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Back in time

When I was going through some of my personal archives during the summer, I had the idea to start writing a regular blog about past events in which I was involved during my political career.

 

Shadow Talks

Tel Aviv, 18-3-1989.   In my diary I wrote about the results of a trip to Israel and to what were then the Occupied Territories - nowadays the Palestinian entity.  As international secretary of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) I accompanied Max van der Stoel, former minister of Foreign Affairs, on a work visit. He was the chairman of the party committee on the Middle East and the trip was meant to engage the PvdA on the ground.

There is a reference in my diary to a secret arrangement with some important members of the Israeli Labour Party who were close to the then deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres whom we had visited that day. They had actually asked us to facilitate contacts between them and representatives of the PLO that had its headquarters in Tunis and where Arafat lived.  They must have been informed of the proposal of van der Stoel made to Peres offering his best services.

 

One thing led to another. After our return contact was made with the PLO using its office in The Hague and word came back from headquarters that that the PLO was interested in a ‘secret’ dialogue of some sorts with members of the Israeli Labour Party. The time was not yet ripe for direct talks. We came up with the formula of shadow negotiations, led by Max van der Stoel, where both delegations, which had no official status, would stay in separate hotels while van der Stoel would travel in between to make an exchange of views possible.  We were of course anxious to see whether there would be any results. I remember that Max made a short paper with some draft conclusions concerning a possible compromise between the two sides and what kind of concessions the PLO would have to make to reach a territorial agreement.  The PLO representatives and the members of the Israeli Labour Party lacked the authority to approve the proposal but promised to discuss it back home. The PvdA intended to promote the plan during future visits to Israel and Tunis. I remember vividly the meeting with PLO president Arafat and the commotion in Holland afterwards because of a “too friendly” handshake of party president Marjanne Sint, who led our delegation, with the PLO leader. A picture of this happening became front page news.

 

Because of growing tensions in the regions there was no real follow up to the The Hague talks. But some say a later attempt to continue the dialogue led to the talks in Oslo and the far reaching agreement – including the promise of a two state solution - that was concluded there.

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