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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.

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 Authority.

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.


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.


JERUSALEM - Canada has moved from being a neutral player in the Middle East conflict to a controversial participant by offering to take in Palestinian refugees.

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 an inch."

"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.

January 2001


Leila Khalid - refugee from Haifa, fighter for Palestine
(January 31, 2001)
When Palestinian liberation fighter Leila Khaled hijacked her first plane in 1969, she became the international pin-up of armed struggle. Then she underwent cosmetic surgery so she could do it again. Thirty years on, she talks to Katharine Viner about being a woman at war.

The end of Israel?
(January 30, 2001)
At a time with rampant current events breaking daily, often hourly, there is much need to remember the importance of sometimes taking time for reflection, of sometimes stepping back to contemplate both the past and the future.

Sharon - the REAL legacy of Clinton and Barak
(January 30, 2001)
As the Barak era fades from view -- more short-lived than anyone predicted just a long year and a half ago -- his epitaph is already being written and Ariel Sharon's government and policies are already being debated.

Looming civil war in Palestine
(January 29, 2001)
Fears are growing in the international community that Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA) is heading for collapse.

Arafat blasts, Peres maneuvers, Barak sinks
(January 29, 2001)
For all practical purposes Ehud Barak is gone and Yasser Arafat is now desperately trying to save his own skin.

Barak's 3 no's, and Bush's 7 minute call
(January 28, 2001)
The Americans leaked it, a 7-minute Saturday call from the new U.S. Pres to the sinking Israeli PM -- leaked its brevity that is.

The Bomb and Iraq
(January 28, 2001)
As war clouds gather in the Middle East public opinion is being prepared for a possible regional war that could likely include a combined Western/Israeli effort to take out the weapons of mass destruction in Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The "nuts" in the next room
(January 27, 2001)
In recent years Israel's most important and serious newspaper, Ha'aretz, has taken to not only reporting Palestinian affairs much more deeply but to interviewing major Palestinian personalities abroad.

Get ready for Prime Minister Sharon
(January 27, 2001)
The new Ma'ariv-Gallop poll questioned a particularly large sample of 1,100 people, putting special emphasis on the Arab population and new immigrants.

Panic in the Barak camp
(January 27, 2001)
All the tricks and lies of the Israeli Labor Party have now come back to haunt it. Barak, never a politician, bears the brunt of popular blame for all the political deceptions and tricks that have for so long accumulated.

War alert in Europe and Middle East
(January 27, 2001)
We've noted the "war fever" growing in the region for some months now. There's considerable anxiety about who may now strike first.

Israeli and Jewish soul-searching
(January 26, 2001)
The Intifada, coupled with Israeli brutality and recognition that the term "Apartheid Peace" is in fact applicable after all, are having an effect on at least some Israelis and some Jews; even while Ariel Sharon marches to the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem (and maybe because of this).

"Disastrous" American intervention
(January 26, 2001)
ou've got to wonder about these Palestinian "negotiators". What others saw decades ago those who have been most involved are apparently beginning to see only now.

Sharon marches on, Barak stumbles on
(January 25, 2001)
The 554,000 Arabs eligible to vote represent 12.3 percent of the electorate. The Arab turnout in 1999 was 76%, and 95% voted for Barak.

An alliance of the outcasts? Iran, Iraq and Syria
(January 24, 2001)
So the Israelis are going to elect war-criminal tough-guy General Ariel Sharon to be Prime Minister. This after the most top-heavy military-intelligence government in peacetime history for Israel -- that of General Ehud Barak.

General Powell says no to sanctions on behalf of Corporate America
(January 23, 2001)
Hamas has struck again and the "negotiations" are "suspended" again. Two Israelis were assassinated by masked men while eating at a restaurant in Tulkarm. Though this time it was Israelis who were killed it was another warning to Yasser Arafat. Last week similarly masked men in Gaza killed a close Arafat friend, the head of Palestinian TV in Gaza, just as it was rumored Arafat was about to sign some kind of new deal with the Israelis.

EyeWitness Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa
(January 23, 2001)
The depressing element of this entire struggle is that the Arafat regime survives and...will be the one to ultimately determine the fate of the Palestinian people.

War Fever - Israel and Syria
(January 23, 2001)
Tensions continue to grow in the Middle East region, armies continue to prepare, public opinion continues to be manipulated. Though Ehud Barak too is a militarist -- a former commando, General, and Chief of Staff of the Army -- Ariel Sharon brings with him historical baggage and war-criminal image which could easily contribute to a clash of armies sooner rather than later, even if not fully intended by either side.

EyeWitness Gaza
(January 22, 2001)
A year or so ago, I visited the Mouwasi area in Gaza. It was a green paradise, on top, and in the midst, of white sand dunes. I particularly remember this Guava grove, where the guavas hanging from the trees were the size of large oranges; I hadn't seen anything like that ever before.

Reaping what they have sown
(January 22, 2001)
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak abruptly cut short a radio interview on Sunday after being asked about his poor showing in opinion polls, prompting speculation he was buckling under pressure of a February 6 election.

Israel's president departs
(January 21, 2001)
There has never been, and there probably never will be, a president who had such fantastic relations with the State of Israel. It's unbelievable.

Ross officially join Israeli lobby
(January 19, 2001)
During the Lebanon War of 1982 -- some think of it as Sharon's war -- the Israelis and their American Jewish friends felt they had a difficult time when it came to public relations. And when the American Marines pulled out, symbolizing the failure of the Israelis to force Lebanon into the American-Israeli orbit and out of the Syrian-Arab one, the Israelis realized that they had much power in Washington on Capitol Hill, but not enough power with the media, intellectuals, and think-tanks.

War preparations in Israel
(January 19, 2001)
It's always called "The Peace Process" but more behind-the-scenes the whole Middle East region continues to be an arms bazaar with more weapons being sold to the countries in the area than ever before, most by American arms merchants and allies.

Palestinian TV Head killed
(January 17, 2001)
It may have been a warning to Arafat not to dare sign any new agreements, as has been rumored in the past few days he was planning to do tomorrow in fact. It may have been another Israeli assassination - though usually they don't take such risks and use such methods, strongly preferring instead to use high-technology and long-distance means.

Iraq, Saddam and the Gulf War
(January 17, 2001)
It was 10 years ago yesterday that the U.S. unleashed the power of the Empire against the country of Iraq after created the regional conditions that lead to the Iraq-Iran and then the Iraq-Kuwait-Saudi wars. In that period of time somewhere in the number of 1.5 million Iraqis have been killed, the history of the Middle East altered, the future of the region more uncertain and dangerous than ever.

Last night in Gaza ghetto
(January 16, 2001)
It's quite a game of international political brinkmanship. At the same time that Yasser Arafat is being tremendously pressured, and quite possibly further tricked, to sign some kind of "framework agreement" with Clinton and Barak before it is too late -- his regime is also being threatened with extinction both from within and without.

Generals Sharon and Barak as politicians
(January 16, 2001)
With Jan 20 (Clinton leaves office) and Feb 6 (Barak likely to be defeated by Sharon) fast approaching, desperation and near panic are evident in the traditional power centers, including various Arab capitals.

"Unilateral separation" one way or another
(January 15, 2001)
The separation plan would go into the event of one of the following three scenarios: as a response to a unilateral declaration of statehood on the part of the Palestinians; under a severe security threat; or as part of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority

Up in arms against Apartheid
(January 13, 2001)
At the end of the second millennium, three million Palestinians are imprisoned in ghettoes by the very man whom the Palestinian leadership hailed as the saviour of peace. Netanyahu had driven the peace ship off course. Barak scuttled it.

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.

Sharon charges on
(January 12, 2001)
he long-serving (now recalled to Cairo) Egyptian Ambassador to Israel was quoted saying last week that if an Israeli-Palestinian agreement isn't reached in the next two weeks there won't be an agreement for the next two decades.

"Sharon leads to peace"
(January 11, 2001)
The last time the Israeli "Arab vote" was pushed toward Shimon Peres for Prime Minister -- back in 1996 -- there was much resistance. Then Peres was acting Prime Minister after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Army had just committed the Qana massacre in Southern Lebanon, and Peres was busy trying to cover it up.

Grandfather Sharon
(January 10, 2001)
If the polls remain as disastrous as they now are for Ehud Barak, expect him to be pushed out and Shimon Peres substituted. Barak has no chance; Peres has some, especially with the "Arab vote".

The Dangerous weeks, months ahead
(January 10, 2001)
Guys like Commando-General-Prime Minster Ehud Barak don't go easily from the scene. Barak's daring-do was lavishly praised just a few years ago; now it has even the military types fretting. No telling just what Barak and friends might try in the next few weeks.

Assissination, siege and war crimes
(January 9, 2001)
The Israeli government, both as a group and as individuals, bears full responsibility for the crimes that were committed. We will do everything possible, including declaring members of this government war criminals who are eligible for trial by the world tribunal." Palestinian Authority "Minister"

Soul-searching Israelis
(January 9, 2001)
The "liberals" among them, the most cosmopolitan and internationally-oriented of the Israelis, are now getting extra nervous. Not only is Ariel Sharon coming to power, not only is regional war possible, not only are the cold treaties with Egypt and Jordan in jeopardy, but even Israel's future has come into question

Israel acts while Arafat talks
(January 8, 2001)
srael continues to take major steps designed to shrink, isolate and control the Palestinian areas forever. The policy is termed "unilateral separation" and it is linked to bringing about a so-called "Palestinian State" that serves Israeli interests, making everything worse than ever for the Palestinian "natives".

Clinton's Israel speech
(January 8, 2001)
On his way out the Presidential door Bill Clinton went to New York City to speak to his American Jewish supporters and further grease his way toward his future. This is the Bill Clinton that turned the U.S. government over to the Israeli/Jewish lobby in his years in office; of course pretending otherwise.

Specter of an "ugly future"
(January 5, 2001)
Lofty, humanitarian goals like 'peace and democracy'? No, America's primary interest in the Middle East is effective control of the world's most important energy reserves, Noam Chomsky tells Ha'aretz

Prime Minister Sharon
(January 5, 2001)
Did President Hindenburg and the German intelligentsia feel this way in 1930s when they saw that Adolf Hitler, and his brownshirt thugs, were about to be elected to power?

Barak and Sharon
(January 5, 2001)
While the Labor "Doves" are busy running ads in Arab papers showing dismembered corpses in Palestinian Refugee Camps -- with the caption "Sharon" -- the reality is that Generals Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon are more two of a kind than anything else.

Arab nations add their voices to the chorus of despair
(January 4, 2001)
All chance of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians in the near future is vanishing, destroyed by hardening opinions on both sides, continuing violence, the precarious position of the political leaders involved and disagreements over key issues.

Darling of American Jewry
(January 4, 2001)
Over the years, most of the strongest advocates of Israel have usually been people who are not Jewish....[I] look forward to working with him...

Barak publicly warns of regional war
(January 4, 2001)
Amid veiled threats from the Israelis to start targeting even more senior Arafat Regime persons, and even to bring the Arafat "Palestinian Authority" to an end, Ehud Barak has also started publicly talking about the possibility of regional war.

No deal for Arafat
(January 3, 2001)
In particular, the Palestinians are concerned that the proposed settlement would create Palestinian territorial islands separated from each other by Israeli territory and therefore not viable as a nation. They object to a proposed land swap that would allow some Israeli settlers to remain on the West Bank in exchange for land that the Palestinians claim is desert and a toxic waste dump.

Arafat rushes to Washington
(January 2, 2001)
Clinton and the Israelis have set the stage for the last act of their multi-year drama attempting to trap the Palestinians on controlled reservations and calling it "an end to the conflict". But like a modern-day computer game the users can interact and change the outcome to various scenarios.

Top Palestinian Leader in the Arafat Regime
(January 2, 2001)
The whole house of political quicksand built by Bill Clinton at the behest of the Israelis (and popularly known as the "Peace Process") is bubbling, steaming, and swallowing many of its key participants.

Arafat hangs up on threatening Clinton
(January 1, 2001)
The coming issue of TIME magazine reports that Arafat hung up the phone receiver on Clinton a few days ago, turning to an aide and saying: "He's threatening me!

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