Day 21 - Talking Peace

Negotiations over disposition of the “Holy Land” have progressed for almost a hundred years, beginning with the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 and the Balfour Declaration of 1917.   Along the way there have been critical UN Resolutions in 1947 and 1948 and again at the time of the 1967 and 1973 Wars.  Famous negotiations are remembered by their locations: Camp David, Oslo, and Geneva to name a few. 

In 1993 the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the PLO was signed, stating:

“The Government of the State of Israel and the Palestinian team representing the Palestinian people agree that it is time to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict, recognize their mutual legitimate and political rights, and strive to live in peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement and historic reconciliation through the agreed political process.”

The process that was adopted promised a permanent peace agreement within five years.  When this did not happen, the “Quartet Plan for Palestine (Road Map)” was established in 2002, and the Geneva Accords were ratified in 2003.  Now, a decade later, the “Quartet” (The U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the U.N.) remain the recognized facilitators for a peace settlement.  However, the peace process languishes without an agreement in sight, and direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standoff.

Here is a brief primer by the Council on Foreign Relations on the key years of peace negotiations. 1993-2005: http://www.cfr.org/israel/middle-east-peace-plans-background/p7736#p5

One of the key conditions of the “Road map of 2002” was:  “Palestinians would halt violence, stop funding terrorist groups, begin political reforms (including drafting a constitution), and hold elections. Israel would freeze settlement activity and begin to withdraw from occupied territories as terrorism receded.”  

Despite the agreement, Israel has continued to massively expand settlements despite protests from the U.S. and the international community.  The Palestinian Authority refuses to continue negotiations without a cessation of settlement construction.  A report with maps by the Foundation for Middle East Peace helpfully demonstrates how settlements are a major obstacle to peace.   Here is the link:

http://fmep.org/resources/publications-1/FMEP%20map%20progression%20presentation.pdf

As we toured East Jerusalem and traveled in the “Occupied Territories,” our seminar group was alarmed by both the vast network of settlements and especially by their permanence. 

Just this week a report was disclosed of plans by the Israeli Military for a 10 percent further expansion of settlements on the West Bank:

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-defense-ministry-plan-earmarks-10-percent-of-west-bank-for-settlement-expansion-1.421589

Today’s blog provides some highlights of the history of peace negotiations and the missed opportunities along the way.  Most people we talked with want a two-state solution, but at the same time they are losing hope that it will ever happen. 

Tomorrow we will look at the challenges and possibilities for an agreement.