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The Swiss Agreement: A Promise or a Pretense?

The Swiss Agreement: A Promise or a Pretense?

By Ramzy Baroud

The “Swiss Agreement”, thus far a symbolic peace initiative devised by ex-Israeli and Palestinian officials, embodies the perfect formula for an equally emblematic remedy to the Arab-Israeli conflict. As far as any association with reality is concerned, the agreement, as also seen by many Palestinians and Israelis, is another charade, whose only objective is to gratify the political fervor of the “publicity hounds”, as described by a Palestinian opposition leader.

Even before the hungry eyes probed the agreement’s blueprint, mistrust flared; even before the Israeli Labor Party’s media offices mailed out hundreds of thousands of copies to every Israeli household, the Sharon government was able to conclude that the agreement “reeked with bad odor.”

While the Israeli right has an abundance of reasons to feel threatened by the Geneva “breakthrough” – on political, ideological and religious grounds - Palestinian skeptics’ mulled over the peace proposal using another framework: the last time they rejoiced for a similar ‘breakthrough’, they forfeited more territories to Israeli settlements and militarized zones at yet a more rapid pace. In fact, since the last breakthrough in Oslo, in September 1993, the number of Israeli Jewish settlers in the Occupied Territories has doubled in number.

One can assertively claim that in order for the Swiss Agreement to endure, it must, and without any reservation, manifest itself as an essentially distinct initiative from Oslo and its offspring, whose wretched failure is conclusive. Oslo’s ills are many; it spurned international law, failed to realize a tangible mechanism of executing the agreement, stipulated no accountability, undermined issues perceived fundamental by Palestinians, among other hindrances. But Oslo’s most notable shortcoming was failing to address the historic injustice imposed on the indigenous population of Palestine; in fact, the grotesque history of injustice experienced by the Palestinian people was reduced to a mere ‘dispute’, whose solution demanded the victim to surrender to the calamities of fate. Israel still argued that the Palestinian refugee problem was not their creation, thus they shouldn’t face the brunt of its resolve.

A glimpse of what the Swiss Agreement partakers are promising is a case in point. "For the first time in history, the Palestinians explicitly and officially recognized the state of Israel as the (exclusive) state of the Jewish people forever. They gave up the right of return to the state of Israel and a solid, stable Jewish majority was guaranteed,” writes Amram Mitzna, the former Israeli Labor Party leader, in the Israeli Ha’aretz daily newspaper. Mitzna boasts over the ever-willing Palestinian side’s concession to keep major Jerusalem and West Bank settlements intact - in violation of the Fourth Geneva Conventions: “None of the settlers in those areas will have to leave their homes."

Mamduh Nawfal, a political advisor to Yasser Arafat is also counting the blessings of the agreement. However, according to Nawfal’s commentary in Al-Hayat, his gains remain sentimental, almost in their entirety, some of which are: “The reconsideration of peace forces within the two parties; the reconsideration of the Palestinian peace plan; it provided a new realistic project around which international forces can find a ground of concurrence; it limited the polarization in Israel based on pursuing the occupation of the Palestinian people; the document proved that there is a Palestinian partner in establishing real peace; it confirmed that Sharon's claim according to which there is no political solution to the struggle is wrong.”

The Oslo sham is reborn in Geneva; the Israelis are to gain peace and security, to legitimize their racially-inspired democracy, to ensure and sustain their territorial gains in the Occupied Territories, while Palestinians will indulge in symbols: the moral victory of Arafat over Sharon and the emergence of the PA as a relevant peace partner, and so on.

Even as the Swiss Agreement has, flatteringly referred to a “lasting” peace, it refrained from uprightly tackling what a permanent peace truthfully entails: a comprehensive just solution to those who endured the brunt of the conflict for over five decades, Palestinian refugees longing to return, a right supported by a United Nations resolution. Granted, peace also entails compromise, but compromise should not require the near complete sacking of one’s aspirations. The agreement’s demand on Palestinians to barter their refugees’ – 60 percent of the total Palestinian population – right of return, in exchange of curtailed and qualified sovereignty over 10-20 percent of historic Palestine will doubtfully extract mass approval from the Palestinian population.

If the goal of the Swiss Agreement is to restore lost hope, then triumph is probable, yet brief. If a “lasting” solution is indeed the intent, then genuine Palestinians and Israelis – neither shortsighted nor self-seeking - must work diligently to redress the agreement, and past agreements’ shortcomings, without secrecy and without unwarranted barter. A just peace should not be subject to the haggles of Middle East bazaars, should be based on a gallant, even revolutionary rectification of past and present injustices, many of which, the Swiss Agreement seems to entirely discount under the all familiar ruse of “necessary concessions.”


- Ramzy Baroud is an American-Arab journalist and author. He is the editor-in-chief of Palestine Chronicle and a researcher for the Qatar-based Aljazeera Net English.

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