Published by the Omaha world-Herald
Sweet talk at Annapolis
By: Ali Alarabi
Although the speakers meeting in Annapolis were optimistic and almost encouraging in their speeches regarding bringing lasting peace to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, a peace, in the words of president Bush should usher the establishment of a viable Palestinian state side by side with Israel. President Bush speech, though was peppered with references to freedom of the Palestinian people and a “real” and “viable” Palestinian state, but in reality, however, Israel is making every effort to undermine the freedom of the Palestinian people and making the “reality and viability” of any future Palestinian state a virtual impossibility.
Ever since Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem in 1967, it had embarked on building illegal Jewish settlements on occupied lands, in itself a flagrant violation of international law, then populating those settlements with heavily armed Jewish militants, at the same time kept up pace to depopulate Palestinian cities from it residents through forced expulsions, economic hardship and military rule. Moving rapidly to change the nature of any possible future Palestinian state, Israel took over other arable lands and water resources from its Palestinians owners converting it to benefit illegal Jewish settlers.
Meanwhile the Israeli government is steadily with the building of the huge Spartan and medieval-looking wall, declared illegal by the International court, that is snaking around Palestinian towns and cities, galloping up Palestinian lands in its path and strangling Arab Jerusalem isolating it from the rest of Palestinian cities. Listening to president Bush in Annapolis, The most important aspect of his speech, however, was his wall-to-wall adaptation of the Israeli positions, as oppose to an independent American position in line with international laws and agreements, with regards to its settlement polices, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, and the conversion of Israel from a supposed democratic country for all of its citizens, Christians Muslims and Jews alike into an exclusively Jewish state.
The idea of Israel as ” Jewish homeland” for the Jewish people” as asserted by president Bush during his opening speech is a serious issue with serious implications especially that this idea if it were to be made a reality, would make over one million Arab citizens of Israel, Christians and Muslims an instant foreigners in their own native country.
Bush also used the term ” unauthorized outposts” in his speech and not illegal settlements, reflecting his acceptance of the presence of those settlements; illegal under international law on the very land he envisions it to be a Palestinian state. This position not only contradicts the president’s own vision but it also represents a departure from the traditional American position of opposing those illegal settlements.
Ehud Olmert on the other hand exploited the Annapolis gathering to extend Israel’s hand to Arab countries by sweet-talking them to open consulates and trade offices and normalize relations, regardless of the status of its occupation or the establishment of Palestine state. This, however, is the real goal of Israeli politicians from this meeting.
Negotiating with the Palestinians has been dragging on since 1993, and it has amounted to neither a Palestinian state, nor the promised prosperity nor a foreseeable end of occupation, but rather it led to increase of illegal settlements, 11000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, building a Spartan wall, an adamant refusal to admit its responsibility for the creation of Palestinian refugees problem and a complete destruction of the Palestinian economy.
Israeli politicians envision a normal diplomatic and trade relations with Arab countries while Palestinians will be reduced to a state chopped up into disjointed pieces dependent on Israel for its survival.
The only real thing Israel is offering the Palestinians, at this point, is more negotiations that eventually will drag on forever. Meanwhile it seems that there is no end in sight for its illegal settlements expansion, or its refusal to end its occupation.
Mahmoud Abbas, perhaps the most unpopular Palestinian leader ever, has nothing to offer the Israelis that he did not offer before. The problem however is that Abbas has lost control of Gaza to his arch rival Hamas, and his West Bank fiefdom is ravaged by Israeli check-points and military positions preventing the movement of people in and out of their homes, which left its economy shattered. For the Palestinian people A solution that does not include all of pre-1967 borders, and a just solution for the refugees which will offer them the right to return to their homes would be a hard sell, if not impossible to accept.
(Ali Alarabi is Arab American writer and journalist, he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright Arab Writers Group Syndicate, www.ArabWritersGroup.com.)