Egypt has more to lose than to gain if it abrogates the peace treaty with
Israel, international law expert Prof. Ruth Lapidot told the annual
Jerusalem convention of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish
Organizations on Wednesday.
Lapidot noted that under international law,
Egypt is obligated to abide by treaties in line with the principles of the
continuity of states regardless of changes in the regime. Continuity of states
means that the country and the people remain the same even if the government
changes, she explained.
There are certain conditions under which a state
can repudiate a treaty, she said, for example the complete disregard of its
essential provisions by one of the parties.
The only issue on which Egypt
may have cause for complaint, Lapidot observed, was the limitations on its
forces in Sinai. The Egyptians don’t like this concept, but settled for this
wording in preference to demilitarization of the peninsula. But this is not an
issue that can spearhead the breaking of a treaty. It is an issue that can be
negotiated, she insisted. In fact the treaty provides for peaceful negotiation
Prof. Shlomo Avineri, professor of political science at the
Hebrew University and a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry, spoke
of the possibility of a peace treaty with the Palestinian
Eventually there will be a peace treaty based on a two-nation
solution, and more or less along the pre-1967 borders, he said, “but it won’t
happen any time soon.”
Avineri doubted whether the Netanyahu
administration could make any further headway with the PA than the “moderate
Olmert administration.” Moreover he said, the Olmert government had been
committed to a two-state solution in a very explicit way. Both Olmert and PA
President Mahmoud Abbas had an interest in seeing a positive outcome to the
negotiations, said Avineri, who speculated that if Olmert had succeeded, he
would probably still be prime minister and the “cloud” hanging over his head
would have taken a back seat.
For Abbas, a positive outcome would have
been interpreted as a coup over Hamas.
What can be learned from the
failure of a “more moderate government” is that the gaps on both sides run deep
said Avineri, citing borders and settlements, Jerusalem, refugees and security
as the most pertinent points of difference.
Although logical solutions
might come up in academic discussions, in reality they wouldn’t work, Avineri
He cited a scenario whereby Israel had control of the Western Wall
while Palestinians controlled the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. If Jews
violated the regulations on the Temple Mount or Palestinians threw rocks at Jews
praying at the Western Wall, which police force – the Israeli or the Palestinian
– would be responsible for restoring order without creating an international
incident, Avineri asked.
It was very difficult to find an acceptable
solution, because at the end of the day, sovereignty defined who had the
legitimate right to use force, he said.
Avineri considered it a mistake
on Israel’s part to be “obsessed” with a final-status agreement, and pointed to
conflict areas in other parts of the world where there is no final-status
agreement but there are partial agreements and in some cases unilateral
measures. He said Israel should adopt this method of progress and suggested that
in this context it should continue to take down roadblocks so as to allow
Palestinians greater freedom of movement and should stop settlement construction
in the West Bank, so as to not exacerbate the issue.
“We need a paradigm
change from conflict resolution to conflict management, because this is the only
realistic thing that is achievable,” Avineri said.
He and Dore Gold, the
president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a former adviser to
Prime Ministers Binyamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon, though on different sides
of the political fence, agreed that Israeli negotiators who for more than a
decade repeated the refrain that the two sides had never been so close to a
peace agreement, were deluding themselves and the public.
also permeated a series of American administrations, and part of the problem
with President Barack Obama, according to Gold, was that his administration
received conventional wisdom that has been circulating around Washington for a
long time. Obama thinks that if Israel stops building settlements and takes a
few other steps, this will put an end to the conflict, but Abbas has said in
interviews with both the American and the Israeli media that the gaps are too
large in every area.
This being the case, Gold asked why one American
government after another went after a prize that couldn’t be
His answer: back channel diplomacy.
brought the Palestinians and the Israelis together – usually in Scandinavian
hotels, he said, and there was a lot of eating and drinking and good
But there was little likelihood of things that were said in
Stockholm being repeated at Camp David.
“When you talk to American
diplomats, no one wants to sound pessimistic. If you give a harsh reading of
reality, you might be blamed for destroying the peace talks,” he
Gold was less optimistic than Avineri about the possibility of a
peace agreement with the Palestinians. Referring to the four problem issues
mentioned by Avineri, Gold said: “The notion that these are all bridgeable
issues is wrong. The notion that Israel will withdraw to the ’67 lines is not in
the cards, and the sooner the international community understands that, the
better off we’re going to be.”