The accord's negotiators argue, however, that this is an important start, that someone had to present an alternative to the violent stalemate of the intifadeh and Ariel Sharon's response. Israeli peaceniks, led by former Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, said the proposal is helping Israel reignite debate over substance, which could force the Sharon government to soften its obstructionist policies. The Palestinian delegation, led by former Palestinian Authority Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, said it represents the first serious solution Palestinians and Israelis have accepted.
The problem lies less with the content of the proposal than with its implementation. Arafat responded with limited approval, perhaps because he wants to appear to be a man of peace and thus annoy Sharon. The Israeli Prime Minister has been apoplectic in his condemnation of the plan. The Bush Administration, meanwhile, seems to be lending support to Geneva only as a means of pressuring both parties into pushing ahead with Washington's idled road-map peace plan.
When the unofficial negotiators met in Geneva, they started from previous maps and proposals for a final settlement made at the last full negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Those talks, an attempt to build on the failed negotiations mediated by President Bill Clinton at Camp David in July 2000, were held in the Egyptian resort of Taba in January 2001. At Taba, talks broke down again over key unresolved issues, and soon after, hard-line Likud leader Ariel Sharon defeated Labor's Ehud Barak in the election for Prime Minister
GENEVA The border will be drawn on the Green Line, which marked the division between Israel and Jordan up to the June 1967 war. There will be some small reciprocal modifications, with land swapped in a 1-to-1 ratio
TABA The Green Line was also the basis for the border. Both sides favored land swaps, but the ratio wasn't agreed on and Israel expected to annex larger areas around settlements. The Gaza Strip was likely to go to the Palestinians
GENEVA It would be a "nonmilitarized state, with a strong security force." Weapons would be limited so the Palestinian army could not threaten Israel. Both sides would make "comprehensive and continuous efforts" to quell all violence and terrorism
TABA Israel had already accepted the idea of a nonmilitarized Palestinian state before the Taba talks. Palestinians appeared ready to accept some limitations on weaponry
GENEVA Two capitals for two states would be recognized within Jerusalem under separate sovereignties. The Palestinians would control the Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount, while the Western Wall would remain in Israeli hands
TABA Israel accepted the idea of two capitals in Jerusalem. Sovereignty over the Temple Mount was unresolved. Barak said he would never transfer control of the Mount to the Palestinians
GENEVA Palestinians do not specifically surrender the "right of return." But compensation would be given to Palestinian refugees, as would the possibility of returning to live in the Palestinian state or emigrating to another country. Israel would agree to take a certain number of refugees within its borders
TABA Little agreement was reached. Both sides paid lip service to U.N. resolutions on Palestinian refugees, but Barak said he would never allow the "right of return"