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Appendiks 7

Ad verbum:



To   Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
From   Foreign Minister Johan Jørgen Holst
Date   27 July 1973

Subject: The eleventh round of negotiations in the Norwegian Channel.

  1. The situation after the 11th round of talks in the Norwegian channel is somewhat unclear and it appears that it is read somewhat differently by the two sides. I have neither the mandate nor information to adjudicate conflicting perceptions, but I thought it would be useful for your own deliberations if I shared with you some of the main impressions and perspectives conveyed to me by the Palestinian side. I met for about 45 minutes with Abu Ala upon his return from the conference site about midnight 26/27 July. He was obviously somewhat tired, but in good spirit.
  2. He said the negotiations had been difficult. I interjected that we must exepect the end-game to be difficult and produce set-backs. However, so much had been achieved that it would border on the irresponsible to surrender to the pressure from last minute complications. He agreed and assured me that he would try very hard to bring the talks to a successful conclusion.
  3. Abu Ala claimed that the Israeli side has broken the continuity of the negotiations in the next-to-last round by putting forward a lot of new propositions and demands. He claimed that the PLO came back with their counterproposals during the last meeting. The implication was clearly that he perceived the move and counter-move as bargaining tactics.
  4. He claims that the PLO have made substantial concessions towards the Israeli position during the last round of talks and mentioned apply constructive ambiguity and delay thorny issues; the issue of access to Jericho, and the issue of arbitration where they had also retreated into ambiguities which essentially made the issue inoperative.
  5. Abu Ala referred to a tete-á-tete with Uri Savir bridging differences and swapping concessions on a series of issues contained in the draft DOP. He hope to have them accepted by Chairman Arafat and claimed he would work hard to persuade him. However, he also expressed the view that the elements of the package could be subject to further agreed changes through communication via Oslo.
  6. According to Abu Ala four major issues remained to which a solution must be found:
    1. The role of the SCR 242. The PLO sees the transitional phase as preparation for the full implementation of the 242. According to him Israel will not openly commit itself to its implementation, but make it a part of the foundation for the lasting solution. He indicated that on this issue he was hamstrung and had little to give.
    2. The final settlement. Here he claimed that the PLO wanted a prior commitment to raise all relevant issues including Jerusalem in connection with the “final settlement”, while Israel allegedly wanted to keep open the question of which issues could be raised in that connection.
    3. Security. Here he claimed that Israel was claiming to maintain “overall security” in the interim phase, also following Palestinian empowerment in Gaza, and Jericho. I inquired if that meant external security, but Abu Ala stated it implied an Israeli right to maintain internal security from a position where under Palestinian police forces would become subordinate to those of Israel also in their autonomous areas. This was not acceptable. They accepted that external security was an Israeli responsibility.
    4. Limited jurisdiction during the interim period. He asserted that Israel wanted to control roads and power grids. I observed that they in any event would have to be treated as common goods which should be subject to common management and control. Israel would inevitably control the source. He stated that this set of issues are clearly soluble.
  7. Abu Ala claimed that at formula could be found for issuing the reassuring statements concerning the PLO charter and terrorism and that a statement by Arafat could be made public immediate prior to signing of the DOP and issuing a joint statement on the PLO-Israeli negotiations. That statement would have to be cleared and agreed by the two parties beforehand. Arafat could make his statement in Tunis or Cairo. The signing in his view should take place in Norway.
  8. In response to my question Abu Ala confirmed that PLO now employs lawyers to work out their texts. This was the response to the Israeli use of lawyers. I asked whether the Palestinians were very concerned with the alleged danger of Israeli cleverness and being tricked. He responded affirmatively. According to Abu Ala the lawyers tended to complicated matters by creating controversy around simple issues. The lawyers wanted to score points and despair of being outsmarted by the lawyers on the other side. Hence a competition of lawyers may overshadow and transform the substantive issues involved. Abu Ala claimed that he would have preferred a political document. “When it is signed it will be forgotten by everyone.” “It will be the facts and actions on the ground constituting the implementation which will attract attention,” according to Abu Ala. He observed that he agreed with me that the interim period would be a period of confidence building and cooperation between Israel and the PLO. That would transform the basic conflict.
  9. Abu Ala did not give any clear expression of his expectations concerning the response from PLO on Friday. The response would be communicated through Mr. Larsen. I expressed the hope that it would not be an “unconditional no.” Israel wanted a clear answer. It is necessary to demonstrate an ability to make decisions, also those which will cause opposition. I also stated that we were willing to offer good offices, transmit messages and even mediate specific differences in order to bring the negotiations back on track. Abu Ala expressed appreciation but did not go beyond that.
  10. He did express the view that substantial progress has been made through the channel and that both he and Arafat were committed to seeking an agreement. I observed that they must not openly seek it, but also be ready to conclude it and to deal with the opposition to such an agreement. Abu Ala said he agreed.
  11. I said that the Norwegian channel was unique because it constituted the only venue for direct negotiations between Israel and PLO. It was my view that such direct negotiations constituted a necessary condition for reaching a sustainable agreement. However, it was not a sufficient condition. In addition both sides had to be willing to “bite the bullet” to make decisive controversial and difficult choices. He agreed, but expressed the view that Israel were not acting wholly independently, but tended to reflect also American interests and views. This assertion came up in several contexts, particularly with respect to the interpretation of SCR 242 and its implications of Jerusalem. This theme was new in the sense that he had not in previous conversations brought it up so clearly. The implication was not, however, the Israel sought American support, but rather that USA has its own agenda and that it remains irrevocably hostile to the PLO.
  12. Another theme which he emphasized was that Israel seemed to make, and wanted to make, a distinction between PLO and the Palestinian people. In his view, no such distinction existed and an agreement certainly could not be predicated on that distraction. In this connection as well references were made to Americas views.
  13. He explicitly said it would be desirable to have the DOP initialed prior to Mr. Peres’ visit to Norway.
  14. In response to my question about the impact of recent fighting in Lebanon he volunteered the view that it would not affect the talks. The PLO was not involved. Syria was behind the challenge to Israel. The Syrians sponsor the spoilers of the peace process, the Hizbollah and the PFLP-GC, but will not seek open confrontation with Israel.

Johan Jørgen Holst

Last modified: Sun Aug 30 21:21:12 2015 - BL