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MENCHEM KLEIN, political science Bar Ilan University, in an interview: nothing blocking peace except Israeli obstinacy

IMRA Newsletter

Interview: Geneva Initiative Participant Dr. Menachem Klein [Best Case Assumptions?]

Aaron Lerner

26 October 2003

IMRA interviewed Dr. Menachem Klein, Senior Lecturer Department of Political Studies, Bar Ilan University, in English, on 26 October 2003. Dr. Klein participated in the drafting of Yossi Beilin's "Geneva Initiative".

IMRA: I have a few questions about the "Geneva Initiative". According to Article 5 Paragraph 3(b) "Palestine shall be a non-militarized state, with a strong security force. Accordingly, the limitations on the weapons that may be purchased, owned, or used by the Palestinian Security Force (PSF) or manufactured in Palestine shall be specified in Annex X. Any proposed changes to Annex X shall be considered by a trilateral committee composed of the two Parties and the MF. If no agreement is reached in the trilateral committee, the IVG may make its own recommendations."

It would seem from a reading of this that immediately after the agreement goes into effect that the list of weapons can be changed without Israel's consent.

Klein: Just a minute. Let me read this.

IMRA: It says that there will be a trilateral committee. So the implication is that there are three votes such that the list can be changed even at the objection of Israel.

Klein: It depends on how many MF (multinational force) representatives will be there. If there will be only one or two or three. The formation of the committees was left to the annexes. Now "If no agreement is reached in the trilateral committee, the IVG may make its own recommendations."

IMRA: I was puzzled by that wording. Does the IVG [AL: The Implementation and Verification Group (IVG) shall include the U.S., the Russian Federation, the EU, the UN, and other parties, both regional and international, to be agreed on by the Parties] recommendation hold?

Klein: I will explain the principle to you. On the one hand the state of Palestinian will be non-militarized. The supervision won't be done by Israel because such a supervision is to continue the occupation by other means. And we don't want to continue the occupation by other means. Also, as a lesson from the Oslo Agreement, we need to have a third party to determine who is right and who is wrong when there are disagreements. This element was absent in the Oslo Accords. Therefore we founded the IVG. The IVG will decide in cases of disagreement.

The principle of a non-militarized state is accepted by the Palestinians so they cannot turn it into a joke.

IMRA: But it is accurate to say that after that point if Israel objected to a change in the weapons list they do not have the ability to stop the change.

Klein: THE IVG, whose formation, numbers, how many participate in this committee was left to the annexes, will decide if both sides cannot agree.

But as it is stated in the agreement, we do not expect the Palestinian side to violate this item on being non-militarized. They cannot. They agreed to that.

And you cannot have an agreement while immediately you assume that the other party, our yourself, intends to violate the agreement.

IMRA: But it is clear that in the case that if Israel at some point disagrees over the list of weapons and the IVG agrees with the Palestinians then there is nothing Israel can do about it.

Klein: Yes. But we do not assume that the IVG will automatically side with the Palestinian side by the same token that the Palestinians do not assume that the IVG will always side with the Israelis.

We also included the United States in the IVG.

IMRA: Along with the Russians and others.

Klein: Yes. For example the United States is fighting terrorism. So we do not assume that the IVG will automatically be against Israel.

IMRA: At the beginning of Article 5 Paragraph 1(b) iii. the parties are to "refrain from joining, assisting, promoting or co-operating with any coalition, organization or alliance of a military or security character, the objectives or activities of which include launching aggression or other acts of hostility against the other"

Klein: Yes.

IMRA: What I find fascinating about this passage is that typically in previous discussions of agreements Israelis have talked about preventing the Palestinian state from entering into security pacts or defense pacts. The wording here is such that I cannot imagine any pact that would be prohibited.

Just as an example, if they were to enter into a pact with, say, Pakistan and Iran, the wording of the pact would not state explicitly that its objective is to launch aggression or other acts of hostility against Israel. It would say that it is defending.

I am trying to think of a pact that, a priori, would have the kind of wording that would be prohibited by this agreement.

Klein: It prevents the Palestinian state from entering into defense pacts.

IMRA: How?

Klein: Any pact that will stand against what is signed bilaterally between Israel and Palestine in their peace agreement would be overridden by the agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinians. This would rule out the option that you mention.

IMRA: Dr. Klein I am confused. Can you show me the wording that says what you say. I only see wording that prohibits an alliance whose stated objective is "launching aggression or other acts of hostility against" Israel.

How would, a priori, the Palestinian state's entering into a defense pact with a third party violate this prohibition?

Klein: The defense pact is prohibited since it is an "alliance of a military or security character".

IMRA: But only if its stated objective is "launching aggression or other acts of hostility against the other".

Klein: Exactly. If this pact is aimed to buying light weapons that they are allowed to carry they can buy them anywhere they like.

IMRA: Dr. Klein, I am not talking about some kind of commercial arrangement. I am talking about a defense pact. A defense pact under which an attack against one country is considered as an attack against the other. I will give you an example, there is a defense pact in the Arab League that makes an attack against one state as if all the states were attacked. We are not talking about some kind of commercial arrangement for the supply of weapons. We are talking about creating a situation such that if at any point Israel were to carry out an attack against the Palestinian state that it would, a priori, put a third country in the position of being expected to respond as it has a defense pact with the Palestinian state.

When people spoke over the years about preventing a Palestinian state from entering into a defense pact this is what they were talking about.

And I don't see this in the agreement.

Klein: Well, when Israel attacked Lebanon, Egypt did not respond.

IMRA: And there was considerable furor on the street about it.

Klein: But they didn't attack.

IMRA: What pact would be prohibited by the agreement? That's all I am asking.

Klein: I don't see any grounds for your interpretation. Sorry. But I do not see any grounds.

IMRA: The text of the agreement prohibits only those pacts that explicitly states that its objective is "launching aggression or other acts of hostility against" Israel and that apparently is sufficient for you.

Klein: And also, I told you, if for defense purposes the Palestinians will buy light weapons from Iran and Pakistan then that is fine.

IMRA: Article 5 Paragraph 7(b) talks of a timetable for Israeli withdrawals with the first withdrawal taking place "immediately". I don't see any time reference in the agreement to either the disbanding of "irregular forces or armed bands". In the case of the confiscation of weapons, there isn't a reference to this even talking place.

I was wondering why there is no reference to timing in the agreement. I am asking this particularly in light of the fact that the failure of the Good Friday Agreement has been attributed to the absence of a timetable for the collection of weapons. As a result there have been, to this day, problems with the implementation of the agreement. Here we have what appears to be a repeat of the same mistake.

Klein: All the schedules, the IVG and the multinational force will be dealt with in the annexes.

IMRA: There is no indication in the agreement that there will be a timetable for these activities while there is a reference to a timetable for Israeli withdrawals.

Klein: The agreement will be enforced immediately anywhere Israel withdraws from. And the IVG and multinational force will be there to supervise that the agreement is fully implemented in that area.

IMRA: Which means that they will immediately disband the forces and collect the weapons?

Klein: Yes. Yes. It means that immediately all clauses in the agreement will be implemented in that area. The IVG and the multinational security arrangements will be enforced immediately. There will be third party involvement and determination.

IMRA: I see that there was no linkage to compliance. From a timeline standpoint from the very beginning you have a sovereign Palestinian state. You sign the agreement, the Palestinians declare a state, Israel immediately recognizes it and you move on from there. There is no gray period during which the agreement has been signed but the sovereign state has yet to be declared.

Klein: It is a final status agreement that we end everything. We do not have an interim agreement. There is an interim period of implementation - especially in Jerusalem where what we suggested cannot be achieved, even physically, in one stage. We have to build bridges and roads, etc. The implementation will take some time. Also the evacuation of Israeli settlements will take some time. So the implementation will take some time.

If, for example, the implementation takes some time - the sovereign Palestinian state is declared from the start but that does not mean that it is sovereign over the entire occupied territories where Israeli settlements still remain. The implementation will take some time. As Israel withdraws from an area the state of Palestine becomes a full sovereign and the agreement is implemented in that area. But we won't leave Israeli settlers under Palestinian sovereignty. We are completely against such an arrangement.

IMRA: What I am trying to understand is that in some part of territory, not the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip albeit, but in some part of the territory, at the start of the agreement there is a sovereign Palestinian state.

Klein: Yes. Definitely. And the whole agreement will be enforced in this area.

IMRA: Some people say that a sovereign state that comes into existence within the context of an agreement continues to exist as a sovereign state even if it does not honor the agreement under which it came into existence. Is that an accurate representation of reality?

Klein: We do not see it that way.

IMRA: Going for a worse case scenario rather than a best best case scenario, let's say that a few months down the track if things do not work out and the Palestinians do not honor the agreement, do you see the sovereign Palestinian state that already exists within the area they already have at that stage as having some kind of conditional sovereignty that somehow falls apart or is it the case that whatever territory they are already in would remain a sovereign Palestinian state regardless of whether or not they honor what is written in the agreement.

Klein: But then we have the new element: as compared to the Oslo Agreement, we have a third party that will determine. And Israel will call on the third party to determine and force the Palestinians to honor the agreement and fulfill their obligations. That is exactly why we have a third party here.

IMRA: So this is based on the assumption that for the first time in over fifty years, if Israel has a dispute with this sovereign Palestinian state that the world will agree with Israel's position rather than the Palestinian position.

Klein: Israel will be helped by the IVG. Also in your case, if you look a the map and see where the Israeli army bases are located and the spread of the settlements you will see that it is almost impossible for your scenario to take place. The worse case scenario would leave Israel with so many roads and bases in the few months despite the independent sovereign Palestinian state.

The Palestinian interest will be to allow Israel to complete its withdrawals. The Palestinian interest, built into the agreement, is not to violate the agreement and to complete the full implementation.

I see them following it 100%

IMRA: So if you want to be a cynic you would say that they will follow the Quraysh model.

Klein: What is the Quraysh model?

IMRA: The Quraysh model is what Prime Minister of Malaysia suggested. That you enter into a treaty and keep it until the point that you can defeat your enemy.

Klein: If this were the case then the Palestinian leadership should have accepted Barak's proposals in Camp David. The very fact that they argued with us when we prepared this document on every centimeter and ever inch and agreed to what they agreed to here and agreed to an end to the state of war and to an end to claims and to having international supervision with all the structure that we built into it means that they want a state over '67 territories only.

I met with 150 Israeli and Palestinian teachers recently and my Palestinian colleague was asked by Palestinian ethnic group members from the State of Israel "what about us - the 1948 Palestinians?" he said "you are out of my political definition. My state is the '67 territories, therefore you were left out." It is clear cut.

There is no way for ambiguity, unless you are biased by your own political views.

IMRA: Which party wanted to make it possible to limit the supervision of the borders to 5 years.

Klein: And later by the IVG.

IMRA: No. It is up to the IVG to extend it. It is not up to Israel to decide on continuing beyond the 5 years.

Klein: Both sides believed that five years would be enough.

Source: IMRA – Independent Media Review and Analysis

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