Polls: Israeli Public Opinion on Land and Population Swaps for Peace

January 30, 2011


Many questions have been raised in the last week about the so-called Palestine Papers leaked to Al Jazeera and the Guardian newspaper. The collection of over 16,000 seemingly official documents purportedly reveal salient details of meetings, emails, and other communications between Israeli, Palestinian, and American negotiators between 2000 and 2010.

Most commentators have focused on the concessions the Palestinian Authority supposedly offered to the Israelis to secure a peace settlement. Significantly less attention has been paid to what Israeli diplomats in these meetings are recorded as considering or offering. One of the most interesting observations in this respect was a proposal by Tzipi Livni in 2008 to transfer the Israeli Arab towns of Barta’a, Baka al-Garbiyeh, and Beit Safafa, situated along the Green Line, to Palestinian control. This approach, which has been publically disallowed by Kadima, has notable similarities with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s peace plan.

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Geneva Initiative Border Tour

October 7, 2010


Today I joined some 40 foreign nationals for a tour put on by the Geneva Initiative illustrating the group’s proposed territorial partition of the West Bank and Jerusalem. The tour was led by former head of the “Peace Administration” under PM Ehud Barak, Col (Res.) Shaul Arieli, who also serves as the initiative’s chief cartographer.

The focus of the tour was on two issues where the initiative directs much of its attention: Land swaps in the West Bank and the partition of Jerusalem. For Jerusalem, they sought to highlight the differences between terms like the sacred or historic basin, the Old City, East Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Envelope, and so on. As for the larger question of the West Bank, Arieli emphasized the differences between the official Palestinian demands generally understood to be in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 242, and the Israeli position which takes into account facts on the ground, namely the reality of Jewish settlement.

Much of this post will follow specific geographic details for which a map would be quite useful. I suggest opening up a copy of the Geneva Initiative’s proposed map by clicking on the image above or here for a full selection of detailed maps. Enjoy following along.

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Geneva Initiative Conference, Part 2: Ehud Olmert

September 22, 2010


Welcome to part two of my post about the Geneva Convention’s 19 September conference, Israel and the Palestinians: Decision Time. In the previous post, I summed up the talks given by three Israeli academic voices, Matti Steinberg, Tal Becker, and Tamar Hermann. In this post, I will over a summary and broad analysis of the keynote address given by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

By way of introduction, Geneva Initiative Director General Gadi Baltiansky noted that it is the belief of the initiative and its supporters that it is in Israel’s primary interest to come to a decision regarding peace with the Palestinians by way of a diplomatic agreement. However, by failing to come to a decision, this is also a decision of sorts. Without taking the risk of making an agreement, Israel may be taking a greater risk in terms of further harming its international legitimacy, domestic stability, and national future. With regard to Mr. Olmert, he admitted that he and most of the audience has certainly not agreed with everything that he has said in the past, nor everything which he was likely to present that day. That said, Israelis must be thankful for his service to the country and take time to listen to how the former PM has learned from the past and introduced new ideas for the future.

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Geneva Initiative Conference: Israel and the Palestinians – Decision Time, Part 1

September 20, 2010


Yom Kippur ended here in Israel on Saturday evening, and we were already back to business as usual the next day. Cramming in a quick, high-profile event between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, on Sunday the Geneva Initiative hosted a conference in Tel Aviv entitled “Israel and the Palestinians: Decision Time.”

Featured speakers included Dr. Matti Steinberg, a former senior government security advisor, Dr. Tal Becker, a former member of Israel’s negotiating team with the Palestinians, and Professor Tamar Hermann, co-director of the “Peace Index”. The closing address was given by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who walked right past me as he headed up to the stage. This is the closest I have ever been to a former head of state; it was kind of cool. More academically productive, I am now in touch with his spokesperson and am attempting to arrange an interview with Mr. Olmert in the near future.

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Quick Update: Reading and Interviews

September 15, 2010

In this 10 day period between the first of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, one is meant to reflect on the previous year, do teshuva (make amends) for past mistakes, and make new commitments to contribute to the betterment of one’s family, community, and world. Between these activities of personal renewal, I, of course, have remained quite busy.

After returning from Yeshivat HaMivtar, where I spent a truly wonderful Rosh Hashana and Shabbat with my cousins, I got right back to work. Over the last week, I have finished up Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People, for which I hope to post a review in the coming week. I also finished a book put out by the World Zionist Organization in the late 1970s entitled Whose Homeland? a collection of essays on Jewish biblical and halakhic connections and obligations with regard to the Land of Israel and the political consequences of these factors. I plan to write a short piece here summarizing these perspectives in the next week or so. Finally, I have begun reading a famous Israeli collection of reflections by soldiers on the 1967 Six Day War, entitled The Seventh Day: Soldiers’ Talk about the Six-Day War.

Aside from reading, I have also been pushing forward with more interviews. Today, I spoke with Pinchas Wallerstein, one of the early founders of Gush Emunim and, until quite recently, the director of the Yesha Council. This interview was particularly interesting and engaging not only because of the subject matter but because it was the first which I conducted almost entirely in Hebrew. It was a challenge but I got a lot out of it. Expect a full post on our conversation soon. Tomorrow, I will be meeting with Yoram Ettinger, a former consul general to the United States who now is deeply engaged in the demographic debate in Israel.

Friday afternoon, Yom Kippur begins and I will be off the grid for a short while. Then, on Sunday evening, I will be heading back to Tel Aviv for a conference put on by the Geneva Initiative at which the former Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, will be the keynote speaker. Other speakers include Dr. Matti Steinberg, a former senior government security advisor, Dr. Tal Becker, a former member of Israel’s negotiating team with the Palestinians, and Professor Tamar Hermann, co-director of the “Peace Index”. No rest for the weary. Happy New Year indeed! 🙂

Interview with Yossi Beilin

August 19, 2010


On Tuesday, I took the train from Tel Aviv to Herzliya to meet with Yossi Beilin, a high-profile leftist Israeli political figure and former head of the Meretz party. He is best known for his active involvement in the negotiation of the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 2003 Geneva Initiative. In 2008, he chose not to seek a place on the Meretz ticket and has since moved into the private sector. He now heads up an global networking company, Beilink, headquartered in Herzliya but remains an active voice in politics in support of a negotiated peace settlement with the Palestinians.

Diving right into our conversation, I asked him why he believed that there has not yet been a comprehensive peace settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians. He expressed that he could not be certain, but that in order to achieve peace both sides will have to give up on certain critical principles. For the Palestinians, he identified the critical principle in question as being the return of refugees. For Israel, he believes, it is the division of Jerusalem. For both sides, he asserted, these are issues on which their respective constituencies demand that their leadership makes no compromise.

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Interview with Geneva Initiative

August 16, 2010


My first interview today was with Michal Radoshitzky, the director of foreign relations for the Geneva Initiative, an organization which promotes domestically and internationally the model permanent status agreement to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Launched in December 2003, negotiated under the lead of former Israeli and Palestinian Authority government ministers Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo respectively, the accord addressed and proposed comprehensive solutions to “all issues vital to ensuring the end of the conflict”.

The document directly addresses key issues: namely Jerusalem, refugees, borders, and security proposing general plans for each. Since 2003, the organization has continued its consultations with its sister Palestinian organization based in Ramallah and developed out more specific ideas and strategies, both for resolution of the conflict and for the negotiation process itself. Many of these documents are available on their website. As always, Wikipedia offers a short summary as well.

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