On 28 January, US President Donald Trump unveiled his controversial peace plan, dubbed the “Deal of the Century”, which included recognition of Israel’s West Bank settlements, Jerusalem as its capital and very limited details on what any Palestinian state would look like.
In light of accelerating developments, including Palestinian refusal of the American proposal, Al-Ahram Weekly provides readers with a timeline of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, ongoing for roughly 30 years.
CAMP DAVID ACCORDS (1978): Sponsored by US president Jimmy Carter, Egypt’s president Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat and Israel’s premier Menachem Begin reached a post-1973 war peace deal, the first to be concluded between Israel and an Arab state.
Part of the agreement was the so-called Framework for Peace in the Middle East, which stipulated that “Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the representatives of the Palestinian people should participate in negotiations on the resolution of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects.” Many of its terms and conditions, including the establishment of a “self-governing authority (administrative council) in the West Bank and Gaza” for a five-year interim period, were included in the 1993 Oslo Accords.
But the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) rejected the offer, consequently leading to a different diplomatic path than the one launched by Egypt and Israel through Carter’s mediation.
THE FAHD PLAN (1981): This is arguably the first bid to solve the conflict following the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in 1979. During the Arab League summit in Morocco’s city of Fez, then Saudi Crown Prince Fahd made an eight-point proposal. It faced strong Arab opposition as it implicitly recognised Israel, suggesting that, “all states in the region should be able to live in peace in the region.”
The plan included Israeli withdrawal from “all Arab territory occupied in 1967”, including Arab Jerusalem, dismantling of Israeli settlements built on “Arab land” after 1967, a “guarantee of freedom of worship for all religions in Holy Places”, and an “affirmation of the right of the Palestinian Arab people to return to their homes and compensation for those who do not wish to return”.
The plan also involved the creation of an “independent Palestinian State” with Jerusalem as its capital and putting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip under the “auspices of the United Nations for a period not exceeding several months”.
MADRID CONFERENCE (1991): A Palestinian uprising erupted in 1987 in the West Bank and Gaza. The Madrid Conference came four years later amid dwindling Israeli tolerance for unrest. The post-Madrid years saw the finalisation of the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty in 1994.
James Baker, US secretary of state under US president George H W Bush, made nine trips to the Middle East before the Madrid Conference. Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria were all invited to attend. Palestinian representation came as part of a joint delegation with Jordan as Israel refused the presence of Yasser Arafat or other leading cadres from the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
No agreement was reached in Madrid, though the conference paved the way for subsequent phases of diplomacy.
OSLO ACCORDS (1993): Formally known as the Declaration of Principles (DOP), and emerging as an outcome of secret Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in 1992 and 1993, the Oslo Accords stipulated Israel’s “withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area” and a “transfer of authority from the Israeli military government and its Civil Administration to the authorised Palestinians” in the domains of education, culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation and tourism. The Palestinians were also authorised to build a police force. Israel maintained, however, “responsibility for defending against external threats”.
The issues of Jerusalem, settlements and military sites were left to “be negotiated in permanent status negotiations”. Oslo was supposed to be a five-year deal. Follow up talks started in May 1996. But Israel claimed that suicide bomb attacks in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv by Hamas in the same year had “darkened Israel’s view on the peace process”.
The Oslo framework divided the West Bank among areas A, B and C. Area A included the main cities of the West Bank. Area B comprised the West Bank’s small towns and villages. Area C covered all Jewish settlements and areas of strategic importance to Israel, and largely unpopulated areas of the West Bank.
Oslo I was followed by Oslo II in October 1995 that involved articles about the complete Israeli withdrawal from six West Bank cities and roughly 450 towns and a schedule for Palestinian Legislative Council elections.
Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated one month later.
CAMP DAVID (2000): Followed by another Palestinian Intifada in 2000, the Camp David talks in 2000 failed. US President Bill Clinton, following unfruitful rounds of talks, attempted to open a dialogue on the unsettled issues, including borders, Jerusalem and refugees.
PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and Israel’s prime minister Ehud Barak failed to reach common ground.
Arafat wanted a return to pre-1967 borders, while accepting Israel’s rights over the Jewish parts of the Old City of Jerusalem. He also demanded Israel’s recognition of the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Barak said he was ready to give back Gaza, a considerable part of the West Bank and extra land from the Negev desert to the Palestinians. In return, he wanted to maintain Israel’s settlement blocs and most of East Jerusalem. He also offered Islamic guardianship of Islamic holy sites in the Old City and a fund for Palestinian refugees.
ARAB PEACE INITIATIVE (2002): Saudi Arabia presented a plan during the Arab summit in Beirut in 2002. It can be argued that it was very similar to Fahd’s plan in 1981.
The Arab Peace Initiative stipulated “full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the lines of 4 June 1967, as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon” and “establishment of a Sovereign Independent Palestinian State on the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
In return, the Arabs would “enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region” and “establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.”
Israel rejected the document, and the United States and Europe were seemingly not enthusiastic enough to back it.
THE QUARTET’S ROADMAP (2003): A US president, George W Bush, called for the first time for the establishment of a Palestinian state to live “in peace and security” with Israel. The Quartet, including the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, developed a follow-up plan.
The roadmap revolved around the two-state solution, including a mechanism for direct talks. But it never materialised.
ANNAPOLIS TALKS (2007): Bush was the mediator in talks between Israel’s prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Quartet and many Arab countries also attended the Annapolis conference.
“We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations, and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008. For this purpose, a steering committee, led jointly by the head of the delegation of each party, will meet continuously, as agreed. The steering committee will develop a joint work plan and establish and oversee the work of negotiations teams to address all issues, to be headed by one lead representative from each party. The first session of the steering committee will be held on 12 December 2007,” the two sides announced in a joint statement.
Yet, talks failed due to Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in Gaza in 2008 and a corruption probe against Olmert in Israel.
In 2010, 2013 and 2014, US president Barack Obama attempted to push Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to join a new peace process. But the construction of settlements, which Netanyahu temporarily halted for only 10 months in 2010, led to a diplomatic deadlock.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 6 February, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.