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ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES
WHY THE ROAD MAP WILL FAIL
The Road Map will fail because there is no advantage for Israel to go down it. In contrast the Palestinians have repeatedly said they accept it 100%, since life in the ghettoes is getting impossible. The Palestinians are cut off from work, locked in their houses under curfew for days or weeks at a time, there are food shortages, unemployment near 50%, and malnutrition of children is endemic.
Israel before it was even released complained to the Americans that there were 100 different conditions they would not accept. Now that it has been released they have 15 core objections, not to mention that they do not want the other three sponsors: the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia. This is the first ploy, to just deal with the US where they have the inside running with the likes of Wolfowitz, one of the highest ranking Jewish members of the Bush administration and an unabashed supporter of Israel.
Recently, prime minister Sharon dismissed Netanyahu as foreign minister, because Sharon likes to maintain the illusion to the Americans that they will move along the Road Map not rejecting it outright like Netanyahu. Yet neither man, nor the majority of the Israeli cabinet accept the idea of the Palestinians ever having their own state. They believe the Palestinians are living on "greater" Israel, if anyone should move it is to be the Palestinians. In March Mr Sharon told the knesset that the development of existing settlements would be a priority for his government, so he is hardly expecting to have to dismantle them.
One of the first conditions of the Road Map was the appointment of a Palestinian prime minister and a cabinet. Both Israel and the US chose Abu Mazen as the one they wanted. Israel chose Mazen because they have worked with him in the Gaza strip; worked in the sense of hand in glove. Abu Mazen and his defence minister, Dahlan have a long history of corruption, well known to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Under two percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip chose Abu Mazen for leader in a recent poll.
America chose him because Israel told them they could work with him, but refused to work with Arafat. There is never a mention that Mazen built himself a 1.5 million dollar villa in the shambles of Gaza. Dahlan, not to be outdone, built himself an similar villa. A 1997 investigative report by Ha'aretz reported that Dahlan held a monopoly on the importation of petrol into Gaza. Service stations were forced to buy at inflated prices.
Israel chose to work with politicians known for their involvement in corruption because they can be more easily manipulated, either by financial incentives, or whistle blowing. This is easier than dealing with a clean idealist or a fanatic. It has been known for seven years that Israel was grooming Abu Mazen and Dahlan for the very posts they now hold. A wish come true. The only part of the plan not yet complete is the coup against Arafat.
Israel does not need the Road Map, they are getting what they want day by day, while the Palestinians are losing what they want day by day. At the present rate, in two or three years there will be no West Bank, no Gaza strip; they will be incorporated into Israel lock, stock and barrel. Palestinians will live behind walled ghettoes, the road in and out controlled by the Israeli army.
While the built-up areas of the West Bank settlements constitute only 1.7% of the land in the West Bank, the municipal boundaries add another 6.8%, regional councils constitute an additional 35.1%. Which means a total of 41.9% of the area in the West Bank is controlled by Israeli settlements at this moment. The new "apartheid wall" confiscates another 10% of the West Bank.
The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians did not lead to the evacuation of even one settlement. Settlements grew substantially in area and population during this period. At the end of 1993, at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Principles, the population of the settlements in the West Bank totalled some 247,000, by the end of 2001 this figure had risen to 380,000.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have spent most of 2002 and 2003 forcibly confined to their homes by army-imposed curfews. More than 320,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank have spent more time locked under curfew than free over the last seven months. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent between December 2002 and January 2003, an average of 430,910 people were confined to their houses each day. And when the curfews are lifted so people can go out of their homes movement between villages and towns is extremely restricted, and often impossible. At times restrictions on travel are loosened in order to reward those areas where political activity and resistance are quiet. Curfews and closures cause severe shortages of food, so these measures encourage subservience to Israeli rule by the threat of starvation.
Almost 75 percent of the population live on less than the UN official poverty standard of $2 per day. The policies of closure and curfew have strangled the Palestinian economy by preventing the free flow of goods and cutting off the travel to work.
The West Bank has been divided in 64 separate enclaves, each sector controlled by the Israeli army, and overflown by American donated Apache helicopters. Nothing can move on the ground without the Israelis knowing about it. All the borders of the West Bank are sealed.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority fully share two water systems: the water to be divided equally, the Mountain Aquifer and the Jordan Basin. Israel receives 79 percent of the Mountain Aquifer water and the Palestinians 21 percent. Palestinians are denied access to the Jordan Basin, so Israel takes 100% of the water. Having control of the water supply in the Occupied Territories enables Israel to exert control over the whole population. Without water there can be no crops, no drinking, no cooking, no sewerage treatment, no hygiene, no life. Palestinians are forbidden to dig wells. When the Israeli tanks rolled into Jenin, some homes had water tanks, the soldiers deliberately shot holes in them.
The Israeli Road Map is simple: make life unbearable for the Palestinians till they all move out. They don't call it ethnic cleansing, but that's what it amounts to.
In short Israel is slowly strangling the Palestinians, and at the same time building new (illegal) settlements, subsidized housing, new roads (Israelis only, thank you), and walls to keep the Palestinians confined. The area around settlements is bulldozed clean of Palestinian houses, farms, olive groves, roads, bridges, whole villages, because they claim this area could be used to attack the settlements. Behind the settlement walls there is often Israeli army units, tanks, and of course observation posts manned by soldiers.
But how can Sharon go against the will of United States?
No trouble. In April last year, President Bush told the Israelis to get out of Jenin "without delay" and during a phone call to prime minister Sharon said "it must end without delay" and several times used the word "now". But the Israeli army did not leave, they just kept up their destruction. Colin Powell was sent on a trip, to slowly arrive in Israel, giving them time to move out. They didn't. After meeting with the Israelis he told them again. They still didn't leave, not till a week after he had headed home. The national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice complained that Israeli defiance was taken as a direct affront to the Bush administration.
In April last year Netanyahu gave a rousing speech to the US senate as to why the Palestinians should be treated as terrorists and destroyed. With Paul Wolfowitz as assistant defence secretary, there is not going to be any pressure on Israel. Already the Americans have moved from calling the settlements "illegal under international law" to "obstacles to peace". Talk of dismantling them is being watered down, and if the settlements remain so will the network of Israeli highways that divide the West Bank up into separate portions, and of course the Israeli army will have to remain to protect them.
And what of Sharon? For 50 years he has tried to rid the West Bank of Palestinians, now when he is in sight of his goal you could not expect him to relinquish it. The Bush cabinet has no love of Arabs, but the Israeli lobby has penetrated right down to Bush's closest advisers: Paul Wolfowitz. The Jewish Lobby has enormous power, while US Arabs are a pariah group with no more influence than Fidel Castro.
As for Hamas, almost every day there is a raid into the West Bank or Gaza where at least one Hamas leader is killed (along with some children) by either helicopter-fired rockets, or a ground attack. Day by day the message is, if you are a Hamas leader you will be targeted and killed.
For Israel, there are numerous ways to prevent the Road Map getting started. The simplest is to insist that the Palestinians do impossible tasks before the Israelis have to begin. Getting rid of the EU, UN, and Russian partners while make things far easier on the Israelis. They can influence the US to view events and promises from the Israeli viewpoint. And whenever necessary, make a pretence of agreeing, but find another way to frustrate the agreement. For example, removing roadblocks around the towns done! But the roads themselves could be severed with "Israeli road work improvements" blocking all traffic whenever they wished.
Hamas doesn't want the Road Map either, but while Israel openly crushes the Palestinians and makes life unbearable, Hamas will have support. In effect, Hamas helps Israel by providing random acts of violence which then require drastic Israeli responses. And all the time Sharon has his promise to Israelis, to make the building of new settlements in the West Bank a priority. If the Road Map stalls in two years time, there will be another 100,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
Israel is able to derail the road map by refusing to talk while there is any sign of violence, indeed this was reaffirmed at Powell's press conference. The Israelis demanded a cessation of all violence before they began. And if that looks like it might happen, they will send in tanks and troops to provoke it. Sorry, the talks will have to wait, we sent 20 tanks into the heart of Ramallah and they were attacked. "We will never negotiate while the violence continues." Then they can claim with hurt feelings, the Road Map has failed.