Friday, December 31, 2004

Now that Israel has a partner Dec. 31, 2004

Now that Israel has a "partner"
Creators Syndicate Dec. 31, 2004
By Ray Hanania

Mahmoud Abbas is expected to win elections Jan. 9 to succeed Yasser Arafat as president.
It may finally end the Israeli government shell game of always coming up with excuses on why it doesn’t have to make real land for peace concessions.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who provoked the current Intifada and exploited it to reverse most of the compromises made by his moderate predecessors, refused to negotiate with Arafat.

It will be interesting to see what he does now that he can’t use Arafat as an excuse. Sharon says he wants peace, but what kind of peace?

Abbas has publicly denounced suicide bombings, saying violence has been counter-productive to Palestinian interests. He is willing to bring Palestinians back to a peaceful negotiated settlement.
But the real issue is whether Israelis are ready.

Abbas has hurdles: crackdown on the violence by groups like Hamas, a terrorist organization no better or worse than Israel’s settler movement.

Palestinians have already recognized Israel’s right to exist in the pre-1967 borders, accepted Israel’s control over West Jerusalem, and agreed to Israel’s security demands. They have even recognized that some Israeli settlements must remain in the West Bank, demanding only an equivalent land swap.

Convincing Palestinians to trust Israel will be a tall order.

During the failed peace negotiations, Israel promised to freeze and eliminate settlements. But while Arafat negotiated with the late Yitzhak Rabin (who was murdered by an Israeli settler fanatic) and Ehud Barak, whom Sharon defeated, the number of settlers expanded and some settlements grew in size.

Barak insisted on keeping all of the settlements around Jerusalem, and most in the West Bank, like Ariel. He offered to give Palestinians 1 inch of land in the Negev Desert for every 9 inches Israel kept. Wow, desert sand for rich agricultural farm land. What a deal!
Israelis assert they offered Arafat Jerusalem. What a joke.

Barak offered Arafat an "office" in East Jerusalem, administrative control over the Christian and Muslim holy sites, and administrative controls over "some" of the villages outside of Jerusalem.
The "capitol" Israel offered Palestinians is Abu Dis, a village located a mile west of Jerusalem. Barak’s proposal was to pretend it is in Jerusalem.

But if Abbas can meet his responsibilities, Israelis will be forced to meet their responsibilities. Israel must return the occupied lands, swapping inch-for-inch for land they keep, a counter-proposal Arafat made that Barak rejected.

Israel must share Jerusalem. Without Jerusalem, there is no such thing as a peace deal. Instead, there will always been violence.

Israelis must acknowledge their responsibility in causing the Palestinian refugee problem in 1948. Most refugees, according to polls, accept they will not be able to return to their original homes and lands.

A Palestinian state must be viable and cohesive meaning that the West Bank cannot be divided into separate segments controlled by the Israeli military, as Barak proposed.

Already, Sharon has said he will not attend a peace conference in London, hosted by America’s allies. He says he wants to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, where most of Israel’s military casualties have occurred.

He continues to build a wall, not separating Palestinians from Israelis, but in the midst of Palestinian land, separating Palestinians from Palestinian lands Israel wants to annex.

If this effort fails, Israelis will only have themselves to blame.


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