I should confess that I, myself, did not read this accord and, honestly, I do not intend to read it. This is not because I am passive. It is not because I am frustrated. Nor is it because I have my prejudices about it. I am not going to read the Accord simply because I am fed up with new initiatives.
For the past three decades, tens if not hundreds of initiatives have been launched and each new one has claimed that it is better than the previous initiative. In almost every Arab summit since the early eighties, there has been a peace initiative that did not see the light of day for various and sundry reasons; the most prevalent reason has been the continuous Israeli rejection of Arab peace plans.
We don’t need more ideas. We need implementation.
The aim of the Zionist movement was and still is the creation of a Greater Israel and the destruction of any possibility for Palestinians to build their own state, especially in Palestine. In order to do this, Israel has tried and continues to do its best to keep instability in the region by threatening its neighbors and by interfering in the internal affairs of all Middle Eastern countries. Indeed, they have not restricted their interference to the region but have extended it to countries in Latin America, North America, Asia, Africa and other places. Their justification is that Israel is under threat and must be strong enough to defend itself. Using this justification, they maintained their nuclear cooperation with the late Apartheid System in South Africa and kept their missiles pointing at southern parts of the Former Soviet Union.
In addition, both the US and Europe in general have played a role in keeping Israel’s superiority in the region both militarily and economically and they use the same justification. The neighboring countries of whom Israel is afraid include Egypt, who has had a peace treaty with Israel since the late seventies; Jordan, which has also had a peace treaty with Israel since the 1990s; Djibouti; Somalia; and other starving countries who queue in front of the American and European embassies asking for their daily bread.
It is important to mention here that Israel has had the chance to be integrated into the region since they signed the first treaty with Egypt in the late 1970s. Their chances were greatly increased in 1988 when the PLO recognized the state of Israel and stopped demands for the whole of historical Palestine. Israel, however, did not listen to the sound of logic and continued its policies of occupying Palestinian and other Arab territories. The only change in policy was their demand, backed by the Americans, that the Arabs and the entire Islamic world recognize their State but without receiving anything from Israel in return. Instead of “Land for Peace,” they raised the slogan of “Peace for Peace.” This slogan was carried by both the Labor Zionist party and the Likud Zionist party. The worst among the two parties was Labor.
Why? Simply because when they are in power, they do whatever they can to continue the occupation. They were the first to start building settlements in the Occupied Territories; they were the first to start the deportation policy; they demolished homes; the list is countless. Whenever there is a need to change their policies, they simply put silk gloves over their iron fists. The irony is that when Labor is the opposition party they hypocritically talk of peace for when they return to power, their actions are war.
After the second Intifada and George Bush’s War Against Terror, Israel, under the Sharon government and his ultra right wing alliance, moved very quickly to create facts on the ground in preparation for future negotiations with the Palestinians where the Palestinians would not have any thing about which to negotiate. These facts, however, created a quandary: what to do with the Palestinians if there is no viable state for them. Would the Palestinians accept? Of course not, and so the only option for Israel is to eliminate them. Historically, this has happened before. It happened in US, it’s happened in Australia and in Europe. Why shouldn’t it be repeated in Israel/Palestine? If George Bush is able to transfer his troops from another continent to fight terror, why shouldn’t Israel be allowed to fight terror in their own “country?” If Bush and his regime choose to combat Malaria by shooting all the anopheles instead of drying the swamps, why shouldn’t Israel be allowed to eliminate an entire terrorist nation!?
Sharon and his government, instead of using the golden opportunity resulting from the war against terror to build bridges and reconcile with the Middle Eastern countries, chose to hide behind George Bush and waged the same war against every country and every individual in the region. The shelling inside Syria is only one example; Sharon’s trip to Russia to convince them not to cooperate with Iran is another. The examples are countless.
The concept of annihilation began to be considered by the other side of the Zionist coin, the Labor party. Here I refer you to a courageous article published by the former speaker of the Knesset from the Labor party Abrahan Burg that discusses the dying principles of Zionism. Abraham Burg and others started to analyze the region’s hatred of the US and Israel.
Beginning to question the ethics and the morals behind the Israeli occupation and measures against the Palestinians, they were moved by the fact that the Labor party is dying and the last election proved this. Splits inside the party, weak leaders, and a lack of clear vision were the dominant indicators that this party needed something new to resurrect it. Some of its leading members such as Yossi Beilin, the former Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna, the former speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg and others, thought that the Geneva Accord could do something for their political careers. The conundrum is why these courageous Labor representatives did not launch this initiative while they were in power. Why did they not revolt against Barak? Why did they not come up with such a plan while they were in power? They would have saved many lives from both nations.
One wonders what power these men have on the ground. If they have any power at all, why don’t they take to the streets to protest against the current policy of the Israeli government? Why don’t they encourage the refusniks or the pilots who refused to shell the children in Gaza? Why don’t they stop, with their bodies if need be, the Apartheid wall? Instead of being here on the hot ground, why did they leave to quiet Switzerland to negotiate peace? These and many other questions call into question their intentions and true purpose.
What is the difference between the Road map and this initiative? The Road Map, which was launched by the US and supported by the Quartet, has not been implemented because Sharon has fourteen points of concern against it. Given this one fact, why should anyone believe that this accord will have a better chance.
The peace plan of Crown Prince Abdallah of Saudi Arabia, which was endorsed at the Arab Summit in Beirut of March 2002, offered Israel normal relations with the entire Arab world once it withdrew to its pre-1967 borders and allowed the emergence of an independent Palestinian state. In essence, it is similar to the Geneva Accord.
This was rejected by Sharon and Bush so why this initiative would have better chance than the previous one? At the same time, this initiative has completely ignored Syria and Lebanon without whom a comprehensive peace in the region will be impossible. This is the same mistake the Palestinian delegation made in the corridor dialogue in the US. They took their own path and signed the Oslo Accord alone and the results speak for themselves.
Ehud Barak was the first to say that there is no Palestinian party with whom to negotiate and declared Arafat a terrorist. Sharon hid himself behind this statement and continued to justify his policy waging his war against everybody in Palestine. Unfortunately, at that time we did not hear the voices of other party members to stop Barak from doing this. Almost all of them accepted his arguments and blamed the Palestinians for missing his generous offer. Peres, the current head of the Labor party, is against this initiative as well. This then begs the question of who it is that is behind this initiative. Are they the same marginalized members of the Labor party trying to come to power this time riding on the backs of the Palestinians?
By launching this initiative, the death of the Road Map was declared but done cleverly so that blame was not attached to the Israeli government; responsibility was equally distributed to both sides. But if the Road Map is dead even with all the support it received from the Quartet, then what guarantees does this initiative have if it has only been signed by the marginalized members of the dying Labor party?
If this initiative is to see the light of day, it should become the Labor party’s political program and they should adopt it in a conference. Why not stop the confusion?
Shlomo Ben Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister from the Labor party, has publicly called for an international mandate over the Palestinian territories. If he is serious about it, why he did not make this call while in power?
The mere fact is that the Palestinians don’t have an Israeli partner for peace and not the opposite. All we have are Sharon, Lieberman, a cowered left without clear vision and a few of the more courageous leftists who do not have any weight in their society. They seem to be asking us to support all their initiatives by claiming that the initiatives will strengthen their dead parties therefore enabling them to better present themselves inside their community. Why we should pay this price to strengthen an already cowered, dead and unclear left?
Is it our destiny to continue signing more and more accords to prove that we are peace-loving people? In every accord, we lower our ceiling and diminish our rights by our own hands. We do this to convince the Israeli public that we are serious about peace; instead, what we need is to see is how serious they are about peace.
First and above all, they should recognize that this is an occupation and they should feel ashamed about this. They should work to end the occupation first to let us see that they are serious.
How long must the Palestinians continue to address Israeli public opinion about our will, desire and need for peace without a clear reply from their side? We are fed up from the hundreds of initiatives and accords that we have already signed; what we need now is implementation. Is it not enough that we recognized Israel free of charge? Is it not enough that we recognized, also free of charge, their right to our land? Yet they still ask us to stop our resistance to their occupation saying, as if we were recalcitrant children that they want to wait and see if we behave well or not.
If we behave, then maybe they will consider withdrawing; perhaps then, they will discuss the percentage of their withdrawal. Are we school children whose teacher asks the students to give the answers first and then he will give the questions? It has become a vicious circle: we resist the occupation, Israel says ‘Stop your resistance and we will cease our occupation, but since it is the occupation that we are resisting and the occupation that has not ceased, we continue to resist.
For myself, I would say to the imposed Palestinian leadership, enough playing with our rights and enough delusion. The UN resolutions are the best basis for a solution and should be respected; the total withdraw from our land occupied since 1967 including our Right of Return is the only viable initiative and is the only guarantee for permanent peace. If this not to happen then a one state solution will appear and more strongly this time.
Why should we accept Israel’s definition of who is peace loving and who is not? Why should we allow Israel to decide with whom they should talk and with whom they should not talk. “Abu Mazen is nice, Arafat is bad, Abu Alla is fine, Abed Rabbo is better” and we, the Palestinians, are led like a herd sheep. It is the right time for a referendum to ask the Palestinians what they want and which leadership they wish to have. Is this not democratic enough? The International community should only help us in this matter; not more or less. Let us select and elect our own leadership without any interference from either Bush or Sharon.
I declare here that I do not want anyone to speak in my name without being elected by me. The terms of the entire leadership and the entire legislative council members, elected eight years ago, have expired. Every day there is a new/old leader who claims that he represents me and he knows the best for me. Some of them are called new blood and some are called old guards. Enough is enough.
It seems that our mission is a mission impossible; we want to please the International community, we want to please Europe, we want to please the US, we want to please Israel. The only player no one seems to want to please is the Palestinian.
Rifat Odeh Kassis is the Executive Director of the East Jerusalem YMCA and the President of Defense for Children International - Palestine Section.