Memorandum submitted by Nomi Bar-Yaacov,
Foreign Policy Adviser on Middle Eastern Affairs
What should HMG policy focus on with regard
to the Middle East Peace Process? What should Tony Blair, the
new Quartet envoy focus on?
HMG should give its full backing to Mr Blair,
the newly-appointed Quartet envoy, whose mandate should to be
expanded to include a serious political role if he is to stand
a chance in succeeding in his mission. Mr Blair is unlikely to
be able to achieve progress on the institution-building and economic
front (his current mandate) unless his mandate is expanded to
include a political and security role.
HMG and Mr Blair's top priorities should be
to get humanitarian aid and the flow of goods into Gaza in order
to avoid a humanitarian disaster in the Strip, and to support
President Mahmoud Abbas and his Emergency Government in order
to help stabilize the situation in Palestine and avoid a return
Support to the Emergency Government should include
not only the resumption of direct aid to the Ministry of Finance,
but also the resumption of meaningful peace negotiations between
Israelis and Palestinians. This should address the thorniest issues
in the conflict, including final borders of the two states, the
status of all settlements, the right of return of Palestinian
refugees and the status of Jerusalem. Prisoner releases, Israeli
release of Palestinian withheld tax revenues, the lifting of restrictions
on the freedom of movement, and the halting of targeted killings
are all welcome confidence-building measures (CBM), but they are
insufficient at this stage to restore confidence in a peace process.
It is important to link confidence-building measures to serious
negotiations on a comprehensive peace settlement.
A genuine effort to address the needs of Palestinians
living under occupation is vital. What they need is a real, not
only verbal, commitment to a viable and contiguous Palestinian
state. It is therefore necessary to focus on securing an end to
occupation now, if the vision of a two-state solution is to be
The West Bank and Gaza must be treated as one
entity for the purpose of peace negotiations. After the violent
takeover of Gaza by Hamas in mid-June, the West Bank and Gaza
have effectively been severed politically. Gaza must not be left
behind in the political process.
Current HMG and Quartet efforts should also
focus on getting the Palestinian government to release the IDF's
Corporal Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped from Israeli sovereign
territory in June 2006. His release coupled with the release of
Palestinian prisoners would serve as a vital confidence-building
It is important for the Quartet to devise a
strategy to monitor and limit the smuggling of arms through tunnels
from Egypt into Gaza.
After the short-term goals of strengthening
Abbas and the Palestinian Emergency Government are met, attention
should be given to promoting a process of reconciliation between
the Palestinian factions. It is counter-productive to ignore Hamas'
victory in the January 2005 elections, and popular support for
the movement, especially in Gaza. Hamas is part of the fabric
of Palestinian society and engaging with the movement is the only
way to prevent radical elements within the movement side-lining
more pragmatic moderates. Polls indicate that if elections were
held in the Palestinian Authority (PA) today, Hamas would get
a third of the vote.
Both HMG and Mr Blair, as the Quartet's representative,
should focus all efforts in the short term on supporting the newly-formed
Emergency Government in order to avoid the collapse of the PA
and a return to violence.
The Emergency Government is only a temporary government according
to Palestinian law and given that it excludes members of both
Hamas and Fatah, the two largest Palestinian parties, it clearly
cannot represent the Palestinian people for long. Therefore, once
the situation stabilizes, attention will need to be given to a
national process of reconciliation. It will be up to the Palestinians
to decide whether they choose to hold fresh elections, or whether
they opt for a new National Unity Government.
Following the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas
in mid-June 2007, the question of how the international community
should deal with Hamas has become even more complex. It would
appear that the international boycott of Hamas has strengthened
the extremes and marginalized the more moderate pragmatists, like
former Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, who received nothing in return
for his more conciliatory and progressive approach. The mood in
Gaza at present is extremely defiant.
The Quartet should judge Hamas by its performance:
its actual commitment to non-violence should be judged by its
adherence to a Hudna or ceasefire and its willingness and ability
to control and crack down on opposition groups like Palestinian
Islamic Jihad which advocate violence against Israel and oppose
any peace process.
Recognition of Israel should also be judged
by Hamas' willingness and commitment to negotiate with Israel
on the basis of the 1967 borders. Hamas' agreement to empower
President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate on its behalf should have
been welcomed at the time.
The issue of recognition of previous agreements
is tricky since neither Israel nor the PA have carried out many
of their obligations under Oslo, the Road Map and other interim
agreements. Hamas' commitment to respect previous agreements,
as stipulated in the Mecca Declaration of March 2007, should have
been welcomed by members of the Quartet. It should have been viewed
as a cautious first step, even if it falls short of the Quartet's
demand of Hamas to declare full recognition of the State of Israel's
right to exist. Small steps in a difficult process must be viewed
as progress and should be encouraged.
Both HMG and the Quartet, under Mr Blair's leadership,
should put pressure on Israel to negotiate final status issues
with the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and
President Mahmoud Abbas have agreed to meet bi-weekly. Confidence-building
measures like prisoner releases and the transfer of withheld tax
revenues are welcome, but they are unlikely to achieve their purpose
unless they are linked directly to negotiation on a comprehensive
In addition, HMG and Mr Blair should put pressure
on Israel to dismantle the 102 illegal outposts in the West Bank
and stop the expansion of settlements. The importance of settlement
expansion should not be underestimated by HMG and the Quartet
Mr Blair should also engage in discussions with
Israel about the possible lifting of the multiple restrictions
on movement of Palestinian people and goods since the Palestinian
economy cannot function without freedom of movement. The Palestinian
residents of Gaza should not be held hostage to Hamas' take-over
of the Strip. The crossings between Israel and Gaza should be
opened urgently allowing the flow of goods to resume in order
to avoid a humanitarian disaster.
More withheld tax revenues should be released
to the PA and more prisoners released as part of a meaningful
All of these actions would serve as vital confidence-building
measures. They should be set as benchmarks for the peace process
rather than undertaken as isolated ad hoc actions.
The Quartet should work closely with the Arab
Quartet, namely Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab
Emirates. They have an increasingly important role to play in
the peace process.
The political process, security and economics
must all be top priorities for Mr Blair, and addressed in tandem.
One of the key mistakes that the Quartet made in the past was
to allow the US to handle alone all political and security issues
while the EU and UN were assigned to deal with economic aid. The
latter found themselves pouring vast sums of money into a bottomless
pit due to continuing insecurity and the lack of a meaningful
political process. The only way to avoid this happening in the
future is for the EU and UN to have a role in the political and
security spheres too, working in close partnership with the US.
There is a short window of opportunity now for
a serious push to resume talks on the so-called final status issues:
borders, settlements, Jerusalem and refugees.
There is overwhelming support in the Israeli
public for a peace deal and a window of opportunity to re-build
trust is now open and it must be seized.
The parameters for final status are known to
both parties to the conflict. The Arab Peace Initiative, endorsed
by both Fatah and Hamas is an important landmark. It is not a
peace plan, but rather a declaration of overture by the entire
Arab world towards Israel on the basis of key principles. It rightly
leaves the actual negotiations to the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Other important framework documents include the Clinton parameters
of July 2000, the Taba document of January 2001, and the more
recent Geneva Initiative. All these can form a basis for serious
peace negotiations. The Road Map is unlikely ever to be implemented
since neither side is likely to carry out its commitments under
Phase 1 of the plan. The Palestinians are called upon to dismantle
all terrorist infrastructure and the Israelis to withdraw from
much of the West Bank. The dismantling of terror infrastructure
is only likely to come at the end of a peace process, not at its
Mr Blair should engage with the Arab League
and the Arab Quartet in discussions on how to best implement the
Arab Initiative. The EU should also encourage the Arab League
to reach out to the Israeli public, to engage in confidence-building
measures which will help persuade Israelis that peace really has
a chance. More work needs to be done by Arab states and HMG in
the area of Israeli and Palestinian public opinion. In a recent
Tel Aviv University March Poll, it was revealed that half the
Israeli population was not aware of the Arab summit in Riyadh
in March and has never heard of the Arab Peace Initiative.
The disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration
of armed personnel belonging to the various Palestinian factions
will be key to achieving a lasting peace settlement. It should
only be expected that DDR will succeed as part of a political
process when sufficient guarantees have been given to the various
armed groups that their security will be assured. Hamas is unlikely
to ever give up its arms before a deal is done. It is simply not
how the movement works, and based on experiences from other countries,
including Northern Ireland, this should not come as a surprise.
Similarly, Israel is unlikely to withdraw from
parts of the West Bank without an agreement since it will be concerned
about Palestinian groups arming themselves very close to the border
with Israel. Israel has not had much success with its unilateral
One of the main problems in the PA is the multitude
of security forces and the factional allegiances they hold. Most
members of the Presidential Guard and the Preventative Security
Service are allied to Fatah. That is why Hamas created its own
security force, known as the Executive Force, which took control
of Gaza in only four days of fighting in mid-June. It is important
to recognize that Hamas views this move as a pre-emptive strike
Creating a unified and competent security apparatus
in Palestine will be one of the most difficult challenges facing
Mr Blair, but also the most important one. The scale of the challenge
should not be under-estimated by international actors who are
placing pressure on President Abbas to restore security in Palestine.
As with DDR, it is not realistic to expect significant progress
in integrating the diverse security forces into a national force
unless this task is approached hand-in-hand with the political
and economic components.
Mr Blair should engage with other international
partners to support a comprehensive Security Sector Reform (SSR)
programme, with each partner working in their area of comparative
advantage. This task is too delicate to be left to one country
to lead. It is also imperative that there be a coherent framework
for international assistance in the security domain. This will
be necessary to ensure that donors do not work at cross-purposes.
An appropriate balance must be struck between improving the governance
of Palestinian security forces and bolstering their capabilities.
Striving for "One Authority, One Gun"
should be the aim of SSR in Palestine.
It is important to support the new Emergency
Government directly and to ensure that it funnels appropriate
funds to Gaza.
Following the victory of Hamas in the January
2006 elections, the EU devised a Temporary International Mechanism,
known as TIM, to bypass dealing directly with the Hamas government.
The TIM is intended to ensure that money gets to Palestinians
in need and that salaries to PA employees are paid, at least in
part. It basically provides a social welfare net.
The EU must now work towards the goal of creating
a Palestinian economy which will replace the TIM. Palestine must
not become a welfare-state.
It is time to engage directly with the Ministry
of Finance, headed by Salam Fayyad who is currently Prime Minister,
Foreign Minister and Finance Minister. He is a man well known
to the HMG and other members of the Quartet, a former finance
minister in the previous Fatah government to whom much credit
was given by donors for the reforms he carried out at the time.
More efforts should be made to ensure the freedom
of movement of goods. Israeli restrictions on the movement of
goods are often intrinsically linked to security. More creative
thinking is necessary in order to ensure that goods get in and
out of the PA, especially Gaza, also in time of strife.
A prosperous Palestine is in the interest of
not only Palestinians but also Israel and all neighbouring countries.
Only prosperity will bring stability, and only security and progress
in the political process will allow for vital and urgent economic
reforms to take place.
HMG should support the immediate resumption
of Syrian-Israeli peace talks. The contours of such an agreement
are known to both sides and the time is certainly ripe. A Syrian-Israeli
agreement will in all likelihood lead to a Lebanese-Israeli agreement
and would greatly facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian comprehensive
agreement as well as the normalization of Arab-Israeli relations
in the region.
In sum, it is time for the Quartet to move from
thinking along the lines of conflict management to actually getting
into the nitty-gritty of conflict resolution. It is time for the
Quartet to come up with a detailed and comprehensive peace plan,
with a new strict time-line. The required parameters are known
to both sides and further time should not be wasted.
Mr Blair should also engage more broadly, by
reaching out to public opinion both in Israel and the PA, helping
to explain the Arab Initiative, stressing that it is a beginning
rather than an end in itself, and helping to bridge the gaps in
knowledge and perception across the Palestinian and Israeli divide.
It is time to discuss the thorniest final status
issues and overcome the taboos. In order to be effective, the
new envoy will require a broader and stronger mandate than his
current one and HMG support to chart a new path, a new approach,
severing from past policies, which led nowhere.
17 July 2007
38 According to a Poll conducted by Khalil Shikaki's
Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) on 26
June 2007, if new parliamentary elections were held that day,
Fatah would receive 43% of the vote and Hamas 33%. Support for
all other third parties combined stands at 12% and 13% remain
According to a Poll conducted by Khalil Shikaki's Palestinian
Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) on 26 June 2007, support
for the formation of an emergency government stood at 56% and
opposition at 38%. It is noteworthy that opposition to the emergency
government stood at 47% in the Gaza Strip. Back
A Poll conducted by HaGal HaHadash in Israel in July 2007, published
in English on 17 July 2007, found that 66% of the Israeli population
supports resumption of final status negotiations immediately with
PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Back