Without reciprocity, the whole world is blind

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Dear Members of the Quartet,

Your reconvening on the occasion of the World Economic Forum in Jordan was an encouraging signal from a Palestinian point of view. It comes at a time that the United States has brought Palestinians and Israelis back into contact with one another. The resumption of your activities is especially important now, because renewed US efforts have also returned us to the United States’ monopoly of the peace process, which has previously allowed Israel to avoid its obligations to signed agreements, international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. The United States acting alone is not as sensitive to international law, whereas members of the Quartet are bound by that law as representatives of the spirit and will of the international community.

At this point, the recent US-led efforts have made apparent several shortcomings of which the Quartet must be made aware. Some of these shortcomings are reminiscent of previous failed attempts to bring the parties to negotiations, including the efforts of US officials Anthony Zinni and George Tenet. The most important of these shortcomings circumvents the fact that the roadmap is one integral document that deals in the immediate term with the dire need to stabilize the situation in a balanced and reciprocal manner, while placing this stabilization package in the context of a process with very clear political dimensions, i.e. the intention to fulfill the legitimate rights of Palestinians by ending the occupation and meet the legitimate rights of Israelis by offering peace, security and integration. What Israel is trying to finagle–with the American administration doing nothing to prevent it–is a bid to isolate the security components of this roadmap from other elements, working them out separately from the roadmap context.

The roadmap and its stabilization package call for Palestinians to end all kinds of violence against Israelis wherever they may be, while Israel–bound by the very same language–is to end all kinds of violence against Palestinians wherever they may be. The roadmap does not differentiate between the violence felt by Palestinian or Israeli civilians. This same stabilization package expects Israel to end restrictions on Palestinian movement and stop settlement expansion, while Palestinians reform their authority and security in order to prevent other groups from possessing arms and militias, and to end incitement and begin reconciliation.

It cannot have escaped you that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was dragged to accept the roadmap against his will, weighted his “acceptance” with 14 reservations, avoided any statement in Aqaba that would ensure Israeli implementation and then pointedly resumed Israel’s policy of assassinating Palestinians just 48 hours later. On the very day of the Quartet’s meeting in Jordan, Sharon told his cabinet that settlement activity can continue.

The spirit of the roadmap calls for a halt in violence from both sides and acting to end the Israeli occupation. The one-sided language coming, especially from the Americans, but sometimes from others, that sees only the violence of Palestinians and is blind to both Israel’s violence or the fact that this violence occurs in the context of the illegal military occupation is not constructive. Indeed, it encourages Sharon to continue the occupation, which instigates violent reactions from the people who are occupied. Military occupation is the source of all kinds of violence that Palestinians feel nearly any time they come in contact with the occupying authorities–abuse at checkpoints, refusal to travel for unstated reasons, the sweeping confiscation of land, arbitrary demolition of homes and property, random arrests and political detention. Whenever violence is condemned, you must also condemn the occupation, otherwise we will be aimlessly treating the symptoms of the problem, rather than healing this devastating disease.

Mr. Ghassan Khatib is a Palestinian political analyst and director of the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center.

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