Policy can't be one-sided
By Jim Mullins
April 13, 2004
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected at the White House on
Wednesday to present his plan whereby Israel would evacuate its settlements
in the Gaza Strip and four remote settlements out of 165 in the West Bank.
The plan is billed as unilateral disengagement from the Palestinian areas,
militarily occupied since 1967.
On April 4, Sharon told Israeli media that "in the unilateral plan, there
is no Palestinian state" and "will bring their dreams to an end." He
admitted that the fence/wall built around Palestinian communities has a
purpose beyond security, for, in his words, "When you fence areas and
communities in the West Bank, you end a lot of their dreams." And: "My plan
is tough on the Palestinians. A mortal blow."
These statements fly in the face of President Bush's repeated proposals
for the establishment of a Palestinian state, administration objection to
the wall/fence's route, and in defiance of the "road map for peace" that
Sharon entered into with the U.S., U.N., European Union and Russia.
Israel's Gaza occupation has become untenable. Gaza is a narrow strip of
land on the Mediterranean where 7,000 Israelis occupy a third of the land,
while 1.2 million Palestinians strive to survive on the balance. Israel has
been engaged in massive home demolitions on the Gaza-Egyptian border; 9,700
Palestinians have been made homeless, their possessions destroyed, so that,
in Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's words, Israel will maintain control
of Gaza's land, sea and air.
Peter Hansen, U.N. Relief and Works Agency commissioner general, reported
in January that "15,000 Palestinians whose homes and possessions have been
ground into the sand have come to believe that they are victims of
collective punishment." UNRWA has run out of funds for tents and other
temporary housing; many of the homeless are living in Gaza's soccer stadium.
Israel has impeded UNWRA delivery of humanitarian food aid to such an extent
that the U.N. has been forced to suspend operations. Starvation looms for
those crammed into refugee camps.
Since Sharon was elected prime minister, he has escalated settlement
building, targeted assassinations, home demolitions and checkpoint
humiliation of Palestinians to intolerable levels. Despite his demand for
"seven days of quiet" as a prerequisite for peace talks and Palestinian
cease fires of 16-, 30-, 45- and 90-day unilateral response, he has ignored
the opportunities and continued in his unrelentingly destructive campaign.
The last unilateral cease fire ended after 81 days and a particularly
horrendous Israeli targeted assassination. The mutual "dance of death"
Sharon has proposed to move the 7,000 Israelis from Gaza to the West Bank,
although his infrastructure minister, Yosef Paritzky has 13,000 empty
apartments in Israel's Negev.
The fence/wall will cut the West Bank into several disjoined areas and
leave Palestinians with 40 percent of an area where they outnumber Israelis
15 to one. It runs twice as far and costs twice as much as a fence built on
the 1967 "Green Line," accepted by U.N. resolutions, Palestinians and the
Arab nations as the border. Its real intent, in Sharon's words, is "an end
to the dream of a Palestinian state."
It is now evident that President Bush intended to "pull out of that
situation," referring to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, as former
Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill reported Bush said in the first Cabinet
meeting. The president settled for bumper sticker slogans: Sharon as a "man
of peace" and Arafat as "irrelevant" and a "loser." Vice President Dick
Cheney described our one-sided policy clearly in a press conference at the
Davos World Economic Forum, answering a question as to his thoughts on
former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres' ideas with, "Mr. Sharon is the
one we pay attention to at present."
A policy that rejects dialogue and listens to one side only is no policy
A recent Zogby poll shows that 56 percent of Americans agree and 29
percent disagree that Congress should pass an Israeli Accountability Act on
weapons of mass destruction and violations of human rights in the
Settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is an imperative in
achieving Middle East peace. American influence as a supporter of freedom
and donor of massive Israeli subsidies -- $3 billion last year -- must be
brought to bear to achieve a just and fair peace. Otherwise our unquestioned
support for Sharon's policies will be exposed as hypocritical and
destructive of what is left of the world's perception of American ideals and
Bush's aim of achieving "Middle East democracy" will be seen as just more
Jim Mullins is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in
Washington, D.C., and a resident of Delray Beach.