21 years ago, President Reagan revealed the “land for peace solution”, the American vision of the solution for the Middle East conflict. The Vice President at the time was George Bush. Six years later, in 1988, the Palestinian National Council -PNC- approved this solution provided that it is based on international legitimacy.
15 years have elapsed since the US responded in favor of the Palestinian peace initiative launched by President Arafat at the General Assembly of the United Nations in Geneva in December 1988. The Americans elected three Presidents during this period: George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, while the Israelis elected 6 Prime Ministers: Isaac Shamir, Isaac Rabin, Shim’on Peres, Binyamin Netanyahu, Ihoud Barak and Ariel Sharon who is nearing the end of his mandate. Two wars were fought in the North of the Arabian Golf, another one took place in Afghanistan while numerous smaller wars erupted elsewhere in the world. Throughout this period, the Palestinians remained committed to the PNC’s (Parliament) decisions adopted in November 1988 consisting mainly of a political program calling for the establishment of two states, one Palestinian, the other Israeli on the historical land of Palestine.
A major concession was made by the PNC in accepting that the state of Palestine be created on land occupied in July 1967 and not according to UN resolution 147 calling for the division of historical Palestine into two halves, one for the Jews and the other for the Palestinians. However, many years have passed since this initiative was launched and a solution has yet to be reached, despite efforts by Presidents George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as well as by Mr. James Baker
The archives of the White House, the CIA and the State Department are abundant with documents concerning negotiations, letters of guarantee, promises, assurances, ruses, ploys, etc. They are filled with documents on why a solution has not yet been reached in the region: namely because the successive Israeli governments hindered such a solution as they do not want to give the West Bank away, considering it part of the land of Israel. This is the truth that must be realized by the US administration, and the American archives are the proof.
Moreover, there was the letter written by Henry Kissinger prior to the Palestinian peace initiative in which he promised to find a just solution to the Palestinian cause (in 1974), a letter later on ignored by Kissinger himself. Now, after the Bush administration revealed its peace plan (the road map), following a delay of several months, we see that the Israeli position is absurdly false. It is a mere charade aimed at embezzling the US administration as September nears, date of the launch of the American presidential elections campaign. The Sharon Administration believes that maneuvering and postponing matters will make it win some time until the American election campaign starts, a campaign that Israel will certainly try to influence.
The situation in Palestine is very grave. The Israeli government is stalling and does not even want to implement the first phase of the road map. It is challenging and rejecting proposals by President Bush, a very serious thing as it might blow up both the peace process and the road map. Even if the Palestinians (Abou Mazens’ government) opted for calm and patience on the outside, they are boiling on the inside because of Israeli aggressive practices and violations to the declared cease-fire.
That is why I called in a previous article President Bush to deliver the Palestinian state through a cesarean operation, as this would spare us a lot of pain and bleeding which would lead to the death of the newborn.
On the light of solutions suggested by the White House to small details, such as the question of detainees (a general Amnesty in exchange of the dismantlement of the military infrastructure in Palestine), it seems that the US administration has started to fractionalize both the cesarean birth and the comprehensive deal. The US administration must put to use the experience it gained during the past 21 years; it must leave behind its fear when dealing with Israeli governments. Israel is a state that has survived, and is still surviving on American support at all levels, military, financial and economical.
The credibility of the US in the Middle East depends largely on its capacity to influence the Israeli government and make it retreat to the 4th of June lines. Israel, lead by Ariel Sharon, has reached such a degree of arrogance and haughtiness that it goes as far as deciding the role to be played by other states in the region, such as Egypt: Sharon said he will deprive Egypt of its political role if it does not release Azzam Azzam. Sharon is acting as if Israel held all decision-making powers in the Middle East, a message also directed to the USA: Azzam Azzam is another Jonathan Pollard. The Israeli haughty behavior reveals a Mafia-like mentality that uses terrorism (in all its kinds) to impose its opinion.
The US administration must understand that it is the source of power for Israel and that it is the artery pumping blood into that state. It must not allow the body it created to become a monster that would turn against everybody, including the US, its creator.
The comprehensive deal requires that we skip the smaller issues (even if important) and that a high ranking quartet team supplemented with experts meets with high ranking Israeli and Palestinian teams to discuss the basic issues, namely the establishment of an independent and fully sovereign Palestinian state on land occupied in 1967, i.e. a Palestinian state in exchange for peace and security for everyone.
If the US administration allows minor matters to conceal the basic issues, then the Israeli stance will never change and President Bush will find himself in the same quagmire his father fell in.
Experiences yield lessons that one must benefit from. The US interest lies in a peaceful and stable Middle East. I hope this advice reaches President Bush’s ears as it will help him win the forthcoming elections. President Bush must read the White House and State Department archives from 1956 to 1957 when the US decided that Israel must withdraw at once from the Gaza Strip that it occupied and started to encircle with a fence.
This American decision was implemented in less than 10 hours.
It was taken by President Dwight Eisenhower.
Bassam Abu-Sharif is a special advisor to Yasser Arafat.