MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
We are all still trying to understand the significance, if any, of US President Bush's letter of April 14 to Israeli PM Sharon regarding the 'disengagement' plan, as well as the significance of the plan itself. Whatever a US President says, it is not binding on anyone unless it is put into a signed treaty, but it is an expression of the way the policy windws are blowing. Bush said 'no' to Palestinian 'right' of return to Israel, and he also said that the borders of Israel should in his view, take into account demographic realities including Israeli population concentrations outside of the Green line.
It was a pretty cold day for the Palestinians, but in any event they have not been getting many smiles from Washington since they began to totally ignore the roadmap. Contrary to what you might be reading in many places, there wasn't much new in Bush's remarks and letter at all. Shlomo Ben-Ami pointed out in an article in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth of April 14, that President Clinton had already given tacit recognition to some of the settlements and to border changes in the Taba peace proposals he initiated. Likewise, Clinton envisioned that refugees would be settled in the Palestinian state and third party countries, and would not settle in Israel without Israeli consent. These same sentiments were repeated in a speech given January 7, 2001.
Bush reiterated, and made Sharon reiterate, that the wall/fence/barrier/ has no political significance in terms of setting boundaries. Bush did not grant US recognition to any specific Jewish towns beyond the Green Line, including East Jerusalem. He only said that he thought a negotiated solution ought to take into account Jewish population contentrations, and expressed his current views on the refugee settlement. It seems that Bush was as warm as he could be toward Sharon and Israel without actually saying anything new at all or granting Israel any concessions at all. He probably won't help finance the withdrawal and he won't allow Sharon to resettle the Gaza settlers in the West Bank.
As a policy statement, Bush's letter is more than nothing at all, and less than something. Despite the bitter words of the New York Times editorial about "Settlements over Peace" (see below) the fact is that Bush and the United States have not sanctioned any specific settlements. Bush's formulation includes a viable and contiguous Palestinian state, which cannot occur unless many settlements are evacuated. In fact, it can be argued that the US position regarding a settlement has not changed substantively since the Carter administration adoped, more or less, the formulation of the 1975 Brookings Institution Report, "Towards Peace in the Middle East" with the following key points:
1- Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories with mutually agreed border changes
For Bush, Sharon's disengagement plan can be a way of showing movement on the Israeli-Palestinian issue without having to actually become very engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which Bush is loathe to do, without spending a cent, and without any real US commitment at all to either side. Perhaps some of it was election ballyhoo. Bush may have picked up a few Jewish votes in this way, or perhaps not. Not many US Jews would vote Republican even if the Democrats were running Yasser Arafat and Ahmed Rantissi. Like his father and Republicans before him, Bush II will probably get less than 20% of the Jewish vote, even if he actually recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and OK'd kicking the Palestinians into the desert. The Jewish vote is not that large anyhow. We should understand that while withdrawal from Gaza is popular among Israeli Jews, it is not popular among most US Zionists. The right sees it as a concession to terror, and the left sees it as Sharon's way of terminating Oslo. The "Jewish vote" if there is such a thing, is not going to be influenced very much by Bush's letter.
Sharon needed the Bush letter, statement and visit in order to sugar-coat the withdrawal for the sake of his Likud party constituency, who will be voting on the disengagement plan in a somewhat bizarre referendum in May. Recent polls show a small but increasing majority favoring the plan, bolstered by the nice words from Mr. Bush. When the process is done, the net result will be an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in return for nothing at all, not from the Palestinians or from the US or anyone else. In addition to withdrawal from Gaza, Sharon also had to promise a settlement freeze and finally, real enforcement ("this time we mean it, no kidding") of the orders to remove the numerous 'outposts' that have sprung up in recent years. This doesn't sound like a bargain for Sharon, does it?
There are several reasons for this 'crazy' move by Sharon. The main reason is that Israel occupying Gaza is rather like a kid keeping his hand on the plate of an electric stove as it gets hotter and hotter. He may insist that it is real fun, but he is rather hoping his mommy will make him take his hand off pretty soon. Sane Israelis have been looking for a way to get out of Gaza for about 34 years or more, provided only that we could get someone trustworthy to take it. The natural resources of Gaza are violent fanatics, sand and an incredible population density, and its major exports are apparently terror and cholera. Finally, the Israeli government gave up and decided to get rid of Gaza even if nobody wants it and even if there will be no real government there at all. The 'Gaza first' or 'Gaza at all costs' plan was first put forward by Labor party candidate Amram Mitzna, but the planning probably went back to the Barak administration if not before. The Gaza settlements cost money, cause friction and tie down the IDF. The refugee camps that contain about a million people in a tiny space are a permanent photo-op for anti-Zionist propaganda, showing how the penniless Gazans are suffering under the oppression of the wicked Israelis. On the other hand, Israeli attempts to improve life in the camps or resettle the refugees were met with extreme resistance. Now they will be able to suffer under their own oppression or someone else's, but it will no longer be Israel's responsibility. Before the Israeli occupation they suffered worse, but hardly any photographers came to take pictures.
A large majority of Israelis agree about evacuating Gaza, regardless of political affiliation, though the majority may be much smaller in Sharon's Likud party than it might be in the Shinui or Labor parties, so it is a politically astute move for Sharon as well as strategically wise.
By adopting the plan of his adversary, Amram Mitzna, Sharon hopes to accomplish several goals:
1. Withdrawal from Gaza will free the IDF for more important work and save money that is being wasted on settlements and security for the settlers. This goal will be accomplished.
2. Withdrawal will remove an exposed flank that has always been a good issue for the Israeli left, a waste of money and a friction point with Palestinians. This goal will be accomplished.
3. Sharon has always wanted to delegitimize the PNA and formally put an end to the Oslo peace process. By its own actions and inaction, the Palestinian Authority itself already did this, though some wishful thinkers would like to believe otherwise. On the other hand, it is not so easy to wish away Yasser Arafat as a political force.
4. The withdrawal is intended to forestall pressure for specific "negotiated settlements" according to peace plans that would involve concessions Sharon is not prepared to make, such as withdrawal from Jerusalem and right of return. This goal was announced by Sharon in his Knesset speech. Obviously if the withdrawal doesn't satisfy the real needs of the Palestinians, it will not necessarily take the pressure off. However, for now, Bush has declared the roadmap to be the only program for peace that the US will consider, neutralizing the Geneva Accord and other initiatives. Sharon is 'safe' with the roadmap. He knows the Palestinians are never going to make the slightest effort to comply with provisions regarding stopping terrorist activity, so he doesn't have to worry that Israel will ever be required to fulfill its part of the bargain.
5. Sharon wants a free hand to deal with the Palestinians as Sharon sees fit, free of encumbrance by agreements and peace processes. If the Hamas sees the withdrawal as an occasion for a terror celebration, it will help provide the excuse for a very massive Israeli incursion designed to totally vanquish the terror groups.
This last goal may be the most important of Sharon's hopes for the disengagement plan. Former PM Ehud Barak boasted in an interview to Ma'ariv newspaper soon after the start of the Al-Aqsa intifada that Israel could wipe out the PNA in short order, it didn't happen, not under Barak and not under Sharon. In part, it didn't happen because of international pressure, especially American pressure, which restrained Israel on several specific occassions - notably after the Tel-Aviv Disco bombing, when Yasser Arafat promissed for the umpteenth time to do something about terror. In part, it didn't happen because the IDF felt it hadn't trained enough troops in the kind of close-in street fighting that such a move might require. In operation Defensive Wall, Israel suffered a relatively large number of casualties and it could easily have been worse. Lessons were no doubt learned. The IDF has always been able to learn from mistakes of that sort, though they are much slower to learn lessons that concern safeguarding human rights. Sharon is reckoning that after Israel withdraws from Gaza, we will look more like "good guys," and he is counting on his supposedly close relationship with the USA, which is not as close as he believes, and on the neutralization of the European Union in the Middle East, which is not a done deal either. Perhaps Ariel Sharon also forgot that while George Bush will not be president forever, the Israeli withdrawal will be permanent.
Some people in the Israeli government may be dreaming of inspiring a mass exodus of Palestinians like that of 1948, a nightmare scenario that is repeated by proponents of anti-Zionist hysteria. But the Palestinians are not going to go anywhere, because those who have remained through the Intifada have no place to go, and there is no country that will accept them. If there is any flight of Palestinians, European countries especially will raise a great hue and cry, ostensibly for "humanitarian" reasons, but actually because they don't want any Palestinians in their own borders, and they don't want to increase the payments to the UNRWA organization which is charged with perpetuating the misery of the refugees.
Meanwhile, however, Palestinian reaction has been a chapter out of the theater of the absurd, and has played directly into the hands of Ariel Sharon. Judging from Palestinian statements, one would think that George Bush had given Israel the go ahead to conquer more territory, rather approving of an Israeli withdrawal. While Bush reiterated his commitment to a two state solution, Yasser Arafat reiterated Palestinian commitment to right of return of Palestinian refugees to israel, which would make a two state solution null and void. Palestinians continue to assume that if they repeat the words "international law" often enough then their positions will somehow gain legitimacy. They reiterated their position, not based on fact, that UN resolution 242 calls for total Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, a position that they themselves were willing to abandon in favor of territorial exhange. The Palestinians claimed that for some reason (see below) that Bush's speech, which simply reiterated the conditions of the roadmap, had somehow "ripped up" the roadmap. Nothing in the roadmap says that Israel is not allowed to withdraw. Israel has no obligation to occupy any part of Palestinian territory. Surely, nobody in Israel would object if the Palestinians were to decide to evacuate, say, East Jerusalem, without negotiations, in order to reduce friction with Israel. Sharon has managed to embarrass and confuse the Palestinians, but it is an embarrassment of riches in fact, and it is not clear who will be smiling about Israeli withdrawal two years hence, provided, of course, that the withdrawal really happens.
Sources and Reactions
For Immediate Release
Statement by the President
I remain hopeful and determined to find a way forward toward a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian
The Israeli Plan:
I welcome the disengagement plan prepared by the Government of Israel, under which Israel would
I am hopeful that steps pursuant to this plan, consistent with this vision, will remind all states
The Path to Peace:
I believe certain principles, which are very widely accepted in the international community, show us
Having these principles in mind, the United States is able to make the following comments.
The United States remains committed to the vision of two states living side by side in peace and
There will be no security for Israelis or Palestinians until they and all states, in the region and
Israel will retain its right to defend itself against terrorism, including to take actions against
The Two-State Solution:
The United States remains committed to the two-state solution for peace in the Middle East as set
The goal of two independent states has repeatedly been recognized in international resolutions and
As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should
The United States supports the establishment of a Palestinian state that is viable, contiguous,
Under the roadmap, Palestinians must undertake an immediate cessation of armed activity and all acts
The Government of Israel is committed to take additional steps on the West Bank, including progress
As the Government of Israel has stated, the barrier being erected by Israel should be a security
A peace settlement negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians would be a great boon not only to
# # #
Israeli Editorial Reaction
Haaretz - http://www.haaretz.com
Three papers comment on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's meeting later today
The Jerusalem Post comments: "Bush's guest today, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, can tell him a thing or two about what to do when you get in trouble. Say what you will about Sharon's disengagement plan, but it has certainly captured the agenda. The US is not thrilled about being forced to adapt to a new plan, but this is precisely what the US did to Israel with the road map, and turnabout is fair play... Bush's radical idea was to be the first administration to openly endorse a Palestinian state, but to hinge that endorsement on Palestinian regime change. In his June 2002 speech calling for a "new and different Palestinian leadership... not compromised by terrorism," Bush prefigured his push for transformation of the entire Middle East through the promotion of freedom and representative government... The question then, is not what to "give" Sharon, but when will Bush return to his bold vision of refusing to give in to Arab radicalism. Such a return to boldness would begin by ruling out the any Palestinian "return" to Israel as a matter of principle, not just through a supposed Israeli veto over the number of Palestinian immigrants."
Yediot Aharonot refers to Prime Minister Sharon and US President Bush as, "lame ducks." However, the editors believe that, "It cannot be denied that Sharon certainly took a great and dramatic step from a personal point-of-view when he chose to embrace disengagement," and suggest that, "Bush, the 'lame', can help him with an open and generous hand, support that Sharon needs so badly."
Hatzofeh asserts that: "The US still has not given in on the right of return; the US does not accept the six blocs of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria; the US wants a return to the 1967 borders, with minor adjustments.; no Palestinian leader - even after Arafat - will agree to the six settlement blocs, and the withdrawal from Gaza is a free withdrawal that constitutes a capitulation to terror." The editors believe that, "Upon the withdrawal of the IDF, the Gaza Strip will become a factory for all sorts of weapons," and urge Israelis in the southern part of the country to prepare bomb shelters and sealed rooms.
Haaretz writes: "The [Gaza Strip] evacuation is not serious, it is cynical, a transparent exercise
Arafat: Palestinians won't give up goal of sovereign state
By Aluf Benn and Nathan Guttman, Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service and News Agencies
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat declared Thursday that the Palestinian people will not
Arafat was speaking at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, following an emergency
He stressed that the Palestinians have the right to return to "their homeland" inside Israel,
"Israeli crimes will be faced with more resistance to force Israeli occupiers and herds of settlers
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia was meanwhile reportedly considering quitting his post, in
Qureia accused the United States of total bias against the Palestinians in a phone call with
Powell phoned Qureia on Wednesday night and the Palestinian prime minister told Powell the U.S.
Minutes after Bush spoke, Qureia on Wednesday harshly criticized the U.S. president's stand. "He is
The political fallout from Wednesday's Washington meeting continued on Thursday, with the European
"The European Union will not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived
Cowen also said an international peace road map, in which the EU is a partner with the United
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said late Wednesday that Israel should talk with the Palestinians
He said unilateral action would only create more problems in the troubled region. "I think such an
"To impose anything, they are going to reject it. That's why there's a lot of criticism going on now
Israel has informed Washington that it will implement Sharon's disengagement plan by summer 2005 in
Sharon's letter to Bush also promises to limit construction in the territories. Talks will begin
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer will meet with Israeli security officials in the coming days
In a separate letter to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Dov Weisglass, on behalf of
Talks will also begin soon on financial aid programs for Gaza, the Negev and Galilee. Israel is
Bush on Wednesday issued an enthusiastic endorsement Sharon's disengagement plan, calling it "brave
In his letter to Sharon, Bush said the U.S. was committed to the road map and would do "its utmost"
Speaking at a press conference beside a beaming Sharon in the White House, Bush publicly stated what
Sharon said his disengagement plan would create "a new and better reality for the state of Israel"
The president said working together could help build democratic Palestinian institutions, and said
Regarding the separation fence being constructed by Israel in the West Bank, Bush said it should be
The meeting has apparently helped Sharon boost domestic support for his disengagement plan ahead of
PA:Bush Tears Roadmap to Smithereens, Endorses Sharon's Map
Abed Rabbo: Bush Declared Death of Peace Process Today
[PMC is an official PNA news outlet - MEW]
Palestine Media Center- (PMC)
In an unprecedented, dangerous move, US President George W. Bush gave Israel's premier last night full backing for his go-it-alone plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip and implicitly recognized Israel's claim to some of the West Bank's largest settlement blocs as part of any peace accord with the Palestinians.
The US assurances, which represent a decisive, historic shift in US policy on the Middle East, contravened the "roadmap" peace plan, which Washington itself engineered, UN resolutions and international law.
President Bush directly tilted towards the Sharon government by indicting for the first time that the Jewish state can retain six of the biggest settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in any final peace agreement reached with the Palestinians.
Under international law, all settlements are deemed illegal. The traditional American stance has always been that all settlements were illegal and the US administration used to deduct the sum of Israeli investments in settlements from the aid money sent to Israel.
About 92,500 Israelis live in the six settlements, which Sharon wants to maintain a grip on and annex to Israel - out of a total of 240,000 in the West Bank, or 400,000 if occupied east Jerusalem is included.
In a joint press conference with the Israeli premier Ariel Sharon at the White House on Wednesday, Bush also voiced unequivocal support for Israeli demands to ensure that any peace deal with the Palestinians should not provide for the thousands of Palestinians who were expelled from their homes
Instead, he stressed, they could return to the Palestinian state, which he insisted could still be established in spite of the assurances he gave to the Jewish state.
"It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel," he said.
In a clear sign that he did not expect the borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state to conform with international law, the US president said, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."
The "roadmap" stipulates that a Palestinian state should be established by 2005 based on UN resolution 242, which specifies that Israel should withdraw its occupying troops to the "green line"-the armistice line of 1949.
Effectively, this means that Israel can annex and keep the settlements of Ma'ale Adumim, the largest colony in the West Bank, which Israel envisions will grow to the edges of Jerusalem, Kiryat Arba, Ariel, Givat Ze'ev, Gush Etzion and the Jewish settler enclave at the heart of the southern West Bank
Vehement Palestinian Rejection
The Palestinian leadership reacted vehemently to the outcomes of the Sharon-Bush meeting yesterday warning that the US assurances given to Israel would mean "clearly the complete end of the peace process" as well as security and stability in the region.
President Yaser Arafat met with his Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei and representatives of the different Palestinian factions in an emergency session Wednesday afternoon at his battered compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah to discuss the "dangerous escalation".
In a statement, Arafat stressed that the pact would prompt a "cycle of violence and end all the signed agreements" between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The US assurances are being made at the expense of the Palestinian people and the Arab world without the knowledge of the legitimate Palestinian leadership. They are rewarding illegal occupation, settlement and the apartheid wall," the leadership said.
"We call upon our people, the Arab world, Israeli peace groups, the UN and the Quartet [of diplomatic mediators] to reject this scheme because it violates international resolutions and international law, annuls the roadmap and damages the role of the US as a sponsor for the peace process." The
Moreover, the statement said that the leadership considered the US assurances tantamount to a
Bush First President to Legitimize settlements
For his part, the Palestinian premier Ahmad Qurei (Abu Ala') voiced rejection of the US assurances
"Bush is the first US President to give legitimacy to Jewish settlement on Palestinian land," he
"We reject this American stand and we refuse to deal with its consequences. We only adhere to international resolutions and the roadmap and we reiterate that final status issues, namely Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements, water and security cannot be tampered with by any internationa party." Abu Ala' further emphasized.
He also considered the American pledges the "worst bias towards Israel" undertaken by an American
'Death of Peace Process'
"I believe President Bush declared the death of the peace process today,"reacted Yasser Abed Rabbo,
Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian parliamentarian and former negotiator meanwhile said, "For the first time, American policy violates the basic conditions for peace."
Abed Rabbo contrasted Bush's statements with a letter that George H. W. Bush sent to the Palestinians when he was president in 1991, the New York Times relayed.
"The letter contained a very clear statement that key issues would be determined through negotiations, and not through unilateral Israeli decisions," Abed Rabbo recalled.
Palestinians said Bush's vows in fact give Sharon a "Carte Blanche" to move ahead with settlement-building on Palestinian land, which will make it almost impossible to create a viable Palestinian state.
Bush "wants the refugees to return to a Palestinian state that will not exist," Abed Rabbo said.
For his part, Palestinian negotiations minister Sa'eb Erekat told CNN that Bush's statement violated
He also said, "I don't think the president can negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians. I can't sit with [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair and give Texas to China."
Bush Breaks New Ground
"The message tonight to the Palestinian public is, 'Don't count on negotiations to help you achieve your vital interests,'" Khalil Shikaki, a Palestinian pollster and political analyst told The Washington Post. "The
"President Bush has broken new ground here," Shikaki said. "I don't recall ever seeing an American
Annan Criticizes Bush
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan meanwhile criticized President Bush for the unprecedented US policy shift.
Annan accused Bush of ignoring the wishes of Palestinians and circumventing the peace process.
He also said unresolved issues should be determined by both parties based on Security Council resolutions.
Analysts meanwhile saw that Bush had softened his once-tough stand on the wall Israel is building
Bush, who once called the wall "a problem," yesterday appeared to endorse it.
"I am strongly committed to the security of Israel," he told Sharon. "The barrier being erected by
"It should be temporary, rather than permanent, and therefore not prejudice any final status issues, including final borders," the president added.
If the deal reached yesterday with the Americans is implemented, Sharon would pullout all settlements in the Gaza Strip, where about 7,000 Israelis live illegally amidst 1.3 million Palestinians.
Some 92,500 of 200,000 settlers living in heavily-fortified colonies in the West Bank would stay.
When a reporter pointed out that former President Jimmy Carter had said last week that US Middle East policy is tilted too much toward Israel, Mr. Bush said, "US Middle East policy is tilted toward peace."
Exchange of letters between PM Sharon and President Bush - Apr 14, 2004
Letter from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to US President George W. Bush
Dear Mr. President,
The vision that you articulated in your 24 June 2002 address constitutes one of the most significant
This formula sets forth the correct sequence and principles for the attainment of peace. Its full
The Palestinian Authority under its current leadership has taken no action to meet its
The Honorable George W. Bush
Having reached the conclusion that, for the time being, there exists no Palestinian partner with
I attach, for your review, the main principles of the Disengagement Plan. This initiative, which we
In this context, we also plan to accelerate construction of the Security Fence, whose completion is
Upon my return from Washington, I expect to submit this Plan for the approval of the Cabinet and the
The Disengagement Plan will create a new and better reality for the State of Israel, enhance its
We view the achievement of a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians as our central focus and
In this regard, we are fully aware of the responsibilities facing the State of Israel. These include
The government of Israel supports the United States efforts to reform the Palestinian security
I want to again express my appreciation for your courageous leadership in the war against global
Letter from US President George W. Bush to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
Thank you for your letter setting out your disengagement plan.
The United States remains hopeful and determined to find a way forward toward a resolution of the
We welcome the disengagement plan you have prepared, under which Israel would withdraw certain
The United States appreciates the risks such an undertaking represents. I therefore want to reassure
First, the United States remains committed to my vision and to its implementation as described in
Second, there will be no security for Israelis or Palestinians until they and all states, in the
Third, Israel will retain its right to defend itself against terrorism, including to take actions
The United States is strongly committed to Israel's security and well-being as a Jewish state. It
As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should
I know that, as you state in your letter, you are aware that certain responsibilities face the State
As you know, the United States supports the establishment of a Palestinian state that is viable,
A peace settlement negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians would be a great boon not only to
Mr. Prime Minister, you have described a bold and historic initiative that can make an important
George W. Bush
Thu., April 15, 2004 Nisan 24, 5764
Analysis / Double-edged Bush
By Ze'ev Schiff
Whoever tries to present U.S. President George Bush's
statements as the second Balfour Declaration in terms
of their importance to Israel, is getting carried
away. The most significant achievement was the
emphasis placed on the fact that a solution for the
Palestinian refugees will be outside the borders of
the Jewish state, as Israel has long demanded.
In other words, if the "right of return" exists, it
will be realized inside a future Palestinian state,
and not inside Israel, which Bush again defined as a
On the territorial front, however, the achievement is
In his comments, Bush did not mention settlement
One shouldn't expect that Ma'aleh Adumim will be
The main dilemma facing Bush was how to accept
Europe and the UN are pushing for full international
Any mediator, therefore, who wants to be accepted by
Sharon's plan drew compliments from Bush, who defined
Arafat did not get a mention, but Bush expects that
Settlements Over Peace
Published: April 15, 2004
So much for the constructive mediator. In a costly blow yesterday to America's credibility as an honest broker for a Middle East peace, President Bush endorsed Israeli plans to retain some West Bank settlements and to essentially reject the Palestinians' "right of return."
It has long seemed inevitable that a lasting peace would allow Israelis to keep some of the large West Bank settlements contiguous to Jerusalem and would offer, at most, a very limited right of return for the Palestinians whose families fled at the dawn of a Jewish state. But by accepting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's terms absent any negotiation between the parties, Mr. Bush is essentially supporting Israel's right to impose a settlement of its choice on the Palestinians.
Mr. Bush's drastic and unfortunate policy reversal was announced as a beaming Mr. Sharon stood next to him in the White House. Mr. Sharon was eager to secure American backing on these issues in exchange for his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, a decision that has proved to be quite divisive within his Likud Party. Mr. Bush, the affable host, obliged, just as two days earlier he had seemed to oblige a different guest, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, at his Texas ranch. Then, as this page approvingly noted, Mr. Bush indicated that he was not prepared to approve Mr. Sharon's plans to declare unilaterally that Israel would keep its West Bank settlements on the Israeli side of the recently constructed security barrier.
Until now, the United States has insisted that boundary questions which are central to any eventual two-state deal had to be negotiated as a last step.
Mr. Bush's desire to give Mr. Sharon a prize for pledging to withdraw from Gaza will compromise any subsequent attempts by Washington to broker a lasting settlement, to put it mildly. Palestinians and moderate Arab nations as well as the European allies, for that matter are furious that Mr. Bush acceded to Mr. Sharon's demands.
Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000244.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.
Replies: 9 comments
THE BOTTOM LINE OF ALL THIS RHETORIC IS THIS: ISRAEL GIVES UP REAL LAND, 21 REAL COMMUNITIES, CONTAINING 8000 REAL PEOPLE, HOUSES, GREENHOUSES, ROADS, FACTORIES, FARMS, AND HOTELS FOR A 'LETTER' WHICH CARRIES NO LEGALITY AND ASSURES NOTHING TANGIBLE FOR ISRAEL.
Posted by MIKE LEVINE @ 04/16/2004 04:43 PM CST
I dont think you have the right talk about the palestinians as stupid ,these land were belong to palestin anyway!
Posted by salom @ 04/17/2004 04:39 PM CST
Could The Sanai Penensula serve home to the Palestians?
Posted by Michael @ 04/19/2004 08:10 AM CST
Everything we've heard from Yassin, Rantissi, their organization (Hamas), and the majority of Palestinians and everything we continue to hear from them today (sans Yassin and Rantissi) has been this: All of Palestine (ie, pre-1967 Israel included) belongs to Muslims, the Jews are evil (let's not pretend there is any real distinction between Jews and Zionist Jews in the minds of Muslims, much less in the minds of Muslims who follow al-Qaeda ideology, a la [no pun intended] the majority of Palestinian Muslims), and a two-state solution is simply unacceptable in any form. Let's be very clear, folks: even if Israel were to tear down that wall, dismantle every "settlement" in both the so-called Gaza Strip and the West Bank, totally disengage military forces in those areas, refuse to excerise its right to militarily defend itself, allow for the return of all Palestinian refugees to pre-1967 Israel, allow for Palestinian Muslims living in pre-1967 Israel to become Israeli citizens, officially recognize the so-called Gaza Strip and the West Bank (which consists largely of Judea and Samaria) as constituting an independent and sovereign State of Palestine, and -- hear me, folks -- and even if Israel were to give up Jerusalem, its capital, to such a Palestinian state, the Palestinians would continue to reject a two-state solution. (And by the way, in case you haven't figured it out yet, I refer to "pre-1967" Israel as opposed to Israel as I am honest in my approach to geography. That is to say that both the so-called Gaza Strip and the West Bank belong to Israel and have belonged to Israel ever since its acquisition of those lands from Egypt and Jordan, respectively, as a result of the Six Day[s] War, a war which, in case any of you forgot, was declared on Israel by the surrounding Arab/Muslim nations, not vice versa.) And this of course is to be expected, given historical evidence which supports the fact that the policy of appeasement (aka "land for peace") has never, ever worked, as giving up the Sinai, Southern Lebanon, part of the Golan, etc. only ever served to embolden Palestinian terrorists and their sympathizers (the majority of non-gun-wielding, non-bomb-strapping Palestinians), whose stated objective is the complete and utter destruction of Israel. It didn't work with Hitler, either, if you'll take a second and remember with me reading about him in high school. (Note: There's a special connection between Hitler and Arafat - in fact, with the Palestinian "cause" in general - which a few of you are well aware of, and which the overwhelming majority of you have either never taken the time to study up on or somehow forgotten. If you don't know what it is, just ask.) As for the "two-state solution," I can't say I don't reject myself. Regarding the legitimacy of man, the Palestinians have no right to the land. Regarding the legitimacy of God, the Palestinians have no right to the land. Either way you look at it, that land rightfully belongs to the Jews. 5alas.
PS - I'm not a Jew. (As if being a Jew would somehow dismiss what I've said. I don't think so.)
PPS - The Palestinians had the opportunity twice over to accept a two-state solution and both times rejected it on the basis of their rejection of Israel's right to exist at all. Once in response to the UN's proposition in 1948, and once in response to Jordan. I think it's safe to say that what we've seen in the last fifteen years constitutes as a third rejection, as highlighted in (Ahmed) Qorei's rhetoric in response to the recent Bush-Sharon talks (not to mention Arafat, Hamas, or any and all sympathizers... class, do we know what the professor means by sympathizers yet?)
Posted by Patrick Markham @ 04/19/2004 10:10 AM CST
There is a lot of discussion about the US approval of Israeli settlements in the Westbank, whether this is something new and if it is in accordance with the Roadmap. But the real issue is if and how a viable, stable and democratic Palestinian state can be created. Official US, UN and EU politics is a two-state solution, and I have heard and read the words Ā“a viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside IsraelĀ“ just too often, but seldom it is explained how this little, poor, very densely populated area with badly working political institutions, corruption, rivaling gangs, and terrorism can be converted into a stable democracy. The population growth is among the highest in the world, the economy is doing bad, and although some problems are (partly) due to the Israeli occupation, the problems will not disappear if the IsraeliĀ“s do.
Posted by Ratna Pelle @ 04/20/2004 04:03 AM CST
Out of the fire into the frying pan. Could the nation of Isreal have chosen a less welcoming place sink its roots?
One would have thought that the bartering traditions of both Arabs and Jews could have brought them together in the same land for mutual economic benefit. The Jewish funds that have been spent on building the state could have been spent on improvling the quality of life of the two populations equally from the beginning, along with an equal contribution of arab oil money. In the long run it might have cost less and been less painful.
But I am a dreamer . . . and the big picture is easily dismissed when facing the muzzle of a gun.
Posted by Lawrence @ 04/20/2004 06:59 AM CST
Let me get this right, Lawrence, you wish Israel had spent its money to improve the quality of life for the Palestinians, right? It makes me shutter to think that there really are people like you out there who just have no idea that, in fact, Israel did work on reconstruction/construction and on other social programs in the "occupied territories" in the years immediately following 1967's Six Day(s) War, but have since abandoned their efforts as they were UNWELCOMED and REJECTED by the Palestinians themselves. You don't want Israel's help, you don't get it. Simple as that. Furthermore--and I'm not the first to mention this here--even if Israel were to renew such efforts and a couple of Palestinians were to come to an appreciation of sorts of Israel and start working for peace between Israel and the rest of the Palestinians (the overwhelmingLY overwhelmING majority of Palestinians) and start espousing the notion that Israel is A.O.K. after all, the immediate reaction from those Palestinians (once again, the overwhelmingLY overwhelmING majority of Palestinians) would be #1) Rejection of the one or two Palestinians actually living in a peaceful relationship with Israel and the renewed social efforts... (for those of you having a hard time following, there are no renewed social efforts; this is a hypothetical situation only, and i'm playing it out to show how it simply would not work) ...as having betrayed their Palestinian/Muslim brothers and sisters, as having accepted bribes from Israel in exchange for saying what they're saying, or worse, hiding their "true roots" which, of course, everybody knows must be Jewish (I hope you since my sarcasm) and #2) Rejection of the renewed social programs themselves as being a means for Israel to manipulate Palestinians, give them the "false idea" that Israel actually wants peace, and ultimately one more stepping stone on the path towards Israel's garden of total domination.
And you know how I know all this? Not because it's obvious, no. (It is, but that's not why.) I know this because that's exactly what happened last time, folks/Lawrence!
Alas, you were right about one thing, Lawrence: you are dreaming.
PS -- Kind of ironic that my screenname is DreamingSleeping, don't you think?
Posted by Patrick Markham @ 04/20/2004 07:41 PM CST
Let me get this right, Lawrence, you wish Israel had spent its money to improve the quality of life for the Palestinians, right? It makes me shutter to think that there really are people like you out there who just have no idea that, in fact, Israel did work on reconstruction/construction and on other social programs in the "occupied territories" in the years immediately following 1967's Six Day(s) War, but have since abandoned their efforts as they were UNWELCOMED and REJECTED by the Palestinians themselves. You don't want Israel's help, you don't get it. Simple as that. Furthermore--and I'm not the first to mention this here--even if Israel were to renew such efforts and a couple of Palestinians were to come to an appreciation of sorts of Israel and start working for peace between Israel and the rest of the Palestinians (the overwhelmingLY overwhelmING majority of Palestinians) and start espousing the notion that Israel is A.O.K. after all, the immediate reaction from those Palestinians (once again, the overwhelmingLY overwhelmING majority of Palestinians) would be #1) Rejection of the one or two Palestinians actually living in a peaceful relationship with Israel and the renewed social efforts... (for those of you having a hard time following, there are no renewed social efforts; this is a hypothetical situation only, and i'm playing it out to show how it simply would not work) ...as having betrayed their Palestinian/Muslim brothers and sisters, as having accepted bribes from Israel in exchange for saying what they're saying, or worse, hiding their "true roots" which, of course, everybody knows must be Jewish (I hope you since my sarcasm) and #2) Rejection of the renewed social programs themselves as being a means for Israel to manipulate Palestinians, give them the "false idea" that Israel actually wants peace, and ultimately one more stepping stone on the path leading towards Israel's garden of total domination.
And you know how I know this? Not because it's obvious. (It is, but that's not why). I know this because that's exactly what happened last time, folks/Lawrence!
Alas, you were right about one thing, Lawrence: you are dreaming.
PS -- Kind of ironic that my e-mail address is DreamingSleeping@aol.com, isn't it?
Posted by Patrick Markham @ 04/20/2004 07:44 PM CST
Sorry for posting twice, it was unintended.
Posted by Patrick Markham @ 04/20/2004 07:48 PM CST
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