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US and Israel abandon peace and International Law

The Israeli regime has written a new plan for the Middle East, and the US government has unreservedly approved it.

Unfortunately, the plan is a direct material breach of International Law and all applicable UN Resolutions. Furthermore, the US/Israeli axis made their historic decision without involving any of the people, Jewish or Muslim, who will be affected.

The new plan is simple. Israel will withdraw its illegal settlements in the Gaza strip. These settlements represent a few of Israel's most remote and vulnerable outposts, but we should welcome any move toward compliance with international law, however small. The problem is, in return the Israeli government wants to make all of the other illegal settlements throughout the  entire West Bank permanent. In effect a vast swathe of illegally occupied Palestinian territory is being annexed to Israel. This is a strange sort of bargain, in which the people who stand to loose the most never even had a say. There is nothing to stop Israel making similar moves in future to take over more and more land, bit by bit, and indeed they surely will.

The sudden announcement from Washington yesterday represents a dramatic change in policy by both Israel and America. The new strategy is called "disengagement", and it means that in future Israel will no longer even pretend to work with the democratically elected Palestinian representatives. The word "disengagement" is a diplomatic way of saying Israel will carry on doing whatever it likes and nobody, least of all the Palestinians, can do anything about it.

With the diplomatic roads now closed, the peacemakers in Palestine no longer have a voice. Can you guess what the alternative methods might be for the Palestinians to express their concerns?


BBC News, "Bush hails 'historic' Sharon plan", 15 April 2004.
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    President George W Bush has backed Ariel Sharon's controversial template for the future of the Middle East.
    Meanwhile UN Secretary General Kofi Annan advised against unlateral statements.

BBC News, "Analysis: New start in the Mid-East?", 15 April 2004.
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    Mr Bush is already under fire for launching unilateral action
    US President George W Bush has given a ringing endorsement to Ariel Sharon's plan to pull Israeli forces out of the occupied territories and dismantle settlements.
    But leaving the Palestinians out of the consultation process and imposing an American-backed settlement will serve to undermine still more those who still believe that negotiations offer the only way to a lasting solution.
    The Palestinians have democratically elected representatives. By choosing to ignore them, the United States and Israel are cutting them adrift, leaving them stranded and powerless.
    At the same time, their exclusion will embolden those Palestinians, along with other Arabs and Muslims, who reject the path of negotiations and argue that the only way to deal with what they regard as the arrogance of Israel and its American backer is with the gun and the suicide bomb.

BBC News, "Sharon to retain West Bank grip", 13 April 2004.
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    Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has vowed to hold on to six Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
    It is the first time Mr Sharon has said which settlements will stay in Israeli hands under his controversial plan to "disengage" from the Palestinians.
    Mr Sharon said that unilateral withdrawal from all settlements in the Gaza Strip, and some in the West Bank - all of which are illegal under international law - would boost security.

BBC News, "Corruption probes put Sharon under pressure", 31 March 2004.
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    Even Ariel Sharon's own ministers must be wondering how long he can remain Israel's prime minister under the shadow of possible bribery charges.
    Chief Prosecutor Edna Arbel has recommended charging the prime minister but the decision rests with the Attorney General, Menachem Mazuz.
    Others, however, argue that even if he is charged, the pressure for him to resign could subside if he wins American support for his plan to withdraw Israeli forces and settlers from Gaza unilaterally.

BBC News, "UN condemns Israeli settlements", 15 April 2004.
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    The United Nations human rights body has called on Israel to end settlement activity on Palestinian land and stop work on its barrier in the West Bank.
    Israeli ambassador Yaakov Levy called the resolution "disconnected from reality" ...
    Ireland's envoy said they were "illegal and a major obstacle to peace".
    Twenty-seven states backed the EU proposal demanding Israel reverse its settlement policy and construction of the "so-called security fence in occupied Palestinian territory".
    Two countries - the United States and Congo - rejected the resolution...
    "How can the Palestinian Authority be expected to fulfil its obligations in the midst of military occupation?" Pakistani Ambassador Shaukat Umer said.

BBC News, "Gaza expects little from pullout", 15 April 2004.
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    It is not without some justification they call Gaza the "world's biggest prison" - 1.3 million people crammed into an area only 360 km square.

Washington Post, "Move Could Help Bush Among Jewish Voters", 16 April 2004.
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    President Bush's embrace yesterday of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to unilaterally disengage from the Palestinians carries potential political benefits for Bush but also potential risk for his foreign policy. 
    In declaring that Israel should be able to keep some of the occupied territories and block Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel, Bush followed a familiar pattern of finding common cause with Jews and increasingly pro-Israel Christian conservatives. That Bush's move was good politics was evidenced by Democratic rival John F. Kerry's quick move not to let Bush outflank him among pro-Israel voters.
    "I think that could be a positive step," the Massachusetts senator said, approving of the Bush-Sharon action regarding both refugees and Israel's borders. "What's important obviously is the security of the state of Israel, and that's what the prime minister and the president, I think, are trying to address."

Washington Post, "Delicate Maneuvers Led to U.S.-Israeli Stance", 16 April 2004.
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    Bush, standing with Sharon at the White House, said Israel could expect to keep parts of the West Bank seized in the 1967 Middle East war. And he said Palestinian refugees should not expect to return to their homes inside Israel.


The Guardian, "Dangerous liaisons", 16 April 2004.
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    It is hard to know which was the more astonishing: the White House's endorsement of Ariel Sharon's ill-conceived peace plan, or Downing Street's decision to back it without hesitating for even the blink of an eye. Either way, the Israeli government's plans to retain settlements in the West Bank for itself and deny outright Palestinians' right of return should be rejected as a dangerous abrogation of the basis upon which negotiations for a peace deal in the region have aimed towards for so many years.
President Bush described the Sharon plan as both historic and courageous - but in truth it is neither of these, and nor is it likely to be accepted by any of the other parties involved. Based on Yasser Arafat's reaction yesterday, this plan will only be a recipe for further conflict.
    Even Washington insiders are scratching their heads as to how Mr Sharon's proposal made it onto the table when the Israeli prime minister flew into Washington. One explanation is that Mr Bush's administration is so preoccupied with other matters, especially Iraq, that it failed to realise the implications of Mr Sharon's proposal. If so, that is no excuse. For 37 years the starting position for US negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians has been the borders of 1967, prior to the Six Day war. That position remained throughout the presidencies of Nixon, Reagan and Mr Bush's own father, as well as the Carter and Clinton administrations. Now Mr Bush declares they were wrong to do so, because it is "unrealistic" for Israel to withdraw from the land it occupies as a result.
    Both leaders have something in common, other than their alliance of interests in the "war on terror". Mr Sharon is under scrutiny for a political corruption scandal back home, while Mr Bush is suffering a demanding investigation into the events of September 11 that has cast his administration in a poor light and reopened questions about his competence. The pair therefore have a lot to gain in terms of their respective domestic political positions from a deal. For Mr Sharon this allows him to, however briefly, arrive home in triumph, and offer a war-weary public the possibility of a pull-out from Gaza. For Mr Bush, it allows him to claim some sliver of tangible result, one that appeals to his conservative political base in the coming presidential election.
    The outcome places the "road map" for a Middle East peace settlement in tatters, leaving little for the UN, the EU and Russia - the three other corners of the so-called "quartet" mediators - and gives nothing that Palestinian leaders or moderate Arab nations will want to accept.
    This has the makings of an embarrassment for Tony Blair, who has put so much weight on his efforts to reach a peace deal through constructing the road map, as one justification for British involvement in the attack on Iraq, and for the fruits of British influence in the White House. The chances of the road map having a lasting role were already imperilled by on-going Palestinian violence and Israel's assassination of the Hamas leader Sheikh Yassin, but this latest announcement has finished it off.
    A mystery remains why Mr Blair was so quick to sign up to the Sharon proposal, given that it goes against standing British policy respecting both the 1967 borders and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. If Britain has any significant influence in the White House as a result of its involvement in Iraq, then this was surely the time to use it. One obvious conclusion is that Britain has none.
    The end result of Wednesday's announcement is that Mr Sharon is delighted, Mr Bush has been compromised as an honest broker in the Middle East, and Mr Blair simply looks weak. Meanwhile, many Israelis and Palestinians are angry, because the future of their two countries should not be carved up in the smug-filled rooms of Washington.

The Guardian, "Sharon's triumph is Blair's defeat ", 16 April 2004.
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    It has a kind of logic: Bush knows that supporting Sharon will please his predominantly conservative Christian, pro-Israel constituency, and a foreign policy achievement can only help in an election year marred by bad news from Iraq.
    Harder to fathom is why Tony Blair should go along with such a shift. He persuaded a reluctant parliamentary Labour party to vote for war on Iraq last year with the promise that he would push Bush to act on Israel-Palestine. His reward was the much-delayed publication of the road map, which was hardly a great triumph: merely a set of toothless guidelines and a hoped-for timetable. Now even that is in shreds, and yet Blair smiles and takes it, welcoming Bush's green light to Sharon as a positive "opportunity".
    It's beginning to look humiliating for Blair - the one promise he extracted for his dogged fidelity in Iraq trampled on so publicly. You would think now would be the moment for Blair to show some daylight between himself and Bush, if only for his own self-respect. Will that happen today in Washington? Don't bet on it.

BBC News, "Right of return: Palestinian dream", 15 April 2004.
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    US President George W Bush's comments on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan included tough words on one of the thorniest issues in the Middle East conflict - Palestinian refugees.
The fate of the estimated four million Palestinians living in refugee communities scattered around the Middle East is highly controversial.
    Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were displaced from their homes during the Israeli-Arab wars in 1948 and 1967.
    They and their descendents live, many crammed into overcrowded enclaves, mainly in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
    The Palestinians have long asserted that the refugees have a moral and legal right to return to what was once Palestine - including land which is now Israel.
    Some of the refugees still retain old deeds and keys to homes now occupied by Israelis.
    But for Israel, granting the right of return would be tantamount to surrendering the country's identity.
    With a population of 6.6m, of which 5.4m are Jewish, opening the door to a potential 4 million returnees would threaten the demographic balance - and thus the very nature - of the world's only Jewish state.
    In his statement, Mr Bush said that once a Palestinian state is created it should provide space for the Palestinian returnees:
    But to many Palestinians, the right to return is an inalienable basic human right to each individual refugee, and is therefore not for Palestinian negotiators - or anyone else - to bargain with.
    The Palestinians base their claim to the right to return on United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 194, which was passed in 1948.
    It states that Palestinian "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practical date".
    Further UNGA resolutions have since been passed, and arguments are also drawn from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
    In 1951, Unrwa, the UN agency established to care for the welfare of the Palestinian refugees, established a list of 860,000 people who were considered to have lost homes and livelihoods in Palestine.
    After the outbreak of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, another wave of Palestinians were displaced.
    As Israel expanded its territory, an estimated 300,000 Palestinians left the West Bank and Gaza, most of them to settle in Jordan.
    Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has declared in response to Mr Bush's statement that Palestinians will never give up the right of refugees to return to their homeland.
    He has also previously said that the right of return should be implemented in a way which takes into account Israeli demographic concerns.
How this could ever be possible - and how many refugees would actually return to Israel given the chance - remains far from clear.

Haaretz (IL), "Brahimi's Israel comments draw Annan, Israeli ire", 24 April 2004.
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    The United Nations' special envoy to Iraq stuck by his stance on Saturday that Israel was "poisoning" the Middle East and said this was fact not opinion.
    Lakhdar Brahimi, meeting French President Jacques Chirac for talks on a future Iraqi government, was reiterating comments made earlier this week, which prompted the UN to say he was expressing "personal views" which do not fit with UN policy.
    "The policy of Israel is a poison in the region, and that is the feeling of everyone in the region and beyond and I think this is a statement of fact, not an opinion," said Brahimi after a meeting with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris for talks on forming a local authority in Iraq.
    Brahimi said earlier this week his job of forming an Iraqi government was being complicated by "the Israeli policy of domination and the suffering imposed on the Palestinians."

"The Insider" mailing list article, 16 April 2004.

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Tags: Israel, Palestine, disengagement, withdrawal, illegal, international, law, settlements, Jewish, Bush, Sharon, Israeli, Blair, Roadmap, Iraq, , conspiracy theories.

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