The Economic Cooperation Foundation (ECF) was founded in 1990 by Dr. Yair Hirschfeld, the initiator of the Oslo Peace Process, Dr. Yossi Beilin, former Israeli Cabinet Secretary, Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Minister of Finance and Minister of Justice, Mr. Boaz Karni and Dr. Nimrod Novik, Special Ambassador and Advisor to the National Security Council and former Advisor to Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
For about a decade, the founders cooperated on several policy initiatives prior to launching ECF. These included the secret dialogue between Prime Minister Peres and King Hussein of Jordan, which culminated with the 1987 London Agreement, widely recognized as a lost opportunity and a most promising venue for Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian peace negotiations. Once aborted after being vetoed by Mr. Yitzhak Shamir, who succeeded Mr. Peres as Prime Minister, King Hussein distanced himself from direct responsibility for negotiations over the fate of the West Bank & Gaza, and the first Intifada soon followed.
This team is credited with what was later dubbed “the Mubarak 10-point document,” a document written by Dr. Novik. It was conveyed to then President Mubarak who embraced it as his terms for Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. The ensuing negotiations developed first understandings that laid the foundations for a formula that paved the way to Israeli-Palestinian direct negotiations at the Madrid Conference in 1991.
ECF’s first major initiative was the launching of the secret talks with the PLO in Oslo, Norway, which culminated in the signing of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) in September 1993 and the ensuing White House ceremony with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, US President Bill Clinton and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.
With their Palestinian counterparts, the Architects of Oslo then developed, negotiated and concluded the Beilin-Abu Mazen Understanding, the first jointly developed detailed concept of a comprehensive permanent status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Although never signed, the Understanding not only demonstrated that bridging the gaps was possible, but it also served as the reference point for all subsequent permanent status negotiations.