t Expo 2000 in Hanover the Israeli and
Palestinian stands were located in adjacent exhibition halls.
The Israeli stand boasted possibly the worst slogan in the
entire exhibition: 'From Holyland to Whole-E land'. The Palestinian
stand, less high tech and self-congratulatory, was laid out
as a simplified model of the walled Old City of Jerusalem,
with its gates, churches and mosques.
The message was plain to see; Jerusalem is integral to the
Palestinians self-vision of their nation and their state-in-the-making
and Hanover wasn't the only place where it was being stated.
However the Israelis chose to ignore it. Jerusalem was the
issue that broke the Camp David summit in July. And the renewed
Palestinian intifada that broke out at the end of September
was unleashed by the decision of Israeli opposition leader
Ariel Sharon to go for a pre-New Year stroll on the Temple
Mount / Haram al Sharif in the Old City, with the little matter
of a thousand security officers to keep him company.
Jerusalem was one of the issues that was not solved by the
Oslo agreement, but it was instead put off until 'final status
talks'. These were postponed time after time, but at last
got underway at Camp David in July. The shape of the agreement
that might have emerged from Camp David is fairly clear, and
is not dissimilar to the famous Beilin /Abu Mazen agreement,
which was concluded, but never acknowledged, at the time of
and immediately after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in
1995 and 1996. Most of the West Bank and Gaza would become
a Palestinian state. The exceptions were to be areas with
high concentrations of settlements, which would be annexed
to Israel. Other settlements would be within the Palestinian
state, but Israel would be responsible for their security.
Most of Jerusalem, including the Old City would remain in
Israeli hands. However Palestinians would get some neighbourhoods
and would have some rights on the Temple Mount / Haram al
Sharif, including a tunnel from the Mount to Palestinian areas.
There would be no general right to return for refugees and
their descendants displaced in 1948, but there would be some
token resettlement and a compensation fund, as well as an
international effort involving Europe and America. As commentator
Akiva Eldar said "the assumption is that most of the
refugees will prefer to get on the first plane to Montreal
than wait in line for the bus to the employment office in
Umm al Fahm (an Arab town in Israel)." (Ha'aretz 23rd
The Camp David deal was peace of a kind, but not a just peace,
rather it reflected the unequal relations on the ground. It
was not sure that either side could sell it to their respective
constituencies. In the run up to Camp David Barak was deserted
by most of his coalition partners and left with a minority
government. As for Arafat, when he returned without an agreement,
having resisted American pressure to sign, he was hailed as
a hero. But the message of the Palestinian street has been
shown decisively in the new uprising; it rejects Camp David.
It rejects the occupation and the associated closures and
checkpoints and house demolitions and uprooting of olive groves
for bypass roads for Jewish settlements.
There are many features of the current uprising which are
qualitatively different from what has gone before. Unlike
the Intifada, where the Palestinians were unarmed, the current
disturbances have drawn in the Palestinian police force, which
is armed, but no match for Israel. However, like its predecessor,
the 2000 Intifada has involved children throwing stones; and
this accounts for the large number of children among the casualties.
Isolated Jewish settlements have been particular targets;
many shootings have occurred at the settlement of Netzarim
in the Gaza Strip; an outpost of some tens of families next
to a city of a million. For the first time since 1948 the
Palestinian Arabs who are Israeli citizens have been drawn
into the disturbances, particularly at the start, with disturbances
in mixed cities such as Haifa and Jaffa and in Israeli Arab
towns such as the aforementioned Umm el Fahm. There have been
anti-Arab riots in Nazareth and Tel Aviv, which as the Israeli
peace movement Gush Shalom said, would have been recognisable
as pogroms to anyone in nineteenth century Russia. Equally
there was the ugly incident of two Israeli army reservists
who lost their way being lynched in the Palestinian controlled
town of Ramallah.
The Israelis within the Green Line could shut the previous
Intifada out; except when they had to do reserve duty in the
Gaza or Ramallah. However it is becoming increasingly hard
to ignore the current uprising in the same way. The latest
settlement to come under attack is Gilo, one of the new neighbourhoods
of Jerusalem constructed in the area annexed in 1967, indistinguishable
from any other neighbourhood in Jewish Jerusalem. Psychologically,
that is a lot harder to shut out than shootings in Nablus
or Ramallah, even though the latter may be much greater in
What is likely to happen now ? If there is to be no agreement,
unilateral action by one side or the other seems more and
more likely. A unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state
on or around November 15th, accompanied, or preceded, by unilateral
Israeli action to enforce separation.
As I write, coalition negotiations are going on which could
lead to an emergency government with Sharon as a member. According
to an article in Ha'aretz (23rd October 2000) Sharon considers
that Israel should hang onto all the West Bank it can; it
should not evacuate any settlements and Israel should deploy
troops in the Jordan Valley. The Palestinians would be left
with 42% of the West Bank and none of Jerusalem.
What Barak has in mind is not yet clear, but plans are being
drawn up to impose a unilateral economic separation, in the
fields of trade, infrastructure and labour markets. The territories
provide Israeli with a labour pool, they are dependent on
it for their water and electricity.
However a closure, whilst it deprives Palestinians of their
livelihood and supplies, and would in effect be economic warfare
also deprives settlers of their umbilical cord. Israeli commentators
have begun to conclude that isolated Israeli settlements in
Palestinian areas, such as Netzarim in the Gaza Strip or the
few hundred settlers in Hebron may well be indefensible at
the time of a popular uprising. Some, such as Shlomo Gazit,
a former co-ordinator of the Israeli army in the territories,
have started to argue that the cleanest, and the most just
solution, would involve the evacuation of all 170,000 settlers
from beyond the Green Line.
For the Palestinians, the best hope seems to be to hope that
international pressure will force Israel to give ground on
Barak's 'final offer' at Camp David. This would have to involve
more substantial compromise on Jerusalem and evacuation of
such outlying settlements. In other words, more of a just,
as well as potentially more durable, peace than Israel has
been prepared to concede without the uprising. But at time
of writing peace of any sort seems far away. It would be a
bleak irony if the one gainer from the whole situation turned
out to be Sharon, whose preferred solution seems a recipe
for, in the words of one commentator in Ha'aretz, Algeria
in the territories and Bosnia within the Green Line.