Locking in Oslo
January 12, 2001
The Americans and the Israelis continue to try to twist the screws. Their
minimum goal now is to "lock in" the "Oslo Peace Process" approach to the conflict.
It may be an "Apartheid Peace", and it may have resulted in considerable bloodshed,
but even so it is leading to a form of "Palestinian Statehood" and "separation"
that the Israelis strongly desire as the best alternative for themselves -- and
that includes, with some modifications, Ariel Sharon and the Israeli right-wing.
In short, the Israelis and their Clinton Administration want both the Arafat
regime, and the incoming Bush Administration, to be trapped into a continuation
of all that they have pursued in the Clinton years. And this also accounts for
getting the Canadian to make their public statement about accepting Palestinian
refugees in Canada. No numbers were given, and the refugees themselves are hardly
enthusiastic, but even so the principle of "resettlement" and "compensation"
rather than the "right to return" is part of the whole Oslo approach and the
Canadians were used to push forward this aspect of the whole formula.
ISRAEL, U.S. PRESSURE PA TO ACCEPT CLINTON'S PROPOSAL
By Aluf Benn and Amira Hass
Ha'aretz - 11 January:
The United States and Israel are working to pressure Palestinian Authority
Chairman Yasser Arafat into significantly reducing the violence in the
territories and publicly accepting U.S. President Bill Clinton's bridging
proposal as the basis for a final-status agreement.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who has accepted Clinton's proposal, would like to
see a festive ceremony at which both sides would announce that they accept the
proposal, flanked by other Arab, European and Asian leaders.
Official sources in Washington noted that Clinton was not prepared to make a
unilateral Presidential Declaration. U.S. sources see this as an unequivocal
message to both Israel and the PA, to intensify their efforts to reach a
framework agreement .
According to an Israeli source involved in the negotiations, the personal
response which Arafat gave Clinton at their meeting last week was far less
negative than the Palestinian Authority's public response to the proposal.
The source claimed that, at the meeting, Arafat raised only three minor
reservations to the proposal, one being the question of who would determine
whether Israel was in a state of emergency and therefore permitted to send
troops into the Jordan Valley (which would be part of the Palestinian state).
According to a senior Palestinian official, Arafat also promised Shahak
that he would always maintain a channel of communications with Israel,
"even in time of war."
The diplomatic efforts are now being conducted on several parallel tracks:
** Direct talks. The new Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic-security committee,
headed by Shahak and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and composed of
security officials from both sides, met for the first time yesterday at the
Erez Checkpoint in the Gaza Strip. The meeting was made possible by Shahak's
meeting with Arafat on Tuesday. The committee will discuss ways of reducing
the violence and resuming security cooperation, in exchange for Israel's
easing of the closure and other punitive measures against the Palestinian
But Palestinian officials said that while the meeting was proof of Arafat's
desire to maintain lines of communication with Israel, Jerusalem should not
attach too much importance to it. The Palestinians, they said, have not yet
agreed to resume security cooperation, and will probably do so only if Israel
lifts its "siege" on the territories.
** American involvement. According to the White House, Clinton spoke to Arafat
on Tuesday night to stress the importance of reducing the violence. Clinton
then announced that he was delaying a planned trip to the region by his Middle
East peace coordinator, Dennis Ross, who had been slated to arrive Tuesday.
Clinton said he still hoped it was possible to narrow the gaps between the
parties, but he is first waiting to see whether progress was made on reducing
the violence. However, the strong Palestinian opposition to Ross' visit,
coupled with the fact that Arafat has already left Gaza for a trip to Morocco
and Tunisia, also contributed to this decision.
** International support. Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami is now in Europe
trying to encourage European and Russian pressure on Arafat. Ben-Ami met
yesterday with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Asnar, who agreed to make an
effort and will meet today with French President Jacques Chirac and Russian
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
CANADA MAKES OFFER ON MIDEAST PEACE
TORONTO (AP - 10 Jan) - Canada went public Wednesday with an offer to accept
Palestinian refugees as part of a negotiated Middle East peace plan. Canada
made the offer in a series of recent telephone calls involving Foreign Affairs
Minister John Manley, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United States,
Manley's spokeswoman, Jennifer Sloan said. She called it a ``reaffirmation''
of previously stated Canadian government policy to contribute in any way possible
to any peace treaty negotiated in the Middle East.
``We reconfirmed that Canada would play its part in ensuring a successful peace
agreement,'' Sloan said Wednesday.
The Canadian offer, first reported in a front-page story Wednesday in The Toronto
Star newspaper, would not satisfy the long-held Palestinian demand for the ``right
to return'' to their homes in Israel.
The right of return is one of the most contentious issues of the Middle East
conflict, with almost 4 million Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank
and Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The official policy of Lebanon, Syria and
Jordan demands the right of Palestinians to return to homes that are now in Israel.
Resettling refugees in Europe, Canada and elsewhere was believed to be part of
the protracted peace negotiations in the past two years, and included in the
recent plan proposed by outgoing President Clinton.
The Foreign Affairs department confirmed the quotes in The Star. In the interview,
Manley said the numbers of refugees that Canada would be willing to accept had
yet to be discussed.
``We are prepared to receive refugees; we are prepared to contribute to an international
fund to assist with resettlement in support of a peace agreement,'' Manley said,
adding that other countries also were expected to accept Palestinian refugees.
``We have just assumed that we would be one of several countries involved,''
Sloan said in a telephone interview. ``We haven't had discussions with anyone.''
In addition to telephone calls to and from Manley, Prime Minister Jean Chretien
called Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Christmas Day to talk about the peace
process, Chretien's office said Tuesday.
Manley said Chretien made the call ``after it appeared that there were the fundamentals
for an agreement there, both to say that we would be willing to play our role
on the refugee resettlement issues as well as to encourage them to try to find
a way to strike an agreement.''
Canada has a history of accepting large numbers of refugees, taking in 7,000
Kosovar Albanians in 1999 during the NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia.
Canada would be willing to contribute troops to an international force created
to oversee implementation of a peace accord in the Middle East, Manley said.
PALESTINIAN REFUGEES SCORN CANADIAN OFFER OF REFUGE
JERUSALEM - Canada has moved from being a neutral player in the Middle East
conflict to a controversial participant by offering to take in Palestinian
It's part of an American-led attempt to broker peace. But the Canadian offer
goes against the fervent Palestinian demand for the right to return to their
homes in Israel.
The suggestion of seeking refuge in Canada angered many Palestinian refugees.
People who live in the Balata Camp in Nablus made their opposition clear, by
signing an oath of refusal and using their blood as ink.
Let the Israelis leave and move halfway around the world instead, they said.
"I tell my children not to accept any offer," says one man. "I would die
for my right of return. So my children can go back. I will never give up
"Palestine is our land. Why go to Canada? Why? Why?" asked another.
Palestinians hold fast to right of return
More than three million Palestinian refugees are scattered throughout the
Mideast. About one-third of them live in camps in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Many fled their homes or were expelled in 1948 when Israel was created. Others
left during the 1967 war, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians insist all refugees have a right to return to their former
homes, but Israel adamantly opposes that.
Canada suddenly changes position
Canada has never agreed with Israel's position, but now its offer fuels
Israeli hopes that Palestinian refugees will eventually abandon their dreams
of returning to their villages and fields.
It seems Ottawa has given in to American and Israeli pressure.
U.S. President Bill Clinton is scrambling to get Israelis and Palestinians to
make concessions for a peace deal.
Neither side wants to budge on Clinton's suggestion that the Palestinians
surrender the right of return in exchange for the Israelis giving up
control of a key holy site in Jerusalem.
Washington apparently requested Canada's help. On Christmas Day, Jean Chrétien
made the offer to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
"We are prepared to receive refugees," Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley
told the Toronto Star. "What's implicit is a tradeoff."
A spokesman for Arafat says Canada has simply played into Israeli hands.
Israel applauds Canadian offer
The Israelis, meanwhile, are brimming with praise for Canada.
"I think we have a lot of appreciation for that courageous move of Canada
to be the first contributor to resolving the Palestinian refugee problem,"
said Gilead Sher, the chief Israeli negotiator.
Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak unsuccessfully pressed Chrétien for just
such a commitment during his Middle East tour last spring.