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“Readings in the Geneva Accords:
In the Context of International Law and Local Politics”
The conference under the above mentioned title was held on Saturday 21 November 2003 (2:00- 8:30 pm) in Ramallah at Grand Park Hotel.
The Accords, an informal political document that has pretensions to represent a blueprint of the possible political agreement between the Palestinian and the Israeli sides, arouse wide interest amongst the Palestinian public.
-Mr. Qadoura Fares, Minister in the Palestinian Government and member of the Palestinin team at the negotiations leading to the Geneva Accords, and member of the Fateh leadership.
-Dr. Monique Chemillier-Gendrau, Professor of International Law- France
-Mr. Tayseer Arouri- Lecturer of Physics - Birzeit University, and member of the reference committee to the Madrid process
-Mr. Mamdouh Nofal- Palestinian politician and advisor to President on strategic issues
-Dr. Helga Baumgarten- Professor of Political science at Birzeit University
-Dr. George Giacaman – Professor of Philosophy at Birzeit University and the director of Muwatin, the Palestinian Institute for the study of Democracy.
Around 200 persons participated in the conference from different sectors of Palestinian society including political elites, legal community, people involved in the economic and social spheres, university teachers, students, researchers, consultants, members of the Palestinian Legislative and National Councils, representatives of political groups, unions, governmental and non-governmental institutions, foreign institutions, and interested press reporters.
The symposium was divided into two parts:
1.The Geneva Accords in the Context of International Law and the Palestinian Negotiating Position.
2.The Geneva Accords and its relation with the Palestinian Future.
A general discussion was opened after each part, which included the comments and questions from the participants and responses from the speakers.
IoL’s Opening Speech:
Dr. Mudar Kassis opened the symposium by declaring its goal, emphasizing the Institute of Law’s role to contribute to the discussion of issues tackling the future of the Palestinian nation especially that such a document claims to be a blueprint of a potential international treaty that would end the Palestinian Israeli conflict.
Another goal was to strengthen subjective mechanisms that guarantee discussing the Geneva Document logically and reasonably. Dr. Kassis exposed the symposium program and subjects and quoted the point of view of Professor Sherif Bassiouni of De Paul University Law School.
The first paper: a presentation of the Geneva Accord
In the introduction Mr. Qadoura Fares presented a historical background of the negotiating relations between the Palestinians and Israelis in the framework of the discussions relating to ending the conflict.
He also pointed out the most important option presented currently present, namely the existence of two states for two nations. The most important distinction between the Geneva Document and other documents is that it tackles the most sensitive and substantial issues, in addition to the fact that it includes better ideas than in Camp David and Taba etc.
On the other hand, concerning the Palestinian political situation, Qadoura observed that there is a gap between the political program of The Palestinian National Movement and the political speech of the Palestinian leadership.
One of the main issues tackled in the document analysis was the issue of land. According to the document, the Palestinian state would be established on 97.4% of the land occupied on June 4th 1967, and there would be an exchange of land for the remaining 2.6%. The issues of borders refugees are also addressed.
The second paper: Readings in the Geneva Document in the Context of International Law
Dr. Monique Chemillier-Gendrau presented the Geneva Document from the perspective of International Law. Dr. Gendrau considered that the document contains the right of people to self-determination and sovereignty, in accordance with international law, in the preamble of this more advanced document.
On the other hand, the focal point of this agreement is the issue of land, sovereignty, and the right of return. Concerning land, it was noted that the transfer and concession of lands could only be implemented with Palestinian approval, which has not actually been done. Ultimately, the concessions that have already been made (1948 lands, 1967 lines) are political and not approved legally.
Moreover, regarding sovereignty, it was noted that the agreement placed some limitations on a Palestinian state, one of them being that Palestine would be an unarmed state, fact that deprives it in the future from defending itself, which is contrary to the UN Charter. Additionally, the right of return is considered a human right, as declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the year 1948, which was approved by Israel.
The Geneva Agreement also sacrifices the right of return, which opposes international law. Concerning the Compensation Law, it addresses judging war criminals, indicating that legal action must be sustained in this field.
Gendrau concluded that the most important thing is to focus on the issues of sovereignty before tackling other issues.
The third paper: A Comparison between the Geneva Document and The Palestinian Negotiating Position in the Madrid- Washington negotiations:
To begin, Mr. Tayseer Arouri highlighted the method of dealing with the document, as the document has not been published yet in the Arabic language. This should be done to enable Palestinians to judge it, and there should be transparency during the stage of preparing the document to be publicized and examined.
In comparison, the Madrid- Washington methodology had its foundations in the transitional period, which resulted in many issues being postponed, such as borders, the status of Jerusalem, settlements and refugees.
The Geneva Document, on the other hand, related to the conditions and matters that must be present to guarantee reaching the final stage of negotiations.
Finally, it was mentioned that comparing this document with other documents gives the opportunity to benefit from previous lessons, such as ensuring that the document is clear and detailed.
The fourth paper: Reading in Geneva Document from a Strategic Point of View:
In the introduction, Mr. Mamdooh Nofal mentioned that despite the fact that the Geneva Document doesn’t fulfill all the rights guaranteed in International Law, and has many gaps and omissions it is still considered a realistic solution similar to the solution adopted by the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Although the majority of Palestinians do not accept this document, in Mr. Nofal’s point of view, it is the best document proposed by the Palestinians and Israelis concerning the final solution. Moreover, this document can be described as informal, but it nevertheless represents a serious project and can address the Israelis and empower the peace process. Strategically, this document can pull the Palestinians from the military ground that Sharon seeks to the political one.
Therefore, this document must be considered as a pioneering point for the Palestinian negotiator to establish a Palestinian state.
The fifth paper: A political Analysis of the Geneva Document:
Dr. Helga Baumgarten started by posing some questions such as:
Why was this Document presented at this time? What are its goals and what are its potential positive and negative consequences?
This document is also surrounded by considerations such as: Does this document contribute to saving the two parties, the Palestinians and Israelis from the current impasse?
Does this document contribute to stopping the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state, or will it be used as a cover for both parties to strengthen their positions, whether by Israeli elections or by the establishment of a new Palestinian power that follows Yaser Arafat.
However, concerning the Palestinian and Israeli positions in the Geneva Document, it can be said that there is vast opposition from both parties, while there has been much support from the Europeans and Americans. Finally the possibilities of applying this document are very slim, and it leaves important issues such as the status of the Palestinians in Israel untouched.
The sixth paper: Geneva Document and the Local Palestinian System:
In his introduction, Dr. George Giacaman indicated that there are three opinions concerning the Geneva Document: the first approves it to varying degrees, the second says that there are positive and negative aspects, the third totally refuses the document because of its neglect of the right of return.
Giacaman also pointed out that Palestinian political history has seen over the last century a deterioration of political perspectives.
Thus the political program was re-formed several times, but the public speech stayed the same by not giving up its rights. Finally, the biggest obstacle facing any final solution is the legitimacy of negotiations and the mechanisms of political decision-making.
However the current Palestinian state is known for not having any active groups and the Palestinian Authority has failed to institutionalize its sectors.
Summary of the general discussion:
Following is a summary of the most important points raised in the two discussion sessions:
- It is essential to publicize the Geneva Document for the public.
- The effect of the closure and the Israeli occupation on Palestinian decisions and their conformity with international law.
- The importance of ensuring a fair solution to the refugee problem, and the unacceptability of the document concerning the surrender of the right of return.
- Addressing the legal and moral responsibility of Israel concerning the refugee issue.
- The question of the legitimacy of any decision between unequal groups from the international law perspective.
- The document is considered to be a concession and has no value, and should therefore be abandoned.
- Despite the unsteadiness of Palestinian political speech, there must be a consistent position concerning the five most contentious issues, namely borders, Jerusalem, refugees, an independent state, and the abandonment of settlements.
- The essential need for the Palestinians to have an independent decision away from any Israeli influences.
- The importance of Palestinian unity and independence from influential powers.