I recently received Ziyad Clot’s new book, Il n’y aura pas d’État palestinien: Journal d’un négociateur en palestine [There Won’t Be a Palestinian State: Diary of a Negotiator in Palestine], published a few weeks ago in France by Éditions MaxMilo. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what happened in negotiations on the refugee issue during the Annapolis round of the peace process in 2007-08. Ziyad served as the primary refugee expert of the PLO Negotiation Support Unit/NAD during this period, and the account that he offers is one that is highly critical of Israel, the PA/PLO, and the United States.
Time doesn’t allow me to write a full review, but a few points of interest for those who follow the refugee issue closely:
- Israel was unwilling to address its responsibility for the refugee issue, or to accept any refugee right of return. While it accepted the principle of compensating Palestinians, it did not accept the notion of claims for non-material losses.
- Israeli and the US seem to have favoured an international implementation mechanism dominated by Washington.
- Some substantial gaps exist between the various statements that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has made on Israel’s positions in the refugee negotiations, and the more detailed talks held with Israeli negotiator Tal Becker.
- US Secretary Rice seems to have had an excessively optimistic view of how close the two sides were on the refugee issue.
- The US sought to block any European/French initiative on the refugee issue.
- Palestinian negotiating tactics were uneven and often poorly coordinated, and he has real doubts about how effectively the PA/PLO leadership argues for and represents refugee interests in the negotiations.
- The PA/PLO leadership rejected any inclusion of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries in the negotiations—and Israel doesn’t seem to have pushed the matter too hard.
He also includes in the appendix the first Israeli written proposal for a framework on the refugee issue put forward in April 2008:
-Nothing Agreed Until Everything Agreed-
Recognizing, with sorrow, the suffering and loss endured by individuals, families and communities on both sides, including refugees, as a result of the conflict between them;
Article 6 Refugees
6.1 The Parties recognize the urgent need, in the context of realizing the two State vision, to address and resolve the refugee issue in accordance with the terms of the Agreement.
6.2 The Parties recognize that the resolution of the refugee issue will require an international effort. Israel, for its part, will contribute financially to this effort, in accordance with the Article.
6.3 Recognizing that the State of Palestine shall be the homeland of the Palestinian people, all Palestinian refugees wishing to reside in Palestine shall be entitled to Palestinian citizenship.
6.5 In order to enable a comprehensive, organized and conclusive settlement of the refugee issue, the Parties have invited the United States, in coordination with them, to establish and lead an international refugee mechanism which will operate in accordance with the provisions of this Article.
Mechanism principles… (subsequent meeting)
Some of this is a very abbreviated version of language put forward by Israel in 2000-01. Some of it is new, notably the formulation on “State of Palestine shall be the homeland of the Palestinian people…” and, as noted above, the suggestion that the US take the lead role in any international mechanism. In the case of the latter, previous Israeli negotiating texts in 2000-01 had listed the US as one of several members of a proposed international commission/implementation mechanism for the issue. I wonder what the Europeans (who everyone expects to pay a large chunk of the bills) will have to say about this.
Also included in the book is the Palestinian response:
– NON-PAPER –
For Discussion Purposes
Article 6 Refugees
6.1 The parties commit to pursue a comprehensive, just and agreed upon resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem as envisaged by the Arab Peace Initiative, and in accordance with international law and the terms of the Article:
6.2.1 Israel acknowledges its moral and legal responsibility for the longstanding displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian civilian population stemming from its actions during and subsequent to the War of 1948.
6.2.3 Refugees shall be granted restitution and/or full compensation for the material and non-material damages they have suffered, including loss of opportunities and human rights suffering as a result of their protracted displacement.
6.2.4 States that have hosted Palestinian refugees shall be entitled for remuneration.
6.3.1. In order to enable a comprehensive, just and effective settlement of the refugee issue, an international mechanism shall be established to implement all aspects of the Treaty relating to the refugees with the participation of Palestine, Israel, the host countries and other necessary and willing countries and entities.
6.4 In furtherance thereof, an international find shall be established to finance the repatriation, resettlement and rehabilitation of the refugee, and the reparation program, including restitution and/or compensation. Israel commits to contribute financially to the fund as to be agreed in the Treaty, along with the contributions from responsible third states.
The Palestinian position here is very similar to that in 2000-01, although it is perhaps somewhat weaker on Israel’s contribution to a compensation fund. The Palestinian position at Taba in January 2001 more clearly implied that Israel was primarily responsible for paying compensation costs. Here, however, the question of Israeli responsibility (versus a possibly inadequate lump sum payment) is “to be agreed” in a peace treaty but isn’t spelled out in the proposed principles.
Overall, the book paints a very pessimistic portrait of the prospects for negotiations, and indeed for the achievement of a two-state solution to the conflict. Instead, the book foresees three possible scenarios: perpetuation of the status quo, and an apartheid-like occupation; future mass expulsions of Palestinians, along the lines of 1948 and 1967; or the de facto emergence of a binational state (“Israeltine”).