Clarifying the real obstacles to peace

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Posted by Lilly from ? ( on Monday, May 27, 2002 at 1:49PM :

I like Ibish.

Clarifying the real obstacles to peace
By Hussein Ibish
from the Austin American-Statesman
Thursday, May 16, 2002

Two events that took place Sunday illustrated perfectly the elements of
the diplomatic impasse that have prevented any serious progress toward
peace in the Middle East. Israel's ruling party voted never to allow any
form of Palestinian statehood whatsoever, while three key Arab leaders
reaffirmed their commitment to normalize relations with Israel if it
withdraws from occupied Palestinian lands.

The Central Committee of the Likud, the party that leads Israel's
coalition government, voted that "No Palestinian state will be created
west of the Jordan (River)." Supporters of the resolution, led by former
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insisted that Israel would never
permit an independent Palestinian state of any kind in any part of
historical Palestine. The vote endorses permanent Israeli occupation of
East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which is the cause of the
ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu was no doubt attempting to undermine Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon, attacking him from an extreme right-wing position and
demonstrating that he, in this case at least, commanded more votes in
the Likud Committee that determines party leadership. And it is
certainly true that neither Netanyahu nor Likud speaks on behalf of all

However, the fact that Israel's governing party would slam the door so
completely on the one and only chance of resolving the conflict
peacefully is an indication of how radicalized Israeli society has
become in recent months. What Likud was voting in favor of is a
permanent state of apartheid in the occupied territories, with Israel
ruling millions of Palestinians without allowing them independence but
also without granting them citizenship. As Netanyahu put it, "autonomy,
yes -- statehood, no."

The problem is not simply on the Israeli right. No Israeli government
has ever been willing to seriously consider ending the occupation and
allowing the Palestinians a completely independent state in the scraps
of Palestine still not fully colonized. No Israeli government has
stopped or even slowed significantly the settlement activity designed to
entrench the occupation.

The most Israel has ever been willing to offer the Palestinians, as
presented by Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000, was
nominal independence within a greater Israeli state: a fragmented
"state" that would not even have controlled its own borders.

The Likud vote simply underscores the obvious point that as long as
Israel refuses to fully end its occupation, the conflict cannot end. As
things stand now, 3.5 million Palestinians live under Israeli military
rule as non-citizens with no legal, political or human rights
whatsoever. The commitment of the Likud party to continue that situation
indefinitely is not only a prescription for endless conflict, it is an
excellent illustration of the extremist policies that have forced this
hideous conflict on Palestinians and Israelis alike and precluded peace.
The whole world, including the Bush administration, recognizes that
Palestinian statehood is the key to peace, yet Israel's leading party
remains implacably opposed to it.

In stark contrast, following a meeting at Sharm el Sheik in Egypt, the
leaders of Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt reaffirmed their commitment to
a peace plan adopted unanimously by the Arab League which holds that all
the Arab states would create normal relations with Israel in the event
of an Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands occupied in the 1967 war.

The Arab League peace plan is the only serious attempt on the table at
present to rethink the peace process and meet the stated needs of all
parties in a fair and reasonable manner. It would create secure and
recognized borders for both Israel and a Palestinian state. All that is
being asked of Israel by the Arabs in general is that it bring its
troops back inside its own country, and stop subjecting millions of
Arabs to colonization and foreign military dictatorship. The
outstretched hand is being rebuffed. Israel's ruling party has rejected
any form of Palestinian statehood whatsoever and committed itself to a
future defined by more colonization and permanent inequality. That
should provide clarity to all those who wonder why there is and has been
no peace in the Middle East.

Ibish is communications director for the Washington, D.C.-based

-- Lilly
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