Why are Palestinians under such demand to adhere to signed agreements when Israel and the US are allowed to circumvent and disregard them at whim?
The Latin proverb of “One man’s loss is another man’s gain” is a commonplace maxim applicable to countless situations and people. No doubt, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert considers himself a beneficiary of it. If Ariel Sharon had not fallen into a permanent state of comatose, he would never have assumed head of the newly-created Kadima Party – which for the record, was established by Sharon – and won Israel’s general elections last March.
Olmert, who also served as Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister and head of the Israeli Jerusalem municipality, is finally now in a position to make some of his long-nurtured goals a reality.
In his meeting with US President George W. Bush on May 23, the first in his capacity as Israel’s leader, Olmert, as expected, tried to drum up support for his unilateral plan to withdraw from parts of the West Bank, which he has congenially dubbed a “convergence plan.” Olmert no doubt, played on the hackneyed Israeli justification that in light of Hamas’ victory in the recent Palestinian elections and its command of the now-“terrorist” Palestinian Authority, Israel is now forced to take the situation into its own hands in order to ensure the security of its state and people.
As if it already hasn’t.
True, Israel has the overwhelming advantage in this conflict if for no other reason than having the United States as its staunchest ally. However, let us give credit where credit is due. The Israelis are masterminds at flipping circumstances inside out, making the oppressed look like the oppressors, the victimizers as the victims. And no doubt, Israel plays its trump card over and over again, which surprisingly, has not grown old in the least: their security. When arguments are presented under the guise of national security – threats to the well-being of innocent civilians and the lone Jewish state in a sea of hostile neighbors, Israel knows it cannot lose.
When Israel announced its intention to build a separation wall between itself and the Palestinians, much of the world was up in arms. Cries of condemnation rose against the plan, calling it apartheid, racist and discriminatory. However, trump card in hand, the only image Israel had to conjure up in the collective mind of the international community was of the mangled steel of burnt buses, bodies strewn across city streets and masked and armed Palestinians videotaping themselves pledging to die for Palestine and to take as many Israelis as possible with them.
Palestinians saw through the masquerade from the start. The wall would eventually become the de facto borders between Israel and the Palestinian territories even though parts of it bit into huge chunks of West Bank territory, contrary to Israel’s claims that it would be built more or less along the Green Line. When completed, the separation wall will have devoured approximately 45 percent of West Bank territory, including the major settlement blocs.
The International Court of Justice deemed it illegal and called for its dismantlement. Human rights organizations here and around the world condemned it and rallied for its destruction. Israel initially insisted it was being built solely for security purposes and did not represent any border aspirations. However, as time passed, construction of the wall continued while governments on both sides of the fence changed hands, giving Israel ample excuse to push its agenda of isolating the Palestinians even further.
So, although the US has not indicated that it will unconditionally back Olmert’s plan, which would most likely include a request for the US to pick up the hefty “disengagement tab,” Israel has enough evidence to believe its closest friend will not disappoint it.
Let’s take Gaza. Somehow, Israel managed to get the world to rally around its unilateral disengagement plan, portraying it as a “painful concession”. Weren’t Jews uprooting other Jews from the land of Israel? Palestinians, who make up the overwhelming majority of the Gaza Strip and have been forced to live in the oppressive shadow of 8,000 settlers, were not consulted about the future of their own home. No matter – Israel was praised, clapped on the back for its goodwill gesture of withdrawing from Gaza even though historically, economically and politically, the Gaza Strip has always been an unnecessary burden for Israel.
So, if the US was so supportive of Israel during the Gaza disengagement – shunning not only the people such a plan would most affect but also UN Resolutions such as 242 and 338 and even Bush’s own “vision” of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel, then why should it be different for the West Bank? For years, Israel and the US have disregarded UN resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the 1967 war and the US has, time and again, backed Israel’s unilateral steps that continue to undermine any international efforts to bring about a just peace.
Olmert has already set the stage, announcing that he would wait “six to nine months” to find an appropriate Palestinian partner with whom to resume negotiations before taking unilateral steps. Funny – after the “demonic” Arafat, the obstacle of all obstacles, was finally out of the way for good, the Palestinians elected one of the most moderate and accommodating leaders in their history, Mahmoud Abbas. But alas, even he did not live up to Israel’s standards of a “partner.”
At their joint press conference, Bush and Olmert faced the cameras like best friends after a play date. As expected, Bush could not completely contradict the US official position endorsing a negotiated final position. Still, he did not disappoint his friend. “While any final status agreement will be only achieved on the basis of mutually-agreed changes… the prime minister’s ideas could be an important step toward the peace we both support,” Bush said, calling Olmert’s plan “bold ideas.”
Hence, it is safe to say that Olmert is keeping his eye on the prize – getting the US to back and finance a disengagement plan that would eventually demarcate the borders of Israel. According to recent media reports and interviews with Olmert, Israel would keep the major settlement blocs and maintain an “undivided” Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty – two of the thorniest issues in the conflict supposedly to be left to final status negotiations between the two sides.
Needless to say, the Palestinians are not happy about anyone deciding their fate, especially their occupiers. What the Palestinians should be asking now is why they are under such demand to adhere to signed agreements when Israel and the US are allowed to circumvent and disregard them at whim?