February 28, 2000
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) strongly supports Israel’s commitment to the ongoing negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, the renewed negotiations with Syria, and the pursuit of a secure and lasting peace with her Arab neighbors.
On the Palestinian track, we commend the September 4, 1999 signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement by Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which outlines the final implementation stage of the interim period of the Oslo process.
We applaud Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s call for intensive negotiations with the Palestinians to lead to a final status agreement by September 13, 2000. While this date should be considered a target date and is not “sacred,” it demonstrates an undeniable commitment by the State of Israel to resolve all outstanding issues with the Palestinians in a responsible and timely manner. In these final status negotiations, Israel and the Palestinians will face the most challenging issues of the Oslo process – including the future of Jerusalem, the status of Palestinian refugees, settlements, and the nature and size of the Palestinian entity.
On the Syrian track, we were encouraged by the resumption in December 1999 of direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Damascus. In two separate rounds, in December in Washington, D.C., and in January 2000, in Shepardstown, WV, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Shara joined President Bill Clinton to begin negotiations. Unfortunately, with little explanation, Syria refused to participate in a third round in late January and talks are again on hold.
The fundamental issues in the Israel-Syria negotiations are normalized relations, security measures, water resources and land concessions. These four intrinsically linked issues must be resolved in order for these negotiations to be successful. Prime Minister Barak has pledged that any agreement with Syria will be put before the Israeli electorate in a referendum. The JCPA welcomes the Prime Minister’s commitment to ensure that peace with Syria proceeds with the full support of the Israeli public.
As the peace process with the Palestinian Authority and Syria moves forward, and Israel’s peaceful relations with Egypt and Jordan continue, we are disappointed that Israel’s peace partners have not done enough to create an atmosphere that supports peace and reconciliation within their countries. The Palestinian Authority must live up to its long-standing commitments to combat violence and terrorism. The Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan must live up to their commitments to eradicate anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement and to begin to seriously educate its population – children and adults – on the peace process, tolerance and non-violence. In demonstration of Syria’s good faith to Israel, it should cease to publish incendiary anti-Semitic articles in its press; its leadership should issue public statements favorable to reconciliation with Israel and begin preparing its citizenry for peace.
As has been the case for many decades, the United States remains a crucial facilitator of Arab – Israeli negotiations. We recognize and appreciate President Clinton, Secretary of State Madeline Albright and their peace process team’s crucial efforts in helping bring about the Sharm el-Sheik Agreements and the resumption of Israel – Syria negotiations. The U.S. Administration and Congress also have assisted the pursuit of peace through financial packages intended to offset Israel’s redeployment costs and to help alleviate economic difficulties in the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. As negotiations on the Palestinian and Syrian tracks progress, the facilitation and support of such negotiations by the U.S. government will continue to be essential.