Sharon will maintain roadblocks to peace
AFTER REFUSING to deal with Yasser Arafat for the last four years, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, backed by President Bush, now appears willing to open peace talks with a new Palestinian leader -- most likely Mahmoud Abbas, seen as a "moderate" -- following Palestinian elections on Jan. 9. However, it is unlikely that Sharon will seriously negotiate with Palestinian leaders if they insist, as did Arafat, that Israel respect the human and national rights of Palestinians.
Instead, Sharon will likely continue to seize as much land and water resources as possible from Palestinians on the Israeli-occupied West Bank, land and water for 200,000 Jewish settlers whose settlements are illegal under international law and preclude a viable Palestinian state.
Even Sharon's plan to pull settlers out of Gaza is, according to his chief aide, part of a plan to freeze the peace process and solidify Israel's hold on much of the West Bank. Washington's talk of creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel will remain lip service until the Bush administration forces Israel to stop colonizing the West Bank.
A Palestinian state is long overdue. In 1947, Palestinians were allotted only 45 percent of their homeland by the UN Partition Plan. In the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars, Israel seized the areas intended for the Palestinian state.
Since the 1980s, Palestinian leaders, including Arafat, have sought only the rump 22 percent of Palestine occupied by Israel in 1967 (the West Bank, Gaza, and Arab East Jerusalem). Under the 1993 Oslo Accords Palestinians recognized Israel in 78 percent of the historical Palestinian homeland and, along with the international community, naively assumed Israel would return all of the lands occupied in 1967.
A two-state solution based on international law, including treaties signed by Israel and scores of UN resolutions, would entail:
Sharing Jerusalem and its holy sites. Palestine would be sovereign over Arab East Jerusalem and its 200,000 Palestinian Muslims and Christians. West Jerusalem would be Israel's capital.
All or almost all Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza would be dismantled. Israel would withdraw to the Green Line, the 1967 internationally recognized boundary. Israel might keep the 2-3 percent of the West Bank which includes major settlements along the Green Line, provided the Palestinian state received an equivalent amount, in quantity and quality, of Israeli land. Palestinians would regain their West Bank water resources, now siphoned off by Israel.
Israel would recognize in principle the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees, many expelled in 1948 by Israeli state terrorism. The "right of return" is upheld by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and dozens of UN resolutions. In fact, Israel was admitted to the UN on the condition that refugees would be allowed home.
Under the 1947 partition plan, Israel barely had a 51 percent Jewish majority. Even if Israel now took in one million refugees, Jews would still be close to 70 percent of the population. Refugees should also be given options to settle in Western countries, Arab states, or the Palestinian state. In addition, refugees should be compensated for property losses.
Although the United States and Israel did their utmost to blame Arafat for the failure of peace talks, he supported a settlement along these lines at Camp David in 2000 (and afterwards). On each issue -- Jerusalem, settlements, borders, refugees, security, water -- Arafat sought peace based on international law, whereas Israel, backed by the United States, tried to impose a settlement based on Israel's superior power, a settlement rejected by almost all Palestinians.
In his new book, "Negotiating Outside the Law: Why Camp David Failed," Father Raymond Helmick S.J., a professor at Boston College, writes that the basic requirement for peace is for Israelis to "submit themselves to the rule of law" and he faults US and Israeli policies as based on "total renunciation of the rule of law."
Now Bush and Sharon will likely seek a Palestinian puppet willing to compromise the rights of Palestinians. This would prevent a just and lasting peace settlement, weaken moderates in both communities and lead to more Israeli and Palestinian deaths. It would betray the purported US ideals of democracy, justice, and self-determination and delight anti-American terrorists who will gain recruits convinced that the United States is an enemy of Arabs and Muslims.
Edmund R. Hanauer, an American Jewish human rights activist, is director of Search for Justice and Equality in Palestine/Israel.