Shelf Agreement

The term 'Shelf Agreement' is an agreement with symbolic significance whose implementation can be postponed.


The term 'Shelf Agreement' is an agreement with symbolic significance whose implementation can be postponed.


The term 'Shelf Agreement' originated in the business world. Within the political context, its contents and scope can vary according to different circumstances. In this way, a 'Shelf Agreement' between Israel and the Palestinians can either be a full, general or detailed Agreement of Principles2.

There are a number of reasons why a Shelf Agreement is useful:

  • An incentive for an authentic political progress - Within the 'Shelf Agreement' framework, the negotiators are not official representatives of the sides. The significance of signing such an agreement is mostly symbolic / declarative and serves to encourage those negotiators with the authority to achieve an official agreement. As an example, there are those that claim that the Disengagement Plan3 from Gaza was indirectly caused by the Geneva Initiative4, a non governmental proposal5.

  • A 'Model for an Agreement'- A model for a permanent agreement which can later be utilized as a framework for the political system. In this way, a recent report6 claimed that the Prime Ministers Office has shown an interest in the Beilin- Abu Mazen Document7 which was formulated in 1995.

  • Creating a 'Declaration of Intent' and the appearance of political progress - The Israeli and Palestinian leaders may reach the conclusion that the implementation of an agreement is not possible or desirable at the current time. Therefore, a 'Shelf Agreement' may project a 'Declaration of Intent' and create the appearance of a political horizon, with the hope that future political conditions will ripen to allow the achievement of a 'real' agreement.
The possibility of reaching a Shelf Agreement has recently been mentioned several times in the Israeli media. According to one of the suggestions8, Israel could sign a permanent agreement with the Palestinians whose implementation is indefinitely postponed in order to create a political horizon and strengthen Palestinian moderates.

1 Acknowledgments: The Reut Institute would like to thank Adv. Moty Cristal for his contribution to this document. Nonetheless, the content of this document is the opinion and responsibility of the Reut Institute only.

2 In this context, the Agreement of Principles offers Outstanding Issues between Israel and the Palestinians; these issues include amongst others the status of Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugee issue and the permanent borders of the future Palestinian state.

3 See Disengagement Plan

4 The Geneva Initiative is a non-governmental proposition for a permanent status agreement, initiated in light of the standstill in the political process during 2000-2003. The initiative suggests solutions to Outstanding Issues which include the status of Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees and the permanent borders.

5 For an interview with Dov Weisglass by Ari Shavit, click here; In addition, see Nadir Tzur, Disengaging from the Strip, Tzvionim, 2006, pp.120-121.

6 See Ravid, Issacharoff and Benn, Haaretz, 11/09/2007 (In Hebrew)

7 The Beilin- Abu Mazen Document (10/95) is an unofficial proposal formulated by Israeli and Palestinian representatives on various parameters for an Israeli - Palestinian permanent agreement.

8 Ravid and Benn, Haaretz, 25/07/2007.