Saturday, December 29, 2007

The west has to choose: peace or settlements

Op-ed from Arab media
Walid M. Awad

It is ten months and a few days until the American people elect a new president. In this remaining period of his presidency, President Bush hopes to achieve his two state vision - Palestine and Israel - living side by side in peace. In the month since the Annapolis peace conference was held on November 26 to re-launch the final status talks on the core issues (Jerusalem, borders, refugees, water, settlements, and security), Israel, instead of removing the road blocks, added many more in the shape of building and expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, rendering the road to peace paved by the Annapolis peace conference very difficult, if not impossible to pass.

Israel's multiple announcements to expand Jewish settlements and build new ones immediately after Annapolis are not an accident, they are deliberate actions designed to stall peace talks, and to embarrass an effective Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, in front of his people.

The tragedy of the situation is that it might succeed unless the American administration and the Quartet take off their velvet gloves and replace them with something harsher to make Israel freeze settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Befitting the well known Arab proverb, "an excuse worse than guilt", an anonymous senior Israeli official recently told Haaretz newspaper, "There is no political capability (within the Olmert government) either to evacuate settlements or freeze construction in settlements." Commenting on the negotiations on the core issues, the official added "there are detailed files that include Israel's position on the day negotiations came to a halt in 2001, what will happen when they open the Jerusalem file, for example? They will find that Israel's final position at Taba is light years away from Israel's opening position today."

Therefore, in short, the current Israeli government is allegedly incapable of removing or freezing settlement construction and will renege on the already reached understandings between the PLO and Israel back in 2001 in Taba.

This of course is bad news for all, and in particular for the United States administration who invested heavily in order to get the peace process back on track. The risk of a failing peace process will be far reaching. For the Israeli government to succumb to right-wing extremists in Israel (and they seem to be the majority) means the return to more Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, more violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, and a subsequent increase in hostility towards Israel and its supporters in the West.

What is more dangerous, it will remove any chances for a peaceful settlement in the future, as the moderate camps in Palestinian and Arab circles will shrink, perhaps to the point of no return. And the possibility of more wars and destruction in our area will move from the circles of probability to the domain of certainty.

For its part, the Palestinian National Authority and the Palestinian government are doing their best to avoid such a catastrophic outcome. They are warning the West of the impending dangers stemming from Israel's lack of implementing the terms of the Road Map plan, while at the same time are sincerely working hard to implement their part as was committed by the Palestinian side at the Annapolis peace conference.

The process of rebuilding Palestinian infrastructure in terms of reconstructing the economy, institution building, enhancing democracy and empowering civil society is moving as fast as possible. The process of galvanizing the rule of law, deployment of Palestinian security forces to ensure security and safety and enabling an environment conducive to investment and development in the Palestinian territory is in full swing.

As far as the Palestinians are concerned, the Paris donor conference, held to support the creation of the independent Palestinian state, is a watershed, a crossroads, in which the international community has decided that a Palestinian state is an international requirement decided upon by the community of nations, and there should be no way back.

As such, the Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Olmert, should not be allowed to renege on its commitment to implement the Road Map peace plan. Physical tangible steps to change the reality on the ground with a view to ending the Israeli occupation that began in June 1967 must be in order. The United Nations and the Security Council are asked to assert themselves and make sure their resolutions are implemented.

If the creation of a viable contiguous and independent Palestinian state is a national interest of the United States of America, as Secretary Rice stated many times over the course of the last few months, then it is incumbent on the USA to make sure that all sides remain committed to their obligations. Israel should not be allowed to get away with expanding or building Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including first and foremost, in Arab East Jerusalem. Furthermore the process that began to reconstruct the Palestinian economy will not succeed if Israel does not remove its siege and dismantle more than 500 road blocks strategically located to choke the Palestinian economy, and exhaust the Palestinian society.

Comment:Note all the responsibility is upon Israel-the writer never addresses any PA behavior changes. Also, all the proper buzz words, terms and slogans are used-time and again, nothing is new. I share this with my readers to demonstrate how the PR machine works -repeat lies over and over, minimallly your own population comes to believe it and so does the ignorant West. Please understand that the common Palestinian 35 years and less truly believe all of the inconvenient "truths" because they have been fed the same lines over and over again from school to print and video media. They are also under constant pressure to accept the lies as accurate under fear of harm.

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