Published October 15, 2003
| Associated Press
JERUSALEM – Switzerland's sponsorship of an unofficial Israeli-Palestinian peace plan has angered the Israeli government, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday.
The 50-page "Geneva Accord (search)," drawn up by former Israeli and Palestinian government officials and veteran negotiators, envisions a Palestinian state and addresses some of the issues that have sunk past peace efforts, including the question of Palestinian war refugees.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said the government was annoyed with the Swiss for funding the effort and hosting the talks in Geneva.
"I'm not sure that we are furious with them but we are certainly checking to see what the Swiss involvement is," Peled said. "We will explain to them that agreements and negotiations are conducted between governments and not private individuals."
Funding has also come from Britain, Japan, Norway and Sweden.
Participants hope to sign the deal in Geneva on Nov. 4, the eighth anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (search) by an extremist Jew who opposed his peace moves.
An official at the Swiss Foreign Ministry defended the effort Wednesday.
"Our position is simple; this is a project which originates from the civil societies of both parties," said Paul Fivat, of the ministry's Mideast desk. "This project is in line with the principles of our peace policy and programs ... in which a part is supporting such kinds of private initiatives coming out of civil societies."
The deal, concluded over the weekend at a Jordanian seaside resort, envisions a Palestinian state encompassing 98 percent of the West Bank, all the Gaza Strip and Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem — lands Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
On the critical issue of Palestinians forced out of what is now Israel, the plan gives some 4 million refugees and their descendants three options, but blocks any chance of them resettling in large numbers in Israel.
Refugees could settle in a future Palestinian state or third countries, or be compensated for remaining where they are. Some could go to Israel — but only if Israel agreed to take them.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has given his support to the effort but will not officially endorse it until the Israeli government does, said former Cabinet minister Yasser Abed Rabbo (search).
On Wednesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said there was no official Palestinian position on the plan yet.
"I am one of those who support any dialogue between the Palestinians and Israeli groups and powers," Qureia added. "We have to encourage the initiative from both sides for dialogue and ties."