Mideast peace paradigm

IT HAS BECOME a sad commonplace that large majorities of Israelis and Palestinians yearn for peace while all-or-nothing hotheads in both camps assert that the other side will never compromise.

Against this backdrop of tragic irrationality, it is good news that prominent -- albeit out-of-power -- Israeli doves have negotiated a peace agreement they call the Geneva Accord with Palestinian political figures close to Yasser Arafat. The general outlines of this agreement resemble the proposals from former President Clinton that were the basis for negotiations conducted at Taba, Egypt, in January 2001.

As at Taba, the two sides agreed that Palestinian refugees could be absorbed in the new Palestinian state, go to third countries, or stay where they are and receive financial compensation. But none could go back to lost homes in Israel without Israel's consent. In other words, longtime Arafat loyalist Yasser Abed Rabbo and his technical advisers in the new negotiating team ceded what Palestinians call the right of return, which many Palestinians define as inalienable and that most Israelis consider the ultimate deal-breaker.

In another compromise mirroring Taba, former Labor Party minister Yossi Beilin and his Israeli negotiating team conceded all of Gaza and nearly all of the West Bank to the Palestinian state. A few Israeli settlements -- or suburbs -- such as Ma'aleh Adunim and Givat Ze'ev would remain part of Israel. In return for this 2 percent of the West Bank kept by Israel, the Palestinian state would receive an equivalent amount of land in the Negev, adjacent to Gaza.

Jerusalem would be divided, with Arab neighborhoods going to the Palestinian state and Jewish neighborhoods to Israel. The Temple Mount would be Palestinian, with an international security force to ensure access for people of all faiths. The Western Wall would remain under Israel's sovereignty.

Also, the new Palestinian state would be demilitarized, obligated to disarm all militias, and have its border crossings supervised by an international force.

This unofficial agreement on a conflict-ending pact for peaceful coexistence between Israel and a Palestinian state disproves two destructive claims that hardliners in both camps assert like immutable truths: that there is no partner for negotiations, much less peace, on the other side; and that the other side will never make the compromises required to end the conflict. For this vision to be realized, the hotheads will have to abjure their maximalist demands and leaders on both sides will have to show political courage. This Geneva Accord negotiated by doves shows that peace is there for the making.

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