Bush, Sharon try to ostracize Palestinian leader
(FinalCall.com)–The recent efforts of the Bush administration and that of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Israeli government toward a lasting peace in Palestine has been hailed by the mainstream media in the United States as significant and possibly the greatest overture in modern times.
However, the inability to secure a ceasefire between the two nations after the three-day summit held in the Jordanian Red Sea resort of Aqaba, coupled with daily protests by tens of thousands of Israelis, as well of Arabs and Palestinians, suggest otherwise.
Efforts by the U.S. and Israel to marginalize the influence of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat by excluding him from the meetings also have proven futile, and might have sent the wrong signal to the international community that continues to question what, exactly, does America and Israel want to accomplish?
Furthermore, most analysts interviewed by The Final Call concur that the demand on Palestinians under this plan represents enormous concessions without reciprocity on the Israeli end. They also believe that the Bush administration is infested with pro-Israel zealots and ideologists who have reached the hierarchy of the administration. Keeping Israel’s interests is proving to be the administration’s top priority and will not allow for the U.S. to play the role of an honest peacemaker in the region, they contend.
“I don’t see Hamas or any of the radical forces yielding unless there are major concessions coming from Israel–meaning substantial dismantling of the settlements, and an agreement that there will be a sharing of Jerusalem and meaningful progress on the right of return for Palestinians,” Executive Director Ron Daniels of the Center for Constitutional Rights told The Final Call from his New York office.
“These are the hard, tough issues, and from the very point that all parties agreed that there could be two states, that already represents a huge concession on the part of Palestinians, who see all of Palestine as being theirs and Israel as a fabrication–a state that was created simply for Zionist and imperialist purposes.
“To say that Israel, as defined, has a right to exist within secure borders, that is a huge concession, and what flabbergasts me about it is that people aren’t made to recognize this step by Palestinians. The Palestinians in this process are always treated like they are on probation, as if those who are the most aggrieved are expected somehow to behave themselves as a precondition for justice,” he said.
“The Bush cabal would love to make us all irrelevant,” said former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D), “because they have no respect for leadership not installed by them, or for the legitimate hopes and aspirations of all peoples, including Americans,” she said, referring to the marginalization of Mr. Arafat in recent talks.
A recent survey published in Time magazine conducted by the Palestinian Research Center in Nablus showed that, although there has been a significant plunge in popularity, beginning in the early 1990s, no one Palestinian figure enjoys more than 10 percent of popular support, with the exception of Chairman Arafat. He has more popular support than any other Palestinian leader.
Published reports claim Mr. Arafat, who has been under house arrest at his crumbling headquarters, referred to the concessions of Mr. Sharon to remove outposts as meaningless.
“The exclusion of Arafat certainly indicated that this road map was designed for a specific purpose and it needs a specific person to play the role of its design. When the U.S. or Israel talk about democracy or reform, then that democracy or reform must fit within their yardstick of how things should be,” Khalid M. Turaani, executive director of American Muslims for Jerusalem told The Final Call, referring to the place of Mr. Abbas in the meetings and the statement read on behalf of the Palestinians.
“When a person does not reflect their understanding of democracy, then they are eliminated or cast aside. Ariel Sharon has really shown his lack of seriousness about this process, by almost being cute with words, saying that he is going to dismantle ‘illegal outposts’ versus dismantling ‘settlements.’ He talked about implementing the road map as adopted by the Israeli Knesset, in an attempt to align his own laws to the Occupied territories, when international law was created to protect those who are under the gun of the occupier,” he said.
President Bush offered the road map during a speech before the United Nations on June 24. Since then, the European Union, Russia and the UN, as a body, have endorsed the plan.
Regarding illegal occupations and violence, the plan in its immediate phase calls for Israel to commit to the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state; an end to violence against Palestinians; withdrawal from Palestinian areas; the beginning of joint security operations; the dismantling of Israeli outposts in settlement areas created since March 2001; a freeze on the construction of settlements; and the relaxation of travel restrictions and political structures against Palestinians.
Palestinians under the plan are asked to commit to Israel’s right to exist in peace; end violence and incitement against Israelis; confront terror organizations and illegal activity; and begin deciding on a process to adopt a constitution and independent government.
In his statement to the press, Mr. Abbas applauded the efforts of Mr. Bush and the “road map” and said that Palestinians had accepted the plan without any reservations. He also called for the ending of the armed Intifada or uprising of Palestinians against the occupation and called for a resort to peaceful means in the quest to bring the conflict to an end.
“Let me be clear,” Mr. Abbas, said, “there is no military solution to our conflict. We repeat our denunciation and renunciation of terrorism and violence against Israelis wherever they might be. Such methods are inconsistent with our religious and moral traditions and are a dangerous obstacle to the achievement of an independent, sovereign state,” he said.
The Palestinian people took the statements to be weak and unsympathetic to their own cause and suffering.
At the conclusion of the summit, scores of protesters on both sides took to the streets. Up to 40,000 demonstrators reportedly packed a square in central Jerusalem denouncing the proposed concession of Mr. Sharon.
The next day, five Israeli soldiers were killed in an attack on a military checkpoint. In an unprecedented joint statement, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades–an alleged armed offshoot of Mr. Arafat’s Fatah party–claimed responsibility for the attack.
On June 5, Colin Powell warned Chairman Arafat against interfering with the negotiations or doing anything that would hamper the work of Mr. Abbas.
“I think it would be very, very unfortunate if Mr. Arafat fails to recognize the significance of today–and what I’m sure will be the significance of tomorrow–that we are on a path to create a state for the Palestinian people,” said Mr. Powell at the conclusion of a joint news conference with Condoleeza Rice the day of the peace talks.