The Geneva Accord: Plan or Pretense?

This publication is an in- depth study of the “unofficial” Geneva Accord, launched by Palestinian and Israeli figures in Geneva in December 2003. The book analyses the Accord’s stipulations, context and implications, assessing its impact as well as prospects for implementation. The first two chapters describe the background to the plan, reasons why the relevant players became involved, and rival initiatives such as the “People’s Voice”. The third and fourth chapters analyze the Accord itself and compare it with the Oslo Agreements. Finally, chapters five and six discuss the implications of the Accord for the Israeli Left and for the Palestinians. The appendices include a summary of the Accord, interviews with key figures and a list of source material.

May 1, 2004


Several months have now passed since the official launch of the Geneva Accord. Memories of the glitzy ceremony have faded, leaving behind the more substantial questions of whether the agree­ment is a) a good one, b) possible to implement, and c) capable of offering anything new. The Accord has prompted mixed reactions, ranging from enthusi­astic support to angry condemnation. Meanwhile, the individuals who are behind the document have been accused of treachery by elements from within their respective communities, and large numbers of people on both sides claim that the document con­cedes too much.

So how durable is the Geneva Accord likely to be? Will anyone remem­ber the Accord in a year's time, or will it suffer the same fate as the Nusseibeh-Ayalon initiative, another unofficial peace venture that has seemingly vanished without trace (a recent poll revealed that 60 per­cent of respondents were not familiar with the People's Voice pro­posal). [1] Is the agreement even workable, or are some of the clauses (especially those relating to Jerusalem ) too complex and impractical? Is it a ‘just' proposal - does it satisfy the demands of both communi­ties, or at least some of them? If it is flawed, how can it be improved upon? Can it be improved upon?

A more fundamental question is, why bother to discuss the Geneva Accord at all? After all, the agreement is an unofficial document that has been roundly condemned by the current Israeli Government and treated with indifference by the United States . The chances of it being implemented in the near future, if they exist at all, are very slight. Furthermore, public support for the agreement, which was not great to begin with, shows signs of diminishing. Ha'aretz measured Israeli pub­lic support at 53 percent on 24 November (before the initiative was officially launched), while the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies meas­ured support in February 2004 at only 24 percent.

Similarly, Palestinian reactions seem to be marked by either indiffer­ence or angry opposition, with only a minority of those questioned in various polls expressing support for the Accord. In the current adverse climate, many feel that there is simply no point in paying the docu­ment much attention and that it is safe to dismiss it for the time being. Others have questioned the motives of those who drafted the Accord, accusing them of trying to better themselves at the expense of the best interests of the people they claim to represent.

Criticism of the Accord in general has tended to fall into one of two categories. Either it is dismissed as irrelevant or it is criticized for not achieving enough, the implication being that more able negotiators with a willingness to work harder could have extracted greater conces­sions. I think both of these viewpoints are misguided and during the course of this analysis I shall attempt to show why the Accord de­serves the attention of both Israelis and Palestinians, but especially the latter, not because it is a positive initiative (as I shall show later, it is highly problematic) but because of the potential dangers inherent in it. I shall also discuss why it is a mistake to think that something better might emerge from future negotiations.

It is probably true to say that the Geneva Accord represents the best deal offered to the Palestinians by the Israeli political establishment since the creation of the State of Israel. This fact does not, of course, justify automatic acceptance of the agreement by the Palestinian peo­ple, as some advocates of the Accord seem to be suggesting, but it does, I think, mean that we should study the document carefully, and even more crucially, study the context in which it was produced. The Palestinians need to ask themselves, if they are opposed to it, why they are opposed to it, and what aspect(s) of it, exactly, they find un­favorable. The Accord should be taken as a reason for initiating a seri­ous internal debate about what goals the Palestinians want to achieve and what exactly they will regard as the fulfillment of those goals.

Chapter One of this study will outline the background to the Geneva Accord and look at the factors that led to its production. Chapter Two will briefly compare the Accord with other unofficial rivals such as the People's Voice campaign of Sari Nusseibeh and Ami Ayalon and the One Voice initiative and try to address the question of why the Geneva Accord has attracted more attention than both of these did. The third and fourth chapters will look at the Accord in detail. Chapter Three will focus on the specific stipulations of the document whilst Chapter Four will compare the Accord with the Oslo process as a way of analyzing the context and premises of the agreement.

The final two chapters will assess reactions in the two communities and discuss what the Accord tells us about the current state of the Israeli Left (Chapter Five) and also its implications for the Palestinians (Chapter Six). I hope that by the end of this analysis I will have pro­vided a productive overview of the details and context of the docu­ment and offered convincing arguments for adopting a stance of criti­cal opposition to it.

[ 1 ] See Verter, Yossi. “ Narrow Gap Seen Between Geneva Deal's Supporters and Detractors,” Ha'aretz, 1 December 2003. The ‘People's Voice' is the official name of the Nusseibeh-Ayalon initiative.

Nick Kardahji is a Palestinian-British researcher who has been working at PASSIA since November 2003, after graduating from the University of Sheffield, UK, with a BA in Philosophy.


List of Abbreviations




Chapter One

The Road to Geneva


Chapter Two

Geneva and Its Rivals


Chapter Three

Geneva in Detail


Chapter Four

Geneva and Oslo: A Tale of Two Agreements


Chapter Five

The Geneva Accord, Israeli Public Opinion and the Israeli Left


Chapter Six

Geneva and Its Implications for the Palestinians