Washington Post: A Palestinian Writer and an Israeli Writer Exchange Emails — and Seek Common Ground

A Palestinian Writer and an Israeli Writer Exchange Emails — and Seek Common Ground
The Washington Post Magazine – June 3, 2021

In the wake of the recent fighting in Israel and Palestine, The Washington Post Magazine asked two writers — Sam Bahour, a Palestinian American writer and entrepreneur who lives near Ramallah; and Nadav Eyal, an Israeli writer who lives near Tel Aviv — to correspond with each other. The conversation was based on the question: Realistically, where do Israelis and Palestinians go from here?

At one point during the lengthy exchange between the two writers, Nadav makes direct mention to the 2003 Geneva Accord as the benchmark and reference point for a mutually acceptable model that serves as the most realistic framework to-date for bridging the gaps on all of the core issues between the two sides. While Nadav and Sam don’t necessarily agree on all of the details of the plan, they engage in a back and forth about its principles and its significance. The very fact that it is used as the yardstick for the most recognized parameters, highlights its value as a firm basis for future peace efforts.

Extract from the Exchange

Nadav Eyal: “So let me ask you, looking forward: If Israel elected a new prime minister, and she/he makes a real and viable offer largely along the lines of the 2003 Geneva Accord — the formation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines with equal (1:1) land swaps, including the removal of all settlements left on the Palestinian side; a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem with special arrangements in the holy areas; a just and agreed solution for Palestinian refugees and their descendants with an option to live in the new state of Palestine (but not Israel); and security arrangements that meet the needs of both parties — will such an offer be accepted by the Palestinian leadership? Would you want it?”

Sam Bahour: “You ask if I’d accept the terms in the Geneva Accord, or the like. I was reminded of the words once told to me by a friend here in Ramallah. He said, “I accept all plans, accords, configurations and the like.” And when I asked how that can be, he answered, “Because I’m convinced Israel will not allow any of them to see the light of day.” My answer is more hopeful — Ishared with youmy ultimate political model,Confederation— but in the meantime, like tomorrow morning, I seek progress, and that’s where you and I have to focus: positive forward progress as defined by the norms of this imperfect world where we live. The IDF’s “mowing the lawn” in Gaza every few years is not part of that paradigm.”

Nadav Eyal: “Now, I apologize for my reporter impoliteness, but allow me to press you on my question. If a peace agreement styled on the Geneva Accord would be set forth by Israel that would respond to all points brought forth by the Palestinians — an agreement that former PA officials already ceremonially signed with Israelis (I was there, by the way) — would this be accepted by Palestinians today? I am asking for your expert opinion. It’s a crucial question for the liberal camp in Israel — the one you say you are worried about becoming too passive. If the most extensive compromise could be made (as far as the Israeli Zionist left is concerned), would there be a chance to end the conflict?”

Sam Bahour: “No apology is needed for asking any question. I followed the Geneva Accord closely and have read the document in detail. It offers some valuable insights as an unofficial attempt to reach an understanding, but, as you know, it was not completed and is now relegated to failed efforts. As noted, past negotiating ending points no longer suffice as new negotiation starting points. These were lost opportunities, and they were lost for a reason that we can discuss one day in person. Today, any negotiations will only be accepted by Palestinians if grounded in a rights-based approach (i.e., international law). What does that mean? The short answer is we will not accept any illegalities that Israel created over time to be assumed accepted, such as denying our refugees the right to come home or the building of settlements.”

The full exchange can be read here.

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