Sunday, October 10, 2004

And this is why in a lot of ways it won't make an effing bit of difference

Updated At a campaign rally in Florida on Sunday, John Kerry declared that Yasser Arafat could expect "no reprieve" under a Kerry administration, says AFP for October 10. He denounced Arafat as having
proven his unwillingness and incapacity to be able to act as a legitimate partner in the peace process
while praising Ariel Sharon for his "courageous" plan to withdraw from Gaza.

Frankly, this is bull. It's not Arafat who has failed to be a "partner" in seeking peace, it's the government of Israel and particularly that of Ariel Sharon. Arafat, always at risk and under pressure from the Palestinian rejectionist front to make no concessions at all, still took the risks of implicitly recognizing the futility of "armed struggle," offering de facto recognition to Israel, and entering negotiations that would accept far less than Palestinians had dreamed of. Every expression of moderation was greeted with derision when it wasn't ignored; every concession was answered with "what else will you give?" The Israeli government adopted a deliberate policy of undermining and isolating Arafat and then used the success of their own efforts to declare they had "no partner" with who to negotiate.

That perhaps reached a peak after Oslo when Arafat was offered a "deal" designed to look generous but which the Israelis knew in advance he would not and could not accept - and when he did reject it, Bill Clinton betrayed him by blaming him for the failure of the talks after having gotten him to agree to come by promising there would be no recriminations no matter the outcome.

Meanwhile, that "courageous" plan - which, it is true, took some political courage to push, which only shows the existence of a strong extremist Israeli rejectionist front to match the Palestinian one - it proving more and more to be what some have accused it of being: a Trojan horse to secure even greater Israeli control over the West Bank. As AP reported last Wednesday,
[t]he real objective of Ariel Sharon's offer to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank is to freeze Palestinian statehood indefinitely, with U.S. blessing, the prime minister's point man with the Bush administration acknowledged in an interview published Wednesday.

The adviser, Dov Weisglass, also said Israel is avoiding negotiations with the Palestinians because it does not want to be forced into concessions on issues such as the future of Jerusalem and the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees. ...

Weisglass said Sharon's plan of "unilateral disengagement" from the Palestinians, to be carried out next year, is meant to prevent a resumption of negotiations. "It (the plan) supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians," he told [the Israeli daily] Haaretz.
Weisglass said the idea of a Palestinian state had been "removed indefinitely from our agenda" and that 80% of Israeli settlers in the West Bank would stay right where they are.
Speaking two days after bombings at two Egyptian Red Sea resorts that killed at least 34 people, most of them Israelis, Kerry warned that the Jewish state under attack. [sic]

"People are trying to continue to create havoc ... Israel remains under assault, kids blown up on buses, people sitting at restaurants, trying to live their lives," Kerry said.
Just trying to live their lives in ways that, apparently we're supposed to think, Palestinians aren't. And in truth, there is a difference, but it's not the one Kerry implied.
A senior World Bank official has painted a bleak picture of the Palestinian economy, describing it as "one of the worst in modern history," and said promised Israeli unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, as planned, will have "no positive impact on the Palestinian economy at all." ...

[Markus Kostner, country coordinator for the West Bank and Gaza department at the World Bank,] explained that the Palestinian economic recovery depends on a "radical easing of internal closures" imposed by the Israelis and the opening of borders of the Palestinian areas to the outside world as well as a "reasonable flow" of Palestinian laborers into Israel. The number of Palestinians working in Israel is currently around a third of the level before the second intifada began in 2000. The figure then was put at 100,000. ...

The current unemployment level is estimated at 70 percent.
That is, they are desperately poor, facing a seemingly hopeless future, their economic development blocked by Israeli policies. But their situation, it seems, is not important because they are not "under assault."

But of course they are. For over a week now Israeli has been pursuing its latest major military campaign in Gaza, this one in response to Palestinian rocket fire that killed two Israeli children.
Sunday's deaths brought to 107 the number of Palestinians killed during Israel's "Days of Penitence" operation launched on September 28 that is aimed at halting militant rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli soil.

Since the start of the intifada or Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in September 2000, a total of 4,471 people have been killed, including 3,443 Palestinians and 954 Israelis.
That is, over 3/4 of the deaths have been Palestinians - but their deaths are largely invisible to us and, it seems, to John Kerry.

What all this means is that as he has done before on both Iraq and general foreign policy principles, Kerry has staked out a philosophical position that is actually to the right of George Bush. Bush at least said at the second debate that "I believe Palestinians ought to have a state" even as he rejected Arafat's involvement in any peace process. Kerry didn't even go that far, saying that
the proper posture for a US president was to help create conditions, which would allow Palestinian leaders to emerge who could be trusted to build peace with Israel.

But he did not offer specifics on how his plan would differ from that of Bush, who amid escalating Israel-Palestinian violence has steered clear of playing the active role of his predecessor Bill Clinton.
By almost universal agreement, the central political issue in the Middle East, the central political issue in Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, is the Israeli-Palestinian "conflict" and the continuation of the occupation. Despite some disagreements and the occasional scolding, the US has been unwilling to challenge Israeli policy in any fundamental way, in any way that actually uses the leverage it has. That will not change under a Kerry administration. And so the blood will continue to flow, the bitterness will continue to fester, and fanatics will continue to find ready recruits desperate to strike out at any target they can reach.

Updated by way of a Footnote: In the wake of Weisglass's remarks,
US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said that ... Washington had received an assurance that Mr Sharon supported the Middle East "roadmap" and US President George W Bush's "vision" of a two-state solution to the conflict.
In addition to the fact that I usually put more faith in the truthfulness of revealing comments made in the flow of an interview than the subsequent carefully-parsed official retractions, supporting a "vision" of a two-state solution really means nothing at all, since Israel can claim to embrace the idea while actually endorsing Weisglass's "indefinite" delay: "Sure, we support the idea of a Palestinian state...someday."

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