Israelis, Palestinians Oppose Signing of Alternative 'Peace Plan'

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel is calling an alternative peace plan due to be signed on Monday a "hoax" and a "deceptive campaign," while some Palestinians also voiced fierce opposition to the plan.

The Geneva Accord, as it has been dubbed, has the backing of the Swiss government.

Negotiators of the pact said they have resolved issues which have inspired conflict for more than 100 years, among them, the issues of sovereignty over Jerusalem, Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Hundreds of supporters, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former Polish President Lech Walesa and John Hume of Ireland, are expected for the signing ceremony between left-wing Israelis and Palestinians. The foreign minister of Qatar and envoys from Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco and Oman will also witness the signing ceremony.

Switzerland has funded and facilitated the plan, which is meant to be an agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The signing ceremony will directed by the Swiss Foreign Minister and hosted by American actor Richard Dreyfus.

Saeb Erekat, the a Palestinian Authority minister, said that PA Chairman Yasser Arafat supports the efforts of those involved in the Geneva understanding and endorsed the meeting between Israeli and Palestinians.

"The President [Arafat] and PA encourage the peace camps on both sides," Erekat said in a telephone interview. In fact, Arafat recommended that government members join the delegation to Geneva, Erekat added.

Erekat, who was involved in negotiations with Israel for years during the Oslo process in the 1990s, said he doesn't see the document as anything new.

"I don't think we are going to re-invent the wheel," Erekat said. "I don't think it contradicts Oslo or the road map... [We're] looking to have an official partner in Israel."

The Palestinian delegation is headed by Arafat's national security advisor Jibril Rajoub, who was quoted as saying that Arafat's backing for the document was an expression of his support for the Israeli peace camp.

But officials in Arafat's Fatah faction said that no one is in favor of the document.

Hussein al Sheikh, a West Bank Fatah leader, said those who sign the document would be representing themselves and no one else.

"The standing of Fatah is clear and public - we are against this document and this harms the interests and rights of the Palestinian people, al Sheikh said in a radio interview in Hebrew.

Among other things, the document cedes the "right of return" for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and millions of their descendants to areas inside Israel. It also divides sovereignty over Jerusalem into Israeli and Palestinian areas with international monitoring in the Old City.

"All the framework of Fatah, all the leaders of Fatah, are against this document," he said.

At the last minute on Sunday, some of the officials involved in formulating the document decided not to attend the ceremony.

Fatah official Hatem Abdel Kader said he decided not to go after Arafat and Fatah did not back the accord. The goal of Palestinian support for the plan was "to create divisions inside Israel and block the growth of the right-wing in Israel," Kader was quoted as saying in an interview in The Jerusalem Post .

The agreement, negotiated unofficially in secret, was first brought to light in mid-October. Since then a copy has been mailed to every Israeli home and it has been published in the Palestinian press.

"For the first time in more than a hundred years of conflict, a detailed and comprehensive solution was agreed upon which settles the most critical issues of this conflict," those who negotiated the document said in a statement.

The Israeli government has vehemently opposed the plan, saying there is no other game in town except the U.S.-backed road map.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman Dr. Ra'anan Gissin called the signing a "hoopla story" and emphasized that the "agreement" was not being made between governments.

"Whatever they claim, it's not the termination of the conflict," Gissin said in a telephone interview.

"It's a pretense of an agreement," he said. Those who wrote the agreement said it proved that there was someone on the Palestinian side to talk to. But Gissin likened that talk to one between a priest and a death row inmate. When its over, he said, one side is still going to die.

"It's a hoax, a deceptive campaign... It's not an agreement, it's a suicide [note]," he said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called the initiative a "virtual" plan.

"There are many plans recently in this region. All of them are virtual plans. There is only one real plan and it is the road map," Shalom said.

A survey published in the daily Ha'aretznewspaper on Monday showed that approximately 31 percent of Israelis favored the agreement, while about 38 percent were opposed, some 20 percent hadn't made up their minds and another 11 percent hadn't heard of it.