return forcefully to settlement expansion. If there is an agreement not to do so that is in place with the Palestinian Authority, their impulse will be to look for ways of undermining it—to wait for or to foment violent events that will transform the situation or to call attention to the failure of the PLO to meet its commitments, whether to amend the covenant or to deal with terrorism. Perhaps these impulses can be resisted by a latent wisdom within the Likud, but it is indeed questionable. If they push ahead with settlements, we will have a violent explosion, far greater than the intifada, that will create its own reality, with consequences that are unpredictable.
On the other hand, if when Likud comes to power it finds itself face to face with a recognized Palestinian state, one it would not and could not negotiate into being, this will be a new era. Likud will have to decide its relationship to this state. Of course it will not want war. It will not want to see this state aiding a guerrilla war in the West Bank. It will not want this state to fall under the control of Ramas.
Many in Likud will see that what they want is for the interim role of this state in the West Bank—its interim role as administrator but not sovereign—to become its final status. In short, Likud will look at this Palestinian state and say, “We would not have agreed to this, but this is a credible stopping point. If only this can become permanent, we will have achieved our main goal, thwarting Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank.” Thus, many in Likud will opt for not rocking the boat, for maintaining the status quo, even if it means abiding by the treaty governing settlement activity.
Of course, as final status this will not be acceptable to the Palestinians, and they will have to face the new challenge of how to move from there to fuller independence. But this is a challenge that can be met. It involves risks and difficulties of an order of magnitude vastly smaller than what is involved if we move to a new level of violence.
Dr. Freedman: The cost, the $2 billion or so spent in 1992 in settlement building, was one of the reasons that Likud lost the 1992 elections, so there is some substance in what you say. On the other hand, looking at it from the Israeli psychological point of view and the one-third of Israelis who are swing voters, the question should be raised as to whether this is going to convince the Israeli public. What is the difference, in the Israeli perception, between dealing with Arafat now and dealing with Arafat or the Palestinians as a state? You argue eloquently in the paper that there are theoretical differences. But you’ve got Arafat in charge of the Palestinian Authority and Arafat presumably in charge of the Palestinian state. From the psychological point of view of the Israeli voter, is it all going to make that much of a difference?
Dr. Segal: From the point of view of the Israeli voter, the important thing is going to be their expectations of performance on security issues. If the movement to a state signals or produces something that enhances people’s feelings of security, then I think there’s an advantage to it. It is possible for the Israeli leadership to turn this around and say to the Israelis, “What we are moving into here is something which has the possibility of being permanent. If the Palestinians do not fulfill their obligations with respect to security, this is as far as the Palestinians get and no further. They· will have an end to their statelessness. They will have a state in Gaza, sovereignty in Gaza, and autonomy over the West Bank, and they will not go any further. This is a place where a line can be drawn, and as a state they will be vulnerable to the IDF (the army) in ways that they have never previously been. The IDF was trained to deal with interstate conflict.” There’s a horrible truth to this. I made this clear in The Washington Jewish Week article. This proposal has major risks for the Palestinians. If the security situation gets out of hand, then they’ll be frozen here. At the same time, it cuts the other way. Once there’s a Palestinian state, if the Israelis renege on progress towards expanding sovereignty and resolving other issues, the real possibility exists that Hamas will take over a state. Hamas taking over a state is very different from Hamas in its present situation. That’s something for the Israelis to worry about. So that becomes a powerful incentive. The specter of Hamas today sits in the background and drives things forward. This comes back even more strongly when you have an internationally recognized state. The moderate government may fall to Hamas if the Israelis don’t prove to be forthcoming on their side of the deal.
Mr. Rahman: That’s in relation to how the Palestinian Authority relates to the Palestinians and to the outside world. As far as the Palestine National Authority is concerned, it relates to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza as a state, not as an authority. The Palestinian Authority does not accept the notion that it has limited authority over the Palestinians. And therefore it deals with Hamas from a security point of view, and any other groups who challenge the legitimacy of the authority. Being a state is not going to change its relations to the Palestinians.
Dr. Kader: But the Palestinians negotiate with Hamas as equals.
Mr. Rahman: No
Dr. Kader: If you look at some of these polls, they’re saying, please take part in the elections. They’re negotiating.
Mr. Rahman: Fine. But who negotiates with Hamas? Fatah negotiates with Haman, and it is not the authority.
Dr. Segal: You’re talking in formal terms.
Mr. Rahman: In formal terms. That’s very important. I know what is happening inside. Hamas is now fragmented over this issue, and I have noticed a reduction in the influence and power of Hamas in the last three months. In public opinion in Gaza, there is a new culture, a secular culture that is expanding. Hamas is very much aware of how limited its influence is. Therefore, I’m optimistic as to Hamas’s becoming domesticated and participating in the electoral process. That’s one reason why we have to have elections very soon. The second is how Yasser Arafat relates to the international community and the international community to him. Helmut Kohl and Warren Christopher and the prime ministers of every single country in the world deal with Yasser Arafat as the president of the Palestinian people. He has a representative at the United Nations who participates in all debates and discussions—as a government—and Yasser Arafat is going to participate in the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations. It does not really make much difference to him whether he is going to be a full member of the United Nations or not, if the price he is going to pay is costly in terms of public support. And we should not forget what the Palestinian public perception in the West Bank is: You are selling the West Bank in exchange for a state in Gaza. Neither Arafat or anyone else within the Palestinian community is going to buy it.
Dr. Segal: When they did the Oslo accord, would it have been more difficult in terms of Palestinian opinion if what they agreed to in Oslo was that the Palestinians would have sovereignty over Gaza and Jericho?
Mr. Rahman: Yes. Because in Oslo the “Gaza-Jericho first” was linked to a process that within three months would lead to elections on the West Bank. It was supposed to be July 1, 1994.
Mr. Jashan: With the option of statehood down the road, according to Palestinian interpretation.
Mr. Rahman: But Gaza-Jericho first was supposed to be for three months. We move in, within three months elections are held on July 1, 1994. That is what the Palestinians have in mind-stages, steps on the road towards ultimate sovereignty. That’s what is frustrating the Palestinians in the West Bank now.
Dr. Segal: On this proposal, if there’s a Palestinian state that has sovereignty over Gaza, one of the first things that the Palestinian state does is claim sovereignty over the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Then the Israelis say, ‘We don’t recognize that claim, but we’re prepared to negotiate it with you openly.”
Mr. Rahman: But it is not linked to a timetable now.
Dr. Segal: This is not intended to be a formal document in itself, but this claim to sovereignty is laid out as one of the 20 points in the proposal.
Mr. Rahman: That’s exactly what Peres was telling Yasser Arafat and Rabin:
We will have open-ended negotiations on the West Bank in exchange for a state in Gaza.
Dr. Kader: But Arafat declares a state, and he wants the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and the Israelis say, fine, but they don’t recognize it. What do you do?
Dr. Segal: You have a dispute between two states as to who is sovereign over what territory, and you have a process for resolving the issue.
Dr. Kader: But you don’t have the recognition.
Dr. Segal: You have recognition of a Palestinian state, and you have acceptance by the Israelis that it’s sovereign over Gaza. Then you have a disagreement over who’s sovereign over certain other territories, and you have a willingness between the two states to negotiate over the question of sovereignty and the possible extension of it. It changes the framework for the permanent-status negotiations. It’s not at all an alternative to them. As far as a timetable is concerned, we still have in place the same timetable, which is to conclude permanent-status negotiations by the end of the fifth rear. It’s just that from a Palestinian point If view, the agency for carrying out those negotiations now is actually an existing state.
One point that it would be useful to address is your response to the observation I lade earlier that if you compare what one could reasonably believe will be the maximum the Palestinians will ever achieve—a recognized state that has limited sovereignty over the West Bank or limited sovereignty in both places—and you compare tat with what’s being proposed here—a recognized state, sovereignty over Gaza, and full administrative power over the West Bank—exactly what is the difference? I think there may be some important differences, but how big are they? This proposal closes the gap to be negotiated with respect the West Bank. It does not address Jerusalem, or many other issues, but it closes very substantially the gap between what they would have at the end of this proposal and what it reasonable to expect could be obtained.
Dr. Peretz: How does this process occur from today to tomorrow? Palestinians declare that they are a state?
Dr. Segal: No, this is a result of negotiations. I think it will be very complex to negotiate sovereignty even over Gaza. This is not a throw-away. We are talking about a sovereign state that has control over its own borders.
Mr. Jashan: Are you suggesting to stop the current negotiations and focus on this? Or to negotiate alongside ongoing talks?
Dr. Segal: To not even start this until what people are seeking to achieve by July I is achieved. Then there remains a year to a year and a half till the Israeli election.
Mr. Jashan: What makes you believe that in the session after July I, if everything is in place, that negotiating your proposal will be easier than jumping directly to final-status negotiations?
Dr. Segal: This is final-status negotiations. That is, a Palestinian state is a final-status issue. The question is, “What part of the final-status issues is there a possibility of concluding before the next Israeli election, and what part, if concluded, would make the biggest difference?” Crossing the line on the very existence of a Palestinian state is a final-status issue it is possible to conclude so long as sovereignty over the West Bank is held off till later. So you separate the issue of existence of the state from sovereignty over the West Bank. This is tremendously important because once you can do it, you can have formal international treaties between the two states.
Mr. Jashan: If the Palestinians engage in this, which might take two or three years, what happens to final-status issues? When do we get to Jerusalem? When do we get to the refugees and settlements?
Dr. Segal: It’s possible tomorrow, according to the DOP, to start final-status negotiations. Certainly the Israelis are obligated after May 4, 1996, to begin final-status negotiations. So in a formal sense, we will see final-status negotiations prior to the next Israeli election. My belief, though, is that there are no big final-status issues that will be resolved during that period. The resolution of most of them, whether it’s Jerusalem or settlements or refugees, will have to wait until after the Israeli election. Within that matrix, here’s one issue that’s tremendously important, that has a chance of actually being resolved before the election. And if it’s resolved before the election and Labor loses, it will turn out to have been tremendously important that this was the one that got settled before the election.
Dr. Peretz: Jerry, I’d like you to look at the negotiations of the same kind of process when the British left India and see the problems that arose in the negotiations between the British and the Indian National Congress on the establishment of India as an independent state. It’s not so simple. It’s even more complex than many final-status issues—Jerusalem, refugees and so forth. Examine any of these colonial situations where colonial powers left a territory and negotiated independence. There may be some precedents there.
Dr. Segal: Because it’s Gaza, it could be doable. But I agree with you, it’s not a simple thing. That’s the reason I have put this forward early. I don’t think it’s something that can wait until the last moment, until two months before the negotiations. Then it won’t be possible. There are final-status negotiations going on. But everybody is saying these are explorations of final-status issues, and resolution of them will wait until after the elections. But suppose they look at it somewhat differently and say, “Let’s explore the substance of the issues, most of this will have to wait until after the election, but there’s one really important piece of it, namely this one. Let’s see if we can get to a point where we can actually agree on this piece before the next Israeli elections.” That’s a very different way of looking at it. And it’s that change that I’m trying to bring about.
Dr. Peretz: But implicit when you negotiate independence is what the borders are going to be, how many troops will be there. That’s all part of negotiating independent status.
Dr. Segal: I’m not saying there’s nothing to negotiate. But if it takes longer than 12 months to negotiate that with respect to Gaza, we’re never going to negotiate the rest of it.
Mr. Jashan: Ideally, if that is achievable, and there is good will and every party abides by the deadline, I think that would improve the Palestinian position when we get to final status, if they have that notion of sovereignty. But I’m not sure if it’s achievable or whether it would complicate or makes things easier.
Dr. Peretz: What do you see as the process if everybody here agreed, taking it from here to implementing it? How would that occur?
Dr. Segal: Let’s take the issue of settlements in Gaza. If what you’re talking about is the removal of those settlements, there is an enormous implementation issue. But if what you’re talking about is the two sides agreeing that all the territory of Gaza, including the territory those settlements are on, is sovereign Palestinian territory and the Palestinians agree that this will be leased to the Israelis for three or five years, then I don’t see an insuperable implementation issue. You’re not implementing the removal of settlements, you’re agreeing on sovereign status. That’s the important thing.
Dr. Gubser: But basically a lot of the issue is just technical: the supply of electricity, water, telecommunications, whether you’re going to have labor movement.
Dr. Segal: The hard thing to implement is giving Palestinians control of their borders and what they could bring into the state—people and weapons. If the Palestinians control their own borders, hat’s a major change that’s got to be negotiated, whether it appears in any agreement or not. That’s an obstacle that must be faced in spades with respect to the West Bank.
Dr. Gubser: But they have those arts of agreements with Jordan and have since 1971, to control those borders. So it’s very doable.
Dr. Segal: There are two things that people have not said much about. Am I right that between what this proposal would achieve vis-à-vis the issues of sovereignty, limited sovereignty and so on, and what’s ultimately achievable, there may not be that great a difference? My argument is that this would be a major step forward for the Palestinians towards what they’re hoping to be able to achieve. The second point is my thesis that if Likud comes back, the likely scenario is some kind of bloodbath and that is proposal has some potential to prevent it. To me, these are the two basic arguments for the proposal, that it’s a major step forward if Labor wins and it’s a major protection against the worst possibility if Likud wins.
Dr. Gubser: On your first point, would think that establishing a sovereign state in Gaza is a major step. However, the change that we’re talking about in the West Bank is not going to be very much different from what we’re already talking about. The negotiations that are going on right now, for giving over more administrative authority to the Palestinians, are going to give them quite a bit of administrative authority. It’s certainly not sovereign authority.
Dr. Segal: The comparison is between administrative authority being exercised by the state of Palestine versus the powers that the state of Palestine will exercise in the West Bank in the final arrangements. How much of a difference is there between those two things? In both cases it’s the state of Palestine that’s doing it. In one case, it’s what you just characterized as extensive administrative authority, in the other case it’s limited sovereignty. How much of a difference is there between those two things?
Dr. Kader: It would be a death knell for Arafat to accept such a limited, narrow basis. How do you expand that? How do you give him the kernel of what it is you are talking about, without undermining him?
Dr. Gubser: I remember when they said the same thing about the DOP. He accepted it and he’s there. Arafat knows how to survive.
Dr. Mattair: He would at least need to show he had achieved some other things. He mayor may not achieve implementation of the agreement already reached, namely redeployment of Israeli military forces and elections. I think he needs to achieve at least that much, and more. He also needs to show the people that this is an agreement that made it possible to freeze Israeli settlement building. If he could show people that, they might not think that he was conceding the West Bank by accepting Gaza.
Dr. Gubser: There’s the economic issue. If they have their state in Gaza, they’re going to be in a much better position to export labor.
Dr. Segal: How about the bloodbath argument?
Mr. Jashan: I don’t think that this proposal would necessarily prevent a bloodbath from taking place. A bloodbath can also take place under the current Labor government if it continues in this pattern. It will just take a little longer.
Sen. McGovern: There’s a theory, at least in this country, that conservative governments can do things that liberal or labor governments can’t. Is it conceivable that Likud could move further in terms of a Palestinian settlement?
Dr. Segal: I think that if it’s on the level of “could,” yes.
Sen. McGovern: Is there any likelihood?
Dr. Segal: I don’t think so. Nixon, to promote U.S. national interests, could and did initiate the opening with China.
Dr. Gubser: Netanyahu is not a de Gaulle.
Dr. Segal: What makes Likud Likud is it’s opposition to Palestinian sovereignty on the West Bank.
Dr. Gubser: Remember what happened under Likud in the West Bank. You went from something like 20,000 settlers up to around 130,000. You don’t think they aren’t going to continue that process? They are.
Dr. Mattair: There were people who made the argument in 1977, when Begin won, that “maybe now a really strong Israeli leader will be able to make peace.” He did not.
Dr. Gubser: He made a partial peace.
Dr. Mattair: In Sinai, yes, but we’re talking about the West Bank. In the West Bank he did exactly what you mentioned.
Dr. Segal: The motivation for what he did with Egypt was to strengthen his hold in the territories. He knew where his priorities were. I don’t see Likud moving beyond that. For Likud the raison d’être is not a million people in the territories; it is to prevent Palestinian sovereignty over the West Bank.
Dr. Peretz: That could be gotten around, even if this takes place, by Likud’s reaching some type of agreement in which you have small Palestinian enclaves that would be called a state, similar to the kind of arrangement that South Africa had.
Dr. Segal: The Palestinians would never accept it.
Dr. Peretz: That’s why it would be important to define the boundaries in an agreement that calls for sovereignty. Without defining boundaries, sovereignty doesn’t mean anything.
Dr. Segal: You would define the boundaries where it’s sovereign, but where it would be sovereign under this agreement would be initially in Gaza and Jericho.
Mr. Jashan: There are only two ways to sell this to the Palestinians. One is by defining the boundary of the sovereign entity from the very beginning or by describing it as transitional sovereignty and then stating their usual clause, “without jeopardizing the future.”
Dr. Segal: It’s something of the latter sort that I put into the proposal. Israel would recognize that there’s a right to Palestinian self-determination, and the Palestinian state would assert its sovereignty over all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel would not freak out over that, but say that this is what we’re here to negotiate over. We’re two states; you have certain claims to sovereignty; we recognize some of those claims, and others are up for negotiation.
Mr. Jashan: I think Arafat would be able to sell such a proposal only if it clearly states that it doesn’t jeopardize Palestinian claims to the rest of the territories.
Dr. Segal: (Postscript) This has proved an extremely interesting exchange, and I am grateful to all of the participants for their participation.
However, in studying the transcript, I am struck by something odd about the tenor of our discussion. It is a bit hard to characterize, but it seems to me that there is a failure to appreciate the magnitude of what it is for what it is for a Palestinian state to come into existence even if initially it exercises sovereignty only in Gaza and Jericho. Perhaps this is because in the discussion I emphasized the importance of this proposal as a means to avoid a resurgent settlement drive and a resulting bloodbath should Likud win the next election. But I have also found it a common reaction in other conversations.
From what does such diminished enthusiasm with respect to sovereignty over Gaza emerge? Let me suggest several possible strands:
- The tendency to say, “Essentially, the Palestinians already have a state in Gaza; all we are talking about is words.”
- The tendency to say, “Well, Palestinian statehood in Gaza is inevitable; even Likud will not re-occupy Gaza.”
- The tendency to view Gaza as such a forsaken place that sovereignty over it hardly is an accomplishment.
- An overactive fear that Gaza-first will mean Gaza-last.
- A failure to see the ways in which having a Palestinian state with Gazan sovereignty can enhance the ability of Palestinians to successfully negotiate the other issues.
This postscript is not the place to analyze these matters, but a few things should be pointed out. First, there is today no Palestinian state in Gaza. Ultimately, Gaza, because it is on the Mediterranean, will be the central point through which Palestinians come and go into the wider world. The West Bank will always remain an enclave enclosed by Israel and Jordan, two states that together will keep a very close eye on what happens within that enclave.
In Gaza today, Palestinians do not control their link to the outside. They do not determine who or what comes in and goes out. They do not determine their own political institutions or their own policies with respect to citizenship and elections. These are all subject to point-by-point negotiation with Israel.
It will be no small thing for Israel to agree to sovereignty over Gaza, and to thus abandon the various forms of control that are incompatible with Palestinian sovereignty. This itself will be a hard negotiation, and will prefigure the negotiation of the analogous issues with respect to West Bank territory. If they can be successfully negotiated with respect to Gaza, we will be a long step towards their resolution elsewhere.
If Likud comes back, it is true that they will not wish to re-occupy Gaza, but that does not mean that they will accept true Palestinian sovereignty over Gaza. Yes, Palestinians do have a unilateral option. It will be possible to proclaim sovereignty over Gaza and to fulfill the promise of the 1988 Declaration of Independence by announcing that the Palestinian Authority is the government of a newly formed state of Palestine; and yes, there will be many countries that will offer recognition as such. Yet, unless Israel agrees to it, this will not carry with it access to the sea. Nor without Israeli recognition will there be recognition by the United States. Instead there will be a renewed American campaign to block European recognition and admission to international bodies.
Such a unilateral strategy is rich in its possibilities, but it must clearly be seen as less desirable than attaining, in the coming year, voluntary Israeli and American recognition and support.
In many discussions of this issue, I see a strange dichotomy between a tendency toward inevitability (“Even with Likud there will be a Palestinian state”; “There is no going back”; “If the intifada restarts, it will mean the downfall of the Likud government”) and a fear of paralysis (“If we accept a state in Gaza, we will get stuck there”; “Getting rid of Gaza, taking it off Israel’s hands is the only card we have”).
Reality lies in between. A Palestinian state is not inevitable, and achieving such a state with initial sovereignty over Gaza/Jericho does not strip the Palestinians of their ability to press their efforts for sovereignty over the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Indeed, it offers significant advantages: It lifts the negotiations to the level of an inter-state negotiation with the status of the two parties one of formal equality. It eliminates the issue of whether there will be a Palestinian state and even the issue of whether that state will playa governmental role in the West Bank. It replaces these issues with a different question: What is the exact magnitude of the governmental powers to be exercised by the state of Palestine within the West Bank? At what point does that state’s actual control sufficiently correspond to its claim of de jure sovereignty so as to make that claim a credible representation of reality?
In those negotiations, as well as the negotiations over Jerusalem, there may be some distinct advantage if the Israeli public comes to see them as true international negotiations with a bordering state, a state that by virtue of history and demography has powerful claims to set alongside claims made by Israel. Viewed as such; those most difficult negotiations will tend towards a give-and-take between parties of equal standing, rather than concessions that Israel makes to an insurgent population and an ambiguous authority of its own partial creation.
Indeed, it may well be that the proposal I have put forward will founder because the Israeli side will see it as giving the Palestinians too much, too soon, and in exchange for too little. But it would be unfortunate if it foundered because Palestinians failed to appreciate what is achieved, advanced and protected by moving to sovereignty and statehood, even while the interim period continues.