This Friday, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Prime Minister is to meet President Bush, the godfather of the road map who has his proper vision of a peaceful settlement in the Middle East. Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister is to meet President Bush on the 29th of July. Both Prime Ministers are to discuss with President Bush practical steps to implement the road map, to achieve permanent peace in the region, to build a Palestinian independent and sovereign state alongside Israel enjoying peace, mutual respect and cooperation according to international resolutions
Both meetings are of utmost importance, not only for Palestinians and Israelis, but for the Americans themselves, as the United States needs to boost its credibility in the middle East. It needs to gradually change the way the people of the region perceive it, i.e. a super power that backs and protects Israel and encourages it to ignore international resolutions calling for an end of the Israeli occupation to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sheb’a farms.
It has become evident since Mahmoud Abbas formed his government and was granted the confidence of the legislative council that Ariel Sharon is stalling, as he knows that once the American electoral campaign starts in September, all eyes will turn to the USA and not much attention will be paid to events shaping in the Middle East. It has also become clear that Sharon is controlling the Israeli government’s positions (even though President Bush refused to consider his modifications to the road map) and that he needs to believe more in the road map put forward by the US administration and adopted by the Quartet (the EU, the UN, Federal Russia and the USA). President Bush is encountering grave difficulties in dealing with Mr. Sharon and his government whose positions put the US administration in an unpleasant and embarrassing position: if President Bush succeeds in achieving peace in the Middle East, this will increase his popularity which suffered a tremendous blow due to the situation in Iraq (33%).
It seems important now for President Bush to review and re-read the road map, but this time, he is advised to start reading it backwards, that is to say starting from the last chapter, so that the situation which seems upside down now is turned over and goes back to normal.
A long discussion started and is still going on concerning the implementation of the small details included in the first phase of the road map, such as:
Releasing Palestinian prisoners (their numbers, who is to be released, etc);
Halting the construction of the wall of separation which is nibbling large chunks of Palestinian agricultural land and is separating Palestinians;
Paying the money due to the Palestinian Authority;
Withdrawing from Palestinian cities;
Lifting the closure imposed on Palestinian cities and villages as well as on Al Moqat’a (headquarters of President Arafat), and removal of all checkpoints;
Collecting unlicensed weapons from Palestinians.
These are small details but might make it impossible to achieve any progress towards peace.
President Bush must read the road map once again starting from the end and ending at the beginning. Achieving peace in the region needs unequivocal clarity and transparency, taking into account experiences undergone by American Administrations starting with President Reagan and ending with George W. Bush. Lessons also have to be learned from the stances of Israeli governments who stall as they do not want to see the creation of an independent and fully sovereign Palestinian State.
Starting at the end means the following:
implementing resolution 242 calling for an Israeli withdrawal till the 4th of June lines;
Implementing UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions on the establishment of a Palestinian independent and sovereign state.
In order to guarantee security and stability for both Israelis and Palestinians, President Bush should dispatch American troops, NATO troops or international troops to replace Israeli occupation forces everywhere (including borders) until all details stipulated in the preamble or in the first phase of the road map are implemented. So we start with an Israeli withdrawal and move towards building a Palestinian state and replacing Israeli troops by American or international forces.
It is normal for the Israeli government to dislike this solution, as it is hoping that time would go by quickly and that the road map would not see the light. The birth of the Palestinian state will not be an easy one; it is going to be full of pain, of blood and will only come after a long period of labor. Therefore, President Bush must decide to deliver the Palestinian baby through a caesarian operation. This will be much less painful, much less bloody and will give the newborn a chance to live and to grow.
The US and the UK are largely responsible of Palestinian sufferings and oppression over the past century. Hence, they must both participate in this caesarian operation and provide Palestinians with financial aid (similar to that granted to Israel) over the coming ten years so that they can build their state and develop it. Small crumbs will not maintain this newborn alive, nor will respiratory aid systems.
The US has pumped over the past decades billions of dollars in Israeli veins. The money was used to build settlements, to confiscate land, to torture Palestinians and to chase them away (more than half the Palestinian people are refugees). The least that could be done towards Palestinians now is to grant the Palestinian state over the coming ten years financial aid of 7 billion USD annually, just like the aid provided to Israelis, the aggressors and the occupiers.
We invite President Bush to remember his own principles and those stipulated in the American constitution, i.e. justice, freedom and democracy and to take a determined stance vis-é-vis the injustice, prejudice and oppression suffered by Palestinians. If his own counselors and aids are not giving him the proper advice, then let us do so: The American image in the Middle East is very ugly due to the unlimited support granted by the US to the Israeli aggressors and to crimes committed by Israel against the peoples of the region, and especially against Palestinians. This image will not change unless President Bush takes a courageous stance that guarantees the Israeli withdrawal, the end of occupation and the creation of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
This is exactly the caesarian operation we have mentioned earlier.
Bassam Abu-Sharif is a special advisor to Yasser Arafat.