On February 21, 1999, the Palestine-Israel Journalheld a
round-table discussion on the subject of "Towards Statehood." It
was moderated by Dr. Gershon Baskin,the Israeli director of
IPCRI (The Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information).
The participants were Prof. Musa Budeiri, who teaches
political science at Al-Quds University and is head of the Regional
Studies Center; Prof. Galit Hasan-Rokem,who teaches Hebrew
literature and Jewish folklore, and chairs the folklore program at
the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Prof. Camille Mansourof
the Institute of Law at Bir Zeit University and the University of
Paris; and Gideon Levy,a columnist for Ha'aretzand
winner of the Sokolov Prize for journalism in 1998.
Gershon Baskin: The question is, what is the legal status of
the Palestinian-Israeli relationship following the termination of
the interim agreement on the eve of May 5, 1999?
Camille Mansour: First of all, we have to say that the
transitional period ends on May 4, 1999, according to the
agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation
Organization. However, the Declaration of Principles of September
1993 contains two categories of provisions, one of a permanent
character and the other setting the stage for transitional
What is permanent and not transitional is, for instance, the fact
that the two sides recognize each other. The fact that the two
sides have agreed to deal with the final negotiations on the basis
of U.N. Resolution 242 is also permanent. The two sides also have a
permanent commitment to resolve their differences through
negotiations and not through other means.
Everybody recognizes - or at least the Palestinian side and the
international community - that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are
occupied territories. Insofar as the arrangements have the aim of
ending the occupation in Zone A, an Israeli withdrawal and the
installation of the Palestinian Authority - insofar as these have
taken place, are irrevocable steps. They cannot be
Gershon Baskin: They are not limited by time?
Camille Mansour: They are not limited by time. These are
positive steps to dismantle occupation, and from an institutional
or functional or territorial point of view, they have to remain in
place. But other arrangements between the two sides are of a
transitional character. From a legal point of view, the Palestinian
side can obviously say that it is no longer bound by these
Galit Hasan-Rokem: You gave examples of provisions that
cannot be reversed; could you give some examples of transitional
arrangements that can be reversed.
Camille Mansour: Many transitional Israeli operations or
limitations accepted by the Palestinian side cannot be imposed on
the Palestinian Authority; for instance, control of Zone B cannot
Gershon Baskin: Zone B cannot become C. It can only move to
Camille Mansour: Exactly. Zone A cannot become C. A return
of the Israeli army to Zone A is not possible from a legal point of
view because it means going back to occupation. We cannot dismantle
steps against occupation and then go back to occupation because
occupation, in international law, has to end at one point.
Galit Hasan-Rokem: If Oslo is an ongoing process, does that
mean that, even if it was never stated, the idea of a Palestinian
state at the end of the road must have been there?
Camille Mansour: That is obvious for me.
Gershon Baskin: Wasn't it obvious for you?
Galit Hasan-Rokem: Was it obvious for Israelis who signed
the 1993 agreement? That is my question.
Gershon Baskin: I am reminded of the quotation from Yitzhak
Shamir who said he would never negotiate with the PLO, not because
they were a terrorist organization, but because negotiating with
the PLO meant negotiating a Palestinian state. So it seems obvious
that the handshake on the White House lawn between Arafat and Rabin
was, in essence, formulating the final stage of the peace process
as statehood, as Prof. Mansour said.
Galit Hasan-Rokem: Is there any logical way of seeing it in
a different way?
Camille Mansour: I do not want to be subjective, but the
government at that time, under Rabin, recognized the PLO as the
representative of the Palestinian people. The PLO has an official
international status. It has an observer's seat at the U.N. It
declared a state in 1988. Rabin asked Arafat - and he got - the
annulment of those provisions in the Charter that are against the
existence of Israel. Rabin did not ask Arafat to cancel the program
of statehood, and the program of statehood was already announced.
So implicitly -
Gershon Baskin: And it is recognized by more than 100
Camille Mansour: - that meant recognizing the PLO as having
an international personality in terms of peoplehood. Not yet
territoriality, which is something else, but in terms of
peoplehood, already enjoying sovereignty.
Gershon Baskin: Dr. Budeiri, what is the significance of May
Musa Budeiri: Dates should not be seen so much in legal
terms, but rather as a function of the political situation within
Israel itself and between Israel and the Palestinians. I want to go
back to what Rabin said, that there are no sacred dates. This is
much more important than any kind of written agreement. We are in a
fluid situation. We will see what happens and we will move step by
In that context, I do not see the process as having a final stop, a
final station which was agreed upon by both sides, or which was
even perceived by Rabin and the people around him. I am not sure
they knew where the road was going to lead. I think they were open
to different directions. I could say they knew what they wanted,
but I will be charitable and say they were playing it by ear, so to
speak. I think the Palestinians are very much prisoners of the
Israeli political game. I do not see the Palestinians as having
leverage. They would like the Americans and the Europeans to play a
role. I cannot see what leverage they have. They will not unleash
some sort of armed rebellion. They are not going to engage in
terrorism. And I do not understand what other leverages there
really are because leverage is the power you have to do
The Europeans do not have much leverage either. They do have the
Common Market, but they have shown they are not very willing to use
that leverage, despite utterances every now and again. The
Americans could do much more. But much depends on what kind of
government you have in Israel anyway, after the elections.
Gershon Baskin: Mr. Levy, do you share the view that the
Palestinians have no leverage?
Gideon Levy: The bon ton in Israel now is, fortunately, to
say that everyone is in favor of a Palestinian state. Right and
left, almost everybody.
There is much talk about a Palestinian state, but especially if you
come to Israelis and ask them where exactly is the state that you
are in favor of, they have no clear answer. As long as the
territorial question is not solved, I do not see how this state is
going to become real, except in terms of propaganda or of slightly
improving the international status of the Palestinians around the
But getting down to earth, it is not realistic as long as the
Israelis do not come to terms with the territorial question. In my
view, this is critical. Each of us who travels in the West Bank and
knows the great distance separating Gaza and the West Bank - much
greater than the geographical distance - has to wonder where
exactly will this state be. And many Israelis, unfortunately, are
still speaking about the settlements and their future, not their
removal. So I think a discussion about the Palestinian state is a
bit premature. At least, in Israeli public opinion there is much
bluff: they are all in favor of a Palestinian state, but none of
them is ready to give up land for it. What do you mean by a
Palestinian state when a citizen of Bethlehem cannot go to
Ramallah? And nobody thinks that with a state anything will be
changed on the ground. Bethlehem will be part of the Palestinian
state and Ramallah will be part of the Palestinian state and both
will be surrounded by settlements. So what kind of a state are we
Gershon Baskin: An argument could be made that the
negotiations that would take place between a sovereign Palestinian
state and a sovereign Israeli state would take place on a different
footing than negotiations between Israel and the PLO. The rules of
international law and the fact of Palestinian membership in the
United Nations and United Nations bodies as an equal player
according to international law, change the basic rules of the game
in the negotiations themselves.
Galit Hasan-Rokem: Mr. Levy stated as a fact, that it is bon
ton in Israel to say you are for a Palestinian state. Five years
ago - even four years ago - it was very far from bon ton, and I
want to note that change does happen, and to talk about how such
change occurs and how it can be shaped regarding the territorial
question. An official diplomatic and political process creates
changes at the grass-roots level, and here we have a wonderful
example of it. I think there was a poll that said 77 percent or so
of Israelis do not necessarily say they are for a Palestinian
state, but they realize it is, or
will be, a fact. That is a tremendously important factor and a
highly important change in the Israeli mind - the realization that
there is going to be a Palestinian state willy-nilly. I do not know
what this means with regard to the territorial question, and I
agree that this is a tremendous problem. But since we have seen
that mental changes occur, I think we should not totally rule out
enormous mental changes in the future.
Gideon Levy: The Israelis, unfortunately, are always too
little and too late.
Gershon Baskin: So are the Palestinians.
Gideon Levy: But, as an Israeli, I am much more concerned
about Israelis. What they could have achieved ten years ago they
can no longer achieve now, and what they can achieve now they will
not be able to achieve in ten years, even in their own perceived
interests. Prof. Hasan-Rokem is very right that there is this big
mental change, but I do not want us to be too self-satisfied
because all those changes did not yet require any real price from
Musa Budeiri: An ideological price maybe.
Gideon Levy: Maybe, yes, and it was gradual. By the way, I
always thought of the Israeli people as more moderate than their
politicians. Always. When I was working with Shimon Peres in the
late 1970s, early 1980s, he was really frightened of the idea of
negotiating with the PLO. Any leader who would even mention the PLO
would commit political suicide. Public opinion is far beyond its
leaders. The leaders have always been behind the people.
And it is the same now. This bon ton of a Palestinian state did not
start from the leaders. The only leader who says it very clearly,
even now, is Shimon Peres. Ask Barak. Ask everybody. They cannot
even mention the concept of a Palestinian state. When you talk to
the people, you hear more about the subject. Let us not have any
illusions. There is a change, but the real change and the real
price must be the territorial one. And I do not see, right now, the
leader who will evacuate settlements, and the Israeli elections
have no meaning with regard to those questions because there is so
very little difference among the candidates, especially on a
Camille Mansour: I agree concerning the questions of
territoriality and the fact that Area A is really surrounded by
settlements and bypass roads and so on. But there is pressure to
implement the Wye River Memorandum and to finish the second
redeployment - and hopefully the third - before entering
final-status negotiations. There are all these questions on which
the U.S. is not putting pressure. They are putting pressure on
Arafat not to declare a state, but nevertheless, there is a
universal expectation among the Palestinians that May 4 is an
important date. Unfortunately, in terms of stability in the area,
we have the possibility of an explosion, and one can see seeds of
such a development. As Mr. Levy said, Gaza and the West Bank are
much farther from each other than their geographical distance.
People cannot come and go. Borders are not under the control of the
Palestinian Authority, as everybody knows. This situation in itself
is of an explosive nature.
Galit Hasan-Rokem: The Palestinians signed an agreement
which was based on territorial compromise. How does Palestinian
public opinion relate to that compromise? Is there a stable
majority in the Palestinian public opinion for the
Musa Budeiri: Are you talking about Oslo?
Galit Hasan-Rokem: Yes.
Camille Mansour: The West Bank and Gaza are supposed to be
under self-government until the final status of the territories is
determined. Insofar as it means independence and sovereignty over
the West Bank and Gaza, I think the majority of the Palestinians
here - and even outside - agree to it completely.
Musa Budeiri: Going back to what Mr. Levy was saying about
leaders and citizens, I do not want to say the public, on the
Palestinian side, is more moderate because I do not think so. But I
am not sure how much faith people have in what the Authority is
doing, what it claims to be doing, what it claims it wants to do,
and how it reaches its agreements with Israel.
I do not think the people follow in detail what is going on, but
they have been disappointed. The perception after Oslo was that
this was going to be something immediate. All right, there were all
these dates and transitions, but people were thinking that
something was going to happen soon, if not today, tomorrow, if not
tomorrow, the day after tomorrow. They have realized, first, that
very little has happened, and, second, while this very little was
happening, the Israelis were continuing to transform the situation
on the ground. This has resulted not in people becoming more
militant and taking to the barricades, but in people becoming
despondent, shunning public life and sort of withdrawing into their
own private sphere. Thus the mushrooming of NGOs for those who are
Gideon Levy: I just came from a village near Nablus called
Beit Dajan. Last Sunday, the Israeli army destroyed around 600
olive trees there. I was sitting with the farmer who owns the land.
Most of the olive trees were 12 years old. The place is really in
the middle of nowhere. There cannot be a bypass road because it is
on a mountain. There is no settlement nearby. And you ask this
Palestinian about peace, about Oslo, and he will answer you that
this is not peace. But if you ask him if he is in favor of peace,
he will say, yes, I am in favor of peace. And that is what I guess
most of the Palestinians will answer. Yes, in favor. Why should
they say no?
But I more than agree that there is real desperation and
passiveness and retreating back into private life. There is no
ambition to do anything for the idea, for the cause, for the
people. I think something has really been broken in the Palestinian
spirit. So they will continue to say they are in favor of peace.
But again, I have to say, do not overestimate this. They are quite
desperate, if I can judge it as an outsider. They destroyed our
olive trees. We will plant them again. We will do what we can do
and we will wait for something to happen.
Gershon Baskin: The target of the despair is not only Israel
now, but also the Palestinian Authority leadership.
Musa Budeiri: This is something that happened with the
Palestinian Authority. People say there is now an Authority. They
are the ones who are dealing with Israel. They are the ones who are
negotiating. They are agreeing to bypass roads. You know, why
should I go from Jerusalem to Nablus or wherever and demonstrate
against bypass roads when I know, in the negotiations, these things
are being discussed? Or I assume these are being discussed. There
is no sense of collective action. There is no collective project
going on which people feel they are part of and which people
feel they have to engage in, as there was before Oslo. This is the
Gershon Baskin: Maybe it is because the leadership has not
taken decisive steps. Maybe if the leadership stood up and declared
independence, it could rally the support of the people.
Musa Budeiri: There is a lot of cynicism. One could conduct
some kind of sustained campaign of standing up to the Israelis, not
on one front but on all fronts, and not just going to the Laromme
Hotel and negotiating in the evening. But people read in the papers
what happened and say, all right, these confrontations outside the
District Command Office (DCO) in Ramallah, Nablus, Jericho are not
serious. These are the people who are either actively concerned
because their bit of land or their trees are gone, or they are
"professional" demonstrators. But people do not feel that an
on-going confrontation right now is really meaningful.
Camille Mansour: I see no contradiction between passiveness
and explosiveness. No contradiction at all. You maybe give the
impression that passiveness means there will be no confrontation
for years to come.
Musa Budeiri: There was passiveness before the Intifada.
Gershon Baskin: Twenty-five years of passiveness.
Camille Mansour: Exactly. So let's not have illusions about
apparent passiveness. I also feel it. You can also feel it at the
checkpoints, the way people behave and so on. Underneath the
passiveness there is an explosive character. You do not know when
it will explode, but you know it cannot possibly stay like this. It
might be addressed against the Palestinian Authority. It could be
geared towards the Israelis. We do not know. Nevertheless, I can
say this situation cannot rest until there is a real process of
negotiation between the two sides on territory and sovereignty and
Musa Budeiri: We have to ask who the constituency of the
Palestinian Authority is. It is clear I think, from Oslo till now,
that their constituency is not the Palestinians, in the sense that
they do not play to the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza. They
are playing to the international arena, to the Israeli arena.
The Authority has very little credibility. Not in the sense that
people do not like Arafat - that is not relevant here and it is not
the issue - but in the sense that they see the Authority as a
prisoner of Israeli dictates. They see the Authority as being
dependent on American goodwill, they see the Authority as having no
leverage, and they see the Authority as not being able to mobilize
them for action because it does not play to them. In that sense I
say this is not their constituency.
Going back to pre-Intifada times and comparing the quiet now and
the quiet then, the situation is very different. Before the
Intifada there was a lot of grass-roots political activity. There
was a myriad number of active groups - women, trade unions,
students, political groups. And although there was quiet on the
surface, beneath the surface it was boiling with activity. So when
the explosion came, all these groups were able to grasp the
opportunity and to mobilize.
Now there is a total absence of political activity on the ground.
There is no credible opposition. Whatever the Israelis say about
Hamas and the threat Hamas poses, there is no political activity of
Hamas on the ground. They might engage in all sorts of charitable
and educational activity, but I do not feel it on the ground. And
of course, the rest of the constituent groups of the PLO do not
exist at all, with only symbolic leaders and declarations, and
without credible opposition with political activity to propel the
political process forward.
Gideon Levy: The biggest difference is that before the
Intifada it was before the Intifada, meaning now they have
experienced Intifada. And many of them say it was not worth it.
People paid such a huge personal price. You hear it again and
again. It was not worth it if this is what we achieved. So it is
not only the passiveness. It is also something much deeper.
Gershon Baskin: I hear a longing, a romanticism of the
Intifada from people in the street. Every time I get into a taxi in
Gaza, one of the first things the taxi driver starts talking about
is wishing the Intifada was back.
When I hear statements like those you were referring to, they are
from people who spent 15 years in Israeli prisons, and it was not
Gideon Levy: And there are so many of them. They are not a
Camille Mansour: But there is a difference from before and
during the Intifada. Now you have a Palestinian Authority upon
which people have been dependent for the last three years. Once
there were popular movements here in Jerusalem, in the West Bank,
or even in Gaza. You have now 50,000, maybe 60,000, 70,000 - maybe
100,000 - people personally dependent upon the direct control of
the Palestinian Authority. They were not under the direct control
of the PLO before. They were activists. But the fact that you have
so many people dependent on the Authority is very important, very
Galit Hasan-Rokem: What is your assessment of the economic
situation in the present compared with five years ago?
Gershon Baskin: There has been negative growth, a decrease
Musa Budeiri: An increase in unemployment.
Gershon Baskin: Per capita income has gone down. There are
only two really positive economic things one can point to. One is
the creation of a $400-million to $500-million public sector that
did not exist before.
Camille Mansour: Infrastructure.
Gershon Baskin: And the existence of a banking sector that
did not exist before. The overall economy is in worse shape than it
was five years ago, but there are some structural changes.
Galit Hasan-Rokem: Are lots of individuals in better
Gideon Levy: I am not sure.
Musa Budeiri: Individuals, yes.
Gershon Baskin: There were probably more individuals in
better shape five years ago than today.
Gideon Levy: The only ones in much better condition are
really the highest strata.
Musa Budeiri: There is a trickle-down effect.
Gideon Levy: A soldier who now makes $600 a month.
Gershon Baskin: There are 90,000 legal and illegal
Palestinian laborers today in Israel. The daily wage for a day
laborer in Israel is 150 shekels. In Bethlehem he gets 40, 50
shekels for the same work.
Gideon Levy: I hear more nostalgia about the days they were
working in Israel. I am always amazed the way they talk about the
days in Tel Aviv, sleeping in those terrible conditions. They
really miss those days because their income was better. And you
know what? Sleeping in Tel Aviv, for many of them, was better than
sleeping in Jabalya.
Gershon Baskin: On a different topic, what kind of
Palestinian state will you have? Can we learn anything from the
example of the last four years about what the state will be?
Gideon Levy: I will just say that when the Israeli army left
Gaza, all the pessimists in Israel said there would be bloodshed
and anarchy, that Gaza would be one big blood bath. This did not
happen. And I know all the criticism about democracy and freedom in
the territories. Still, we really have to see the glass as half
full. Actually, it is more than half full. It started with the
elections. I know it is very popular to be cynical about the
elections, but finally there were elections, and they were quite
well organized. And in spite of all the big violations of human
rights in the Palestinian Authority and people imprisoned without
being brought to trial, still, there is no reason to lose hope that
the Palestinian state will be democratic. There are more signs of
democracy than of the opposite.
There are many very severe violations of human rights. But as an
observer from the outside, I say we should look at what did not
happen. People are not killed. People are not assassinated. People
do not disappear by the hundreds. The opposition has some freedom.
With all the problems of a newborn state, I still think the
Israelis should appreciate what did and what did not happen
Musa Budeiri: I always have a problem with this question
about the shape of the state because I feel that it somehow implies
that a state should only go to the deserving. I always thought that
self-determination of a state goes both to the deserving and the
undeserving. It has nothing to do with deserving or whether we set
up a nice state. This is a red herring, what kind of state. I might
have more criticism than Mr. Levy, actually, about what is going
on, but I think it is irrelevant. This has nothing to do with the
essence of the problem.
Israelis always tell me they are worried because they live in this
neighborhood which is violent, where people do not have human
rights, where democracy is not institutionalized. In that sense,
they have a right to be worried because, after all, they live here
and they have to look after themselves. I always say to them, you
chose to come and live in this neighborhood, and this is what the
neighborhood is like. You want to gentrify the neighborhood. But
wherever you go in the world, people don't like to have their
neighborhood gentrified. It might be in their interest, but it is a
very gradual process. If you want to live in the neighborhood,
don't come and start to try and change it. Try to find your place
So this place that will be established here - and I have my doubts
if it will ever be established - will be similar to every other
Arab state. Definitely not better, maybe worse, because it is
starting 50 years later than Jordan, for example, or Syria - or
even Iraq, although one does not like that comparison, of course.
That is why I do not like to indulge in speculating about what kind
of state this will be and what it will be like.
Camille Mansour: We cannot say the Palestinian state will
look like X or Y or Z. I do not know. But if we look at the
situation today, we have public administration, ministries of
health, education, higher education and social affairs,
infrastructure and so on, which for a country which has been
constituted in the last four years, I think is very good, even if
there is some corruption.
Galit Hasan-Rokem: We know some other places in the
neighborhood which have corruption too.
Camille Mansour: There are institutions taking care of the
Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza. Concerning public
administration, in four years big advancements have taken place.
With the Legislative Council, there are many, many problems.
Nevertheless, all the members are eager to learn and act according
to the constitutional process. Today they are not strong enough.
Maybe because of the structure, because we do not have a ruling
party and an opposition, the Council does not express this
traditional image in other countries. Nevertheless, there is in
operation a Legislative Council which enacts, which votes.
Gershon Baskin: Which is completely dependent upon the
executive branch. It is not independent.
Camille Mansour: Because the majority of the members are of
the same party as the government, the executive.
Gershon Baskin: Is that the reason? You have a situation
where the parliament, the Legislative Council here, has passed
laws, the most important being the constitution, the basic law,
that the executive refuses to sign.
Camille Mansour: Sure. And many others. The main problem is
that the majority of texts voted upon by the Council are not being
promulgated by the President. That is one problem, in terms of the
relationship between the executive and the Legislative
The judiciary is not independent, to say the least, and that is a
big problem in terms of human rights and of due process. Nobody can
exaggerate the criticism that has to be addressed against the
Palestinian Authority on that subject. But I would also like to
stress that people are eager to learn. From my experience here in
the last three or four years, people in the judiciary, in the
legislative - even civil servants - are very, very eager to learn.
People on the police force learn about human rights and about due
process in criminal matters. So there are the two sides to the
coin. But what the state will look like, I do not know.
Musa Budeiri: Really you don't know?
Camille Mansour: I don't know. But I know what is happening,
and I have to see both the positive and the negative sides. The
negative side in terms of due process of law is not good.
Galit Hasan-Rokem: What is your assessment of the
educational system at present?
Camille Mansour: There is a Ministry of Education.
Galit Hasan-Rokem: Are the majority of the schools under its
control or jurisdiction?
Camille Mansour: Yes. All the schools.
Gershon Baskin: Even private schools are also under the
authority of the Ministry. Even in the UNRWA schools, the
curriculum is under the Palestinian Authority.
Camille Mansour: Now there is a new curriculum for all the
classes. It seems that the Ministry of Education is doing all right
in this situation that it has inherited. In Gaza there are two or
three shifts a day.
Gideon Levy: I don't know about three, but two for sure. But
in Israel in the 1950s, it was the same. In Tel Aviv in the 1950s,
it was the same - morning and afternoon.
Gershon Baskin: How do people see the settlements? Can there
be settlements and statehood?
Camille Mansour: Settlements under Palestinian sovereignty?
Under Palestinian sovereignty there are no settlements. There may
be Israelis, but not settlements. Israeli citizens living under
Palestinian sovereignty, there is no problem with this. But
settlements which are out of bounds for Palestinians, that is not
possible under Palestinian sovereignty. That means
Gideon Levy: We shouldn't fool ourselves, if you will excuse
me, because Israelis keep on saying that maybe some settlements
will stay under Palestinian sovereignty. We know who the settlers
are. There are two kinds of settlers. The majority are those who
went for better and cheaper housing and, though it won't be easy,
they will go back to Israel proper if given better and cheaper
housing. And if there will be a good sum of reparation money, they
might even do it willingly. The others are the ideological
Neither of the two categories will stay under the sovereignty of
the Palestinian state in the long run. We must face reality. It is
impossible that those people will remain in the Palestinian state.
Maybe there will be some small groups, but the bulk of them will
not be able to stay under the Palestinian state. Either they will
be evacuated or they will remain, and then there is no Palestinian
state in those territories where they are located.
Gershon Baskin: No government of Israel will ever negotiate
an agreement that will leave Israelis under Palestinian
sovereignty. Wherever there will be Palestinian sovereignty, there
will be no Israelis.
Galit Hasan-Rokem: Since where there is Palestinian
sovereignty there will not be an Israeli, the fact is that the
Israelis there are the main barrier to Palestinian
Gideon Levy: I have always said that the settlements are a
big historical success because they were established to do exactly
what they are now doing - actually preventing any possibility of a
real peace agreement. They are very successful historically. They
are fulfilling exactly what they were established for.
Galit Hasan-Rokem: It is obvious that the settlements are
the main obstacle. But the question is what are the possibilities
of the transformation of the conflict under the present conditions
and under what we foresee in the next, let's say, year?
Camille Mansour: To be realistic, maybe the most that can be
attained in the next few months - or even years - is specific
agreements between the two sides, and other issues being postponed.
There are new parameters that did not exist before 1993. There are
new parameters because you now have an Authority here which can
negotiate with the Israelis and can reach agreements. So issues are
left aside where tension can continue, and other arrangements are
made where cooperative minimalism can be found. I am not saying
that is my wish, but if one has to try to look from the outside,
that is what is happening.
Musa Budeiri: I understood Mr. Levy to talk in the beginning
about a consensus among Israelis that a Palestinian state is
coming, but that there is no consensus as to where the state is and
no consensus regarding giving up territory.
That is why any discussion which does not take into consideration
the dynamics of Israeli society cannot really give an answer to the
question, if there is going to be state, what will it be and where
will it be. It is all intertwined and interlinked with the
transformations going on within Israeli politics. I do not know
what will make the Israelis face the issue of territoriality, what
will make them think, all right, a Palestinian state is coming,
maybe we don't like it, but it's coming. And what will make them
think where it can be. What will make them think they are ready to
pay a price for achieving some sort of peaceful, or, at least,
permanent arrangement with the Palestinians.
I do not know what will make them do all that. But until that
happens, it is a one-sided discussion to talk about what the
Palestinians want. The Palestinians know what they want. I do not
want to sound too optimistic. There are also nuances among the
Palestinians. But it is clear, more or less, that they want a state
within the 1967 borders, and they want the return of the refugees -
not only of 1967, but also of 1948. But they do not have the power
to implement this. This can only be implemented in agreement with
Gideon Levy: This is the tragic aspect of Palestinian
destiny for the short run - not the long run - that so much depends
on Israel now.
Gershon Baskin: One of the sad things is that, even among
those Israelis who accept the Palestinian state - such as Barak,
for example - their vision of the Palestinian state is one of
barbed-wire fences, of separation. This notion of separation - I
call it the anti-vision of peace - is not one which is going to
If you are asking what it will take to get the Israeli public to be
more forthcoming on the issue of territoriality, it depends very
much on this notion of a situation where openness is not
endangering personal security. There is no question that the
Israelis have a psychosis about security, but it comes from
Musa Budeiri: I am old enough to be able to remember the
various kinds of securities that the Israelis have had a psychosis
about. The Israelis had a psychosis about collective extinction,
about the destruction of the state.
Gershon Baskin: We are not talking about that. We are
talking about getting on a bus and arriving to your destination
without being blown up.
Musa Budeiri: This personal security is a new thing. You are
not safe in New York or Beirut or Nairobi or Cairo. There is no
personal security in that sense. This is something that has come
from the top downward. I do not think there has been a groundswell
of feeling about personal security which has not been elaborated by
the leadership. This has been imposed by the establishment.
Gershon Baskin: It also comes from the bottom up because
when we are talking about a notion of peace, we are talking about a
notion that encompasses personal security.
Gideon Levy: So much is manipulated in the
Israeli-Palestinian dispute. So much. Even the settlements we were
talking about. Most Israelis have never been in a settlement and
they really don't care about them. They have nothing in common with
most of the settlers.
But no elected leader will stand up and be courageous enough to say
the destiny of the settlements will not be decided in the
settlements. It will be decided in public opinion in Tel Aviv and
Jerusalem, not in that of those small extreme settlements. If they
would be isolated in Israeli society it would be much easier to
evacuate them. In Sinai they were all isolated in public opinion.
Therefore, it was easy to evacuate them. The problem is that we
lack really courageous leaders. That is the problem, from an
Israeli point of view. And I can assure you that none of the
candidates in the 1999 elections has the necessary courage.