Bush's "Vision" of a Palestinian State
Bush's "Vision" of a Palestinian State
By Muna Hamzeh for PalestineChronicle.com
President Bush's recent discovery that a Palestinian state is part of his
"vision" for peace in the Middle East brings back a sense of déjà vu. It was
only a few years ago that the Clinton Administration tried to convince
Americans that the Oslo Peace Accord, signed between Israel and Yasser
Arafat in 1993, has finally brought "real" peace to the area.
Back then, it was fascinating to live in the Palestinian Territories and
witness the difference between what American, Israeli and even Palestinian
leaders were saying about the new Oslo era of "peace" and between what every
ordinary Palestinian was witnessing on the ground. It bordered on the
hilarious to listen to presidents and prime ministers talk about the
implementation of the agreements, while watching the continued confiscation
of Palestinian land, house demolitions, restrictions on movement and travel,
as well as the continued growth of Israeli settlements around every
Palestinian town and village. For the average Palestinian, developments on
the ground starkly contradicted the agreements reached on paper. And I am
not talking here about Palestinian intellectuals who had read the details of
the "peace" agreements and realized just how disastrous they were. I am
referring to the simple and uneducated Palestinians who could not see a
single change, no matter how minute, to make them feel that they are any
closer to independence or that their daily hardships have subsided.
Now, almost a decade after Oslo, President Bush is telling the world that
"the idea of a Palestinian state has always been part of a vision, so long
as the right of Israel to exist is respected". What "vision" is the
president talking about? Whether Bush knows it or not, there is a legal
basis for Palestinian statehood, and one which is long overdue. UN
Resolution 181 (1947) gave legality to the establishment of both a Jewish
state and an Arab state in Palestine. While only a part of the Resolution
was implemented - the establishment of the state of Israel on most of the
territory of historical Palestine - the other which deals with an Arab state
The antiquated argument that the U.S. would bless the establishment of a
Palestinian state so long as Israel's right to exist is respected ought to
be seriously revised. Occupying the Palestinians since 1967 has hardly
resulted in the respect that Israel desires. The only way that Israel can
live with security and respect is to come to terms with the fact that its
occupation of the Palestinians must be brought to a full end. Anything short
of giving the Palestinians their full political, national and human rights
will mean a continuation of this conflict. The solution seems so elementary
in its simplicity.
Perhaps the most startling difference between the agreements signed on paper
between Israel and the Palestinian since the Madrid talks of 1991 and today
is the fact that Israel has never halted its confiscation of additional land
in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Only last month, an Israeli military order transformed 1.4 percent of West
Bank land into a closed military zone - a move that normally precedes an all
out confiscation. An aerial survey conducted by the Israeli Peace Now
movement early this month indicates that ten new Israeli settlements were
established in the West Bank between June and September 2001. An earlier
survey found 15 new settlements established between February and May 2001.
While Israeli Prime Minister Sharon is blaming Arafat for the "violence" and
going so far as to call him a Ben Laden, his government has been actively
grabbing more Palestinian land and building more settlements. Against this
backdrop, what sort of peace does Sharon really envision himself making with
the increasingly weakened Palestinian leader? And how can peace be made if
it doesn't involve territorial concessions of a land Israel occupied by
military force in 1967? Even a Palestinian child in the West Bank can see
Israeli bulldozers working away to uproot olive trees dating back to the
Roman Age, destroy agricultural land and then watch as new settlement
housing fills the landscape. How to convince that child that the Israelis
want to make peace becomes the challenge. But how to convince that child
that the U.S. is an "honest-broker" in the Middle East becomes an even
It appears that Bush's remarks in support of Palestinian statehood has
brought on significant division within the American-Jewish community. A
letter signed by at least prominent 50 American Jewish figures was presented
to the White House October 5, in support of the administration's war on
terrorism and policy efforts in the Middle East. It follows criticism of the
administration's plan by pro-Israel lobby groups. The idea of a Palestinian
state is so frightening to the pro-Israel lobby? If genuine Palestinian
statehood is achieved in all the territory occupied by Israel in 1967, there
would be a chance for real peace. The results would mean political stability
and economic stability in the region. Why would the pro-Israel lobby be so
terrified of such a notion? Should ever-lasting peace be reached, there is a
considerable possibility that stability may, 20 or 30 years down the road,
naturally end in a bi-national state where Jews and Arabs would live
side-by-side. If this were to happen, the entire concept of a Zionist state
for a Jewish people would no longer be viable. Perhaps this is what
frightens the pro-Israel lobby.
The Palestinians, meanwhile, view Bush's remarks as nothing more than a
political maneuver to give the Arab states the pretext they need to join
America's war on Ben Laden and the Taliban, and perhaps even justify an
attack on Iraq and Islamic training camps in Arab countries such as Sudan,
Yemen and Lebanon. Several Arab regimes have made it clear that their
support of the war on terrorism is conditional to an American promise of a
resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and an end to the sanctions
on Iraq. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on for 34 years and
the sanctions on Iraq for nearly a decade, yet the Arab states have hardly
brought any pressure on the U.S. to change its policy. For a year now, the
Arab and Muslim worlds have been watching, along with everyone else, the
Palestinians getting killed and wounded, their homes shelled and demolished,
and their land confiscated, while only paying lip-service to their plight.
The Palestinians are all too aware that of this. Since the start of the
current uprising in late September 2000, they've watched Arab leaders make
empty statements on television, claiming support of the Palestinian
uprising. On the ground, and for the average Palestinian who is bearing the
brunt of Israeli air and land raids, there have been no visible signs of
this support. The fact that 22 Arab states, with the oil wealth of some and
the economic clout of others, cannot bring any reasonable pressure to bear
on the U.S. to rethink its policy towards Israel's occupation of the
Palestinians reveals the extent of their weakness.
More importantly, what is the use of getting the Bush Administration to
"promise" a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? The situation in
the Palestinian Territories requires something far more courageous than
promises. It requires a hard, long look at a continually failing American
foreign policy that is neither giving Israel the security it insists on
having, nor the Palestinians the statehood they have long aspired for. It is
time for the U.S. to become an honest peace broker in the Middle East. And
it ought to do so in order to preserve its own interests in the region.
Otherwise, the outcome for American interests in the Middle East looks very
bleak. All over the Palestinian Territories, children collect the remains of
Israeli tank shells. They point out to journalists the inscriptions in
English: 'Made in Mesa, Arizona'. They mention that the Israeli Apache
gunships, F-16 and F-15 fighter jets shelling their homes are also made in
America. Tell these children that the U.S. is an honest peace broker and
they laugh in your face. Ask them if they hate Americans and they tell you
it is America's policy they hate. But for how long will this last?
One of the best parts of the American Constitution is: " We hold these
truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these
are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
This is the American spirit that should be exported overseas and should
guide our foreign policy-makers. So long as we don't regard all mankind as
equal and with unalienable rights equal to ours, we will continue to allow
our tax money to pay for weapons that are exported to kill innocent
civilians, when our hard-earned dollars could be better spent on Medicare,
education and the medical research in this country.
(Muna Hamzeh, a Palestinian-American writer, recently returned to the US
after living in the Palestinian Territories for ten years. She is the author
of 'Refugees in our Own Land: Chronicles from a Palestinian Refugee Camp in
Bethlehem' (Pluto Press, September 2001).
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