Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A Case of Conflicting Evidence: Does Israel Want Comprehensive Peace, or All of Palestine?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A Case of Conflicting Evidence: Does Israel Want Comprehensive Peace, or All of Palestine?

Article excerpt

A Case of Conflicting Evidence: Does Israel Want Comprehensive Peace, or All of Palestine?

By Richard H. Curtiss

"Only a comprehensive peace is the best solution to the tensions in Lebanon."

--U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Aug. 7, 1994

Once in a while a glimmer of truth shines through the smoke and mirrors of America's Israel-oriented Middle East policy. Such was the case as a discouraged Warren Christopher emerged from his August sessions in Damascus with Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad.

In the wake of Israeli aerial attacks which had killed between 30 and 50 Hezbollah fighters and Lebanese civilians in the preceding two months, a Hezbollah suicide car bombing in Buenos Aires in which nearly 100 Argentine Jews, Israelis and passersby were killed and another 200 wounded, and weekly shooting across the lines that separate Israel's "security zone" from the rest of southern Lebanon, Assad had asked the U.S. secretary of state about Israel's long-range intentions in Lebanon, from which Israel now is said to be surreptitiously drawing Litani River water.

Christopher's answer, quoted above, was the truth--but only part of it. A comprehensive and just peace is the best solution not only to the tensions in Lebanon, but to those in Israel-Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Egypt and the rest of the Middle East and North Africa as well. It also would be the single most effective means of containing the radical Islamists working to undermine moderate governments throughout the Middle East.

Has this objective been furthered by the Yitzhak Rabin-Yasser Arafat handshake on the White House south lawn, the King Hussein-Rabin declaration on a White House balcony, or Warren Christopher's presence at a new border crossing between Eilat and Aqaba that neither Israelis nor Jordanians are permitted to use? Not noticeably, although these events have increased U.S. financial commitments to Israel, and to the Arab countries at peace with it, to more than $8 billion annually.

The Rabin-Arafat Declaration of Principles of peace, negotiated in Oslo to prevent Likud loyalists in the Clinton White House and State Department from leaking details to Rabin's domestic opponents, so far is only an agreement to negotiate a final agreement. The Hussein-Rabin declaration, negotiated directly between Israel and Jordan but to be paid for by U.S. taxpayers, also is just an agreement to negotiate. But, while the promised negotiating continues, some Israelis are working tirelessly to undermine the kind of peace with justice with the Palestinians that would open the way to a comprehensive peace with all of Israel's other Arab neighbors.

There is nothing in the Accord to prevent immediate negotiations on Jerusalem.

The Israeli government continues to build housing in the Jewish settlements that occupy 40 percent of the West Bank and Gaza. Under any settlement based upon U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, as is the Declaration of Principles, the Palestinians are supposed to take back those areas, comprising the remaining 22 percent of the Mandate of Palestine between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River that the U.N. voted in 1947 to partition between a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. However, if the Israelis don't withdraw from the settlements, the Palestinians would be squeezed into less than 14 percent of that land. They could not accept those terms, so there would be no comprehensive settlement.

More ominous are Israeli moves in Jerusalem, where highways are being slashed through Palestinian neighborhoods, at the expense of Palestinian homes. But Palestinians are not allowed to replace the condemned houses with new ones nearby, or even to expand existing houses in the city. Instead, East Jerusalem's boundaries are being gerrymandered to exclude Arab neighborhoods while including West Bank land around them. On these formerly open lands, vast new apartment projects are being built for Jewish occupants. …

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