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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .


Compromising Palestine: A Guide to Final Status Negotiations
Aharon Klieman

New York: Columbia University Press, 2000
284pp. Index. Hb.: 25.00; ISBN 0-231-11788-4. Pb.: 11.50; ISBN 0-231-11789-2



While providing for a negotiating framework and interim agreements that led to the establishment of a Palestinian Authority in autonomous parts of the West Bank and Gaza, the Oslo accords have deliberately deferred any decision on the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In "Compromising Palestine", Klieman argues that the conditions are ripe to transform the ambiguous, nebulous and contested terms of settlement of the interim period - which have contributed to undermine it - into a clear final status agreement.1 The aim of the book is to explore patterns and dynamics that are going to delineate the final status negotiations.

The book converges around three main points. First, the partition between Israelis and Palestinians is the sole possible key to a conflict settlement; the two other thinkable options being Israeli-Palestinian integration or the perpetuation of the conflict. Signals of the parties' will to proceed in this direction can be detected, according to Klieman, in Israeli and Palestinian leaderships' declarations and position papers and in surveys on the two populations' opinions. Second, given the geographical and demographic constraints - the contested land is limited in space with scarce resources and the two populations are strictly intermixed and interdependent - separation between Israelis and Palestinians must be realised on the basis of a twofold compromise. The parties will have to renounce their absolutist claims on the contested land, accepting to divide it with their counterpart, and will have to consent to a form of partition defined by Klieman as "partition plus" or "soft partition" based on porous borders, presence of enclaves and co-operation. Klieman devotes the central part of his contribution to the treatment of selected core and outstanding issues - demographic spread, borders and security, economy, Jerusalem, transit rights, peace maps and plans - with the aim of demonstrating the degree of "mutual dependence" between the two parties. The conclusion is that " [...] the two larger Israeli and Palestinian communities, somehow need to reconcile living together...but separate...with the need to be separate...but together" (p.139). This leads to the third point: the enterprise of drawing a line between Israelis and Palestinian entails challenging complexities. These are depicted for instance in the valuable analysis of the complications accompanying the implementation of the provisions of the Oslo agreements concerning safe passages between the West Bank and the Gaza strip. According to Klieman, these will repropose themselves at the moment of the final status negotiations.

Klieman tackles two critical theoretical issues regarding peacemaking. The first is linked to peacemaking design: in peace processes, the parties have the options of addressing problematic core issues dividing them at the beginning of the negotiations or of postponing them to successive phases. Postponement is based on the idea that parties engaged in a peace process must begin by building confidence and overcoming suspicion and psychological barriers, and that if the parties start by tackling the most difficult issues - without having consolidated at least partially their relations - the process can easily enter into a stalemate. Klieman stimulates the debate showing how; on the one hand postponement has enabled a certain degree of progress to be reached, while on the other hand it has triggered suspicion and a faits accomplis policy.

The second issue raised by Klieman's book is the importance of a most delicate phase, the implementation of the agreements. During this phase the parties have to bring into effect the provisions that result from the negotiations, whose effects will no longer be confined to the realm of hypotheses but to the visible shaping of reality on the ground. Emphasis on the relevance of "practical aspects" of peace agreements is a recurrent pattern throughout the book. Klieman sheds light on the essential need that agreements be conceived with the aim of being viable and workable.

The book is well structured and focused, posing serious and relevant questions. Klieman's inclusion of description and relative maps of the various peace plans proposed since the 1937 Peel's Commission report, as well as updated explanations of Israeli and Palestinian security requirements (complete with copious footnotes), contribute to render the book clear and comprehensible, even for neophytes of the Middle Eastern conflict.

1 For an analysis of Oslo agreements' constructive ambiguity see Aharon Klieman (1999), Constructive Ambiguity in Middle East Peace-Making, Tel Aviv, The Tami Steinmetz Centre for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University.


Simona Santoro: Department of Political and Social



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