Helping Israel tighten its grip on Palestine
By Eric Ruder | June 6, 2003 | Page 12
AFTER LORDING it over his Iraq war critics at the summit of world leaders in Evian, France, George W. Bush headed to the Middle East to celebrate his new oil colony. He was set to appear in Qatar for a red-white-and-blue photo op in front of U.S. troops as Socialist Worker went to press. But it was Bush's meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to discuss the U.S.-backed "road map" to Middle East "peace" that grabbed headlines around the world.
Before Bush even arrived in Jordan--the site of his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas--the joint declaration that was supposed to be issued at the end of the summit was scrapped. Israeli negotiators insisted on including a clause designating Israel as a "Jewish state"--a demand that Palestinians can't accept without abandoning the right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes that were stolen from them.
In the run-up to the meeting, the veteran war criminal Sharon was busy cultivating his new image as a "moderate." First, he pushed a vote through his Cabinet that called for a Palestinian state. Then he lectured fellow Likud Party officials, "You may not like the word, but what's happening is occupation. Holding 3.5 million Palestinians is a bad thing for Israel, for the Palestinians and for the Israeli economy," Sharon said to the shock of media commentators around the world.
But Sharon wasn't dropping his support for 230,000 Jewish settlers who've moved into the West Bank and Gaza in the hopes of scuttling any "peace" negotiations. "Sharon is also a clever politician," wrote the New York Times. "He knows that by edging to the center, he can portray himself as besieged from the right and unable to yield all that the Americans may ask of him." Indeed, in a less reported comment to a Likud politician about the implications of the road map's call for a freeze on settlements, Sharon replied, "There is no restriction here. You can build for your children and grandchildren, and I hope for your great-grandchildren as well."
What Sharon is most intent on is maneuvering himself into a position where he can blame any future snags in the implementation of the road map on Palestinian violence. Consider Israel's recent highly publicized moves to ease the closure on Palestinian areas and release 100 detainees.
In reality, the decision to grant 25,000 Palestinian day laborers permits to work in Israel falls well short of the 100,000 who used to cross the border daily. And given the agricultural recession and Israel's policy of encouraging immigration from other countries to replace Palestinian workers, it's unlikely that many day laborers will find jobs in Israel. Likewise, releasing 100 Palestinians imprisoned for resisting Israel's occupation leaves 6,000 more still behind bars.
In this context, Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim's promise to dismantle up to 10 "flagrantly illegal" settler outposts in the Occupied Territories means little--considering that there are 102 such outposts, and 16 of them are uninhabited. Beyond these, there are 150 Israeli settlements with 230,000 inhabitants that the government doesn't consider illegal.
Sharon is eager to please his backers in Washington, who make Israel's existence possible by funding the government to the tune of $5 billion a year. To win support for its war on Iraq, the Bush administration promised that the invasion would set the stage for negotiations to settle the Israel-Palestinian conflict--and now Washington wants to be seen as following through. But Sharon's goals remain the same: "Perpetual Israeli domination of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem; never agreeing to relinquish any territory except possibly for temporary tactical reasons; and squeezing the Palestinians so hard that they will eventually leave or, perhaps in an unguarded moment when the world is not looking, can be forcibly expelled," in the words of former CIA analyst Kathleen Christison.
Sharon will use whatever methods necessary to achieve these goals. "Anytime Israel wants to suspend whatever 'peace' charade is in progress, it acts with more than its habitual savagery, elicits a terror bomb or two, and then says the Palestinians have not abandoned terror and can't be dealt with," wrote Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn. "Are we seriously to believe that Ariel Sharon wants to surrender a square meter of land now inhabited by Jewish settlers? We're talking about a man whose entire life has been spent trying to drive Palestinians out of what he see was divinely ordained Greater Israel."
Bush's trip won't create peace. It will only provide a cover for Israel's colonial war against the Palestinians. We have to expose the Bush administration's war on the world and the "road map" to Middle East "peace" as two sides of the same coin--Washington's drive to remake the Middle East and dominate the world.