22 January 2008
15:30 ? 17:00
Ahmad Qrei? (Abu Ala?)
Dr. Saeb Erekat
Livni: I met with Shas Minister Eli Yishay to persuade him not to withdraw from the government coalition, and every week he asks about our progress in the negotiations. I told him nothing has been agreed on.
During our last meeting I listened to your vision about borders and Jerusalem, and we?d like to continue our talk about borders and security. What about inviting two separate teams to work under our supervision on these two subjects? We?ve to agree on the issue of the borders, and we need to look to the Israelis behind the wall and to the Palestinians inside the borders.
We asked Dr. Saeb and Tal during our last meeting to discuss together these issues but we were not clear about our expectations from them. We?ll ask specialized people from both sides to start negotiations about the borders and to review the maps. But before we do this, there are principles that we?ve to agree on regarding settlement blocs and exchange of land. I mentioned in the last meeting that talk about a ratio of land exchange won?t help, and then I said we had to look at the maps in order to identify and know the areas that will be evacuated.
Abu Ala?: For this reason I want Dr. Saeb and Tal to discuss the matter together before enlarging the circle.
Livni: I?m not sure Tal?s able to address such issue.
Abu Ala?: They can ask for the assistance of specialized people, but for the sake of confidentiality they must both discuss the issue together and perhaps design a structure. Then we can work within the frame of this structure.
Livni: Then Dr. Saeb and Tal will design the structure.
Saeb: We?re ready upon your guidance to start work.
Livni: I?d rather have work begin next week because this week isn?t appropriate due to the issuance of Winograd Report next Wednesday. But parallel to this we need to think about means to involve the international community in the process especially with regard to the issue of refugees.
Abu Ala?: We want Jordan Syria, Lebanon and Egypt for the issues of refugees, water, the environment and borders.
Livni: As for the water issue, I know that you were close to reaching an agreement in Camp David.
Abu Ala?: This isn?t true. The water issue is complex. There?s the issue of surface water and the Jordan River is the most important source of surface water in the West Bank. There?s also the issue of underground water in the western basin and the north-eastern basin in the West Bank. In Gaza strip there?s the issue of the underground coastal water reservoir.
As for the refugees, when we start serious talks about this issue, we?ll see there are promising horizons that the multi-lateral talks can address. In the final analysis, it?s not you or me who decides to re-launch multi-lateral talks but the US and the Quartet.
Livni: Then what you?re saying is that we don?t need to start multi-lateral talks before bilateral issues start to move ahead.
Abu Ala?: We?ve no problem starting multi-lateral talks, but we want Saudi Arabia and the Arab League to be involved. For example, there?s the issue of compensation. How can we discuss compensation before reaching an agreement on the issue of refugees.
Saeb: With regards to water, there?s the issue of the Jordan River. Palestinian farmers used to benefit from the water of the Jordan River before 1967, but later Israel imposed restrictions on water use and declared adjacent territories military zones. In addition, Israel diverted most of the water of the Jordan River from Lake Tiberias to the Negev Desert. There are also the issues of the Dead Sea and Bahrain Canal. There are issues that need to be coordinated with neighboring Arab countries.
Abu Ala?: Before we talk about going to Arab countries, we need to agree together first. There are issues that we can discuss together, while other issues need to be discussed with neighboring Arab countries.
The multilateral track aims at achieving progress on the bilateral level, but we don?t deal with multi-lateral negotiations issues on the basis of the same criterion.
Livni: Then we?ll work on putting the structure, borders and security. As for water and the environment, perhaps we can invite specialized people like we did with the issues of borders and security.
As for the refugees, frankly the Israeli position is that the creation of a Palestinian state is the answer to the refugee issue. I know that you don?t accept this at the present time. I believe we can say that after finding an organized solution to the problem of refugees, we can discuss issues of compensation for host countries so that you won?t seem to have agreed on things you didn?t want to agree on, things that may embarrass you. We can discuss the issue of compensating host countries and the issue of refugees resettlement during multi-lateral talks.
Abu Ala?: Let?s be clear. The multilateral track isn?t a source of decision. In group work sessions anybody can say whatever they want, but the importance of the multi-lateral track is to support the bilateral track which is the place where decisions can be taken. The issues of compensation, return and resettlement will be confidentially discussed with host countries.
Livni: Who do you think should talk with Jordan, for instance?
Abu Ala?: The US, Europe and the Quartet. Later we may engage Syria and Lebanon in the talks for the resettlement or return of refugees.
Livni: I don?t want to deceive anybody. There?ll be no Israeli official whether from the Knesset or the government or even the public who will support the return of refugees to Israel. There are many people in the world who are ready to contribute to the issue of refuges, and I?m not talking about Saudi Arabia but about Gates and his like.
Abu Ala?: I don?t want the multilateral track to find a solution, but we can talk about the rehabilitation of refugees in camps as well as other issues related to them and to the improvement of their living conditions.
Livni: What should we ask the multilateral track to do?
Abu Ala?: We don?t decide. We can ask the multilateral track to conduct a study on the issue.
Livni: Let?s give it something to start with.
Abu Ala?: There are people who create problems in the multilateral track. I know this since I was the general coordinator of Palestinian delegations in the multi-lateral negotiations work groups.
Saeb: Let Tal check the number of refugees you can absorb.
Abu Ala?: Our position is clear in this respect, and it?s the right of return and compensation for those who decide not to return, in accordance with the UN General Assembly resolution #194. When we begin to talk about the refugees issue then we?ll talk about everything frankly and clearly.
Livni: We?ve to think about how to involve the international community in this case.
Abu Ala?: Let?s leave this matter to Saeb and Tal.
Livni: Another thing we can start to think about in order for it to part of the agreement is the steps towards creating a state.
Abu Ala?: We can start with People to People Program.
Livni: I want to hear about your vision about Jerusalem because I want to learn.
Abu Ala?: There are many issues to discuss especially the modalities. Another thing is the land since Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967. If we reach an agreement on the land, then negotiations can address the issue of modalities that have to be applied to all issues in a manner satisfactory to all concerned parties. I think the issue of Jerusalem will have been solved when I?ll be able to tour any part in East and West Jerusalem in my car and feel that it?s really mine. Both the western and eastern parts of the city should be open to all and all arrangements taken should not affect negatively on the daily life of the people.
Everything in Jerusalem starts from the Old City, which is the most important thing in this respect.
We?ve also to talk about issues of electricity, water, sewage, municipal services, the infrastructure, roads, tourism, economy, and security.
We?ve to talk about the situation of Jerusalem: Will it be an open city or a divided city? And how will we deal with the holy places? We want an open city because I can?t imagine there?ll be zigzags on the borders.
Livni: For our security needs, we want real borders.
Abu Ala?: Then East Jerusalem will have to be the capital of the Palestinian state where there?ll be full Palestinian sovereignty like any other capital in the world. But I said dividing the city will be a problem.
Livni: What d?you mean by an open city?
Abu Ala?: To have Israeli check up for those coming into the city from the Israeli side, and a Palestinian check up for those coming into the city from the Palestinian side, with different models of coordination and cooperation in municipal services related to the infrastructure, roads, electricity, water, sewage and the removal of waste material. I?m here talking about both east and west Jerusalem; but we can talk also about East Jerusalem according to 1967 borders and not greater Jerusalem.
Saeb: We want a rare situation: Yeroshalim as the capital of Israel, and al-Quds as the capital of Palestine.
There are 250,000 Palestinians living in Jerusalem, and I don?t think you want to keep control of them.
When we talk about dividing the city, we don?t simply talk about check up, but about planning and organization. It?s not logical for a Jews to construct a building that has 20 floors while an Arab is allowed to build three floors only. Talking about municipal services, tourism, security, the infrastructure, water, electricity, planning and organization, does not mean that the city is not divided.
Abu Ala?: the solution requires creative ideas without division of sovereignty.
Saeb: Sovereignty is tantamount to the organization of relations.
Livni: How d?you see the future of the holy places not only in Jerusalem but also in the West Bank?
Saeb: In Jericho we allow and welcome people to visit the Jewish synagogue. Likewise, we?ll welcome any individual to visit the al-Ibrahimi Mosque, Rachel?s Tomb, Joseph?s Tomb, and other holy places.
Sovereignty isn?t belief or ideas or doctrines, but it?s related to laws and regulations.
The Israelis said in Camp David they didn?t want to build the Temple beneath the al-Aqsa Mosque, but they wanted to keep and guarantee their values there. There?s a relation between religion and nationalism, and we respect your traditions and values.
Livni: D?you want to divide the land between the river and the sea?
Saeb: We want to return to Resolution 181.
Livni: This doesn?t represent demographic division as it stands today.
Saeb: It did represent demographic division 60 years ago.
Abu Ala?: We?ll defeat Hamas if we reach an agreement, and this will be our response to their claim that gaining back our land can be achieved through resistance only.
Livni: An agreement requires compatibility.
Abu Ala?: Surely.
Saeb: Give me a just agreement and you?ll get the support of 80% of the Palestinians.
Livni: What about the future of Gaza?
Abu Ala?: We?ll talk also about the relation between the West Bank and Gaza. They?ll be linked with a safe passage. This matter was discussed earlier.
Livni: We?ll meet next Monday, but until then what?s Saeb and Tal?s homework.
Abu Ala?: Putting the structure -- borders -- security.
Livni: What about the multilateral track?
Abu Ala?: We?ll start when the time becomes ripe. We?ll start with easy issues such as the environment and water.