The Oslo ‘peace process’ was finally buried at Camp David in July 2000 when the Palestinians refused then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak’s ‘generous’ offer of a final settlement. It was immediately clear that Israel’s object was to kill the peace process, while blaming the Palestinians for its demise. Since then Israel’s supporters have maintained the fiction of a ‘generous’ Israeli initiative, in order to justify their subsequent war on the Palestinians. In truth they had long since decided that the peace process was no longer useful even as a fiction. Looking at the US’s long-awaited ‘road map’, published on April 30, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this initiative has a similarly cynical object. The Oslo plan at least had a certain logic, which persuaded some Palestinians to give the process a chance, and enabled it to limp on for eight years, despite Israel’s constant expansion of settlements and repeated rewriting of its own obligations. The road map has virtually no logic, and even less prospect of success. Like the Camp David offer, it seems designed to fail, in order to justify the continuation of Israel’s ‘war on terror’ in Palestine.
The road map envisages three phases, culminating in a “final, permanent status resolution in 2005.” The first phase would be the immediate and unconditional end of the intifada, with “visible efforts” by the Palestinian Authority to arrest mujahideen, the “dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure”, and the resumption of Palestinian security cooperation with the Israeli army. This is all to happen by the end of this month, following which Israel should begin a “progressive withdrawal” from areas occupied since September 2000. This would be followed by Phase Two, focusing on “the option of creating an independent Palestinian state” with “provisional borders” and “attributes of sovereignty”. At the same time, it envisages a “comprehensive Middle East peace” involving all Arab countries. This would open the way to Phase Three: the resolution of all outstanding issues, including borders, sovereignty over East Jerusalem, settlements, and the “disputed” right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
These proposals would be laughable if they were not so grim. They make far more onerous demands on the Palestinians than anything in the Oslo Accords, and ask the Palestinians and Arabs to deliver everything Israel and the US want before their own concerns are even addressed. The tragedy is that some Palestinians and most Arab governments are greeting it as manna from heaven, despite the Israelis’ rejection of it in its present form and their continued killing of Palestinians.
The key to understanding the road map is its timing. It was spoken about for months as the US’s long-awaited intervention to end Israel’s abuses in Palestine. As such, it was used to keep Arab critics quiet while the US planned and executed its invasion of Iraq. It was only published after the Arab regimes had seen a graphic demonstration of their possible fate if they resist US plans, and after the ‘international community’ had been put in its place by the US’s defiance of the UN. The Palestinians are unlikely to accept it; their refusal will be used to justify increased attacks on them, quite possibly international intervention to support Israel’s position, and perhaps even the expulsion of the Palestinians, as advocated by right-wingers in both the US and Israel. Most Arab regimes are already working on its basis, aware that they can either adapt to new realities, or be replaced by governments more willing to do so.
In truth this map can only be understood in terms of the wider regional order that the US is planning. It is already assumed that a ‘democratic’, pro-Western Iraq will recognise Israel, reactivate the oil-pipeline to Haifa, and generally support Western plans for the Middle East. US neo-conservatives are now talking about a “free trade area” in the Middle East, by which Arab economies would become inextricably linked to Israel’s, with Israel as – of course – the senior partner. This order would make Muslim lands and peoples even more thoroughly enslaved to Western power than they are already.
The Palestinian resistance to Israel has long been recognised as a jihad for Islam and the liberation of al-Quds. Now it is the front line of a global defence of the Ummah from Western imperialism and hegemony. Now, more than ever, there can be no excuse for Muslims anywhere to fail to support them at this most critical time.
Mr. Iqbal Siddiqui is Editor of Crescent International and Research Fellow at the Institute of Islamic Contemporary Thought.