I had thought that the "Geneva Accord", an unofficial peace plan authored by Yossi Beilin (a prime architect of the Oslo accords) and Yasser Abed Rabbo (a Palestinian moderate and former PA cabinet minister), would end up as just one more well-intentioned irrelevancy that provided some momentary diversion from the butcher shop which is now Israel and the West Bank.
But now I don't think so.
First is the context in which this is happening.
For all those who have eyes to see, a sea change has been taking place of late in Israeli public opinion. It's not that they are abandoning Sharon (not yet at least) or embracing Arafat. But there is a coalescing sense that the current situation isn't so much a get-tough policy as a state of perpetual bloodshed, which itself may be setting the stage for something far worse. Sharon has been just as hardline as he promised. And even more Israelis are dying than before, not to mention Palestinians.
The change has been most conspicuously signaled by a series of statements by current and former senior members of the Israeli military and security services arguing that the current policies simply aren't working.
The other significance of the Geneva Accord, as Michael Moran explains very ably in this piece, is that -- in a certain sense -- they put the lie to the purported intractability of the current situation. For all the rancor and hatred that has built up over the last three years (and it wasn't exactly a bed of roses before that) everyone pretty much knows what the final deal looks like -- and pretty much everyone knows that it looks a lot like what's included in the Geneva Accords.
So, it's not that it'll be easy to make this deal. But, in a certain sense, the two sides aren't really that far apart.
The other thing which I take some heart from is that Arafat and Sharon clearly feel threatened by this plan that has been put on the table. There have been demonstrations against it on the Palestinian side. Sharon has condemned it. And Ehud Olmert, the Vice Prime Minister, who represents almost all of what is immoderate and narrow-minded in Israeli politics, has been publicly scolding Colin Powell for considering meeting with Beilin and Rabbo.
And now, to his -- and the administration's -- credit, Powell is going to do just that.
And Paul Wolfowitz -- who also deserves great credit -- will be meeting with Beilin and Rabbo too.
We'll return to the significance of the Wolfowitz meeting in a subsequent post.