Tynningö meeting on Palestinian Sovereignty

Pugwash Meeting No. 245

6th Pugwash Workshop on the Middle East
Palestinian Sovereignty
18-21 February 1999, Tynningö, Sweden

Report by Sverre Lodgaard

THE Pugwash workshop on Palestinian Sovereignty was the sixth in a series of Pugwash workshops on Middle East issues. It was hosted by the Swedish Pugwash Group at Tynningö in the Stockholm archipelago, which has been the venue of four meetings in this series. Financed by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Swedish International Development Aid agency (SIDA), the workshop was attended by 21 participants, mostly from Israel, Palestine and Egypt. The discussions were conducted in a straightforward, business-like atmosphere.

The Political Dimension

THERE are four customary criteria for sovereign statehood: an uncontested territory; a permanent population; an ability to discharge international obligations; and a virtual monopoly on the means of physical control. In the case of Palestine, the territory encompasses that portion of historical Palestine that was occupied by Israel in 1967. Except for East Jerusalem, where Palestinian sovereignty is explicitly contested, Israel has not tried to annex these territories. The population is no less permanent than that of well established states. Since Palestinian statehood was first proclaimed by the meeting of the Palestine National Council in Algiers in 1988, the Palestinians have significantly improved their ability to manage international affairs. In this respect, it is better prepared for sovereign statehood than many of today’s 190 states were at the moment of their independence.

The fourth criterion emphasis on physical control remains the weak point in the Palestinian claim for statehood. In 1988 its entire territory was under military occupation; more than 120 states nevertheless recognized the State of Palestine. Five years later, the Oslo accords marked the beginning of Israeli withdrawal and Palestinian self-rule. Western countries, which have not yet extended formal recognition to the Palestinian claim of statehood, welcome Yasir Arafat with the honor and protocol due a head of state.

Israeli participants at the workshop also felt that sovereign Palestinian statehood should be recognized not necessarily because of history or morality, but because it would be an important step out of the current impasse. In this connection, reference was made to Ariel Sharon who says that Palestinian sovereignty is a reality, and that the question of recognition is one of modalities and of Palestine’s relations with Israel.

The territory of the State of Palestine need not follow the “Green Line” and the text of UN Security Council Resolution 242. The parties are free to make amendments insofar as they can agree on them. For instance, various ideas of land swaps have been entertained. The lines must be unambiguous and uncontested, however. Throughout the workshop, the significance of clearly agreed boundaries was repeatedly underlined. Participants emphasized that as long as the boundaries have not been determined, “you cannot know your size”. And if you do not know “your size”, compromises are hard to make.

Obviously, a peaceful Middle East depends upon a great many difficult compromises to be struck. The advantages of clearly agreed boundaries are well known from other settings as well, on land as well as in the seas (e.g. the boundary disputes in the Barents Sea, the Aegean Sea, the Caspian Sea and the South China Sea).

To know one’s “size” is important also for the creation of mutual confidence and respect. Self-respect is hard to establish unless you know who you are, and self-respect is a precondition for mutual respect. If your size is contested, you are more likely to disrespect and despise the contender. Likewise with respect to confidence: self-confidence is an important prerequisite for mutual confidence. In the absence of self-confidence, there is a propensity to shy away from deals with others.

The Economic Dimension

THE workshop discussed the EPS Model for Israeli-Palestinian economic relations in Permanent Status developed by senior Israeli and Palestinian economists and legal experts, all in their private capacity. This Model is a combination of the customs union and the free trade area models, specifically structured to the characteristics of the Israeli-Palestinian economic and political systems, based on the experience of the past five years. It rests on a shared vision of political separation and economic cooperation and, inter alia, on the principle of free and unimpeded flow of goods, services, capital and labor, with the specific aim of security accessibility of products and labor to each other’s markets, as well as to other markets. The EPS model is conceived as a component of a comprehensive Permanent Status Agreement based on implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

It is well known that the ESP Model has received mixed reactions among both Israelis and Palestinians. The workshop was no different, where a variety of views were expressed. Given the comprehensiveness as well as the concreteness of the Model, this is not surprising. No doubt, however, the Model has done much to stimulate thinking about economic arrangements in final status. The negative reactions have come first of all from Jordan, which has not been included in the Model and which insists that a regional arrangement has to comprise them as well (there were, unfortunately, no participants from Jordan at the workshop).

Cooperative Border Passages, Peace Clusters and the Security Dimension

A border may be a line of separation enforced by physical means such as fences and electronic devices, to prevent persons and goods from passing from one side to the other. Or it may be a point of interaction between the parties, representing opportunities for economic, social and cultural cooperation between them These are the extremes: they indicate a wide range of possibilities in-between.

Israeli participants suggested ways in which border passages may be turned into areas of joint economic activity, and how “peace clusters” inside the territory of one or the other party can be designed for mutual benefit. Transformation of border passages is an on-going activity, while the idea of “peace clusters” has been on the drawing boards for some time.

One suggestion is to have border passages between Israel and the West Bank strategically located in relation to population centers, economic centers and main traffic routes. For Gaza, the proposed scheme is based on the five existing passages. In the past, border passages have been points of friction, reflecting the negative aspects of the occupation. Today, the challenge is to turn them into benign points of cooperation. Among the lead ideas is that of industrial parks in and around the border passages. Establishment of such parks has been supported by the World Bank and the United States.

Different from the border passages, the peace clusters will not constitute passage points from one state to another. They will be final meeting points for purposes of work, business, educational activities, medical care and social and cultural events. It is suggested that each cluster should specialize in a couple of sectors, and that the planning, implementation and operation of the clusters should be left to non-governmental actors within a framework agreed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Tax advantages might be granted in order to make them as attractive as possible for Israeli and Palestinian visitors. Both sets of ideas for cooperative border passages and peace clusters illustrate how things can be done based on local common interests, from the ground up.

Some participants questioned the need for such sophisticated arrangements. Would it not be better to go to the root of the problem? Others emphasized that the peace clusters would be a one-way flow: Israelis would go into West Bank clusters for cheaper services and open Saturdays. Yet others argued that while welcoming the idea, its implementation should not be confined to Palestinian land: for instance, West Bank Palestinians would like to come to the sea. However, critical remarks and alternative suggestions apart, there was a general sentiment of appreciation for the work that had gone into these concrete propositions.

A critical question in this connection is how to prevent such pockets of cooperation from also becoming areas of infiltration. To avoid this, security would have to be a shared responsibility, and both sides would have to come up with their best ideas and practices of preventive action. Participants recalled, however, that the main security problem would still be along the Green Line.

Declaration of the State of Palestine

THE Declaration of Principles (DOP) stipulated a transitional period not to exceed five years ending with a lasting settlement of the whole issues based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. The transitional period comes to an end on May 4, 1999; should the State of Palestine then be declared without delay, despite the lack of DOP implementation as envisaged?

In reference to the political history of the matter a good case can be made, and a just cause claimed, for making such a declaration right away. There is much international law to support such a move. This position was expressed, clearly and unambiguously, at the workshop.

While there was wide agreement on the justification, need and necessity of a Palestinian State, most participants nevertheless tilted against its declaration on May 4. In terms of international recognition, it would hardly change the status quo: under the present circumstances, Western nations would not be prepared to extend recognition. A declaration now would, furthermore, produce an escalation of tensions that would hardly work to the advantage of the weaker party. Alternatively, there was the idea of a UN Trusteeship which attracted quite a bit of sympathy and interest per se, but which has not been politically processed and digested to the point of being a realistic option for the short term. Most participants therefore felt that a time-limited extension of the interim period, combined with assurances in terms of commitments to recognize and support a Palestinian State at a later stage, would be preferable. In this connection, it was indicated that an extension towards the end of 1999 might be appropriate.

In the meantime, efforts should be made to extract such commitments from all the signatories to the Oslo agreements. A commitment by the European Union might be of particular significance. The EU is a party to the DOP; its integration process proceeds into the fields of foreign affairs, security and defense; it would like to raise its profile in the Middle East, and it seems closer to recognition of Palestinian statehood than the United States. A unanimous, positive EU reaction is no sure thing, but intensive diplomatic deliberations with key EU countries may swing Western opinion in favor of recognition and thus be of strategic importance. It was emphasized that to succeed, the Palestinian Authority has to make some sort of compromise with Israel. Such are the relations of power in the region.

Finally, it was underlined that developments on the ground are of fundamental importance. The settlements must be frozen. If not, one might come back to Tynningö in three years only to find that the situation has become even more complicated.


  • Dr. Taha Abdel-Alim Taha, Deputy Director, Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS), Al-Ahram Foundation, Cairo, Egypt
  • Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Moneim, Deputy Assistant Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maspiro, Cairo, Egypt; Lecturer on International Organizations and Law, Cairo and Suez Canal Universities
  • Mrs. Yael Amit, Organizational and Labor Relation Consultant, Rosh Haain, Israel
  • Ms. Carin Atterling Wedar, Lecturer in History of Religion and Ethics; Secretary-General, Swedish Initiative for Peace, Security and International Relations (SIPSIR), Stockholm, Sweden; Board Member, Swedish Pugwash Group
  • Amb. Tahseen Basheer, Member, National Center for Middle East Studies, Cairo, Egypt; Member, International Negotiating Network, Carter Center, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Prof. Francesco Calogero, Professor of Theoretical Physics, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Rome, Italy; Chairman, Pugwash Council
  • Dr. Esmat Ezz, Director, Technological Promotion System, Giza, Egypt; Member, Pugwash Council; Professor, Military Medical Academy, Cairo
  • Mr. Gidi Grinstein, Project Director, Economic Cooperation Foundation, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Prof. Marwan Haddad, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, An-Najah University, Nablus Palestinian Authority
  • Dr. Jad Isaac, Director General, Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem, West Bank, Palestinian Authority
  • Ms. Judith Karam, Desk Officer, UN Department of Political Affairs (responsible for Iraq, Kuwait, Yemen, Jordan Israel; back-up officer for Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Persian Gulf States), New York, NY, USA
  • Mr. Henrik Lindkvist, Captain, M.A., International Command-Swedint, Swedish Armed Forces, Södertälje, Sweden
  • Mr. Sverre Lodgaard, Member, Pugwash Council; Director, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Norway
  • Dr. Riad Malki, Director of Panorama (Center for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development–a Palestinian NGO), Ramallah, Palestine; Director, Steering Committee Member of Orient House, E. Jerusalem; Vice-President, Palestinian Council for Peace and Justice
  • Mrs. Camilla Mellander, Analyst, Swedish Armed Forces Headquarters, Södertälje, Sweden
  • Ms. Merri Minuskin, Director, The Jewish Arab Center for Language and Culture Studies, and the International Educational Center for Peace, Beit Berl College, Doar Beit Berl, Israel ; Director, Civil Rights Programs (Palestinian/Arab and Jewish Israelis)
  • Prof. Nazli Moawad Ahmed Youssef, Director, Center for Political Research and Studies (CPRS), Faculty of Economy and Political Sciences, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt; Member, Shura Assembly (Egyptian Parliament); Vice President, National Security and Arab Affairs in Shura Assembly; Secretary for Women for Cairo in National Democratic Party
  • Prof. Ezra Sadan, Associate, Sadan-Lowental Ltd., Tel Aviv, Israel ; Professor Emeritus, Hebrew University, Jerusalem ; Instructor, Israel Defense College, IDF
  • Prof. Emmanuel Sivan, Vice-President, Israel Science Foundation, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel; Professor, Hebrew University
  • Amb. Mohammed M. Sobeih, Permanent Representative of Palestine to the League of Arab States ; General Secretary, Palestine Liberation Organization, Cairo, Egypt
  • Gen. (ret.) Baruch Spiegel, Senior Consultant, Economic Cooperation Fund (ECF), Tel-Aviv, Israel
  • Mr. John Whitbeck (USA/Ireland/France), International Lawyer and Writer, Paris, France
  • Dr. Aharon Zohar, Consultant, Regional and Environmental Planning, Carmei-Yosef, Israel

Student Pugwashite Stewards

  • Ms. Helena Hörnebrant, Board Member, Student Pugwash Sweden; Faculty of Economics, University of Uppsala
  • Mr. Nicholas Etherden, Engineering Physics and Chemistry Undergraduate Student, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden


  • Mr. Thomas Johansson, Security Policy Analyst, Swedish Armed Forces Headquarters, Stockholm; Board Member, Swedish Pugwash Group
  • Ms. Josa Kärre, Project Administrator, MENA Policy Project, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Stockholm, Sweden

Pugwash Staff

  • Claudia Vaughn, Pugwash Conferences, Rome

Working Papers

  • Conducting Win-Win Negotiations, by Yael Amit (Israel)
  • The Palestinian State is a Must for a Comprehensive and Lasting Peace in the Middle East, by Esmat Ezz (Egypt)
  • Palestinian Statehood and Peace in the Middle East, by Jad Isaac (Palestine)
  • The Declaration of the Palestine State on May 4, 1999 : Challenges, Constraints, Obstacles, by Nazli Moawad (Egypt)
  • The Palestinian State is an Important Factor for the Region’s Stability, by Mohamed Sobeih (Egypt)
  • A Border of Peace : Cooperation along the Border between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, by Aharon Zohar (Israel)