The Geneva Accord, which was officially signed in December 2003, represents the first full scale nongovernmental Israeli-Palestinian agreement on the details of peace and future relations between the State of Palestine and the State of Israel. Although the Abu Mazen-Beilin document of 1995 sought to do exactly that, in reality it left open the final resolution of the Jerusalem and refugee questions. The heart of the Geneva initiative is a document outlining the details of a Palestinian-Israeli permanent status agreement addressing all the issues of the conflict, including the end of all future claims and affirming that the only viable solution is a two-state solution.
Building on progress achieved in previous documents and negotiating forums, such as Camp David II of July 2000, the Clinton Parameters of December 2000, and the Taba talks of January 2001, the Geneva document sought to bring to a close all the issues. It has 17 articles and a preamble. The longest and most important articles are #4, on territory, #5, on security, #6, on Jerusalem, and #7, on refugees. Three are yet to be written: #12, on water, #13, on economic relations, and #14, on legal cooperation. Article 1 deals with end of conflict; #2 with relations between the two states; #3 with implementation and verification; #8 with Israeli-Palestinian cooperation; #9 with Israeli civilian use of three selected roads in the Palestinian state; #10 with religious sites; #11 with an Israeli-Palestinian border regime; #15 with prisoners; and #16 with dispute settlement mechanisms. Two maps have been produced showing the territorial division, one for the Palestinian state (showing its newly acquired territories along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip and the west of the Hebron region and the areas annexed to Israel) and one for the Old City of Jerusalem. An annex is referred to in the text but has not been written yet. The following review examines the ways in which the Geneva document dealt with five main issues of the permanent status, the significance of the initiative to Palestinian-Israeli peace making, and how the Palestinian public has responded to it. But before doing that, we examine the ways in which the document dealt with three non-substantive, and at times controversial, issues: The Jewish nature of the state, third party role, and end of conflict.

Non-substantive Issues

The Jewish Nature of the State: Although the basic contours of a Palestinian-Israeli permanent status agreement have been known since the end of the 2000, this document is not without surprises. For example, the Palestinians, who for a long time resisted Israeli pressure to acknowledge the Jewish nature of the state and Jewish links to Palestine, agreed in the preamble to affirm that the agreement marks the recognition of the right of the Jewish people to statehood. Article 2(4) goes on to say that Israel is the homeland of its people. Although this formulation may not necessarily please all those Israelis who consider Palestinian recognition of the Jewishness of the State of Israel as a test of the true intentions of Palestinians, it does represent Palestinian willingness to seriously meet one of Israel's most symbolic needs, despite their concerns about the implications of such recognition on the status of Israeli Arabs and other non-Jewish citizens of the State of Israel. The Palestinians do more: The Jerusalem article refers to Al Haram Al Sharif also as the Temple Mount. The Arabic translation of the document does the same, referring to Al Haram as Jabal al Haykal. The article further recognizes the historic, religious, spiritual, and cultural significance of Jerusalem and "its holiness" for Judaism.
Third Party Role: The extensive role assigned to a third party is also surprising and indeed unprecedented in Arab-Israeli negotiations. The initiative (article 3) establishes an implementation and verification group (IVG) whose responsibility is to "assist in, guarantee, monitor, and resolve disputes relating to the implementation of this Agreement." The IVG is to be made up of the Quartet members and others acceptable to both sides. It would have under its command a multinational force (MF) that would be deployed in the Palestinian state and would be charged with the task of protecting the territorial integrity of the State of Palestine, a task not assigned to the state itself. The MF would also serve as a deterrent against external attacks that could threaten either of the parties, deploy observers to monitor the territorial and maritime borders of the state of Palestine, and perform a few additional tasks at the Palestinian international border crossings and the early warning stations. It would also help in the training of the Palestinian security services, but not with the building of a Palestinian army. The MF would only be withdrawn or have its mandate changed by agreement of the parties. Furthermore, the IVG is to establish a dispute settlement mechanism.
Moreover, the initiative calls for the establishment of an international group (IG), composed of the IVG and other parties to be agreed upon by the parties, including members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which would have the mandate of monitoring, verifying, and assisting in the implementation of the arrangement regarding Jerusalem. The IG would establish a "multinational presence" on Al Haram compound. While the Palestinians have always sought an international/multinational role in resolving the conflict, the Geneva initiative goes far beyond expectations in inviting a third party role almost turning the Palestinian state into an international protectorate. The document imposes no time limit for the functioning of the IVG, the MF or the IG unless agreed otherwise by the two sides.
End of Conflict: Another issue, important in this case to the Israelis, is the way the initiative dealt with the "end of conflict." The document states clearly that the full implementation of the agreement will constitute the full implementation of previous UN-related resolutions and the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in all its aspects. The first article in the document states that the agreement "ends the era of conflict" and settles all claims. No further claims can be raised, the document affirms. When the issue of refugees is addressed in article 7, the document states that the agreement "provides for the permanent and complete resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem," and that "no claims may be raised except for those related to the implementation of this agreement." It specifically gives the refugees two years to submit applications for their permanent place of residence or lose their refugee status. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) would cease to exist five years after an international commission that would manage the process of the refugee settlement starts operating. Finally, the documents assert that all refugee rights, as contained in documents such as UN resolution 194, are considered fulfilled "according to article 7" of the document. To strengthen the drive toward the end of conflict, and unlike the Egyptian and Jordanian peace agreements with Israel, this document talks about reconciliation between the Arab world and Israel and the establishment of normal, peaceful relations between the Arab states and Israel.

Five Core Issues

Five substantial issues of final status negotiations; territories, security, Jerusalem, refugees, and Palestinian sovereignty, received the document's greatest attention:
Territories: Article 4 detailed the steps for an Israeli withdrawal from all of the Gaza Strip and the evacuation of its settlements and the withdrawal from almost all of the West Bank while allowing Israel to annex some settlement areas in less than 3 percent of the West Bank, which would be exchanged with an equal amount of territory from Israel. The Israeli army is to complete its withdrawal in 30 months from the signing of the agreement but the first phase (details of what and how much area to be determined) is to be completed in nine months. A small Israeli military presence is to remain in the Jordan Valley, under the authority of the MF, for an additional 36 months after withdrawal. Areas annexed to Israel can be grouped into four:
1) Settlements inside East Jerusalem (including the Jewish Quarter in the Old City) and on the outskirts of the city in Gush Etzion, Ma'aleh Adumim, and Giv'at Ze'ev;
2) Modi'in settlements to the north of Jerusalem along the Green Line;
3) Alfei Menashe and few other settlements to the south of Qalqiliya;
4) A strip of land stretching from south of Qalqiliya down to the Latrun to the east of the Ben-Gurion airport.
Areas annexed to Israel do not include the settlements of Ariel or Efrat. The Palestinians receive an equal amount of territory from Israel in two areas: west of the Hebron region and along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip. Evacuated settlements will be kept intact and will be placed under Palestinian control. The value of the settlements would be used as part of Israel's obligations to compensate refugees for their property left behind in Israel.
A permanently open corridor linking the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be established by Israel and Palestine. The corridor will be under Israeli sovereignty and Palestinian administration with Palestinian law applying to people using it and procedures pertaining to it. The nature of the corridor (a bridge, tunnel, road, or a combination) is not described. However, conditions pertaining to its construction indicate that it must allow for the establishment of infrastructure facilities such as pipelines, electrical and communications cables, etc. But it must not "disrupt Israeli transportation and other infrastructural networks, or endanger the environment, public safety or public health." Engineering solutions are to be devised to avoid such disruptions.
Three Palestinian roads (Road 443 linking Tel Aviv to Jerusalem via Modi'in, the Jordan Valley road linking Jerusalem to Tiberias, and the Jerusalem - Ein Gedi road, will have special arrangements permitting Israeli civilian use with permits issued by the Palestinian state. These roads will be patrolled by the MF at all times. Israelis will not be able to use the designated roads as a means of entering Palestine without the relevant documentation and authorization. The document does not specify how Israelis using these roads would be prevented from entering the Palestinian state since exits leading to other Palestinian roads would presumably remain open.
Security: Article 5 states that the Palestinian state will be a "nonmilitarized state." The Palestinian state will have no army, but it will have a strong security force. The mandate of the security force will be to maintain border control and law and order and perform police functions. No reference is made to external security but it is clear the defense of the Palestinian state will be in the hands of the MF. While the state will have sovereignty over its airspace, Israel will be allowed to use that airspace for training purposes. Israel will also be allowed to maintain two early warning stations in the West Bank for 15 years. A small Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley, under the authority of the MF, would be allowed for an additional 36 months after the Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian state. The document seeks the establishment of "robust modalities for security cooperation," including the establishment of a high level joint security committee that will meet on at least a monthly basis. It talks about engaging in "a comprehensive and uninterrupted effort to end terrorism and violence." It affirms that the parties will settle all disputes between them by peaceful means and will refrain from joining, assisting, promoting or co-operating with any coalition, organization or alliance of a military or security character, the objectives or activities of which include launching aggression or other acts of hostility against the other.
Jerusalem: Israel would recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state with Arab neighborhoods coming under Palestinian sovereignty and Jewish neighborhoods coming under Israel sovereignty. The Old City (including Al Haram Al Sharif) would come under Palestinian sovereignty with the exception of the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall, which will come under Israeli sovereignty. But the Old City will remain unified and open to all Palestinians and Israelis. Palestinians are not allowed to carry out any digging, excavation, or construction on the compound of Al Haram, unless approved by Israel. Jewish visitors to Al Haram would be allowed access to the site. The Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives would come under Israeli administration but Palestinian sovereignty
Refugees: Both sides agree the solution of the refugee problem would be based on UN resolutions 194 and 242 and on the Arab peace initiative of the Beirut Arab League meeting of March 28, 2002. The refugees would be given five choices for permanent residency: The Palestinian state and the Israeli areas transferred to the Palestinian state in the territorial exchange mentioned above (no restrictions would be imposed on refugee return to these two areas); host countries; third countries; and Israel. Residency in the other three areas (in host countries, third countries, and Israel) would be subject to the decision of the states in those areas. The number of refugees returning to Israel would be the average number of refugees admitted to third countries like Australia, Canada, European countries, etc.
All refugees would be entitled to compensation for their "refugeehood" and loss of property. An international commission is to be established to manage and ensure the implementation of every aspect of the refugee settlement. The commission is to appoint a panel of experts to estimate the value of Palestinian property at the time of displacement. The value of the Israeli fixed assets that will remain intact in former settlements and be transferred to the state of Palestine would be estimated by an international fund and would be deducted from Israel's contribution to the fund. UNRWA would be phased out in each country in which it operates, then cease to exist five years after the start of the international commission's operations.
While the document pays lip service to the Road Map and the Bush speech of June 2002, which calls for the early creation of a Palestinian state with provisional borders that then negotiates a permanent status deal, the working assumption of the initiative is that when signing the agreement there would be no Palestinian state and the agreement itself would lead to the creation of the Palestinian state. It also envisages an agreement between the State of Israel and the PLO, not the Palestinian state as the Road Map would have it. Article 2 affirms that the State of Palestine shall be the successor to the PLO with all its rights and obligations. The implicit assumption is that the PLO would either disappear or would no longer be relevant to Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Palestinian Sovereignty: According to the agreement, the Palestinian state would have sovereignty over its land, water and airspace. But there are serious limitations. For example, the state will have no army, leaving the responsibility for external security in the hands of the MF. The MF will have additional roles at crossing points and elsewhere (such as Al Haram Al Sharif) and cannot be removed without Israeli approval. The MF will have the right to prevent the entry into Palestine of any weapons, materials or equipment in contravention of the provisions of the agreement. Israel too continues to have an independent unseen role at crossing points for a limited period of time after withdrawal. Israel will have two early warning stations in the WB for 15 years, and will continue to have a military presence in the Jordan Valley (under MF control) for three years after the full withdrawal. For an indefinite period Israel will continue to use Palestinian airspace for training purposes without any quid pro quo. Moreover, the Palestinian state is obligated to put in place special arrangements to guarantee access to three agreed sites of religious significance to Jews: The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, and Nabi Samuel, north of Jerusalem.
Two more issues are addressed in the document: The release of Palestinian prisoners and the creation of a dispute settlement mechanism. Prisoners are to be released either immediately upon the signing of the agreement or, in some (undefined) exceptional cases, within 30 months from the date of the Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian state. The document provides for a four-stage dispute settlement mechanism. Starting with a bilateral framework, it moves to a mechanism set by the IVG, followed by a mechanism of conciliation to be agreed upon by the parties. Finally, disputes can be submitted by either party to a three-member arbitration panel.

The Significance of the Initiative to Palestinian-Israeli Peace Making

The Geneva initiative is a virtual agreement that may or may not have a direct impact on negotiations when and if they resume in the future. This is a document that is associated with a segment of the Israeli opposition and a small group of Palestinian officials and members of the mainstream nationalist movement Fateh who represented themselves only. Some of those negotiators have little credibility in the eyes of their respective publics, which may in turn negatively affect the way the document is received. Even if the public is willing to support the basic compromises in the initiative, it may be reluctant to approve a document associated with such individuals.
What is the value of the initiative? It has certainly managed to counter the argument of those Palestinians and Israelis who, after the collapse of the permanent status negotiations, believed a fundamental clash of interests existed between the two sides and that negotiations would not bridge the existing gaps in positions. It also demonstrated that a partner existed on each side. One of the immediate consequences of the release of the initiative may have been to force Sharon to come up with his own initiative of unilateral steps, lest the Geneva initiative gain sufficient momentum locally and internationally thereby forcing his government to consider dealing with it.
The initiative makes the basic trade-offs already recognized by Palestinian and Israeli negotiators. The territorial issue and sovereignty over Jerusalem's holy places have been the most important points for the Palestinians. For that, they have been willing to recognize the Jewish nature of the state and its links to Jerusalem and the holy places, to accept the end of conflict and renounce any further claims, to accept security-related limitations on state sovereignty, to forgo explicit Israeli recognition of the right of return and to accept refugee absorption modalities that would allow the actual return to Israel of a very small number of refugees. For the Israelis, the Jewish nature of Israel and the end of conflict have been the two most vital needs. For that they were willing to withdraw from almost the entire West Bank and accept a territory swap.
But is the initiative implementable? In addition to opposition from ideological and religious groups, Jewish settlers and Palestinian refugees are the two groups most likely to feel victimized by the agreement. They stand to lose the most and their opposition may make it difficult for political leaders to embrace it. For example, despite the fact that the Palestinian leadership was consulted during the different stages of the negotiations, Yasser Arafat has not officially accepted the document and some of his close advisers have strongly attacked it. The Israeli Labor party leadership has also refrained from endorsing it. Some in Labor, such as former prime minister Ehud Barak, have condemned it. The ability of Sharon to remove the initiative from public focus by turning public attention to his unilateral separation steps and a Gaza evacuation illustrates the difficulties the nongovernmental initiative is likely to face from a government determined to oppose it.

Palestinian Public Attitudes

Would the Palestinian public accept the Geneva initiative? While some surveys, such as the one conducted by the International Crisis Group and the Baker Institute, have shown that a majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are in favor of compromises similar to those in the Geneva document, another survey has shown a majority opposes the document. A survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) between December 4 and 9, 2003 sought to examine public attitudes toward the Geneva document and its components. The sample size of the survey was 1,319 and the margin of error was three percent. The survey asked respondents to express their attitudes toward the Geneva document based on what they had heard or read about it so far. It then provided them with a summary of seven core elements of the document and asked them to express their attitudes regarding each element. It finally asked for their opinion on the document as a whole. The poll showed significant opposition to the document among those Palestinians familiar with it. But it also showed that only a very small minority was fully aware of its content and that when respondents became aware of its main components, both support and opposition increased significantly. A majority of the Palestinians saw red lines in two components: The refugee solution and the limits imposed on sovereignty. On the other hand, a majority welcomed the proposed deployment of a multinational force in the Palestinian state and the Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on the basis of the 1967 lines, with equal territorial exchange.
The poll found that 73 percent of the public have heard of or read about the Geneva document, but only 4 percent of the public have full knowledge of it and only 17 percent have general knowledge of some of its articles. Among those who have heard of or read about it, support reaches 25 percent and opposition 61 percent. Among the whole public these figures translate into 19 percent support and 44 percent opposition while the percentage of the undecided and those who have not read, or heard of it, is 37 percent. After informing the respondents of seven core elements of the document, support increased from 19 percent to 39 percent, opposition from 44 percent to 58 percent, and the undecided (and those who did not read or hear of it) decreased from 37 percent to 3 percent. The surprising result was in the fact that of those who strongly supported the initiative based on what they had heard or read so far, only 36 percent continued to support it strongly after being informed of its core components, with 46 percent shifting to support and 16 percent to opposition or strong opposition.
From the seven components read to respondents, only two were supported: One dealing with the deployment of a multinational force (58 percent) and one dealing with an Israeli withdrawal based on the 1967 borders with an equal territorial exchange (57 percent). Two components received the biggest opposition: One dealing with refugees (72 percent), and one dealing with limitations on Palestinian sovereignty (76 percent). Support for the other three components varied, with Jerusalem receiving 46 percent, end of conflict 42 percent, and the demilitarization of the Palestinian state 36 percent. It is worth noting that an April 2003 PSR survey found a majority in favor of a similar refugee solution, described in the survey as a Taba-based solution in reference to Palestinian-Israeli January 2001 negotiations in Taba, Egypt. The only difference between PSR's April (Taba-based) and December (Geneva-based) formulation for the refugee settlement was the reference in the April survey to Israeli recognition of the right of return, which was omitted in the December survey. One additional reason for the strong opposition to the Geneva-based solution is the fact that Palestinian opposition groups have managed in the meantime to frame the whole Geneva document as a sell-out for refugee rights. Among those who had previously heard of or read the document (i.e. 73 percent of the public), support increases among Fateh supporters (36 percent) compared to Hamas supporters (26 percent). Support for the Geneva document as a package after being informed about its main components increases among women (42 percent) compared to men (35 percent), among non-refugees (41 percent) compared to refugees (36 percent), among those with preparatory education (47 percent) compared to those holding a BA degree (29 percent), among housewives (44 percent) and farmers (40 percent) compared to students (32 percent), among supporters of Arafat (54 percent) compared to supporters of Hamas leader, the late Sheikh Ahmad Yassin (26 percent), and among Fateh supporters (55 percent) compared to Hamas supporters (33 percent). Support for the Geneva initiative is also significantly higher (60 percent) among those who were optimistic about what will happen next in Palestinian-Israeli relations, expecting to see a return to negotiations and cessation of violence, compared to those who were pessimistic, expecting continuation of the violence and no return to negotiations (25 percent). Similarly, those who believed that armed confrontations in the Intifada have definitely not helped the Palestinians to achieve national interests in ways that negotiations could, were more supportive of the initiative (51 percent) than those who believed that the armed confrontations have definitively been more helpful (30 percent).