People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 52

December 28, 2003

 Sharon Bares His Zionist Fangs


Yohannan Chemarapally


THE Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s announcement in the third week of December that his government would unilaterally impose a security plan separating Israelis and Palestinians, has further complicated the peace process. The bellicose response from the old Zionist warhorse was in part a response to the unofficial peace agreement signed between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators in Geneva in the first week of December. One Israeli public opinion poll has by a thin margin endorsed the peace plan, despite prime minister Ariel Sharon’s outright rejection. There have also been protests in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip against the “Geneva accord.” Many Palestinians are angry with what they perceive as unwarranted concessions to the Israeli state.




Sharon has, on the other hand, further upped the ante. In his December 18 speech, Sharon issued an ultimatum to the Palestinian Authority. “If in a few months the Palestinians still continue to disregard their part in implementing the road map, then Israel will initiate the unilateral security step of disengagement from the Palestinians,” said Sharon in a speech on Israeli state television. Sharon specifically stated that the disengagement plan envisaged by the government would involve a radical redrawing of the map in favour of Israel. Sharon said that the Israeli army would be deployed on “a new security line” in order to “reduce as much as possible the number of Israelis located in the heart of the Palestinian populace.” This in practical terms means that the best Palestinian land available on the West Bank will be gobbled up by the Israeli state. Sharon also pledged that the “apartheid” wall Israel is constructing would go on despite international condemnation. He also said some of the illegal Jewish settlements would be relocated inside the unilateral boundary line Israel proposes to draw.


If Sharon is allowed to go ahead with his malevolent scheme, the territory nominally under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) will shrink by another 50 per cent. Ninety per cent of the Palestinian will then be pushed into the tiny sliver of land if Sharon is allowed to have his way. Under the “Oslo accord,” Yasser Arafat recognised Israeli sovereignty over 78 per cent of Palestinian land in the hope of establishing an independent Palestinian state. Despite the roadblocks Sharon is trying to put up, the latest unofficial peace initiative has enthused people on both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli divide. The peace plan this time has much broader backing but people are skeptical about its prospects. When the Oslo agreement was signed there were fewer problems between the Israelis and the Palestinians.


Ariel Sharon had described proposed peace as “subversive.” Yasser Arafat, however, described the accord as “a brave initiative that opens the door to hope.” Fifty-eight former world leaders, including Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton, have signed a statement of support of the peace initiative. The US secretary of state Colin Powell’s decision to meet with the two main architects of the “Geneva agreement,” during a stopover in Brussels, in the first week of December, came in from criticism from the Israeli government.  Deputy prime minister Ehud Olmert said that Powell was “making a mistake.”




The Bush administration is, however, swearing by the “road map for peace” announced with much fanfare in the middle of 2003. Most Israelis and Palestinians are of the opinion that it will be very difficult to revive the plan which currently lies in tatters. President George W Bush reiterated his administration’s pro-Likud position in the second week of December, telling the American media that Palestinians will have to first stop attacks on Israelis before Israel could make any meaningful concessions. President Bush’s comments came soon after senior Israeli officials had concluded that the Islamic movement Hamas has suspended its bombing campaign inside Israel in the past two months. Leaders of 13 Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, met in Cairo in early December to debate about a cease-fire with Israel. Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qureia specially flew to Cairo to persuade the militant groupings to adopt a more flexible stance on the issue.


The militant Palestinian factions responded by agreeing to halt suicide attacks inside Israel but were silent about ending attacks on Israeli settlers and soldiers in the occupied territories. Palestinians consider Israeli settlers and soldiers in Gaza and the West Bank as legitimate targets. The West Bank and Gaza are under a virtual state of siege by Israeli forces for the last three years.  The conditional truce offer by the Palestinian militants has been rejected by Israel as well as the US.  However, Israel has indicated that it would halt military operations in the occupied territories as long as there is “peace on the ground.” The Israeli government had noticeably increased its military activity in the occupied territories, including targeted killings, just before the “Geneva accord” was signed and the Cairo meeting. It was an attempt to induce the militant Islamic groupings to resort to violence and in the bargain see to it that the new peace initiative was undermined.




The prominent signatories of the new unofficial peace initiative are a former Israeli justice minister Yossi Beilin and a former Palestinian information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo. Under the agreement, Palestinians would be granted sovereignty over the Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and over Haram al-Sharif  (Temple Mount). Under the plan, Jerusalem is to be the capital of both the countries with guaranteed access to everyone to the holy sites. Most of Jerusalem’s old city will be under Palestinian control. The Israeli army would withdraw from most of the West Bank and from all of the Gaza Strip. Most Jewish settlements will be dismantled and evacuated. Israel would be allowed to retain most of the illegal settlements they have built up over the years along the “green line” dividing Israel from the occupied territories. Israel will have to surrender some of its own land in the desert near Gaza.


Controversially, from the Palestinian point of view, the agreement stated that the overwhelming majority of the displaced Palestinians will have forgo the “right of return” to Israel proper. Only 30,000 Palestinians will have the right to return to their homes in Israel. Generations of Palestinians living in refugee camps, scattered all over West Asia, have long nurtured their dream of returning to the land confiscated by the Israeli state. This was one of the crucial issues, which led to the breakdown of Camp David II at the fag end of the Clinton presidency. The Palestinian state envisaged in the Geneva accord will be a demilitarised one but would control its own borders. A multinational force would be deployed to supervise the implementation of the peace plan. Former US president Jimmy Carter, who was present in Geneva to witness the signing of the accord, said that Israelis were left with only one “basic” choice if they are serious about peace. “Do we want permanent peace with all our neighbours, or do we want to retain our settlements throughout the occupied territories?” asked Carter. He took a dig at Ariel Sharon by saying that political leaders “are the obstacles to peace.” Palestinian critics of the new peace plan say that the unofficial agreement violates international law. According to them the agreement condones “Israeli colonialism” and gives legitimacy to Israel’s position as the only country whose territory belongs not to its citizens but “to Jewish people everywhere.” This in practical terms means that Jews and even those pretending to be Jews can come from all over the world and settle down in Israel, in the process superseding the rights of native Palestinians. Israel, which is responsible for the world’s remaining biggest refugee problem, is being given another green signal to continue with its expansionist policies.


Palestinians point out that Israel has violated 70 UN Security Council resolutions so far. In the second week of December a few days after signing of the “Geneva accord,” the UN General Assembly approved a resolution asking the International Court of Justice to rule on the legality of the wall Israel is building in the West Bank. Only eight countries led by the US opposed the resolution; 90 countries including India voted in favour of the resolution; 74 countries led by the EU abstained from voting on the resolution. An EU spokesman said that though the EU was alarmed about the wall and the negative effect it was having on the peace process, they believed that seeking a legal judgement at this time was not conducive for the kick starting of the peace process once again. The Bush administration had vetoed a similar resolution in the UN Security Council in October. The resolution followed a General Assembly vote in October 2003 demanding that Israel tear down it so called “security fence.” UN secretary general Kofi Annan had described the construction of the wall as a “deeply counterproductive act” causing “serious socio-economic harm” to the Palestinian people.