Swiss peace plan irritates Israel

Israelis calling for peace during a protest in West Jerusalem. voices.op.org

Switzerland’s involvement in an alternative peace plan for the Middle East has aroused anger in Israel.

This content was published on October 15, 2003 - 20:15

Israel’s ambassador to Switzerland, Aviv Shir-On, was officially briefed about the plan by the Swiss foreign ministry in Bern on Wednesday.

The so-called Geneva Accord was finalised in Jordan at the weekend with support and financial backing from the Swiss government.

It is the result of unofficial talks between members of the Palestinian authority and the Israeli opposition, and is due to be signed in Geneva on November 4.

No details were released in Bern of the meeting between Ambassador Shir-On and Swiss diplomats, but a spokesman for the Israeli foreign minister in Jerusalem said Israel was angry at Switzerland’s involvement.

“We will certainly expect the Swiss authorities to explain just how deeply they were involved in developing this plan,” said spokesman Jonathan Peled.

He added that Israel would be reminding Switzerland that negotiations were supposed to take place between governments rather than private individuals.

Damaged relations?

Israel’s official position remains that the United States-backed “road map” to peace is the only plan worth following.

Some Israeli politicians have suggested that the Swiss-backed peace proposal could harm diplomatic relations between the two countries.

But Paul Fivat, a political officer at the Swiss foreign ministry, who was present at the meeting with Ambassador Shir-On, said Switzerland was simply fulfilling its longstanding commitment to supporting peace initiatives.

“Our position is quite simple,” said Fivat. “The project has its foundation in the involvement of citizens from both sides.”

Support and doubts

The alternative peace plan is the result of two years of secret negotiations between members of the Israeli opposition and Palestinian representatives.

Both sides have hailed the accord as a blueprint for ending the Middle East conflict, but some Middle East observers have doubts.

Pascal de Crousaz, a Swiss Middle East expert, said he did not think the accord had any chance of being adopted in the future.

“I don’t see this accord becoming effective, but we should remember that during the first Intifada these kinds of talks were being held,” he told swissinfo.

“The talks at the Notre-Dame convent in Jerusalem were the first steps towards the Oslo peace accords in 1993, so it’s not impossible that this deal could play the same role in the future.”

Completely finalised

According to Attallah Kheiry, the Palestinian representative in Amman, the draft has been finalised and is ready to be adopted.

“The draft deals with all the hot issues such as the status of Jerusalem, the settlers, prisoners and the security wall that is currently being built,” he said.

The Arabic newspaper “Al-Quds” said a key trade-off was that Palestinians would not demand the right of return for refugees.

The paper added that the Palestinians would get sovereignty over one of the most disputed religious places in the Middle East: Jerusalem’s Nobel Sanctuary or Temple Mount.

swissinfo with agencies

Key Facts

The “Geneva Accord” is the result of two years of unofficial talks between Palestinians and members of the Israeli opposition.
The talks have support and financial backing from the Swiss government.
The accord is due to be signed in Geneva on November 4.
Israel says the only viable plan for peace in the Middle East is the US-backed “road map”.

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