Bush has put Palestine on his agenda: A state in return for the security of Israel

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I had said in an article previously published in Asharq Al-Awsat that Sharon was blackmailing the United States by using his occupation forces to execute and assassinate the Palestinians he was holding hostage. I said that every time the American administration tried to move to push forward the peace process and the political solution in the Middle East, serving its vital interests and its strategic ties in the region, Sharon would carry out barbaric assaults against his Palestinian hostages, killing, assassinating, persecuting and destroying.

In another article also published by Asharq Al-Awsat I said that the U.S. would lose a lot of its interests and would lose its allies in the Middle East if it continues to surrender to Sharon’s continuous blackmail of the U.S. and Europe, by killing and assassinating his hostages and going in deeper in his plan to tighten the grip of Israeli occupation over the Palestinian lands and people. I also said that the American administration must take a firm stand regarding Sharon’s savage actions that are based on his religious beliefs and his own best interest within the Likud party.

I had explained in an article published in Asharq Al-Awsat last week how President Bush can translate the United States’ pledge to establish an independent Palestinian state based on Security Council resolutions into concrete actions.

Yesterday we all saw how Sharon’s blackmail of the American administration is still continuing, and how the American administration still does not know how to deal with this blackmail and put a quick end to it.

Sharon reoccupied six Palestinian cities é in addition to holding the Palestinian people hostage by force of tanks and planes. All this so he can negotiate and bargain about leaving these cities, without having to release his Palestinian hostages.

Everyone heard and saw the repeated American positions that ask Israel to withdraw immediately from Palestinian cities and from areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority, but the Israeli government gave a slap in the face to the American administration in general, and President Bush in particular, not only by not withdrawing from PA areas, but also by canceling Sharon’s visit to Washington that was scheduled to take place in the first week of this month.

The Israeli government insulted Washington again when Sharon announced that he had decided to visit Washington in the first week of next December. The same with Shimon Peres’s response to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s statement that set a period of two days to launch an initiative regarding pushing the Middle East peace process forward. Peres asked Powell to postpone that for at least a week so that he may have time to discuss these ideas with Powell. He will definitely ask to wait until Sharon’s visit to Washington in the first week of December to discuss them with him.

Sharon and his government continue in the same methods and the same criminal policies, abusing the Palestinian people and blackmailing the Americans and the Europeans. So what is to be done?

It should be pointed out that anxiety prevails in the Israeli street. It is being felt that the policies and actions of the Israeli government will lead only to isolating Israel more, and that this would make its dependence on the U.S. an almost total dependence. This will lead, in the view of the majority of Israelis, to turning any new American position on the establishment of a Palestinian state to an imposed solution that Israel cannot refuse as long as the Israeli dependence on the United States is total.

President Bush’s speech at the UN confirmed what he had previously announced that the U.S. supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on Security Council resolutions; that is, 242 and 338. This despite all the attempts made by the Israelis and their allies in the Congress to soften that clause about the Middle East.

The United States’ commitment to the security and safety of Israel is a commitment that cannot change or be changed by any American administration. This strategic American commitment does not however mean that the American administration approves or endorses the Israeli acts of aggression against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These actions embarrass the U.S. and harm its interests, and the American administration believes they also harm Israel and the Israelis, and it is correct in that.

Such brutal Israeli attacks lead gradually, in light of the Palestinian people’s steadfastness, to modifying the content of the American Land for Peace formula into a Land for Security formula, and this is qualitatively much less than the original Land for Peace formula. Peace includes security, and includes much more than that, whereas security is just one of the consequences of peace.

Following Secretary of State Powell’s meeting with President Arafat in New York last Monday, Powell was quick to hold a meeting with the Russians, Europeans and the UN Secretary General in order to discuss the speedy actions to be carried out by the coalition for a political solution in the Middle East.

The team that will be working in the upcoming days will be made up of four parties, each of which has an interest in finding a political solution to the Middle East problem that is based on Security Council resolutions and that leads to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and a regional guarantee, not just an American and European one, of the security and safety of Israel.

No matter how effective Peres’s attempts to delay this movement are, and no matter how strong Sharon’s attempts to change the American position are, Peres’s and Sharon’s movements will lead only to more American complaints about the Israeli government’s policies and actions.

Despite Arab and Palestinian resentment at the American administration’s indecisiveness and its lack of a firm stand against the Israeli aggression and use of force against the hostage people, the concrete facts and the material and political interests will eventually impose themselves on the situation, regardless of the very intimate Israeli-American relationship.

The Americans, and for the first time their administration as well, have said that a sovereign independent Palestinian state must be established, one that provides a means of living and continuity on the lands of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Needless to say, Europe has also been convinced of this for a long time, and Britain has recently joined as a European member that is enthusiastic about this idea and whose voice is always heard in the White House.

This is the first time that the President of the United States announces his country’s commitment to this political solution that is based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. With this, Palestine has become an item on the American interests’ agenda. Colin Powell expressed this by saying that Palestine has entered the American dictionary.

The Palestinians, who have been wronged for these past long decades and have suffered unlimited tortures, are relieved and worried. They understand what this announcement means, but they fear that the Israelis will conspire against this stand. The truth that should be told is that President Bush, who did not submit to pressures and blackmail this time and announced this stand, knows that his statement before the UN General Assembly is a commitment that must be followed through by an implementation mechanism.

Thus, despite the Israeli requests to postpone, President Bush issued his orders to Colin Powell to go ahead with holding a four-way meeting in New York (America, Russia, Europe and the UN) to discuss the next steps.

Powell will meet with Peres to discuss the ideas, and this is necessary, and Bush will meet with Sharon and this too is necessary, but these two meetings will not disable the American move that is based on the American administration’s decision.

This was expressed by President Chiraq in Cairo, and based on that Cairo will head to Washington to discuss these ideas through the Egyptian Foreign Minister. The Americans also seek to ensure a regional guarantee of the safety and security of Israel.

The American administration’s files are brimming with Israeli reports regarding the Hebrew state’s fears about Iraq, Iran and Syria, and Israel’s fear of missile, biological, chemical and nuclear attacks that were the content of complaints made by Israel, and justifications made for the attacks against the Palestinians, and the insistence on the continued occupation of the West Bank, and control over Palestine’s borders and air space.

The American administration, and Europe by request from the American administration, want to discuss the best ways of reassuring the Israelis regionally about their security and the safety of their state, and reassuring them that all the Arab countries will pledge not to seek the destruction of Israel, and will pledge not to attack it or threaten its security and safety.

We believe such a package seems reasonable if the core of it guarantees the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on lands Israel occupied on June 5th in 1967, and that the state will have complete control over the land, borders, natural resources and regional waters, and that Jerusalem is the capital under full Palestinian control, within the framework of a unified and open Jerusalem that can also be the capital of Israel.

Israel’s insistence on stopping the Palestinian people’s resistance to its occupation army’s aggression, and the United states’ and Europe’s insistence on stopping what they call violence so everyone may be able to return to negotiations, has become like a broken record, a verbal repetition of something that cannot be implemented for two reasons:

The first reason is that Sharon is exercising political blackmail by carrying out daily aggressions against the Palestinian people, despite the United States’ public and private demand to stop the reoccupying of PA controlled areas by the Israeli occupation forces.

The second reason is Sharon’s continuing policy of assassinations and the methodical destruction of the homes and farms of Palestinians. In light of these Israeli actions no one can ask the Palestinians not to defend themselves regardless of how small their chances are against F-16 fighter planes and Israeli tanks and Apache helicopters.

We therefore say that the situation requires the arrival of a working group, accompanied by monitors from the U.S., Europe and Russia to supervise the immediate implementation of the Tenet accord linked to the implementation of the Mitchell recommendations. It also requires that a withdrawal of Israeli forces and settlers from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip take place, and that forces belonging to the countries of the four-member team take over the borders and posts the Israelis left, that Israel considers to be of security importance, for a period of time to be defined, and that Israel accepts so it can be assured of its security and safety.

Bassam Abu-Sharif is a special advisor to President Arafat.

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