Dec 23 2001

Cease Fire Conditions

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

Yasser Arafat interrupted two television programs in the past week to make a simple point. It is difficult to uphold a unilateral cease-fire. Speaking from a prepared text to the Palestinian people on the occasion of Eid al Fitr Arafat reiterated the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to a cease-fire. Arafat’s impromptu comments to his people in Arabic on Palestinian TV were very telling. “Hold you fire even if the Israelis shoot at you,” he said in Arabic. A week earlier on Israel’s first channel Arafat was asked if he can promise the Israeli public that there will be no more suicide bombings.” We need to work together with you to be able to do that,” he told the Israeli interviewer.

The point that the Palestinian president has been trying to make is that it is impossible for the Middle East to be calm without a concerted cooperative atmosphere that includes both a security effort and an equally zealous political effort. Although the Palestinian leader was publicly criticized recently, the US envoy General Zinni is said to have been equally unhappy with the Israeli prime minister because he refused to a cease fire agreement that included a commitment to end of Israeli assassination and incursion policies.

To be successful cease-fire agreements normally contain within them two elements- a functional element and a political one. And because cease-fire agreement are reached between enemies that don’t trust each other, a trusted third party is necessary to make sure both parties uphold any such agreement.

On the functional level, Palestinians and Israelis need to use all their physical and persuasive powers to stop members of their own forces or individuals working in areas under their control to cease from initiating fire. Naturally this doesn’t and shouldn’t include people protesting using non-lethal means. It is also fair to state that parties can’t be asked to enforce a cease-fire agreement in areas not under their full security control. Cease fire agreements of course have to be bilateral. One party can’t expect the other to cease-fire while it continues to use fire under any pretext other than the other side opening fire against. Using the term acts of self-defensive to justify booby trap a street to an elementary school or to shell a police station clinic (as the Israelis did in recent weeks) should not be tolerated.

Cease fire agreements, however, often fail because parties to these agreements fail to honor or follow through the second most crucial element of such agreements, namely the political one. A political clause gives people hope and allows leaders to enforce tough actions against their own people in the hope that a political settlement will be reached. Following through on the political elements of any such agreement guarantees the longevity of the agreement and promises to move from what is a temporary truce to a much more stable peace treaty.

The guarantor of a cease fire agreement must be a party that is respected by both sides for impartiality and often times this third party is given permission to bring a force of its own that will make sure that both parties honor their commitments.

Without teeth, such agreements are quickly broken with both sides blaming the other party for being the first to shatter the cease-fire.

If these are basic principles for cease fire agreements what would an effective cease-fire agreement look like? Here is the draft of such agreement.

1. Both Israelis and Palestinians commit to immediately cease the use of firepower, whether from handguns, helicopters, ships, mortars or tanks.

2. The Palestinian Authority commits to 100% effort to prevent attacks against Israelis including suicide bombings.

3. Israeli soldiers agree to withdraw to areas they were in before the outbreak of the present conflict on September 28, 2000.

4. Palestinian security forces shall ensure that no one will use territories under their control termed areas “A” to initiate fire. This will include dismantling all non-PA security groups.

5. Israel shall commit to allow the movement of people and goods freely within the Palestinian cities and villages, as well as leaving the land crossings and Gaza International Airport permanently open.

6. Palestinians working in Israel will be allowed to return to the levels reached before September 28th, 2000.

7. The safe passage road between Gaza and the West Bank shall be immediately opened.

8. Israel shall stop its policy of assassinations and incursions into “A” Palestinian areas.

9. The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority agree to fulfill all remaining clauses of the interim agreement including the third Israelis redeployment, the opening up of the northern passage way between Gaza and Ramallah, the abolition of the civil administration and the annulment of all Israeli military orders signed into law since June 1967.

10. Palestinian and Israeli negotiators shall go back to the permanent status talks on the basis of relevant UN resolutions including 242, 338.

11. An armed multinational peace force shall be organized consisting of soldiers from the US, Canada, Turkey, Malaysia, India and Australia with the aim of enforcing this agreement and publicly exposing any violators.

12. The details of this agreement shall be announced by senior Palestinian and Israeli officials simultaneously on Palestine and Israel TV at 1100 hours on the morning of such and such date December, 2001.

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