by Alisa Solomon
November 12 - 18, 2003
our Palestinians, among them a 10-year-old boy, were killed by Israeli troops in Gaza on November 7. A few days earlier, a teenage Palestinian suicide bomber had blown himself up near Israeli forces in the West Bank, wounding a soldier. Earlier that morning, Israel had sealed the city of Nablus, barring the entrance and exit of all traffic, including ambulances, and preventing Palestinians from nearby villages from access to the only medical services for miles. Not a day seems to go by without the carnage in the entrenched conflict continuing to pile up—almost 2,200 Palestinians and nearly 800 Israelis killed in the hostilities since the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.
But the path to peace has never been clearer, insists Amram Mitzna, the former leader of Israel's Labor Party, who made a whirlwind tour of the American Northeast last week, speaking to Jewish communities to promote the Geneva Accord, a new, unofficial agreement drawn up by Israeli and Palestinian politicians working in secret for the past two and a half years under Swiss sponsorship. Though Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has attacked the plan as subversive, it won unexpected praise from the Bush administration last Friday. Stopping short of an official endorsement, Secretary of State Colin Powell said in a letter addressed to the initiative's leaders that "projects such as yours are important for sustaining hope and understanding."
More than that, the proposed agreement shifts the paradigm that has framed the current impasse. For the past three years, the mainstream pro-Israeli view has held that the Palestinians were presented with a generous offer at Camp David but rejected it in favor of violence, and that now there is no one with whom to negotiate. Whether one accepts that contested reading or not, the Geneva Accord turns the tables.