People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 28, 2003
Bares His Zionist Fangs
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.
UPS THE ANTE
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.
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.
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
OF PEACE INITIATIVE
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.
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.
OF THE AGREEMEN
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.
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
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