In mid-April, Israeli and Palestinian representatives of the Geneva Initiative met with doctoral and master’s students as part of a conflict resolution course at IDC Herzliya. We spoke with the students about the technical contours of the Geneva Accord, trends in Palestinian and Israeli public opinion, the difficulties in the current situation and also reasons for hope. Below are a few of the points that arose:
What does a viable peace agreement actually look like?
For almost a century, it has been clear that only a partition of the land can serve the interests of both peoples and therefore all serious proposals have been based on the two-state solution. The Geneva Accord, as well as past proposals that provided a viable basis for official negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, sets forth a framework for a two-state solution along 1967 lines with land swaps, with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, mutual recognition and an end to all claims.
What will happen to the settlements?
Mutually agreed upon land swaps of a small percentage of territory in the West Bank adjacent to the Green Line will enable Israel to annex the land that is home to the majority of settlers. Settlements that threaten the contiguity and territorial integrity of a Palestinian state will be evacuated. Evacuations of homes is an inherently difficult and sensitive policy to carry out, but the Israeli government has made that call in the past (Sinai in 1982 and Gaza in 2005) when necessary to ensure the security and identity of the state.
How does the Geneva Initiative deal with anti-normalization pressure?
It’s not easy! The Palestinian peace camp in particular faces a great deal of pressure not to engage directly with Israelis. Our response is that the many dialogue activities we organize are based on a concrete policy agenda for change, with the explicit goal of progressing towards a two-state solution that will allow Palestinians and Israelis to live in dignity and peace. The Israeli side of the Geneva Initiative faces a similar kind of pressure from polarizing voices in Israeli society. Both organizations work hard to ensure that our activities and messaging continue to be effective within a diverse variety of mainstream and peripheral sectors in our societies.