Taba or Toba

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Toba. Toba. Toba, if I see you again in Taba. Let us hope that the old melody from Abdel Halim Hafez about regrets will not become the refrain of future generations of Palestinians. If this turns out to be another Barak scam to enhance his chances at being re-elected, it can only spell disaster for future prospects of Israeli/Palestinians peace. The Palestinian delegation to the “peace process” has already taken a seven-year ride on the merry-go-round operated by the Israelis and Dennis Ross. It is doubtful that the Palestinian street will sit easy if this is just another ruse. Arafat has not delivered the goods because of a basic lack of competence. I already feel Toba about Taba, but for the sake of peace, let us see what can come of this latest promise.

I have always believed that the Palestinians and only the Palestinians should have the last word regarding monumental decisions on their destiny. That is what self-determination is all about. Peace will mean more to them than to anyone else in the region. It is the Palestinians who have endured the three decades of Israeli brutal occupation. It is the Palestinians who have tenaciously clung onto every stone in East Jerusalem. It is Palestinian blood that has been paid in resistance to Israel’s Iron Fist. It is the Israeli-Arabs and the Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon who will have to risk swallowing the medicine that might be worst than the disease. Let them do what they think they need to do for their children.

Every Palestinian should be aware that they will never get complete justice from this generation of Israelis who have been raised and immersed in a hateful ideology that will not vanish overnight. Besides, how do you resurrect the dead? How do you mend the permanently disfigured? Who will end up taking care of all the Palestinians who have been crippled by the thugs of the Israeli occupation army? At the end of the day, the Palestinians will be left to take care of their own.

It is shameful that the average Israeli would even consider Sharon, the Idi Amin of Israeli politics, as dogcatcher. But the identity of the average Israeli remains immersed in a deep sea of pervasive national chauvinism that blinds them to the agony that is daily inflicted on the Palestinians. Forget about what they teach Israelis in schools. Think of what they teach them around the dining room table. This is a social and political order that has chosen to voluntarily enter the new millennium with their leadership options limited to men like Sharon and Barak. It is reason enough to recommend the two-state solution to the Palestinians, not because it is just, but because it is possible.

Now, a little advice to the Israelis. Vote for Sharon at your own risk. If the chances of peace are slim now, they will whittle down to sub-zero if Sharon is your choice. Cast aside your arrogance for a minute and consider your reputation amongst your neighbors. It is something you should be concerned about passing down to your children. If you think relationships with your Arab neighbors are cold now, get ready for a permanent deep freeze if you choose this ax murderer for a leader. Israelis like to talk about the “Arab Mind”. Elect Sharon, and many an Arab mind will place each and every Israeli at Sabra and Shatila for the full four day orgy of murder and mayhem that this man unleashed on thousands of defenseless men women and children. For many Arabs and Palestinians, this election is a referendum on Sharon and Sabra and Shatila.

As for Arab-Israelis, do not ever consider voting for Barak or Peres or any other Zionist. You have never had any options but to vote against one Israeli candidate or another. This time, vote against Sharon, not because you forgive or forget the thirteen Israeli-Arab citizens who were killed by the Israeli police, but because you can never forget the horrors unleashed by Sharon at Sabra and Shatila. This advice also goes for the Left. Those who say there is no difference need to realize that Sharon comes to the table with Shamir and Netenyahu. While Sarid is in Barak’s corner. The anemic Israeli ‘peace’ movement is not much, but it is better than nothing. So, hold your noses and vote against Sharon.

The American administration and the European Union should also have the courage to give Israelis an early taste of the kind of reception that will await an Israeli government led by Sharon. It is the scandal of Israeli arrogance and American compliance that peace is not at hand. Perhaps it is time for General Powell to do the right thing and send Israelis a not so subtle message that Sharon can no longer apply for an American Visa. And before we hear another word about not intervening in Israeli elections, bear in mind the Israelis and their American lobbies have shown no restraint in intervening in our elections.

The full text of the final joint statement issued by the delegations of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority at Taba on Jan 27, 2001.

The Israeli and Palestinian delegations conducted, during the last six days, serious, deep and practical talks with the aim of reaching a permanent and stable agreement between the two parties.

The Taba talks were unprecedented in their positive atmosphere and expression of mutual willingness to meet the national, security and existential needs of each side. Given the circumstances and time constraints, it proved impossible to reach understandings on all issues despite the substantial progress that was achieved in each of the issues discussed.

The sides declare that they have never been closer to reaching an agreement. It is thus our shared belief that the remaining gaps could be bridged with the resumption of negotiations following the Israeli election.

The two sides take upon themselves to return to normalcy and to a stable security situation on the ground through the observation of their mutual commitments, in the spirit of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum.

The negotiation teams discussed four main spheres: refugees, security, borders and Jerusalem, with a goal to reach a permanent agreement that will bring an end to the conflict between them and provide peace for both peoples. The two sides took into account the ideas suggested by President Clinton together with their respective qualifications and reservations. In all these issues there was substantial progress in the understanding of the other side’s positions and in some of them the sides grew closer.

As stated above, the political timetable prevented reaching an agreement with regard to all the issues. However, in light of the significant progress in narrowing the differences between the sides, the two sides are convinced that in a short period of time, and given an intensive effort and the acknowledgement of the essential and urgent nature of reaching an agreement, it will be possible to bridge the differences remaining and attain a permanent settlement of peace between them. In this respect, the two sides are confident that they can begin and move forward in this process at the earliest practical opportunity.

The Taba talks conclude an extensive phase in the Israeli-Palestinian permanent status negotiations with the sense of having succeeded in rebuilding trust between the sides and with the notion that they were never closer in reaching an agreement between them than today. We leave Taba in a spirit of hope and mutual achievement acknowledging that the foundations have been laid both in re-establishing mutual confidence and having progressed in a substantive engagement on all core issues.

The two sides express their gratitude to the President Hosni Mubarak for hosting and facilitating these talks. They also express their thanks to the European Union for its role in supporting the talks.

Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of NileMedia.com in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)

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