The Palestine Papers
Meeting Minutes: 4th Plenary Meeting on Security

The meeting begins with talk about demilitarization, with Israeli officials then complaining about weapons smuggling into Gaza. Tzipi Livni says that a future Palestinian state "can still be a threat." They also discuss regional issues, particularly Jordan's role in security.

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Minutes of the 4rd Plenary Meeting on Security

May 27, 2008 [4:00 PM- 6:00 PM], King David Hotel, West Jerusalem






  • Ahmed Qurei (AA)
  • Dr. Saeb Erekat (SE)
  • Dr. Sameeh el-Abed
  • Salah Aleyan
  • Zeinah Salahi
  • Rami Dajani
  • Khaled Elgindy


  • Tzipi Livni (TL)
  • Gen. (ret) Amos Gilad (AG)
  • Udi Dekel (UD)
  • Tal Becker (TB)
  • Col. Arad


Meeting Minutes:

TL:      I got back yesterday from France – these meetings are the most important things…

AA:     There are two issues today: territory and security.

TL:      Let’s start with security, discuss the general issues – then we can hear from those who’ve met on borders.

SA:      It wouldn’t matter whether they met for five minutes or five hours.

TL: Let’s start from where we stopped our last conversation here. We need to get your answers to some questions; maybe not today… We need to address issues in a way so we know where you stand. First: demilitarization – what you call limited arms. The equation is that on the one hand you will have some limited arms for law and order and for fighting internal terrorism. But there is no need – and we cannot afford – a Palestinian army. For external threats, you said it can be an international force or a Palestinian one.  There are quite a lot of issues that related to this.

AA:     What other issues?

TL:      I have more but this is crucial. We can be specific [asks Col. Arad to give examples].

Arad:   There are a number of issues we can look at, for example the prohibition on major weapons systems (both what is allowed and what is not allowed); issues of mandatory service and reserves; infrastructure and certain industries – no military industrial complex; alliances. The forces to be allowed are for internal security so we need to discuss limits on training, size, capabilities, equipment and purposes. Also issues relating to airspace and maritime areas and electromagnetic spectrum …

TL:      [interrupts] We need an answer.

AA:     My question is why are you concerned about Palestinians more than the other neighbours. You don’t make these demands on them. We are now under occupation. As a state we will abide by the UN Charter. Are we your enemy or your neighbor?

TL:      We have similar agreements with Egypt – all of Sinai is dimilatarized.

AA:     So our desert can be demilitarized …

AG & TB:       [comment on size of relative size of Sinai]

TL:      So if you have another country [in the same situation] you are ok?  You have the Egyptians – the Sinai.  We are not doing this with just you. I can assure you that in our negotiations with the Syrians it will be similar …

AA:  Why not Lebanon?

TL:  There is no peace with Lebanon.

AG:     Let me tell you something – you won’t like it. I will talk frankly as friends. You will have limits. Because of small distances in the two states – it’s like suburbs in the United States. We are not persuaded that if you have an army it will not be a threat to us. We frankly don’t trust that if you establish an army that you won’t turn against us because of the history, terrain, etc.  We need a long period [to build that trust. I don’t see it even then!] From our security, not political, point of few -- distances are tiny – strategic depth is so small. We even agreed with the late Arafat before, in 2000 that it will be demilitarized. So for us it is crucial, decisive. Based on our background, even with Syria, any agreement we talked about signing would include a demilitarized Golan.   Without demilitarization your strategic depth will be bigger than ours!  Limited arms and demilitarization are totally different.  As a friend, the way we look at the Middle East, your army contradicts our basic understanding of security. 

AA:     Areas are demilitarized according to risk – but not the whole state. Personally, I want a strong police, but an independent state will need to protect its border. The region is not so stable. So I will not give you answer here but I don’t think it’s fair to talk to Palestinians in this way. You want us to stay under your control – we are not trusted.

AG:     Demilitarized areas was agreed before. I was surprised you spoke about defence – it is a different perception, you are changing the terms of reference.

AA:     We were talking about limited arms – we never said “no army”. We can study what kind of police or army – whatever we call it – numbers, arms, etc. those can be studied but you should not come to me with demilitarized state.

TL:      Maybe I can explain in my way the understanding on security. Maybe we misunderstood. There is a balance – I don’t want to say contradiction – especially in negotiations on security, between Palestinian sovereignty and dignity – which I totally respect -- and the need to give answers to our security needs. In comparison to 2000, we now have the worst example of the Gaza Strip. With infiltration of weapons into Gaza, etc. we are not asking from you more than from other neighbours because you are Palestinian. From our perspective we have a situation where our army is in control. We are willing to take some risk – any agreement means risk – but we need to minimize the risk, not gamble on our life. Territories we left are being used to target us, from our perspective for no reason… The entire territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan is so tiny. You can’t even write the full names of the two states on the map without going into the sea or into Jordan. Sinai is three times the size of the territory yet the Egyptians – yes the Egyptians, agreed to arms limitations. Recall when Clinton said non-militarized, you said limited arms, we said demilitarized. So I understand limited to mean just to enforce the law – however you indicated differently. If you really need arms to defend yourself, why limited? How can you limit defence? So clearly the idea is not a real need.

AA:     It is a surprise to me that [Israel doesn’t understand our sensitivities to this issue]. We know how important it is for Israelis. You speak about understanding our dignity but when it comes to writing something down on paper it is not reflected, or for something on the ground. We need to do things in a way that keeps dignity and independence for the state. So how do we find a balance between that and this?  Some Israelis think that squeezing and killing Palestinians will make it more secure – you say it is maintaining security but that is not true. Even when we have to face Hamas, we only have limited guns. We still haven’t received …

SE:      Received 50%. We have been waiting for AG.

AG:     We did a lot – everything you asked: facilitated Jordan, NSF training. We received Dayton’s letter. Jenin is the best example.

TL:      I am trying to understand the difference in how we see the situation on the ground.

AA:     We have a confrontation with Hamas after they made an illegal coup.

TL:      So as you see it – Lebanon, with Hizbollah militia – it is possible that Lebanon will be under control of Hizbollah tomorrow morning.

AA:     You can say it already is.

TL:      This is most important. Lebanon can have an army – and we cannot accept the situation where a militia controls the army. So the situation on the ground is not dependant on your sincerity.

SE:      I heard these views and I hear you quote me about an army…

TL:      International force …

SE:      AA spoke about the difference between areas and sovereign states. You deal with these things by areas and not a state. I am not a military or security man, but I like common sense. You claim need for strategic depth to deal with threats from the East. But you need to deal with these threats way before they get to Jericho. We will be a state with limitations. What can we do short of your presence on our territory? Limitations are on our weapons, not our dignity. What will guarantee our defence and national security if we have such limitations? With these restrictions – and we cannot depend on you for our defence, as members of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the UN – who will guarantee it? Look at me as a sovereign state – not just areas. We have two tracks to work on: First, what are the needed things, lists, for internal security, public order, preventing smuggling. Then, what are the needed arrangements, short of your presence on my territory, so that Palestinian can be sovereign and independent. This is where the idea of a third party came out.

TL:      With limitation on army. Regarding risks, something coming from Egypt, Jordan, or Israel …

AA:     Can you guarantee situation in Jordan for next 10 years?

TL:      The next thing you will hear from AG will be that is why our army should be at the border.

SE:      Do I have a choice of who to place on my territory?

TL:      No.

SE:      I have a conceptual framework – short of your jet fighters in my sky and your army on my territory, can I choose where I secure external defence?

TL:      No. In order to create your state you have to agree in advance with Israel – you choose not to have the right of choice afterwards. These are the basic pillars.

TB:      There are many examples of countries without military. For example, Costa Rica, by choice. Germany… Japan…

SE:      Demilitarized areas, not whole states.

TL:      It’s a very small area – so the state.

AG:     We are veterans of peace rounds. What you suggest, if our border with you is 15km from the Mediterranean – the strategic depth – we won’t be able to confront the threat, from Jordan, Iraq …. Plus you may not have full control over your territory.

SE:      Whenever you went the unilateral way – Lebanon …

TL:      Unilateralism without knowing what is on the others side is not an option.  I do not favour unilateralism. But I will not sign an agreement with a Palestinian state with any army. If I have a choice between signing an agreement giving you an army and the unilateral path I will take the second.

SE:      Are you ruling out a third party?

AG:     Many examples of a third party presence…

TL:      There will be perhaps a third party role – but not a military role – no tanks with any flags including Israeli flags.

TB:      You are saying that you want military capacity against external threats and then the question is it is Palestinian or a third party with military capacity.  The first point is not acceptable to us.

TL:      We can discuss the role of the third party – including supervising and monitoring, as Hazem pointed out before. No army but strong police.

[Brief discussion on UNIFIL]

AA:     So no agreement with army regardless.

TL:      Strong police for law and order but not external threats. The border is with Jordan, you think Jordan is a threat…

SE:      Not a threat. Is it a threat to you today?

TL:      Usually when you fear external threats, it is from a neighbor.  We are strategic allies. But radical movements are an increasing risk to us. They are not a threat to you.

SE:      I said Israel is not a threat. Do you see your army in our territory?

TL:      The Palestinian state can be a threat.  We don’t see ourselves in the territory except for limited cases, like early warning stations and the Jordan Valley.

AA:     You want it [Jordan Valley]?

TL:      Not as territory, but a presence at the border.

SE:      Seriously, why?

AG:     Jordan is not a threat because they really believe in peace, and the basic pillar of this is security.  First, we need it – there is no threat now from Jordan, but our main pillar is security, tackling terror. The army (in Jordan) is dealing with terror and not forming alliances against Israel. But the security situation is not stable, so we need it to tackle the terror. It was like a jungle with smugglers and terrorists …

AA:     But Jordan has control.

AG:     Over time Jordan built capability needed to keep a standard.

SE:      So I will be the security environment for you and Jordan.

TL:      The idea of an Israeli presence is not to stop an attack from the East, but to deal with precisely the situation at Philadelphi. We can say it is transitional.

AA:     So this means an Israeli military presence at the Jordanian border.

SE:      So you left Gaza with no agreement [discussion on smuggling between Egypt, Gaza and Israel].

AG:     We trusted Rashid Abu Shbak in Gaza. He gave a wonderful power point presentation. We trusted Palestinian security. The security situation completely changed since the first time this came up.

SE:      In 2000, we did not have Dahlan, Rashid Abu Shbak – yet you were speaking about the same things. So you experimented with the Gaza / Egypt border. I have minutes of the meeting between Sharon and Prince Hasan – I understand your concerns. But if you think a Palestinian state can accept and Israeli presence … there are other ways to discuss the security environment.

TL:      Clearly these ideas were already on the table in 2000. It was on the table in Camp David. At first it was a demand for sovereignty over the area and we took that out. It was for some Israeli presence for some period of time.

[Discussion on reasons for failure of Camp David]

We had a detailed agreement with Egypt on how to meet the challenge of Philadelphi, but it didn’t work. The other issues: Airspace – the understanding is to distinguish between civil aviation, sovereignty, but with the same supervising control – only one control because the space is so small

AA:     Can we keep this issue for experts. I cannot speak on it because it is technical.

TL:      Electromagnetic spectrum. I also understand nothing of these issues. I know we need to find ways to split and share.

SE:      These issues are mainly for civilians, not security negotiations.

UD:     These issues have heavy security implications. Electromagnetic sphere does not recognize borders among all neighbours – there is a unified space. We need to see how we can divide and need to cooperate on this.

Arad:   EMS is impacted by Jordan, etc.

SE:      As AA said, we will not discuss this now.

TL:      Early warning stations – maybe keep for the experts. Also an issue that has come up before: the possibility of a pier at Ashdod port as a replacement for a port in Gaza.

SE:      Instead of? That is not what we understood.

TL:      I know that we may not have answers now, but there is a crucial gap to leave for the experts. The big decision is about the army – the rest …

AA:     I hope you can think in a different way. Dignity, independence, peaceful relations.

TL:      I don’t want to affect dignity but Israeli security needs must be addressed.

SE:      Is this the whole list of demands?

TL:      Yes, as you know from Camp David, and what we haven’t addressed here, the border crossings. There is a big connection between borders and security.

AA:     You want to fill your pocket first.

TL:      This is unfair, given what was on the table for borders. There we had progress but there is no progress here.

AA:     There was no progress on territory.

TL:      We went from 100% to a few percentage. There is no progress on security.

SE:      Technical issues raised today need experts – so I need to know your exact positions on electromagnetic sphere and airspace. Bring the experts on these.

TL:      But issues regarding dignity are not technical – you just need to give instructions.

SE:      We need you to explain to us what you want. [Discussion on complexity of issues]

TL:      Some issues are for the experts to discuss.

AA:     Let the experts work this week and next week we can talk. Maybe we can narrow the gap.

TL:      Between territory and security – we spoke and came a long way on territory. So far we have nothing on security. So we need to step forward. Without it this is a problem.

AA:     We understand your concern but cannot prejudice a real independent state.

TL:      So you prefer the Israeli army in your territory over a state without a military?

AA:     Take the situation today. In Ramallah yesterday 10 jeeps came and arrested several people. They salute the people and leave. This is not respect of dignity. There are Palestinian police.. They can call Hazem and have the Palestinian police arrest any dangerous people.

TL:      There are two sides to the equation: police for internal security and no army. Two lists: what you want and what you cannot have. Then we deal with borders/ crossings.

SE:      Add no Israeli presence to the list. Do you plan to withdraw?

TL:      Of course we will withdraw our forces – but in some points we need to remain to address specific needs, maybe for an interim period of time.

TB:      So the rule is we withdraw. The exception is for specific needs. Maybe for an interim period of time.

[Discussion on TB’s new book on state responsibility on terrorism.]

SE:      Our rule is no Israeli soldiers. The lists are OK.

TB:      You are mixing two issues: security for internal, not external activity – and limited presence as an exception.

SE:      No independent state with both.