The Palestine Papers
Meeting Minutes: 1st Meeting on Territory

Minutes of the first meeting on territory, where Palestinian and Israeli parties discussed common language and understandings on territories and borders. The Israeli side refused to engage on the basis of the 1967 line or to accept the principle of a swap.  The parties were unable to agree on a starting point for negotiations. 

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Minutes of First Meeting on Territory

Wednesday, 12 March 12 2008, 12:30 PM

KingDavid Hotel, West Jerusalem

Attendees:

 

Palestinian: Dr. Samih Al-Abed [SA], Khaled Elgindy [KE], Nizar Farsakh [NF]

Israeli: Udi Dekel [UD] and Dani Tirza [DT]

 

Overview:

  • The Israeli side refused to engage on the basis of the 1967 line or to accept the principle of a swap—and it was clear that they had no mandate to do so.  They also insisted that the border in Jerusalem be excluded from the work of the territory committee.  However, there was no discussion of the eastern border, including the fate of the Jordan Valley.
  • Parallel with this, they repeatedly noted their desire to “change the language” (Read: terms of reference) of the negotiations, which is consistent with the overall Israeli approach.
  • The Israeli standard is essentially two-fold: (1) realities on the ground and (2) what they referred to as the “West Bank outline map” (i.e., excluding the No Man’s Land and East Jerusalem).
  • Since no agreement could be reached on the starting point for negotiations, the Israeli side proposed that we either: (1) exchange maps of each side’s respective starting points, identify gaps and agree on a new baseline, or (2) send the issue back to the Abu Alaa/Livni track for them to decide.  The Palestinian side rejected the former and was non-committal on the latter.
  • Apart from these major points of contention however, the Israeli side was clearly following an interest-based approach, which provides at least potential opportunities for future progress.

 

Meeting Minutes (not verbatim):

UD:     We have to take every opportunity to find a solution, but it will be difficult.

SA:      Why is it difficult?  Is it because your desire to make an agreement is only your head and not in your heart as well?

UD:     First, there is history, which for some is more important than the future.  Each side has different interpretations of this or that event or symbol. The other problem is implementation, whereby after an agreement each side claims the
 


 

other is not acting in accordance with what was agreed.  Then we have the problem of terror groups who oppose any agreement and want to stop the process—not just here but all over the region, there are actors who do not want to see any progress.  But we have to go forward.  After our operation in Gaza, your side stopped negotiations. But after the terror attack in Jerusalem, we agreed to continue the process.

SA:      I agree, but you’re only telling half the story.  Also on your side there are people that want to get rid of us, and you did not mention the continuing settlement expansion…

DT:      These are not settlements…

SA:      … like the 750 new units approved in Giv’at Zeev, or other places; it makes people want to respond.  So we need the full story before we can go forward.

UD:     I’m not going to argue with you… but we have to be determined enough to reach an agreement.  Now, about today’s meeting, I don’t know what Abu Alaa and Livni agreed but, as I understand it, we need to agree on a common language when it comes to territory and borders.  From your side, I know there was discussion of percentages, or areas (in sq. km)… In the previous two meetings with Abu Alaa and Livni, we started to explain all the considerations of what we mean when we talk of territory and borders.

SA:      You are jumping directly into discussing areas.  We need to discuss parameters or guidelines.  You spoke of sq. km, but we already have a starting point, which is 1967.  We just need to have all the maps.  This is what we need for a breakthrough.  We must have a common language, agree on common maps and data, and then we can have a discussion about the issues.

UD:     As you know, our guiding principles are UNSC Res. 242, the need for boundaries that can provide security for Israel, and we’re talking about the situation on the ground, as per Pres. Bush’s letter.

SA:      Do you mean the situation as it was then, or now?

UD:     Reality now… But we’re not going to argue.  We can’t change reality on the ground.  We don’t see the 1967 border as a reference, first because we don’t even know exactly where the line is.

SA:      We have all the maps that were signed by you.

UD:     But that wasn’t exactly the line on the ground.

SA:      If not the 1967 line, then what is your reference?

UD:     We said already, the situation on the ground.

SA:      The wall?

UD:     The security fence is not a border.  Unfortunately, it is needed for security.  Every week we intercept 3 to 4 suicide bombers.  As we’ve said before, the fence is not a border and can be moved like we did with Lebanon.

NF:      What is your frame of reference?

UD:     We’re talking about blocs of settlements—not far in the West Bank, but close to the area we are talking about—are to be part of Israel. In Oslo we used the West Bank outline map.

DT:      It is the West Bank outline map, in which under our law Israeli military law is applied.

SA:      This is your law.  In our law, the line is 1967.

DT:      Based on which maps?  There is no…

SA:      This is the standard we’ve worked from, from Oslo to Taba… we are not going to discuss any other line.  If we’re going to waste time this is something else.

UD:     This is your opinion, but not our opinion.  It is very difficult to locate the exact line of the situation that existed on 4 June 1967.  It’s not the same line.  But for us, the baseline we use is the outline of the West Bank.  It may be close, but it’s not the same line.  You mentioned the NML—you can’t say this is “occupied”.

SA:      It doesn’t belong to you either.  The Jordan army was there at least in some places, but the Israeli army was not anywhere (in the NML).

UD:     This is our line. We have proof that the area was split and we consider it part of Israel

NF:      This was a gentlemen’s agreement that was not signed whereby the farmers from each side cultivate up to the middle of the NML, but then a dispute erupted in 1964 whereby this arrangement was dismissed.

UD:     We do not agree.

NF:      OK, then we agree to disagree.

KE:      There two practical problems with your approach.  How can we start from realities on the ground when the situation on the ground keeps changing, even as we speak. Second, how can we identify which areas in Israel would be swapped in exchange for what is being taken in the West Bank if we don’t have a reference line?

UD:     We are not speaking in the same dimension.  We are not speaking about “giving” and “taking”… we are taking about realities.  Our goal is to create a better situation for Palestinians, as well as for Israelis.

NF:      Can you explain to us how you see us moving forward from today’s meeting to an final agreed border?

UD:     Take reality on the ground…  We want the blocs to be included in Israel, and we want contiguity—just like you want contiguity.  And you have to take into consideration the need to protect our citizens, for strategic depth, and the ability of people to continue living normal lives—there is a list that we spoke of before—in addition to other concerns like holy places, water, etc.  If you’re going to talk about “rights” and what we “give back,” we can’t go forward.

SA:      This is not an encouraging way to start out.  All you’ve discussed is what you want to take.  We also have concerns about these issues—water, holy places, etc.  All these can be dealt with.  What is the adjacent area on your side?  We have that data and criteria for it as well.  If you want to just take, then we just keep what we have now.  What do you expect us to say to our people?  Everything you’re doing—the settlements, the wall—is illegal.  This is not a starting point.  If this is your intention, to argue about this, then how can we accept it?  This land that was taken was taken by force and it belongs to people. Who accepts that?

DT:      We’re talking about an agreement between two entities, not private property rights.  That will come later, at the end… because we also have Israelis who owned private property in the West Bank pre-1948. 

SA:      Fine.  We can deal with that too.

DT:      Al-Quds University is built on private property owned by Israelis.  But today we are talking about an agreement between states.

SA:      We have three issues: the 1967 line, exchanging maps and the swap.

UD:     The discussion between us is very important.  It will not help to talk about what is “illegal”.  Only my supreme court will tell me what is legal. We are the only country that has a supreme court that plays such a major role. We can fight over sentences…

SA:      We understand each other from all previous negotiations.

UD:     We didn’t take anything from you.  No Palestinian state existed before.  When you say 1967, it’s not something we can recognize. First, it’s not a border.  Second, we don’t know exactly where it is.  So we have to forget those things.  It doesn’t help to talk about what we “take” or “give”.  Also, percentages don’t help.  But if we agree on a border then we can move forward

NF:      We’re disagreeing over approach.  I still fail to see how this is so.  Yes, the exact 1967 line is hard to know but there are ways to deal with this. With Jordan you had that problem because of the vague definition of the boundary in Wadi Araba (where it said the middle of the wadi) and you split the difference between your interpretation and the Jordanian one.  We can deal with any discrepancies between your interpretation and ours.  But need some sort of starting point.

KE:      The entire international community does not accept Israeli sovereignty in any of the territory occupied in 1967. You are asking us to accept what the whole world is refusing to accept.  This is not logical.

UD:     The international community is not relevant here. We are not agreeing with them; we are agreeing with you on the border between us.  And there  wasn’t a border.  All the maps we agreed upon are based on that line [“WB outline”].

KE:      But even your line is based on the 1967 line.  If we compare your line to 1967 line we’ll find that it coincides everywhere except the Latrun NML and Jerusalem.  You mentioned UNSC Res. 242, which itself means the 1967 line.

UD:     You know the wording of 242 so… Maybe we can start by identifying differences between our West Bank outline and what you call 1967.

SA:      We have maps and you have maps, but if you want an international commission to judge where the line is, this is a waste of time.

UD:     We want to reach an agreement between us.  We don’t need the international community to tell us what to do.

SA:      We cannot take the line you created.

UD:     It’s not created, it is used in our agreements with you in Oslo.  It’s based on this line [“WB outline”]

NF:      The Interim Agreement has no line. It just shows Areas A and B.

UD:     But the percentage of the areas are calculated according to that line.

NF:      That still does not mean that we accept that line.  I can draw 100 different lines and still get the same areas; that is not a standard.

UD:     Let’s check the line you have and what we have.  If it’s 90% the same, we can work on the rest… 

SA:      but we used this line in Camp David and Taba, so why restart the discussion?

UD:     I’m trying to change the language between us, to create a soft language between us.  We don’t want to fight over symbols; we’d like to create a new approach.  If we use symbols, it will be very difficult for you, and for us.  We’d like to have a new approach—not looking at maps signed by Moshe Dayan and Jordanians in the 1950s.

SA:      We also want to be creative and have an open mind to make an agreement acceptable.  But you cannot impose on me facts on the ground that you created and say this is the starting point.  These facts on the ground caused lots of problems for us.  We want to be creative

 

[Break: 13h30 - 13h45]

 

SA:      There are some logistical and process issues we can discuss before going back to our previous discussion, such as how often we meet, how many, etc.

UD:     My recommendation is we should see each other once a week, and in each meeting decide the issues to be discussed in the next meeting.  For example, our idea to discuss our line and your line to see what we can agree on; you can bring your people and we’ll bring our people and we’ll discuss the gaps.

SA:      This will take a long time and will take us away from the fundamental issues.  We need a comprehensive agreement on the full border.

UD:     So we have to agree upon the line.  If it’s 80% agreed then we leave it aside as a baseline and focus on the remaining 20%

KE:      Just a point of clarification on what you’re proposing: are you saying the sections of the line that we agree on would be the border, or the baseline?

DT:      No, the baseline.

UD:     Once we agree where the baseline is we can go forward.  Then we can define the line on the ground…  There are no shortcuts.  We have to understand each side’s opinion.

SA:      If we are going to sit and discuss the baseline, which is known to everyone, then this sounds like a way to delay.  It’s an obstacle now.  We’ve discussed this with you since 2000; now you’re coming with something different.

UD:     You didn’t discuss it with us. You can’t tell me that if we don’t use your approach then we are putting obstacles. This is not the way to negotiate.  You have your concept; we have ours.  I would like to see if there really is a big difference in terms of the outcome.  If there is a big gap, then we can reevaluate our approach.  I would like to take reality on the ground.

SA:      We can’t accept that because it was imposed on us. 

UD:     You can’t say that the Armistice Line of 1949 is the reality that existed on 4 June 1967.

KE:      So why not just focus on identifying the 1967 line as it was then, which is a technical exercise?...  Just to clarify, because you seem to be saying two different things.  On the one hand you’re saying the starting point is your “West Bank outline”, which is an arbitrary line that you drew and is not recognized by anyone in the world.  And on the other you’re saying it’s facts on the ground, which you imposed on us and which is changing on a daily basis.  But the two are not same.  You have facts on the ground that go well beyond your “West Bank outline”.  In that sense, Area C is an equally valid starting point. 

UD:     Everything can be taken to extremes… that is not what I said.  I said we do not accept 1967 as a principle.  We want to start with the reality that existed in 1967 and take into consideration current realities on the ground. We’d like to keep the blocs, but this is not new.  We need to define a line.  You have your line and we have ours.

SA:      We oppose the idea of facts on the ground as the starting point.  We all know what the starting point is.

UD:     You cannot say ‘if you don’t accept my way we can’t move forward.’  This is no way to move forward.

DT:      If you want to move forward, let’s map the gaps (between our two lines).  The gaps are Jerusalem, which we are not talking about today (we have no mandate), and the NML, which we can discuss in another meeting.  This is a very minor thing.

SA:      This is not a minor thing.  We’re talking about Jerusalem, which is not a “concept” or “symbol”.  If this is what you want to start with, you are taking us backward.

UD:     There are now two options: either we do this exercise of comparing lines and identifying gaps, or we go back to Abu Alaa and Livni for them to decide in their next meeting.

KE:      Practically, what you’re proposing is to draw only a partial border.  Meaning we’d have a line everywhere except Jerusalem?

UD:     Your leaders speak of an open city for example… so until the upper level comes to agreement we can’t talk about Jerusalem.  After the discussion with the upper level, we will have a solution for Jerusalem, but we don’t have the ability to do that now.

SA:      What is the line that we would stop at in Jerusalem in your view?

UD:     They will have to decide what will be the solution for Jerusalem.

NF:      Physically, where is the stopping point?  Qatannah?  And then to what point?

DT:      Battir.

SA:      This is a state with provisional borders.  I do not have authority to discuss this.

UD:     Check with your leader and I will check with mine.  Abu Alaa and Livni will meet next week.  I will be part of that.  I don’t know, maybe you will come too. But I know they won’t agree and will tell us to try again to come to a solution.

DT:      Regarding common maps, what system are you working from?  UTM?

NF:      We use UTM, but it’s not a problem.  They’re convertible anyway.

UD:     So I understand, we’ve agreed to bring the issue to Abu Alaa and Livni?  Or do we meet to agree on a (new) line?

SA:      We can do both.  We’ll check with them and we can meet.

UD:     I will call you to arrange our next meeting.

DT:      Can you send me the shapefile of your line?

NF:      We’ll have to check.

UD:     Thank you for coming.  Even if we do not see eye to eye, we want to keep talking.

SA:      We agree, but you are taking us back…

 

 

END TIME:  14h15