Placebo Peace Initiative

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The new Israeli “peace initiative” drafted by Israel’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, is no more than a placebo for internal Israeli consumption and consumption by the US and Europe in response to their pressuring Israel for positive movement toward ending the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

Doctors often prescribe placebos to patients that they feel are suffering from ailments that are not necessarily physiological, hoping that the patient will think that the medicine contains some active ingredient that will cure their ailments. Such medication may have been believed successful during the Oslo Peace Accords, but the latest 12-month round of bloodletting has done additional physical damage to Palestinian rights, and thus, any treatment must be real and immediate.

The few details of the new “initiative” that have been made public are so bizarre that it is a wonder that it is being presented at all. Sharon makes no mention of dismantling the illegal settlements, large or small, and the plan will leave in place 3 Palestinian West Bank cantons or bantustans (aside from the Gaza Strip) surrounded by Israeli troops, with full Israeli control of the roads and highways.

In fact there is nothing new about the initiative (if it can even be called that) and is essentially the revival, with some slight changes, of the “Gaza First” concept, yet no mention is made of dismantling the illegal settlements in and around the Gaza Strip. The issue of Jerusalem is left for later stages, and any discussion of the right of return of Palestinian refugees is rejected. It is a step backward to the pre Madrid/Oslo period, and both Peres and Sharon are acting as if nothing has happened in the past 10 years.

The principles of a possible agreement between Israelis and Palestinians have already been sketched out in numerous UN resolutions (242 and 338, among others) and maintain full support of the world at large, including the US and UK. Such an internationally legitimate approach should remain the basis, with some mutually agreed to minor changes, for any initiative in the area, or rather any initiative with a chance for success. The Israeli retreat to the 1967 borders, the dismantling of illegal settlements, honest and creative discussion of the right of return, and the relinquishing control over East Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority or the defacto State of Palestine.

What is needed is a shot of adrenaline, and not a warmed over initiative with no substance and no chance of success. Placebos, Mr. Sharon and Mr. Peres, only work when the patient is only imagining they have been under military occupation for 34 years. In this case, you would have to be deaf, dumb and blind to not recognize this, so called initiative, for what is: a blatant attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the international community.

Mr. Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman, born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, who relocated to his family’s home in Al-Bireh, West Bank immediately following the signing of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994). Mr. Michael Dahan is an Israeli political scientist currently conducting postdoctoral research at the University of Cincinnati. Mr. Bahour and Mr. Dahan are co-founders of MEViC, the Middle East Virtual Community.

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