Photo: Reuters
If not for Rice, negotiations might still be going on
Photo: Reuters

Beyond their wildest dreams

Border agreement with Palestinians shows generals shouldn't conduct negotiations

Only a few Israelis took the time to read the details of the border crossing agreement that finalized rules for exit from and entry to the Gaza Strip following the disengagement.


This is the nature of political agreements: few people take the time to read them; most people rely on the headlines.


In this case, the lack of interest was double: for most, the process was completed when the last soldier left Gaza.


Left behind were the Palestinians, whose fate doesn't really interest us.


And in any event, political agreements with them are little more than technicalities that do nothing to change the basic lack of trust between the sides, and which they will eventually break anyway.


This is exactly how our defense establishment conducted its part of the negotiations, which went on and on and on and might still be going on, were it not for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who rapped on the table during her last visit here and basically forced Israel to sign on the dotted line.


Generals bring worse agreements


This story, says one official close to the negotiations, shows why no agreement can flourish when left in the hands of army generals and security officials. It also proves that every time these matters are left in their hands (and there is no other option in Israel), we eventually sign an agreement far worse than what would otherwise have been able to accomplish had the negotiations been conducted differently.


The negotiations in question took several months. Israel's security establishment responded to just about every question with a never-ending list of possible scenarios and the lack of trust between the sides.


For those who see every Arab who lacks 24-hours-a-day electronic supervision by armed forces sitting above their heads as a threat to Israel's security, there will never be enough.


This is how the complications piled up: video cameras to take pictures of those using the crossing, a refusal to allow Egyptian soldiers to be stationed at the crossings ("a violation of the peace treaty with Egypt," they said. As if a bi-lateral agreement could be a violation) and the rest of the bullish demands that did nothing to hide the essential problem: The Israeli security establishment sees everything as a zero-sum game. We "give", they "take." The establishment simply cannot imagine a situation in which both sides come away pleased.


Danger of explosion


The security negotiations continued for months with no movement. At the same time, Haim Ramon, who was charged with conducting third-party negotiations (with the Europeans) on civilian matters, managed to tie up matters in a week.


And at the same time – according to Shimon Peres – the failure to conclude an agreement prevented us from having left Gaza, and the ticking bomb of living conditions in Gaza, totally dependent on the ability to move people and goods to the Egypt and the West Bank, kept on ticking away.


At the end of the day, it was the danger of this explosion, together with former World Bank chief James Wolfensohn's threat to abandon his efforts in the region and Rice's intervention, that forced Israel to sign an American-dictated agreement that granted the Palestinians more than they ever dreamed of getting by negotiation.


In the final agreement, Israel has no real sovereignty over who enters or leaves Gaza. It is questionable if this fact represents the high-level threat the security establishment would have us believe it does, but it could have been prevented if negotiations had been conducted in good faith.


Agreement won't last


But we've seen this movie before, and we know just how it ends: This agreement won't last, because of the same worldview that caused the security establishment to try to torpedo it.


There will always be warnings that will force us to close the borders, there will always be Palestinian violations that validate our lack of faith.


And so, the magic circle will continue: Israel's security professionals will stand in the way of negotiations, but immediately afterwards the security establishment will prove that the negotiations were a lost cause from the start.


And as long as the prime minister continues to limit it and Israeli citizens continue to believe in its word above all else, nothing is going to change.


פרסום ראשון: 11.24.05, 16:42
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