Sharon has begun to placate Washington by backing away from nonessential stands, though they may have appeared to some as important stands. A number of analysts began talking of Sharon’s backing away and of the failure of his policy and even of his near downfall. This is not the case.
Sharon’s announcement regarding lifting the siege imposed on President Yasser Arafat does not mean much, either to President Arafat or to the Palestinian people. Sharon’s concession regarding the seven days of calm as a precondition to the implementation of the Tenet-Mitchell package also does not mean much. Sharon knows that his barbaric attacks against Palestinian towns, villages and camps will definitely mean no calm. He is also aware that the absence of Yasser Arafat from the Arab summit to be held in Beirut will anger the Americans and the Europeans. Therefore he has decided to begin placating the Americans with nonessential matters so he does not have to do so with the fundamental issues.
The fundamental issues being ending the occupation, the withdrawal of the invading Israeli troops back to the borders of June 4th 1967, and recognizing the independent Palestinian state on the lands of the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.
This is what Sharon does not want. He refuses to withdraw back to the borders of June 4th, refuses to return East Jerusalem and refuses the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with sovereignty over the Palestinian lands occupied by Israel in 1967.
Let us recall that Sharon was the only Israeli who rejected and objected to the Camp David agreement that was signed by his Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Anwar Al-Sadat. Sharon wants these marginal stands placating Washington to be a cover for the heinous crimes he and the occupation army are committing against the refugee camps, as was the case in Tulkarem and in the Dheisha, Azza and Aida camps in the Bethlehem area, and as was and still is the case Qalqilia é and as will happen in the rest of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
It is a war of annihilation and degradation. It is the war of Sharon the war criminal against all humanity, not just against the Palestinian people. The mass crimes Sharon is committing far exceed those that were committed by the Nazis against the peoples of Europe that were occupied by Hitler’s troops.
The detention camps are camps for holding thousands of people aged between fourteen and fifty. They of course remind us of the mass arrests and mass crimes that were carried out all across Europe during the Second World War.
Sharon thinks that this maneuver of his will achieve what he wants; that is, for the Israeli government to pass over the threshold of political negotiations on the ruins of the Palestinian resistance, which he is seeking to destroy and crush using all possible means of destruction (even if he has to arrest all the Palestinians) é this he will never be able to achieve.
We recall that, during the years of the first Intifada that started on the 8th of December in 1987, the government of Shamir arrested more than three hundred and twenty-five thousand Palestinians; i.e., the entire Palestinian labour force in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This was done over the years of the Intifada. Things did not however turn out as Sharon had wanted on the Palestinian land.
More important than this, as we said earlier, is dealing with the core, and leading matters in the right direction, towards Land for Peace, not the direction Sharon is dragging matters towards.
Prince Abdulla bin Abdel Aziz’s vision of the establishment of a comprehensive peace came as a surprise to the Israeli government, and it had a resounding impact in terms of principle. It also had a great impact on Israeli public opinion. Discussing this vision with the Arab countries prior to the convening of the Arab summit in Beirut on the 27th of this month, gave it the aura of total seriousness. Although the discussion that took place included turning this vision into an initiative (which is very important), the important thing is that everyone be careful not to agrre to something intangible; that is, that the Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, through their close ties with the U.S., not allow Sharon to manipulate this serious initiative, which Amr Mousa, the Arab League’s Secretary General termed as “the last chance for peace”.
We say this because Israeli officials commented on Prince Abdulla bin Abdel Aziz’s vision indicating (early on) their complete rejection of withdrawing to the June 4th borders (Shimon Peres), and that they want to negotiate with Saudi Arabia regarding its proposal before any withdrawal (Ariel Sharon). That is, they want the recognition and normalization of relations before withdrawing. Some Israeli officials said that they believed this initiative was a trick (Lieberman).
Of course these early opinions may have been issued as part of a tactic and to prevent an American move to strongly support it. What is certain, however, is that Sharon does not want peace based on the implementation of international legitimacy resolutions, as was proposed by Saudi Arabia, and does not want to withdraw to the June 4th borders. He does not want the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state. And he does not want Israel to give up occupied East Jerusalem.
Sharon talks of the desire to establish peace, but by that he means annexing the Palestinian lands, not withdrawing fully from the occupied Golan and giving the Palestinians limited administrative self-rule over only 42% of the Palestinian lands occupied by Israel in 1967.
Thus, we say to the Arab summit, beware of agreeing to something intangible.
So that this does not happen, the Arab countries are invited to go into detailed and direct talks with the American administration and Europe regarding a guaranteed firm supervision of the implementation of resolution 242, which can only be interpreted as an Israeli withdrawal back to the June 4th borders, and not accepting the Israeli interpretation of this resolution, which is the withdrawal from some lands it occupied in 1967; that is, resolution 242, according to their interpretation, does not stipulate withdrawing from all lands occupied in 1967, only a part of them, and that this will take place as Israel sees fit, serving its security and best interests.
Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz said on Monday the 11th of March 2002 that the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people is an unforgivable crime for Israel or those who support it. Thus, it is required that the U.S., who saw in the Saudi vision an important political move (that includes the American vision of a solution by establishing an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip based on international legitimacy resolutions), issue its instructions to Israel, prior to General Zinni’s arrival to the region, to stop its criminal war against the Palestinian camps, town and villages, especially as President Yasser Arafat announced, on Monday the 11th of March 2002, that he is prepared to return to negotiations immediately because that will stop the bloodshed and constitute a return to wisdom.
Prince Abdulla bin Abdel Aziz’s initiative is the clearest message that can be sent to the United States, and it is a call on Washington to stop Sharon’s criminal war against the Palestinian people immediately, in order to return to the implementation of international legitimacy resolutions, and the American Land for Peace formula.
In this framework all we can say is that it is unbelievable and incomprehensible that the U.S. see and hear of the massacres being carried out in the camps, and the use of all types of American aerial, land and sea weapons against unarmed people, and still continue to demand both sides to show self-restraint. As if the Palestinian troops were the ones who stormed Israeli territories, arrested thousands, destroyed houses and destroyed Sharon’s headquarters (as the Israelis did with the presidential headquarters in Gaza).
The Arabs want peace, but they will not agree to surrender to Sharon’s expansionist plans. Dick Cheney will undoubtedly hear talk during his visit to the region that will help him and his President to become aware of the facts in the Middle East. The first fact of these being that the United States’ blind support of Israel will bring it only hatred.
Prince Abdulla bin Abdel Aziz has opened the door for Washington to become balanced in its stands, but these are doors that if Washington does not go through quickly to end the Israeli occupation, will be shut forever. After that no one will dare to talk of this initiative or work to implement it.
The bloody developments on the Palestinian land have imposed on Cheney that he not restrict his talks with Tony Blair, or the Israeli and Arab officials, to Washington’s war against what it calls terrorism and the countries that support terrorism and seek to own weapons of mass destruction. These developments have shuffled the priorities of the U.S. Vice President’s agenda.
The Arabs must make Cheney understand that Sharon’s mass crimes against the Palestinian people are aimed at all the Arabs, Moslems and Christians of the world, and that Washington must act in a way to stop the slaughter, achieve an Israeli withdrawal, and spread stability and peace in the Middle East.
Bassam Abu-Sharif is a special advisor to President Arafat.