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Palestinian State as Israeli Demand

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    Azmi Bishara: Palestinian State as Israeli Demand ... Thursday, December 30 2004 @ 03:16 AM EST One could not help but to be struck by the coincidence between
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 6, 2005
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      Azmi Bishara: Palestinian State as Israeli Demand

      Thursday, December 30 2004 @ 03:16 AM EST

      "One could not help but to be struck by the coincidence between
      Sharon's optimism and an Arab optimism of a very particular

      By Dr. Azmi Bishara

      It is pointless to ask why the British prime minister or why the
      chief executive of the World Bank never visited Palestine while
      Arafat was alive. No one will answer. But there they were when, on
      20 December, George Bush reminded us that he was the first American
      president to officially acknowledge the principle of the creation of
      a Palestinian state. Yet, the principle was implicit in Clinton's
      proposals in Camp David II and even Sharon had declared his
      acceptance of the need to create a Palestinian state ahead of Bush.
      So, what distinguishes the current diplomatic drive on Palestine,
      explicitly, implicitly or otherwise?

      The question of Palestine, today, is being presented as the question
      of a state, and nothing but a state: a state without borders,
      without a capital and without a national cause ñ just a state. There
      is a concerted attempt to create the impression that if "a state",
      with the emphasis on the indefinite article, is offered to the
      Palestinians they cannot refuse. After all, everyone knows that that
      is what they have been fighting for, so when it is offered to them
      on a platter what more could they ask for?

      One could not help but to be struck by the coincidence between
      Sharon's optimism and an Arab optimism of a very particular stamp.
      Something jarred, and instinctively one's eyes did a double take and
      one's ears pricked up. Certainly, both senses couldn't be wrong, or
      perhaps one of the two senses had to accommodate to the other.

      The Israelis are reading portents of great change in Sharon's
      Herzliya speech of 16 December. Certainly, in Israeli language and
      substance the speech was upbeat and thus merited being dubbed
      the "historical opportunities speech." But, if Sharon is optimistic,
      the Arabs have every cause to wonder why; they certainly have no
      cause to share the sentiment unless they accept its component parts.

      The Israeli optimism that sees "historical opportunities" in
      Sharon's speech can only stem from the prospect of an "improvement
      in Israel's strategic condition" as Sharon, himself, said in his
      speech a major component of which resides in "the most important
      accomplishment" of the disengagement plan which was "the
      understandings between US President Bush and me." Sharon goes on to
      call upon the Palestinian leadership to share his optimism
      by "taking a historic decision to stop those who support terror,"
      for by taking such a historic decision the leadership will qualify
      to be a partner in what? in "coordinating various elements relating
      to our Disengagement Plan with a government which is ready and able
      to take responsibility for the areas which we leave." Take it as
      read that Sharon expects the Palestinians, who had no input in that
      plan and refused to respond to it, to regard Israel's readiness to
      let a "responsible" PA maintain security on Israel's behalf in the
      areas it vacates as a great Israeli compromise, and thus cause for
      optimism. Sharon goes on to say that if the PA is successful in this
      task this will pave the way to comprehensive peace negotiations ñ
      with no question of breaching the ceiling of the understandings
      between Bush and Sharon of course Again, Palestinians are to hail
      the return to the negotiating table on the basis of these
      understandings, which embody the Israeli formula for a permanent
      settlement, Israel's major political accomplishment from the
      disengagement plan, we recall as a great achievement. This is what
      it takes to be optimistic.

      If the understandings are the bases for Sharon's optimism it
      obviously does not follow that the Arabs should thrill in unison. As
      Sharon made so explicit in his speech, Bush pledged to support the
      annexation of Jerusalem and Israeli settlement blocs to Israel and
      the exclusion of the Palestinian right to return within the
      framework of a permanent solution. However, instead of taking this
      as impetus to reform the Arab order, to truly work together to
      defend Palestinian and Arab rights against Sharon's designs to
      swallow up as large chunks as possible of the occupied territories,
      to counter his incitement, which was blatant in his speech, against
      Syria and against the Palestinian resistance, and other such actions
      that would really give us cause for hope, some Arabs and
      Palestinians rushed to embrace that artificial patina of Sharonic
      optimism that so thinly disguises what should give us (presuming we
      have a collective opinion on the matter) cause for the gravest

      These Arab and Palestinian optimists have sought comfort or
      justification in the argument that the disengagement plan is part of
      the roadmap. Sadly, they are deceiving no one but themselves. Lest
      we forget, the author of the roadmap took the trouble to spell out
      his perception of where that road would lead. That destination, as
      Arab policy makers are perfectly well aware, is not contained in the
      roadmap but in the "vision" detailed by Bush in his letter of
      guarantees to Sharon. The most telling proof of the fallacy of the
      premise that the disengagement plan as part of the roadmap is cause
      to join in Sharon's optimism is to be found, firstly, in the stance
      the Israeli government took in a recent case before the Israeli
      courts. In a dispute between two Israeli settlements, one inside the
      Green Line, the other outside, the former claimed that the latter
      was expanding illegally. Lawyers for the first settlement argued
      that Alfi Manshi ((SP??)), as the settlement outside the Green Line
      is called, was constructing what it termed a new neighbourhood
      located two kilometers away from the settlement and that this
      project was in effect a new settlement and as such violated the
      roadmap that Israel had approved. The public prosecutor,
      representing the government, countered that the government did not
      recognize the legal efficacy or validity of the roadmap. But just in
      case we missed this message, Sharon's bureau chief Dov Weisglass was
      not so subtle. In his speech at Herzliya, delivered just a day
      before Sharon's, he said that the roadmap was not a conception of a
      permanent solution but a guide to the phases of the negotiating
      process, no more no less. In other words, he is telling us, if the
      Arabs want to consider the disengagement plan as part of the roadmap
      that is perfectly alright with Israel.

      But what about the Palestinian state, some might ask. Didn't you say
      that Sharon approved of the idea? And so he did, even before the
      roadmap was unveiled. But to Sharon, a Palestinian state means
      demographic separation. It means a state on the smallest patch of
      land possible containing the largest number of Palestinians
      possible, a state constructed on the logic of Elon's historical plan
      and of Begin's concept of autonomy. But more importantly to Sharon,
      the state has now become a prerequisite for continuing negotiations
      over a final settlement. Yes, what since Rabin had been regarded as
      a distasteful inevitability of a permanent settlement has become an
      Israeli demand that must be fulfilled not just before a permanent
      settlement but instead of a permanent settlement To Sharon, a
      Palestinian state is another word for a protracted interim period.
      Whether this state is created on a little more or a little less than
      40 per cent of the occupied territories is not the point; the point
      is to make it the cornerstone of a drawn-out interim phase after
      which negotiations will take place with a government that has
      demonstrated its mettle as a government, which is to say proven its
      ability to monopolize the means of violence and to organize its
      legal and social affairs. Once this state is in place, according to
      Sharon's way of thinking, everyone can relax, because then
      negotiations over a the outstanding issues of a final settlement can
      proceed in a nice, genteel pace until the end of time if the
      negotiating parties so desire, because then the nature of the
      conflict will have been transformed into a dispute between two
      states. And what outstanding issues might two states have to settle
      between them? Borders of course. Niggling details over borders.
      Certainly not national rights or other matters pertaining to
      national liberation. And certainly not the Palestinian right to
      return. Naturally, the Palestinian state established in Gaza and a
      portion of the West Bank will have the right to grant passports to
      Palestinian refugees if it wants. In fact, it can even grant them
      the right to return to the areas within its borders. That would be
      its right as a state, which Sharon would gracefully acknowledge or,
      if not gracefully, he would object and then grudgingly make
      another "painful concession."

      This is Sharon's concept of a Palestinian state. It is his
      alternative to a fully sovereign state with a capital in Jerusalem,
      to the 1967 borders and to the Palestinian right to return. And not
      one word of the roadmap contradicts his "vision." It is also his
      alternative to having to negotiate with a national liberation
      movement. There is a vast difference between negotiating a final
      settlement with a state and with a national liberation movement.
      Dozens of states have borders disputes; there is nothing
      particularly urgent or unsettling about them, unlike national
      liberation causes. Sharon has no intention of broaching the latter,
      and the Palestinians will forfeit the opportunity to broach them too
      if they accept the creation of a state outside the framework of a
      just, comprehensive and permanent solution, a state amputated at its
      inception and that Sharon intends to make the permanent solution.

      Source: Ahram Weekly - 23-29 December 2004; Issue No. 722




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