US Secretary of State, Colin Powell has held the meeting in Washington with the authors of an unofficial Middle East peace plan, despite opposition from Israel.
US officials insist the meeting was not a snub to Israel, and the BBC Washington correspondent says it is not an endorsement of the Geneva plan.
The Geneva accord was launched on Monday by the former Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo and the Israeli's former Justice Minister Yossi Beilin.
The document calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state together with the dismantling of most Jewish settlements.
It also gives the Israelis the right to decide how many Palestinian refugees can return to Israel.
Can the Geneva accord help resolve conflict in the Middle East?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:
No, because Israel will never grant the right of return for Palestinians and Arab states will never recognize Israel as a sovereign nation. No peace plan in the world can change this.
The Geneva Accord is a bilateral agreement and as a result the stronger side, which in this case is Israel, will always be better off to the detriment of the weaker side, the Palestinians. I think such agreements just do not work as we witnessed in Oslo. The best way to proceed is to ensure that Israel complies with all previous U.N. resolutions on the conflict culminating in a binational state where the Palestinians refugees that want to return can do so in a state where nationality is based on residency and not religion and ethnicity. Then we can talk about democracy.
Victor, London, United Kingdom
Majority of messages on this talking point are explicitly or implicitly point that the problem is in existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Logically this means that they call for reversing history, for denying the Jews the right to have their country as the refuge from the hostile world. According to their logic, any other group of people that may not have even a right to be considered a nation or people (like Palestinians) do have right for self determination, but not Jews. When this opinion is expressed by Arab world there is no surprise; this is why Israel developed its army to defend itself. But when this opinion is expressed by Westerners and the rest of the world - isn't this a pure, old, ugly anti-Semitism? So, the new peace plan is anti-semitic at its core.
How can a document negotiated by those out of power, rejected by their respective nations, be seriously considered a building block for peace. Any successful effort for peace must come from popularly elected Israeli and Palestinian governments. It is time that the rest of the world allow the negotiation process to progress at its natural speed. Forcing the issue has only increased hostility and will continue to do so.
Al Boulier, US
I cannot help but notice that there are no comments posted by Palestinians. One would think that they would have some relevant input on this subject.
Let the process proceed; see if they can get referenda. If they can, it should put all politicians, from all countries on notice, that if the elected people will not lead, the electorate will. The electorate have no back room deals with lobbyists, or special interests. Their only interest is the common good. This could be the beginning of true democracy, the people spelling out to the politicians exactly what they want on major issues - fulfil or quit!
Brenda Haworth, Canada
In short, what the Geneva Accord proposes is similar to Bantustans in South Africa only that the blacks in the Bantustans did not have to recognize South Africa as a white state. The Geneva Accord will never be accepted by the Palestinian people.
As long as extremists on both sides control the conflict, any sensible proposal has no shot. Unfortunately, people will look to the extremists to protect them as long as the violence continues. And since the extremists control the violence and know that violence is what gives them power, there is no end in sight. If I thought that the security fence would really keep the two sides apart, I would be all for it.
Jim, NJ, USA
This plan could work but it would mean a lot of backing down on both sides. I like to think that they will. I actually doubt it. But miracles do happen, this could be it.
If the will is there, and there is enough popular pressure, not to mention enough firm pressure from the White House, then it will have a chance. Everyone must compromise to reach a solution - it is the only way. If both sides wish to keep their agendas, then this and any peace plan will fail. This is a realistic option - let the people speak, and live in peace. It can be done!
The root is conflict of culture, if both parties don't communicate peacefully to share their view, the conflict never ends. Political action can't work out this problem.
Peter Lo, Hong Kong
What is called Geneva accord is dead before its birth, it is unrealistic, unjust and totally unacceptable. No one has the authority to disclaim the Palestinians refugees' rightful call for return. The right of return is sacred. Only Palestinian refugees shall decide whether to return or not.
Khaldoon Rashid, Kuwait
The Geneva plan ushers in a new era of post Oslo peace proposals, its originality will be its strong point. A peace initiative that finally brings into view a final settlement.
John Lowe, Montreal , Canada
This plan is an inspiring grass roots solution of what the everyday people of both countries can agree on in the absence of their leaders or their leaders' politics. They should sell this house to house until the solution cannot be ignored. Remember, it was such the people, not their governments, who toppled apartheid, Marcos, Suharto and the Berlin Wall. Let the people move on this one too.
Steve Wroblewski, Malaysia (UK Expat)
I live in my homeland as a free person. I have seen what both the Christian and Islamic countries have done to my people. For once it is time the world minded their own business and let us decide what is in our own best interests. To the world - we don't interfere in your business, so don't involve yourself in ours.
To Etzel, Israel: Be careful what you wish for. As a US citizen, a good chunk of my tax goes to defend your country. Therefore, I feel I have a right to have an opinion on this subject. Until you truly stand on your own, you can't expect those who support you to not be involved in your business and suggest what we think is in your best interest.
The Palestinians do not want peace. They want to destroy Israel.
The agreement shows that the two official parties at this point are letting positions push aside real interests in the peace process. There must be a leader on both sides that is willing to make a difficult stand. I believe that until America begins to reign in Israel, this problem will not cease since they have the vast majority of power at this point both economically and politically.
David Evans, Canada
The Geneva Accord is an extremely positive and an important development. It lets the people on both sides to look up to the future, something the radicals on both sides want to avoid. The very fact that the plan is opposed by the right wingers on both sides is a success in itself as this is the first time an unofficial movement from the people on both sides is making those in power look vulnerable. The plan needs to be supported if we want children on both sides to have a secure and a meaningful future.
Sajid Khan, USA
Geneva Accord has some proposals that are likely to lead to great opposition from both sides. However, it points out a basic fact: Israelis and Palestinians can (and could) still negotiate.
Perhaps in an alternative universe it could. Here, highly unlikely, near impossible with the deeply rooted and ingrained hatred and passion for that land that runs on both sides.
Sumaya, West Indies
Peace always needs to be approved by the people. An initiative that was started by the people has already been approved - yet the leaders do not understand this.
Antti Vilpponen, Finland
This is the plan that should be used. This was created both by Palestinian and Israelis, and not by people who think they know what's best for the conflict. Any party that rejects this rejects peace.
A good result for a hard negotiation is always halfway and each part must concede valuable items to the counterpart. If the extremists of the two parts are contrary to the proposed agreement, this means that the result of the negotiation is good.
Marzio Mangialajo, Italy
If the peace plan is honest and respects the rights and dignity of all parties involved it may work-but with USA government involvement it is suspect that this is the case-just look at the track record of Colin Powell and others in the Bush administration concerning the truth and integrity.
Norman Harper, USA
I think this plan can be accepted by both sides because the "iron fist" approach is not giving Israel the security they want and people have a plan they can actually have an opinion about. I am very hopeful.
No peace plan is going to work simply there is no pressure on Israel to comply. The only country which can make Israel listen and follow any peace plan, it is the US. But unfortunately US is not sincere in its effort to put real pressure on Israel.
Qurni Sarfraz, Pakistan
To Qurni Sarfraz, Pakistan: I think you are exactly right that only the US has the power to put the pressure necessary on Israel. However, unlike you, I think the US would absolutely put pressure on Israel to agree to the terms of this peace plan. The only thing that will stop the US from doing this is further suicide attacks targeting civilians by Palestinian terrorists. If only the terrorists realized that every time they strike, they are the ones that are taking away the United State's ability to put pressure on Israel. While they are being attacked we can never expect them not to defend themselves.
This is a single glimpse of hope for Israelis and Palestinians. Despite historical conflict both sides have failed to calm the three-year conflict. The architects of the Geneva Accord are drawing parallel courage to the Founding Fathers and Nelson Mandela.
Robert Shultz, USA
I think, this was a very democratic decision. At least, this time US has shown impartiality on the issue.
Aikande Kwayu, Tanzania
Without Hope we have nothing. This Plan gives everyone some hope. The US will be instrumental in giving this plan, or any other plan, a lifeline.
Hani S Girgis, London, UK
The Geneva accords represent the strongest attack on Sharon yet. The uncompromising Palestinian demand for the 'right of return' is considered by Israelis to be living proof that the Palestinians are not interested in peace without the destruction of Israel. As such, it is the main scaffolding that supports Sharon. The Geneva accords are the first time the Palestinians have talked about giving up this 'right' in exchange for peace, and this means that Sharon may be in trouble. All it needs now is official backing and praise from Arafat and Sharon's government will fall. But then again, Arafat never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
The Geneva Accord can be the critical step to breaking the endless impasse especially by promoting the notion "Talks in public". That is the only way for the overwhelming power imbalance between the parties to be subordinated to open fair play.
The U.S. and the U.K. should forcefully advance the concept of public discussions. No more shabby and coercive "land for peace" shams behind closed doors!
John McKay, Canada
Maybe this peace accord will send a message to the political leaders on both sides that new types of leaders are needed for the peace to succeed. The Sharons and Arafats of this world have so much enmity and bad blood between them that arriving at a peace accord involving them is almost impossible. A successful peace initiative needs new breed of leaders with courage to compromise. There can be no deal on peace with opposing sides getting what they wish for.
How is this plan any different then the Oslo accord. Nothing new more of the same, but this time neither governments are involved.
I can only say that I am disappointed that Mr. Powell hasn't come to speak to me about peace in the Middle East, of course I forgot I'm just another nobody, but more importantly I have not been elected by the people to represent them, a bit like Rabbo and Beilin. And there was I thinking that democracy meant something, of course America can go behind elected leaders and listen to anybody who says what they want to be said! And as to the new plan itself well neither of the elected governments accept it - I think that says it all really.
Jonathan Zeckler, London
It could be a part of a snowball of public opinion in the Middle East and the international community. Just as pressure from around the world took down apartheid, pressure from the world could undermine those who think to profit from this conflict on both sides. I doubt it will succeed by itself, however.
Linda M. Leon, Canada
No Palestinian leader can claim to have a mandate from the Palestinian refugees and it is inconceivable that one will ever get it in a referendum. To proceed without it will just 'sprout' new resistance movements that were not party to agreements and the Intifada will continue even if severely suppressed by a new Palestinian Authority. Peace will only come with two-nation-one-state solution.
Abel Kotze, South Africa
The only way out of the conflict is for both parties to make difficult concessions. Sadly, they seem more concerned with their separated and opposed ideologies than to resolving any conflicts.
Christian Carriere, Canada
The Geneva plan does not have a chance. The human spirit, to quote someone else, is all well and good, but this deal was negotiated by individuals who have no connection to their governments and therefore did not have to address the pressures and concerns that responsible governments must address. The people who negotiated this agreement, however well intentioned, were negotiating in a vacuum and the document they produced predictably reflects less the realities than the participants' wishes. Admirable yes, but not practical.
James E. Geoffrey II, USA
Why will this peace plan be any different from any of the others? There's too much to be made from conflicts - peace just gets in the way.
The Geneva accord could help restart the peace process between Israel and Palestine and should be welcomed. The sticking point may be the 'right of return' for Palestinian refugees.
Henry Fraser, England
I am glad there are some people who still believe in the power of the human spirit. The Rabbo/Beilin Peace Plan is an optimistic as well as a realistic plan. Unfortunately the present spirit of militants and aggression which engulfs the region will not allow it to reach the people that need it most, namely the regular inhabitants of Palestine and Israel.
Behzad, Washington. DC US
Israel holds the power in this conflict and unfortunately they will never permit the implementation of the Geneva Accord. If the Israeli government added on 14 conditions to their acceptance of the "Roadmap", why would we expect them to accept this accord? Israel is doing all it can at the moment to strengthen the Palestinian radical groups so that any peace plan will be undermined and they can continue with their settlement expansion and land confiscation, claiming its necessary for their "security".
Yaakov Sullivan, Brooklyn, NY
This would be a beautiful compromise. There are hopes that this would be accepted, but as we've already witnessed, the governments will not accept this. The Israeli state has shown through action, it will not give up what it has historically been trying to acquire. Palestinian hardliners may not be willing to give up the unification of families divided in this conflict, even with compensation. It is obvious this accord was drafted by people who truly care about the plight of the two states, and it is surely the people who will have to implement it. The Israeli government does not want peace, but the Jewish people do. The Palestinian Authority should support the plan for the sake of their suffering people. As long as Sharon and henchmen remain in power, they will not cease to eradicate those in their way and snag land from under their feet.
Greg R., US
In general this is a good plan except for one flaw. The right of refugees to return to their homes is an inalienable human right enshrined in international law (just like protections against torture, murder and genocide), and cannot be abrogated or bartered away. Accordingly, any abrogation of these rights included in this plan would be a very serious violation of international and humanitarian principles for millions of refugees. Alternatively, the addition of a simple short clause recognizing this right would make this plan workable.
Paul Noursi, USA
No, not a chance. It's nice idea, but it will only take one or two terrorists attacks and this plan will be down the drain. The terrorists know this and their supporters in Iran, Syria and the rest of the Arab world know it. The Arab countries will not allow peace in Palestine, it will cost them too much politically on the home front.
Mike Daly, USA
The two state solution based on the 1967 borders with no right of return is the only possible solution for the conflict. What else can both sides agree to except this? Extremists like Sharon and Arafat may not like it but its the Israeli and Palestinian people who seem to support and that is what counts. The US must support this plan, as Powell seems to be doing, because its either this or militant and state terrorism from both sides.
The people of Israel and Palestine are increasingly tired of the various peace initiatives advocated by the outside powers and that itself will be enough for them to support the efforts made by their respective leaders, although they are not in power. It will be an uphill task for the advocates of this new effort, but it would surely succeed in winning the support of the people, in the not distant future! All is well that ends well!
Srinivausan Toft, Denmark
People generally do not understand that any "peace plan" that does not outright include the Palestinian right of return is doomed to fail. Yasser Arafat does not have enough power, or willingness to sign a deal of this sort without the backing of groups such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad. These groups see the right of return as crucial to any peace plan because they are bent on the elimination of Israel as a nation, not just the creation of a Palestinian state.
Oron Rosenkrantz, Israel \ USA
I strongly believe the "Geneva peace accord" is by far the best and only solution for the peace to last in the region. The plan is realistic and well balanced.
I also believe that most people both Israelis and Palestinians would welcome the Geneva accords. However, both the Israeli and Palestinian governments will never accept such a solution as they both only see one solution. all or nothing.
It is time to let the people choose their destiny and for the peace to be brokered by a neutral group or country.
How much longer will the region suffer because of the greed and hatred of it's leaders!
Mark Tabiszewski, USA
It was about time that peace loving Palestinians and Israeli took the peace process into their hands. How good to know that there are people in the region willing to put the bloody past behind and live as neighbours. Most encouraging!
Aristides Garcia, The Netherlands
If the purpose of the Geneva Accords is a "Good Will" gesture then you can add it to the list of the countless others. If the purpose is to create a workable political solution it's a complete non-sense. The Accord will achieve absolutely nothing. This conflict does not need yet another comprehensive political solution but a detailed Israeli "exit" strategy with serious political negotiations to come after the creation of a Palestinian entity. As of the present Israel does not have an opposite serious political partner to speak of in any bi-national sense for a diplomacy to exist as such.
Mike S, USA
An agreement that has been rejected by the Israelis and is only given lukewarm support from the Palestinian Authority must be on the right track. If a lasting agreement is ever to be achieved, it will only be with both sides reluctantly admitting that they have to give up a lot in exchange for the ultimate prize: Peace.
R.T. Barbour, USA
I do hope this plan will work, because after reading the outlines for this accord I would agree that most of the majority of the Israeli and Palestinian population would agree to it. The only ones who aren't enjoying the prospect of peace are the warmongers and the ultra right on both sides. The majority of the populations on both sides want peace but the only obstacle to this is their extremists minorities. Let's hope this will end the bloody fighting and give peace the proper place in Jerusalem.
While the Palestinians remain unwilling to deal with the terrorist in their midst, and the International community remains unwilling to make the Palestinian Authority responsible for taking care of this aspect of their security obligations, most Israelis will remain sceptical of any deal. I was a strong supporter of the peace camp... but after the last 3 years I (as a Jew who views Israel as essential for the prevention of the repeat of the horrible episodes of Jewish history) no longer trust the intentions of the Palestinian leadership, or in the seriousness of the International community!
Daniel Sudarsky, Mexico
I cannot see how any plan can work as long as Israel allows settlements to exist in Palestinian territory. The Palestinians and surrounding Arab nations believe that the leaders in Israel intend to take all the land they see as the biblical Israel for themselves. Until Israel proves, by removing and banning intrusive settlements and expansion, they will continue to believe this and act accordingly.
K. C., USA
It's easy to have naive hopes for peace. The only agreement that matters is with parties who can deliver on promises. Like him or not, Sharon was elected to represent Israel and can deliver on agreements. Who can deliver on the Palestinian side? Who speaks with one voice for Islamic Jihad? Hamas? Al Aksa Brigate?
Jake Eisenwasser, USA
To Jake Einsenwasser: People of Israel elected Sharon with full knowledge that he is not a peacemaker. On the other hand a real peacemaker Rabin was killed by his own people - those events truly indicate who wants peace in the region.
This accord seems to have much more aim than the U.S Roadmap. At least the Geneva Accords settles the ridiculous right of return policy by minimizing it to only a few thousand refugees. But the request of Israel going back to pre-1967 boarders is outrageous. By doing this, Israel will be increasingly vulnerable to attacks by Syria who would take back the Golan. Israel should definitely give back the Gaza and West Bank, but the Golan should remain in Israeli hands.
Benny Siegel, USA
With outright rejection at government level in Israel and only a lukewarm support from the Palestinian Authority, it will be a Herculean task to push through such an unofficial plan. But we do believe in miracles at times in order to promote peace in the conflict-ravaged region. In order to understand the views of the masses, it would be better to hold referendums in both states. The US should leave no stone unturned to facilitate any such proposal, which can bring the two sides to the negotiating table. After all, few minor details can be worked out later, once the two states start functioning and living in harmony as peaceful neighbours.
Mahesh Chandra Somani, Finland
It gives hope of peace and prosperity to both peoples.
Qaman Bulhan, Norway
I pray both sides will work together. It will be difficult and both will have to give up things, but in the long run, there will be peace. That's a beautiful thing. Then God will smile again.
The current Israeli leadership and the current Palestinian leadership have both demonstrated how bankrupt and inept their policies are and it is about time that someone with reason and common sense has taken centre stage. I strongly support any effort to sideline the extremists on both sides and to "steam roll" the right solution based on eliminating settlements, aggressively dismantling terrorist organisations, and establishing a Palestinian State. The US should support this current effort 100%.
I think as long as people like Ariel Sharon are in power real peace will never have a chance. Already members of the Likud Party have accused the Jewish authors of the Geneva accord as being traitors. Israel must meet the Palestinians halfway at least, only then will factions like Hamas and Islamic Jihad start losing their popular support amongst the Palestinian people.
Yossi Beilin is a discredited politician who failed to get elected to the Israeli parliament. For him to sign an accord that gives up the West Bank and half of Jerusalem is ridiculous.
It would be nice if this new and independent plan could lead to peace, but the track records of previous attempts at peace do not bode well for this new document. The US should use the opportunity provided by the Geneva accord and Israel's rebuke of Colin Powell's decision to meet its authors to step back from unequivocal support of Israel and establish a neutral footing from which to re-approach the conflict. The presence of an apparently balanced alternative to the roadmap will at least provide added leverage for international mediators, if not the impetus to bring peace in this generation. Keep hoping!
The Geneva accord is the only peace plan that will actually work to end the conflict and the spiralling bloodshed. It is the best realistic plan to be devised since the conflict started in 1948. The roadmap seems to me and to many others to have hit a dead end.
Mustafa Alami, London, UK
Both Yasser Abed Rabbo and Yossi Beilin, as well as their less well known colleagues, deserve much credit for their initiative in trying to break the log-am in the Middle East.
While the extremists on both sides will do their level best to bury the Geneva accord, the ideas are now out in the public domain and will hopefully ignite further discussion on which to base an agreement from which both sides ultimately benefit. Only when the extremists are marginalised by the broad swell of popular opinion can ideas like Geneva take root.
Robert Cowen, UK
There will be no peace in the Middle East no matter how many new plans they come up with unless Sharon and Arafat are both gone and Israel dismantles its nuclear arsenal.
David Howe, UK
The problems of the Israeli/Palestinian situation come down to two factors - people - and wrongs that need to be righted. It is a terrible thing that it's the strongmen - the warmongers or those who have an interest in ongoing mutual hostility who seem to have the greatest clout. The voice of the peacemaker is drowned out by the clamour of conflict. I wish the peace-loving Israelis and Palestinians all the best in their - very noble - attempts to bring good out of evil. They will win in the end.
It sounds good in theory but already it has been undermined by the Israeli authorities. The authorities need to realise that their interests are best served by securing the interests of the opposing side. Seeking always to advance and secure their own interests alone perpetuates the conflict. The interests of both the Israelis and the Palestinians are inextricably linked together. The Palestinians need their own state and there needs to be parity of esteem between the two rival groups.
Eamonn, Republic of Ireland
We have to hope that it will. If this one doesn't, we try and try again. Without hope, we have nothing.
Finally - a workable plan for both sides.
The Palestinians get peace and a return of over 99% of the land they always claimed to be fighting for and the Israelis get a Palestinian state that does not insist on the ridiculous "right of return".
With luck, groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas will no longer have a leg to stand on!
Dan M, UK
I think that there should be a push by Palestinian and Israeli groups to have a referendum vote on the Geneva accord. If there is time for the populations of each group to read the accord and hear a pro-con debate about it and then a large majority of Israelis and Palestinians vote yes to it - there is a good chance it can make a difference.