Tragedy and Travesty at Annapolis

Tragedy and Travesty at Annapolis

by Stephen Lendman

November 27 at Annapolis kicks off the latest
Israeli-Palestinian Middle East peace process round
that may be an historic first. It’s the first time in
memory the legitimate government of one side is
excluded, and that alone dooms it. Like previous
rounds, it’s more pretense than peace, and as Jonathan
Steele puts it in his November 16 Guardian column “The
Palestinian path to peace does not go via
Annapolis….so what do….Palestinians do next….In
their decades-long bid for justice, they have tried
everything:” armed struggle to compromise, but nothing
works and the reason is simple. Their sincerity isn’t
matched by Israel, the West, other Arab states and the
US most of all with all the muscle in its hands to
push or constrain Israelis to be serious and fair.
That’s the problem. How can one side negotiate in good
faith without a willing partner.

Nothing new will be introduced this time; the
conference is for one day; no peace negotiations will
be held; Israeli Prime Minister Olmert calls the
summit “a meeting, not a negotiating session;”
respected Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk says
Olmert “has no more interest in a Palestinian state
than….Ariel Sharon;” no advance agreement of
intentions or principles has been reached; and it’s
still not sure who’s coming.

Further, Gaza remains under siege, the West Bank is
also terrorized, settlements continue being built,
Palestinian land keeps being taken, more lives in the
Territories are being lost, suffering remains
unbearable, and hope for the beleaguered people again
will be dashed. Their message on the ground is clear,
but no one’s listening. They won’t accept surrender
for peace. They want nothing less than freedom and
justice in their own unoccupied land. Israel won’t
give it to them, so the struggle continues.

But just in case, neoconservative hard-liners are
taking no chances on something of substance from
Annapolis reports Jim Lobe in his November 22
Electronic Intifada article. Skepticism or not about
prospects this time has them united to assure Israel
gives nothing away now or ever. Secretary Rice is
their target because she’s pushing for her kind of no
state-two-state solution by January, 2009 when a new
administration takes over. It doesn’t matter how
flawed it is as long as something resembling progress
emerges.

But even that’s too much for hard-liners like
super-hawk Frank Gaffney who calls any type
Palestinian state “a dagger pointed at the heart of
Israel and a new safe-haven for terror aimed at the
United States and other Western nations.” Others like
him agree and support continued Middle East war until
the entire region is subdued under US-Israeli control.
That means no concessions at Annapolis, defeating
Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, no pullback from
Iraq, and attacking Iran. A very scary scenario as
another peace offensive gets underway with its
participants pretending it’s real.

Looking Back at Past Peace Process Futility

Until the late 1980s, the US and Israel were content
to ignore regional and other calls for peaceful
diplomacy, but that began to change with the outbreak
of the first intifada mass uprising in 1987 when
oppressed Palestinians fought back and caught the
media’s attention. The region exploded again when
Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August, 1990, and the
Gulf war followed in 1991. When it ended, the US and
Soviet Union jointly sponsored the watershed Madrid
peace conference at which Israel negotiated
face-to-face with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the
Palestinians for the first time. They continued after
its conclusion on two parallel tracks to resolve past
conflicts and sign bilateral peace treaties along with
multilateral negotiations on issues affecting the
whole region.

Madrid promised hope and was the catalyst for the Oslo
Accords and their Declaration of Principles that were
signed on the White House lawn in September, 1993.
They began secretly with a post-Gulf war weakened PLO
and delivered betrayal. They established a
vaguely-defined negotiating process, specified no
outcome, and let Israel delay, refuse to make
concessions, and continue colonizing the Occupied
Territories. In return, Palestinians got nothing for
renouncing armed struggle, recognizing Israel’s right
to exist, and leaving major unresolved issues for
indefinite later final status talks. They included an
independent Palestinian state, the right of return,
the future of Israeli settlements, borders, water
rights, and status of Jerusalem as sovereign
Palestinian territory and future home of its capital.

Israel got more as well - the right to establish a new
Palestinian Authority (PA) to police a restive
indigenous population. Yasser Arafat and other PLO
leaders were in exile in Tunis following the 1982
Lebanon war. They got to come home, take control of
their people, and be rewarded for being Israel’s
enforcer.

Oslo I led to Oslo II that was signed in Taba, Egypt
in September, 1995, countersigned in Washington four
days later, and made things even worse with its
complex document. It called for further Israeli troop
redeployments beyond Gaza and major West Bank
population centers and later from all rural areas
except for Israeli settlements and designated military
zones. The process divided the West Bank into three
parts with each having distinctive borders,
administration and security control rules - Areas A, B
and C plus a fourth area for Greater Jerusalem. A
complicated system was devised as follows:

—Area A under Palestinian control for internal
security, public order and civil affairs;

—Area B under Palestinian civil control for 450 West
Bank towns and villages with Israel having overriding
authority to safeguard its settlers’ security; and

—Area C with its water resources under Israeli
control and its settlements on the West Bank’s most
valuable land with them all connected by special
by-pass roads for Jews only.

Israel has total control of the Territories and
occupies most of the West Bank with its expanding
settlements, by-pass roads, separation wall, military
areas and no-go zones overall that are off limits to
Palestinians in their own land.

The Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum came next and was
signed by Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Barak on September 4, 1999. Its purpose was to
implement Oslo II and all other agreements since Oslo
I in 1993 that included the following:

—a 1994 Protocol on Economic Relations;

—a Cairo Agreement on Gaza and the Jericho Area the
same year;

—the 1994 Washington Declaration and Agreement on
Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities
between the two parties; and

—the 1995 Protocol on Further Transfer of Powers and
Responsibilities. Both sides agreed to resume
“permanent status” talks and discuss other elements of
a peace plan relating to Israeli troops redeployments,
land transfers, safe passage openings between Gaza and
the West Bank, a Gaza seaport, prisoner releases and
other issues related to security, normal civilian life
activities, international donor community aid, and a
timetable for final status talks on the toughest
issues.

“Permanent status” talks followed in July, 2000 at
Camp David where Bill Clinton hosted Yasser Arafat and
Ehud Barak. Betrayal was again planned and delivered,
but the major media called Barak’s offer “generous”
and “unprecedented” with Arafat spurning peace for
conflict. Barak insisted Arafat sign a “final
agreement,” declare an “end of conflict,” and give up
any legal basis for additional land in the
Territories. There was no Israeli offer in writing,
and no documents or maps were presented.

All Barak offered was from a May, 2000 West Bank map
dividing the area into four isolated cantons under
Palestinian administration surrounded by expanding
Israeli settlements and other Israeli-controlled land.
They had no direct links to each other or to Jordan.
The cantons consisted of: Jericho, the southern canton
to Abu Dis, a northern one including Nablus, Jenin and
Tulkarm, and a central one including Ramallah. Gaza
was left in limbo as a fifth canton that was resolved
when Israel disengaged from the Territory in August
and September, 2005 but kept total control over it and
right to reenter any time. The Barak deal was so
duplicitous that if Arafat accepted it any hope for
real peace would be dashed. He didn’t and was unfairly
blamed.

The Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) analyzed
the deal as follows:

—Israel only proposed relinquishing control of from
77.5 - 81% of the West Bank excluding East Jerusalem
and likely intended to keep the Jordan Valley;

—Israel claimed sovereignty over all West Jerusalem,
one-third of occupied East Jerusalem, and as later
developments proved wants all Greater Jerusalem
exclusively for Jews;

—Israel wanted control of the Temple Mount that
Palestianians call al-Haram al-Sharif or Noble
Sanctuary and is the site of the sacred Dome of the
Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.

Barak’s Camp David deal was all take and no give with
no chance for reconciliation or resolution of the
conflict’s most intractable issues. It was all
pretense by design, but when Ariel Sharon took over in
February, 2001 he ended all further peace
negotiations.

It stood that way until George Bush unveiled the
Quartet’s fake “road map” for peace in a June 24, 2002
speech. In it, he called for an independent
Palestinian state along side Israel in peace by 2005
with good faith efforts on both sides to achieve it.
The process was to be in three phases, but its
prospects were doomed from the start. After the plan’s
launch, the region was beset by violence, Israel
increased its land seizures and targeted
assassinations, Palestinians responded in kind, and
the humanitarian situation in the Territories became
so dire it was impossible convincing either side that
the road map was credible. It wasn’t, and it failed
like all previous efforts before it.

That’s where things stood until Condoleezza Rice
restarted the current Annapolis round to salvage a
warmaking administration, reinvent it as a peacemaker,
and manage to manipulate a fake outcome to prove it.
The scheme is this, and George Bush spelled it out on
November 21 when he spoke to Israeli, Palestinian and
Egyptian leaders to lay the groundwork for Annapolis:

—forty-nine countries were invited;

—who’s coming isn’t sure, but Iran wasn’t invited;

—Saudi Arabia accepted with reservations; and

—Syria was a maybe but AP reported November 25 it
will now send its deputy foreign minister unlike other
attendees sending foreign ministers; Syria will come
because the occupied Golan is on the agenda, even
though, like the Saudis, it has no formal relations
with Israel.

Others listed are members of the Quartet, G-8, Arab
League, permanent members of the Security Council
along with Israel and the Palestinian Abbas quisling
government with its legitimate one excluded that
renders the process a sham.

Rice is pathetic saying “very clear signs” are
evident, and “everybody’s goal is the creation of a
Palestinian state” with both sides on board for it.
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert is just as bad claiming
“Annapolis will be the jumping-off point for continued
serious and in-depth negotiations (that won’t) avoid
any issue or ignore any division (in) our relations
with the Palestinian people for many years.” Nearly
sixty to be exact and over 40 under occupation with no
serious effort ever for resolution.

Snags still remain in the window dressing surrounding
the conference with both sides so far unable to reach
an acceptable joint statement to be presented in
Maryland. If they’re still apart when it starts, the
conference will end with Rice’s statement and not a
joint Israeli-PA one. Either way matters little as
once again fanciful language will substitute for
substantive results. With Gaza under siege, Hamas
uninvited, and an illegitimate government in its
place, peace and any progress toward resolution can’t
happen. That’s how it’s always been and will remain
until Israel begins negotiating in good faith. But
that won’t happen until the world community accepts
nothing less because world public opinion and people
of conscience demand it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
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Also visit his blog site at sj.lendman.blogspot.com
and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information
Hour on TheMicroEffect.com Mondays at noon US Central
time.


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