The Sharon-Abu Mazen meeting of a few days ago failed to produce any result, proving yet again that the Israeli government, since Sharon’s assumption of power, is working to kill any progress toward a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Sharon was comfortable with Arafat’s presence, as it allowed him to say that Arafat was not a partner in the peace process. The Americans accepted that deceit, using what occurred at Camp David as if it were proof of Arafat’s refusal to make peace. Sharon continued in this manner with full American support until Arafat’s death. The United States used Europe’s silence, and perhaps inability to act, to deflect attention from Israel’s rejection of the roadmap, in spite of all of its disadvantages for Palestinians. The US placed complete blame for the obstruction of the peace process upon Arafat, who was the one who had accepted the roadmap. The US paid no attention to Israel’s rebuff of repeated American calls for the need to freeze settlements.
Arafat had also been blamed for bringing down Abu Mazen when he was prime minister. It was said that Arafat did this because he did not want to achieve peace. However, there were no differences between Arafat and Abu Mazen with regard to the minimal demand of Palestinian rights necessary for a final settlement.
The US showed no interest, however, in the daily crimes committed by the Sharon-Mofaz government in the occupied territories, among whose victims where a number of American and European peace activists, in addition to thousands of Palestinians. Bush continued to be the only person in the world who described Sharon as a man of peace; not even Sharon, previously accused of war crimes, ever described himself in those terms.
This situation continued until Sharon put forward the disengagement plan as an alternative to the roadmap. The disengagement plan aims to rid Israel of the burden of the Gaza Strip while giving it a free hand to annex parts of the West Bank to Israel through the building of the wall and the expansion of settlements in the area of the border zone between Jordan and Palestine.
Bush has made it clear that he supports everything that Sharon wants. Not only did he endorse the Gaza disengagement plan and the wall, but he has announced, for the first time, that new realities on the ground must be taken into consideration. The consequence is no return to the 1967 borders.
Yet the Israeli government has felt itself in a quandary since Arafat’s death and Abu Mazen’s assumption of leadership. This has especially been the case because Abu Mazen was able to obtain a commitment from all Palestinian forces to halt military operations, which opened the space for negotiations. Israel’s actions, however, have quickly demonstrated that Israel is putting in place a plan to make Abu Mazen fail. As such, Israel refused to announce a ceasefire and, except for a few superficial steps, has not taken any steps to ease Palestinians’ daily lives.
Neither has Israel implemented the Sharm al-Sheikh understandings. On the contrary, it felt that, in order to continue with its plan, it had to undertake some illusory measures. It thus released some prisoners, although without any coordination with the Palestinians. Not only did it choose on its own the list of prisoners to release, but shortly thereafter it arrested Palestinians in numbers outweighing those who had been released.
Beyond this, Israel did not withdraw its troops from inside Palestinian cities and villages in order to clear a space for Abu Mazen to control security. It withdrew from Jericho knowing full well that this was nothing more than a joke, as the Israeli army was not there in the first place.
From the Sharm al-Sheikh summit until the failed meeting of last week, Sharon refused even to met with Abu Mazen. That proves that the visit of Condoleezza Rice to the region before the Sharon-Abu Mazen meeting did nothing to push the peace process forward. Also reinforcing this was Israelis’ leaking to the media of transcripts of the discussions that took place at the meeting. These leaks were done professionally in a deliberate effort to humiliate Abu Mazen and weaken him in his own society.
What the Israeli government is doing will lead to a single inevitable conclusion: it will annul any possibility for a solution on the basis of two states living side-by-side on the 1967 borders.
The history of the conflict and its details demonstrates perfectly that it is impossible to impose a settlement on the Palestinian people that offers less than the 1967 borders. No Palestinian leader can accept less than that. This was one of the lessons of Camp David, although the American government has yet to comprehend its manifest truth.
Moreover, the lack of effort to arrive swiftly at the aforementioned minimum settlement will prevent a two-state solution once and for all. It will weaken the Palestinian forces that call openly for such a solution, and strengthen those who call for a one-state solution. This, as the American government and the Israeli people should understand well, is not what Israel wants.