Sunday, March 13, 2005

Letter from Jerusalem

Though George Bush has been forced by a host of factors to abandon his ‘hands off ’policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this does not mean that the United States is even considering using its power and prestige to advance a solution to this ongoing crisis. Instead of serious engagement and the mobilization of its influence, the Bush administration has opted for a policy of ‘low intensity diplomacy’. The U.S. was obliged, in the face of wide international feeling that there is a chance for making progress towards a settlement, to show increased interest. However, the United States continues to avoid really necessary steps that would effect a real change. Low intensity diplomacy can be recognized by a flurry of important people traveling back and forth discussing everything and anything and deciding absolutely nothing about the real problems.

Sharon’s Gaza Disengagement Plan (GDP) was conceived in order to block genuine negotiations. It’s a classic ‘filler’ and designed to help the United States cover its ‘do nothing policy.’ We witnessed a new demonstration of this situation this week with the publication of the Sasson report. The report, ordered quite a while back by Sharon at the insistence of the U.S. government, could not come at a worse time for those who initiated it. In simple words, the report confirms that Israeli government and the IDF occupying army, employing almost every illegal subterfuge in the book, have been intensively engaged in massive and illegal settlement action. This involves the further wholesale theft of broad stretches of the remaining tiny and truncated sections of Palestinian territory – in addition to the considerable tracts of territory grabbed by the infamous security wall. The Israeli government, with the tacit connivance of the United States, has been liquidating and pulverizing the territorial foundations of the future Palestinian state, despite Bush’s ‘vision’ and new promises from Washington that the Palestinian state would be contiguous…

The devastating content of this official report ordered by the Israeli government would seem to require some sort of reaction from Washington, if only to prevent the low flame on the back burner from dying for lack of sufficient oxygen. However, Condi Rice and others speaking for Bush, declared that it is advisable to concentrate right now on the more ‘dramatic’ events linked to the Gaza Disengagement Plan. In this, our newfound ‘drama critic’ joins the ranks of those who hide between the ‘one thing at a time’, plea - when that one thing is helping them buy time. The Sasson report is worth a special meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the ongoing blatant acts of aggression against peace and the future of the Palestinian people. This is what is needed to impress all concerned with the urgency of the situation.

Those ‘in the know’ don’t really need a Security Council session to know that Abu Mazen and the renewed peace process are living on borrowed time. However, Bush and Sharon are not willing to proceed with the peace process until they are convinced that Abu Mazen has sold out and will sign on for the ‘temporary Palestinian state’ project.’ Most indicators, at this stage, are that though Abu Mazen is playing the U.S. game, he has not joined the U.S. team. As a matter of fact, there is every reason to continue to hold that neither Abu Mazen nor any other conceivable Palestinian leader could agree to a settlement less satisfactory to the Palestinians than the one agreed to – in broad lines – by Yasser Arafat.

Sharon and Bush are playing for time. But time gives the radical Islamisists political and strategic breathing space. Politically, this will enable them to convince their public that Bush and Sharon are leading the Palestinians up a blind alley. Strategically, this will enable them to renew resources and recruitment and also convince sections of the Fatah grass roots armies to join them. When violence returns to the scene, Sharon will ask how anyone can expect him to negotiate in such conditions and Bush will explain why Sharon is taking the only reasonable and consistent stand possible against terror. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of plain people in Gaza used the lull in the fighting to demonstrate for food and jobs.