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The World Rejects US Bullying and Racism
The Question "Why do militant Muslims hate us?" yields more spin than answers
Ahud Barak compares 9/11 WTC deaths of 3000 to the 400 Jews killed in 34 years by Palestinians
Israel's terrorist bomb kills five Palestinian children
Israel provokes Hamas violence
United Nations Resolution 242: demands Israel withdraw from land seized in 1967 War
The US double standard for terrorism in Palestine
Demos Pres Carter defends Palestinian Human Rights; Rep Waxman favors Israel
Mandela defends Barghouti
Zionism distorts US politics by Congressman Paul Findley
Bush Regime's Reasons for War on Iraq: Gas used on Kurds, Oil or WATER!

Bush Regime "Liberating" Oil in Iraq - Shucking and Jiving in Palestine

March 27, 2003

As the Bush regime faces an increasingly difficult battle to "liberate" Iraq, and the war drags on with ad-hoc guerilla units attacking the long supply lines through the desert, we hear promises that President Dubya will eventually release a long-delayed "ROADMAP" for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This ROADMAP, details of which are not known, has been in process of being drafted for over a year by the U.N., the European Union, Russia, and the US; this group is referred to as the "Quartet." As this is being written, UK PM Tony Blair is in Washington urging Pres Dubya to make progress - or at least speeches - about what many experts consider the core problem in the Middle East: the struggle between the Palestinians and the Israeli government.

The Quartet's Road Map

By Tom Quigley
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)>

President Bush has said he is committed to work with the U.N., the EU and Russia to provide a road map that leads to his expressed vision of a viable Palestinian state living alongside a secure Israel.  First, the President said that the release of the three-year- long plan had to wait until after the Israeli elections in January, then until after the formation of Prime Minister's Sharon's new governing coalition. Then came the ultimate delaying tactic when the President, talking about the road map in his address on February 26 at the American Enterprise Institute, said, "America will seize every opportunity in pursuit of peace, and the end of the present regime in Iraq would create such an opportunity."

The New York Times reports that Britain's PM Tony Blair was angry over the delay. He had pleaded with Bush to become more involved in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. One senior European diplomat was reported to have said, "This administration will never do anything opposed by Sharon." Another said that releasing the plan was the only way to keep hope alive among Muslims in the Middle East. "Without hope, the power of extremists will only grow." The decision to sit on the plan was a rebuff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has seen the management of Middle East policies increasingly taken over by Elliott Abrams, the new chief at the National Security Council. A passionate advocate for Israel, Abrams' appointment was followed by the so-called resignation of three NSC aides identified with the pro-peace plan.

In a surprise reversal, the President announced on March 14 that the road map would be released as soon as the new Palestinian prime minister was confirmed. He called upon Israelis and Palestinians to "move beyond entrenched positions and to take concrete actions to achieve peace." The decision to unveil the long-delayed peace plan, while probably motivated by the administration's efforts to forge support for the war with Iraq, is welcome. But the political will to implement the plan immediately has yet to be proven.

Sadly, the "preventive" war against Iraq is once again being used as an excuse for delaying the roadmap. Asked how long the war will last, Dubya will now only say, "as long as it takes." (Speech with UK PM Tony Blair, 03/27/03) This is hard to hear after the many promises made before the war began that the US forces would be welcomed by the Iraqi people as liberators, there would be massive surrenders among the Iraqi military, and the war would be over very quickly.

Considering the ROADMAP is being at least partly drawn up by the Bush regime which has become increasingly cozy with Ariel Sharon's hardline Israeli government, there is little hope that the plan will be any better than the flawed Camp David Peace Plan sponsored by then President Bill Clinton (who had devoted far more effort to peace between the Palestinians and Israel than Dubya has). The roadmap may in fact be much worse. The following extensively documented essay reveals the truth about that so-called "Generous Offer" of statehood for Palestine that was made in the Camp David peace negotiations, and later in Taba, Egypt.


July/August 2002

The Myth of the Generous Offer

Distorting the Camp David negotiations

By Seth Ackerman

The seemingly endless volleys of attack and retaliation in the Middle East leave many people wondering why the two sides can't reach an agreement. The answer is simple, according to numerous commentators: At the Camp David meeting in July 2000, Israel "offered extraordinary concessions" (Michael Kelly, Washington Post, 3/13/02), "far-reaching concessions" (Boston Globe, 12/30/01), "unprecedented concessions" (E.J. Dionne, Washington Post, 12/4/01). Israel¹s "generous peace terms" (L.A. Times editorial, 3/15/02) constituted "the most far-reaching offer ever" (Chicago Tribune editorial, 6/6/01) to create a Palestinian state. In short, Camp David was "an unprecedented concession" to the Palestinians (Time, 12/25/00).

But due to "Arafat's recalcitrance" (L.A. Times editorial, 4/9/02) and "Palestinian rejectionism" (Mortimer Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report, 3/22/02), "Arafat walked away from generous Israeli peacemaking proposals without even making a counteroffer" ( 3/8/01). Yes, Arafat "walked away without making a counteroffer" (Samuel G. Freedman, USA Today, 6/18/01). Israel "offered peace terms more generous than ever before and Arafat did not even make a counteroffer" (Chicago Sun-Times editorial, 11/10/00). In case the point isnŒt clear: "At Camp David, Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians an astonishingly generous peace with dignity and statehood. Arafat not only turned it down, he refused to make a counteroffer!" (Charles Krauthammer, Seattle Times, 10/16/00).

This account is one of the most tenacious myths of the conflict. Its implications are obvious: There is nothing Israel can do to make peace with its Palestinian neighbors. The Israeli army¹s increasingly deadly attacks, in this version, can be seen purely as self-defense against Palestinian aggression that is motivated by little more than blind hatred.

Locking in occupation

To understand what actually happened at Camp David, it's necessary to know that for many years the PLO has officially called for a two-state solution in which Israel would keep the 78 percent of the Palestine Mandate (as Britain's protectorate was called) that it has controlled since 1948, and a Palestinian state would be formed on the remaining 22 percent that Israel has occupied since the 1967 war (the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem). Israel would withdraw completely from those lands, return to the pre-1967 borders and a resolution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees who were forced to flee their homes in 1948 would be negotiated between the two sides. Then, in exchange, the Palestinians would agree to recognize Israel (PLO Declaration, 12/7/88; PLO Negotiations Department).

Although some people describe Israel's Camp David proposal as practically a return to the 1967 borders, it was far from that. Under the plan, Israel would have withdrawn completely from the small Gaza Strip. But it would annex strategically important and highly valuable sections of the West Bank--while retaining "security control" over other parts--that would have made it impossible for the Palestinians to travel or trade freely within their own state without the permission of the Israeli government (Political Science Quarterly, 6/22/01; New York Times, 7/26/01; Report on Israeli Settlement in the Occupied Territories, 9-10/00; Robert Malley, New York Review of Books, 8/9/01).

The annexations and security arrangements would divide the West Bank into three disconnected cantons. In exchange for taking fertile West Bank lands that happen to contain most of the region¹s scarce water aquifers, Israel offered to give up a piece of its own territory in the Negev Desert--about one-tenth the size of the land it would annex--including a former toxic waste dump.

Because of the geographic placement of Israel¹s proposed West Bank annexations, Palestinians living in their new ³independent state² would be forced to cross Israeli territory every time they traveled or shipped goods from one section of the West Bank to another, and Israel could close those routes at will. Israel would also retain a network of so-called ³bypass roads² that would crisscross the Palestinian state while remaining sovereign Israeli territory, further dividing the West Bank.

Israel was also to have kept "security control" for an indefinite period of time over the Jordan Valley, the strip of territory that forms the border between the West Bank and neighboring Jordan. Palestine would not have free access to its own international borders with Jordan and Egypt--putting Palestinian trade, and therefore its economy, at the mercy of the Israeli military.

Had Arafat agreed to these arrangements, the Palestinians would have permanently locked in place many of the worst aspects of the very occupation they were trying to bring to an end. For at Camp David, Israel also demanded that Arafat sign an "end-of-conflict" agreement stating that the decades-old war between Israel and the Palestinians was over and waiving all further claims against Israel.

Violence or negotiation?

The Camp David meeting ended without agreement on July 25, 2000. At this point, according to conventional wisdom, the Palestinian leader's "response to the Camp David proposals was not a counteroffer but an assault" (Oregonian editorial, 8/15/01). "Arafat figured he could push one more time to get one more batch of concessions. The talks collapsed. Violence erupted again" (E.J. Dionne, Washington Post, 12/4/01). He "used the uprising to obtain through violence...what he couldn't get at the Camp David bargaining table" (Chicago Sun-Times, 12/21/00).

But the Intifada actually did not start for another two months. In the meantime, there was relative calm in the occupied territories. During this period of quiet, the two sides continued negotiating behind closed doors. Meanwhile, life for the Palestinian population under Israeli occupation went on as usual. On July 28, Prime Minister Barak announced that Israel had no plans to withdraw from the town of Abu Dis, as it had pledged to do in the 1995 Oslo II agreement (Israel Wire, 7/28/00). In August and early September, Israel announced new construction on Jewish-only settlements in Efrat and Har Adar, while the Israeli statistics bureau reported that settlement building had increased 81 percent in the first quarter of 2000. Two Palestinian houses were demolished in East Jerusalem, and Arab residents of Sur Bahir and Suwahara received expropriation notices; their houses lay in the path of a planned Jewish-only highway (Report on Israeli Settlement in the Occupied Territories, 11-12/00).

The Intifada began on September 29, 2000, when Israeli troops opened fire on unarmed Palestinian rock-throwers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, killing four and wounding over 200 (State Department human rights report for Israel, 2/01). Demonstrations spread throughout the territories. Barak and Arafat, having both staked their domestic reputations on their ability to win a negotiated peace from the other side, now felt politically threatened by the violence. In January 2001, they resumed formal negotiations at Taba, Egypt.

The Taba talks are one of the most significant and least remembered events of the "peace process." While so far in 2002 (1/1/02-5/31/02), Camp David has been mentioned in conjunction with Israel 35 times on broadcast network news shows, Taba has come up only four times--never on any of the nightly newscasts. In February 2002, Israel's leading newspaper, Ha'aretz (2/14/02), published for the first time the text of the European Union's official notes of the Taba talks, which were confirmed in their essential points by negotiators from both sides.

"Anyone who reads the European Union account of the Taba talks," Ha'aretz noted in its introduction, "will find it hard to believe that only 13 months ago, Israel and the Palestinians were so close to a peace agreement." At Taba, Israel dropped its demand to control Palestine's borders and the Jordan Valley. The Palestinians, for the first time, made detailed counterproposals--in other words, counteroffers--showing which changes to the 1967 borders they would be willing to accept. The Israeli map that has emerged from the talks shows a fully contiguous West Bank, though with a very narrow middle and a strange gerrymandered western border to accommodate annexed settlements.

In the end, however, all this proved too much for Israel's Labor prime minister. On January 28, Barak unilaterally broke off the negotiations. "The pressure of Israeli public opinion against the talks could not be resisted," Ben-Ami said (New York Times, 7/26/01).

Settlements off the table

In February 2001, Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister of Israel. Sharon has made his position on the negotiations crystal clear. "You know, it's not by accident that the settlements are located where they are," he said in an interview a few months after his election (Ha'aretz, 4/12/01).

They safeguard the cradle of the Jewish people's birth and also provide strategic depth which is vital to our existence.

The settlements were established according to the conception that, come what may, we have to hold the western security area [of the West Bank], which is adjacent to the Green Line, and the eastern security area along the Jordan River and the roads linking the two. And Jerusalem, of course. And the hill aquifer. Nothing has changed with respect to any of those things. The importance of the security areas has not diminished, it may even have increased. So I see no reason for evacuating any settlements.

Meanwhile, Ehud Barak has repudiated his own positions at Taba, and now speaks pointedly of the need for a negotiated settlement "based on the principles presented at Camp David" (New York Times op-ed, 4/14/02).

In April 2002, the countries of the Arab League--from moderate Jordan to hardline Iraq--unanimously agreed on a Saudi peace plan centering around full peace, recognition and normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders as well as a "just resolution" to the refugee issue. Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha'ath declared himself "delighted" with the plan. "The proposal constitutes the best terms of reference for our political struggle," he told the Jordan Times (3/28/02).

Ariel Sharon responded by declaring that "a return to the 1967 borders will destroy Israel" (New York Times, 5/4/02). In a commentary on the Arab plan, Ha'aretz's Bradley Burston (2/27/02) noted that the offer was "forcing Israel to confront peace terms it has quietly feared for decades."