Pointing the way to Mideast peace

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 04-Dec-03 | Author: Friedbert Pflueger| Source: International Herald Tribune

Geneva Accord

BERLIN - The Geneva Accord presented on Monday by Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo offers the prospect of peaceful cohabitation between Israelis and Palestinians without car bombs and suicide bombs, without occupation and repression, without permanent war and without hate.

It shows that a comprehensive peace resolution is possible, built on the foundation of the U.S.-backed plan known as the road map. The Geneva Accord is still just a document. But it is an important step in introducing a process of building good will in both societies.

With Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, the Palestinians have at the head of their government a man who, unlike Yasser Arafat, believes in the power of diplomacy and not in using human bombs. Qurei has explicitly criticized the intifada as a mistake and called for an end to violence. This encouraging signal must be followed by action. And Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel recently explained that for peace, he would be ready to take unilateral steps and accept painful compromise.

Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is inviolable. Inherent in this is the right of its citizens to live in peace and security without terror. These rights are the elemental components of Germany's solidarity and friendship with Israel. We emphatically condemn the terrorist attacks. The civilian population suffers particularly from a lasting and concentrated form of terrorism. It is so difficult to constitute peace under such extreme circumstances.

Germany stands with Israel in a special relationship that follows from the responsibility Germans carry for Israel's future. If Israel were to be destroyed, then Hitler would have effectively won.

Friends must be able to offer criticism to each another. And this has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, Sharon's policies have not allowed him to keep his promise of increasing security and peace in Israel. Israel has done too little in offering something tangible to moderate Palestinians, so that they in turn could win support for peace among their own people. Even at times when no attacks were carried out by Palestinians, Israeli settlements were expanded and the pressures of occupation continued unabated.

If both sides are prepared to act in good faith, with strenuous effort and the courage to accept the compromises outlined in the road map, then there is a chance that two democratically legitimate states can live peacefully as neighbors. Some of the preconditions for such agreement are:

All attacks on Israel must end; they are in no way justified. The Palestinian Authority needs to fulfill its proclamation to battle extremist violence and to act against individuals and groups that plan and carry out terrorist attacks. Until now, Arafat has not met this condition.

The building of settlements has to stop, and those built after March 2001 must be dismantled. The expansion of settlements is one of the greatest inhibiting factors in building trust among Palestinians.

Israel has the right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, but it must undertake every effort to avoid casualties among the Palestinian civilian population. Furthermore, it must stop humiliating Palestinians through restrictions such as fences and prohibited zones. The new border fence complicates the founding of a Palestinian state. If such a fence is seen as necessary, it should be along the green line. As President George W. Bush recently stated, there is a difference between security and a land grab.

Both sides need to overcome the stubborn attitude that their first action is dependent on the other side's first action in order even to begin. The peace plan provides for parallelism. Experience has taught us that the initial phase can only work if one side can show political fortitude in not retaliating if the other side regresses or offends. Above all, both sides cannot allow bombing attacks to direct the process. In building necessary trust, such unilateral steps as removing illegal settlements and relinquishing the Gaza Strip can contribute.

Neighboring countries must actively cooperate in the peace process. Iran and Syria should take on a constructive role by depriving terrorist groups and suicide bombers of support.

A peaceful resolution, including the end of occupation in the Palestinian areas and the founding of a viable Palestinian state, is urgently needed. The problem of Palestinian refugees must be solved with broad international support and outside of Israel's borders.

The Geneva Accord's authors have shown that a resolution through negotiation is still possible. Their critics, however, have the responsibility to present an equally convincing alternative that is accepted by both sides.

The writer is foreign policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU, Germany's main opposition parliamentary group.