Saturday, August 20, 2005

Out of Gaza to W Bank

Aug.17 2005
PV Vivekanand
Out of Gaza - to the West Bank

ISRAELI Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is projecting Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as a major sacrifice by the Jews in favour of peace with the Palestinians and asserting that the Palestinian leadership has to prove itself by containing armed resistance and administering Gaza in a way that does not threaten Israel's security. In reality, Sharon is implemented a carefully drawn-up plan that places the Palestinians in a natural disadvantage to meet his conditions while also allowing him to consolidate Israel's grip on the occupied West Bank to a point where all possibilities of negotiations with the Palestinians are eliminated, with the Jewish state retaining long-term control of the territory,
As Israel launched and continued evacuating its settlements in the occupied Gaza Strip this week, the most asked question remained unanswered: What does the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza hold in store for the Palestinian problem and for the overall Middle East "peace process"? Few are of the opinion that it signals anything positive and most believe that the Israeli departure from Gaza is the key element in a scenario drawn up by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to freeze any movement towards negotiated peace with the Palestinians by refusing to give up a major chunk of the West Bank encompassing all the major Jewish settlements there. The firm conviction in the Arab World is that without major upheavals in the geopolitical realities on the ground in the region coupled with determined international action, there is no prospect for a just and fair solution to the Palestinian problem in the foreseeable future.
Whether from a layman's point of view or an analysis based on the ground realities, there are some key features of the Palestinian-Israeli equation which need to be dramatically altered and certain minimum requirements that have to be met for a generally acceptable solution to the Palestinian problem.

These include:

Return of all territory

With the evacuation of the Gaza Strip, the focus shifts to the West Bank, where more than 400,000 Jews — all of them armed — live in settlements built in violation of international conventions. Sharon has vowed not to dismantle the settlements. If anything, he would only expand these colonies and settle more Jews in the occupied territory.
Apart from the argument that the West Bank is indeed part of the "promised land," Sharon and other right-wing Israeli politicians would never agree to evacuate the settlements from the West Bank because the settlers represent a sizable vote bank.
The Palestinians are demanding that Israel withdraw to the lines it held before the 1967 war and there would not be peace without them securing control of all the land beyond the so-called "Green Lines" of 1967.
A compromise proposal was floated in the air last year where it was suggested Israel might give the Palestinians alternative land equivalent to the size of the settlements, and these included Arab-populated Israeli villages near the Green Line. This "compromise" would also serve Israel's purpose of reducing the number of its Arab citizens since the residents of the villages would automatically come under the jurisdiction — if it could be called that — of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) headed by Mahmoud Abbas.
Arab-Israelis have rejected the proposal outright.
In any event, the idea could be discussed only when the Israelis and Palestinians resume their negotiations, and we are at this point in time far from that prospect.

Arab East Jerusalem:

Israel, which seized and "annexed" the Arab eastern half of the old city in the 1967 war, remains firm on its vow not to relinquish it saying it will remain part of the Jewish state's "eternal and indivisible capital." It is a foregone conclusion that no Israeli leader or politician in power, however moderate he or she could be, would ever agree to let go of the Israeli grip on Arab East Jerusalem in view of the religious and political imperatives of the Jewish state. It would be political suicide for any Israeli leader to even suggest giving up Arab East Jerusalem.
The situation is no different in the Palestinian camp either. No Palestinian leader or politician would agree to accept Israeli sovereignty over Arab East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians see as the capital of their to-be created independent state. There is no magic key to lift this logjam.
Several proposals were made in the past with different formulas like "shared sovereignty" or making Jerusalem an international city with free access to everyone and the states of Israel and (proposed) Palestine both considering the city as their capital. Yet another proposed "compromise" is for Israel to let the Palestinians have their capital in the Abu Dis suburb of Arab East Jerusalem. Again, this could be discussed only in the context of revived peace negotiations, but Sharon has given no sign that he might even agree to listen to the idea.

International Law