by Shawqi Issa
The Sharon-Abu Mazen meeting of a few days ago failed to produce any result,
proving yet again that the Israeli government, since Sharon's assumption of
power, is working to kill any progress toward a peaceful resolution to the
Sharon was comfortable with Arafat's presence, as it allowed him to say that
Arafat was not a partner in the peace process. The Americans accepted that
deceit, using what occurred at Camp David as if it were proof of Arafat's
refusal to make peace.
Sharon continued in this manner with full American support until Arafat's death.
The United States used Europe's silence, and perhaps inability to act, to
deflect attention from Israel's rejection of the roadmap, in spite of all of
its disadvantages for Palestinians. The US placed complete blame for the
obstruction of the peace process upon Arafat, who was the one who had accepted
the roadmap. The US paid no attention to Israel's rebuff of repeated American
calls for the need to freeze settlements.
Arafat had also been blamed for bringing down Abu Mazen when he was prime
minister. It was said that Arafat did this because he did not want to achieve
peace. However, there were no differences between Arafat and Abu Mazen with
regard to the minimal demand of Palestinian rights necessary for a final
The US showed no interest, however, in the daily crimes committed by the
Sharon-Mofaz government in the occupied territories, among whose victims where
a number of American and European peace activists, in addition to thousands of
Palestinians. Bush continued to be the only person in the world who described
Sharon as a man of peace; not even Sharon, previously accused of war crimes,
ever described himself in those terms.
This situation continued until Sharon put forward the disengagement plan as an
alternative to the roadmap. The disengagement plan aims to rid Israel of the
burden of the Gaza Strip while giving it a free hand to annex parts of the West
Bank to Israel through the building of the wall and the expansion of settlements
in the area of the border zone between Jordan and Palestine.
Bush has made it clear that he supports everything that Sharon wants. Not only
did he endorse the Gaza disengagement plan and the wall, but he has announced,
for the first time, that new realities on the ground must be taken into
consideration. The consequence is no return to the 1967 borders.
Yet the Israeli government has felt itself in a quandary since Arafat's death
and Abu Mazen's assumption of leadership. This has especially been the case
because Abu Mazen was able to obtain a commitment from all Palestinian forces
to halt military operations, which opened the space for negotiations. Israel's
actions, however, have quickly demonstrated that Israel is putting in place a
plan to make Abu Mazen fail. As such, Israel refused to announce a ceasefire
and, except for a few superficial steps, has not taken any steps to ease
Palestinians' daily lives.
Neither has Israel implemented the Sharm al-Sheikh understandings. On the
contrary, it felt that, in order to continue with its plan, it had to undertake
some illusory measures. It thus released some prisoners, although without any
coordination with the Palestinians. Not only did it choose on its own the list
of prisoners to release, but shortly thereafter it arrested Palestinians in
numbers outweighing those who had been released.
Beyond this, Israel did not withdraw its troops from inside Palestinian cities
and villages in order to clear a space for Abu Mazen to control security. It
withdrew from Jericho knowing full well that this was nothing more than a joke,
as the Israeli army was not there in the first place.
>From the Sharm al-Sheikh summit until the failed meeting of last week, Sharon
refused even to met with Abu Mazen. That proves that the visit of Condoleezza
Rice to the region before the Sharon-Abu Mazen meeting did nothing to push the
peace process forward. Also reinforcing this was Israelis' leaking to the media
of transcripts of the discussions that took place at the meeting. These leaks
were done professionally in a deliberate effort to humiliate Abu Mazen and
weaken him in his own society.
What the Israeli government is doing will lead to a single inevitable
conclusion: it will annul any possibility for a solution on the basis of two
states living side-by-side on the 1967 borders.
The history of the conflict and its details demonstrates perfectly that it is
impossible to impose a settlement on the Palestinian people that offers less
than the 1967 borders. No Palestinian leader can accept less than that. This
was one of the lessons of Camp David, although the American government has yet
to comprehend its manifest truth.
Moreover, the lack of effort to arrive swiftly at the aforementioned minimum
settlement will prevent a two-state solution once and for all. It will weaken
the Palestinian forces that call openly for such a solution, and strengthen
those who call for a one-state solution. This, as the American government and
the Israeli people should understand well, is not what Israel wants.-
Published 27/6/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Shawqi Issa, based in Bethlehem, is a lawyer and human rights activist whose
commentaries on Palestinian politics have appeared in numerous publications.