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Home > Special Topics > Europe Report Last Updated: 15:16 03/09/2007
Europe Report #93: June 11, 2004

Debating Israeli's New Disengagement Plan – Part Two

Afif Safieh (Palestinian General Delegate to the United Kingdom and the Holy See)
Nassar Jibril (Palestinian National Foundation)
Arthur Goodman (Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Royal Institute of International Affairs)
Mordechay Cristal (Member of the Israeli Delegation to the Permanent Status Peace Talks at Camp David and Taba)

For part one of this discussion can be found here

Nassar Jibril:…Afif you have spoken about what attitude the international community should have towards the [disengagement] plan. This question is assuming that Sharon will be going ahead with his plan. His reasons for going ahead are different from my reasons [for supporting it]. I want the Gaza Strip because I believe it is my national right, but Sharon wants to get rid of the Gaza Strip probably for reasons of demographics. Are the Palestinians ready to take responsibility for the Gaza Strip? Is the Palestinian Authority ready to manage control and sovereignty in the area?

Afif Safieh, Palestinian General Delegate to the United Kingdom and the Holy SeeAfif Safieh: Yes, the Palestinian Authority [is ready] however skeptical it is about the approach of Mr. Sharon and his deviousness and indeed credibility as well as the respectability of this plan. If ever Israel withdraws from any occupied territory or dismantles or evacuates any settlements, it's our duty and responsibility to take over and assume control in the most impeccable manner.

I am happy to report that there is now an intensive inter-factional dialogue that is taking place which is constantly constructive and not intermittent. I believe that from the opposition parties we are having more commitment to accept the validity of the Palestinian Authority and [we are] not seeing the political parties as the competitors of the central government, etcetera. We still have a chaotic situation because the entire territory, left, right and centre of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are now under total occupation. But, if progress occurs however minute or big, we the Palestinian Authority, we will assume responsibility. We are encouraged by the constructive nature of the dialogue with the factions in which we are now engaged.

Arthur Goodman: You [Mordechay] have said that if the international community could support what you call Sharon's disengagement plan, including the Arab world [then it will have a chance of success]. I find it very difficult to see how the Arab world could support the plan in its present form. In its present form the plan gets rid of Gaza, which Israel would love, but keeps huge parts of the West Bank, which they would also love. I don't see how any outside party, except perhaps Mr. Bush, could actually support that. So, how could this support come about while the plan is in its present form?

Mordechay Cristal: First, I think there are no other alternatives. If there is another plan in town – a workable plan – please put it forward. The Road Map is a bit dusty, I would say. It has the same structural failures as every accord since Oslo. It is frail, it is conditional, it is vague. It allows the extremists on both sides to stop this process. If there is another plan, please put it forward. This is process, yesterday's decision [6 June 2004] means that the Israeli government has embarked on a process.

I spent three days in Glencree, a peace and reconciliation centre outside Dublin, where I tried to learn lessons from both [sides of the] conflict. I sat with a group of people from Ulster and asked them, "Tell me, 15 years down the road, what will Northern Ireland look like?" I got 15 different answers, but there was consistency in one thing. All the participants were committed to the peace process. They said, "We don't know where it will lead us, but we know we do not want to fight." This is what they said.

So, if we see this plan as phase one and if we can change this idea of what you [the Palestinians] deserve – and I haven't heard what we [the Israelis] deserve – but if we agree on some guiding principles of international law and justice and acknowledgement of national rights. Let's not state very clearly the boundaries of the variables. Let's start and move there.

As for statehood and statesmanship. Sharon said last week by the end of 2005, there will be no single Jew in the Gaza Strip. He said it in Hebrew. If Chairman Arafat would say in Arabic a sentence like…"If Israel were to fully withdraw from Gaza, there will be no single Kassan [rocket] fired from Gaza to Israel." It's a very modest declaration…then we can talk about statesmanship.

What was in the decision last night [6 June 2004]? There were three elements. First, it approves the overall disengagement plan. Second, it orders a planned structured process. Mainly with regard to the compensation for the [Israeli] settlements. If I was talking about a system, a key factor which brought down the conflict resolution process in 2002 was the lack of support with which both [former Israel prime minister] Barak and Arafat arrived at Camp David with. [Third], when we negotiate such a tough resolution, we need as leaders to take care that their constituencies are behind [them]…It calls for negotiations across the table, behind the table. It is a fundamental in managing this complex system.

This [disengagement] plan now focuses on the internal, behind the table Israeli negotiations with the settlers. It's a planned process. Many things could be done during this process with the international community with Palestinians in Gaza, in Ramallah, wherever and with the Egyptians.

If you think to yourself, "Well, why do they need to negotiate? They occupied the West Bank and Palestine in six days." I promise you, we can. Luckily, we are a democracy [maybe according to Afif] a Banana Republic, but still a democracy. We can order the evacuation of the Gaza Strip in five days, but I promise you it would be the end of the evacuation for the next 100 years. Because the process would be so traumatic.

If we want to gain support, yes I would expect you [Afif/the Palestinians] to take care of my internal voices because I know that your internal voices and the opposition that Arafat faces is as crucial as is any other element for me, if I want to resolve it. So, I will not evacuate it in one day or four days, I will evacuate it in a planned process over three over four months and negotiate with them [the settlers].

The above discussion took place at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London on 7 June 2004

For part one of this discussion can be found here

For part three of this discussion can be found here


Sharon forges on after Gaza vote
BBC News, 7 June 2004

Sharon's banana republics
Afif Safieh, The Guardian, 19 April 2004

Challenges facing the Arab World
J. Sean Curtin, Europe Report #90, 4 June 2004

The People's Voice Initiative and Israeli Settlements
J. Sean Curtin, Europe Report #88, 25 May 2004

Unilateral Disengagement and Reaction to Sharon's Proposals
Europe Report #81, 28 April 2004

Moderate Palestinian Prime Minister Visits London
Europe Report #72, 11 March 2004

Impact of American Middle East Policy on Iran and Iraq
Europe Report #86, 18 May 2004

Japan to Polish its Tarnished Middle East Image
Asia Times, 5 May 2004

Rejoinder to Comments on "Japan to Polish its Tarnished Middle East Image"
J. Sean Curtin, Debates, GLOCOM Platform, 26 May 2004

The Future of Saudi-Japanese Relations and Oil Consumption
Europe Report #89, 1 June 2004

Sharon Administration's View of Europe and the Arab World
Europe Report #83, 30 April 2004

Sharon's View of the Arab World
Europe Report #82, 28 April 2004

Japan Exorcises the Ghosts of Terrorism Past
Asia Times, 19 April 2004

Iraq Hostage Crisis Signals Turning Point for Japan
Asia Times, 14 April 2004

Bush Hails 'Historic' Sharon Plan
BBC News, 14 April 2004

Iraq Hostage Crisis Signals Turning Point for Japan
Asia Times, 14 April 2004

British UN Insider Thinks New UN Mandate in Iraq Likely after June
Europe Report #77, 1 April 2004

British UN Adviser Says Iraq a One-off Event
Europe Report #78, 1 April 2004

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