Decoding Bush: The President

By Dr. Hassan Afif El-Hasan
Special to PalestineChronicle.com

President Bush should be credit for perfecting the art of selling his vision on solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to his Arab allies. He learnt from his campaigning that a good political salesman should have a slogan. He discovered the magic one to market his vision to the Palestinians, “two state solution living side by side!!”.

He repeated it so many times on several occasions without trying to do anything about it, then he bragged that he was the first to promise the Palestinians a state. This is not the first empty slogan the Palestinians have heard. Palestinian leaders who applaud President Bush vision today sold the Oslo agreements repeatedly as “the peace of the brave”. What does Bush vision on Palestine entail?

Bush pledged on April 14, 2004 to support then Prime Minister Sharon promise that in any final peace agreement with the Palestinians the refugees would be denied the right of return to their homes in Israel and the large settlement blocks would be annexed to Israel because they had been “facts on the ground”.
Bush declared his vision for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “in the light of new realities on the ground (in the occupied West Bank), including already existing major Israeli population centers”. He said “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status (Palestinian-Israeli) negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949”. This vision, to give Palestinians’ land to Israel without their approval, amounts to a second version of Balfour Declaration.

In his July 16 speech, President Bush called on the Palestinians to seek peace with the “Jewish State” based on many principles including “current realities”, a code message for the Palestinians to accept the “Jewish State” annexation of the large settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem that constitute significant percentage of the West Bank. The “facts on the ground” or the “current realities” have become a reference to the irreversible alterations accomplished by Israel in the occupied territory.

The “facts on the ground” have been established by Israel every day especially since the signing of the Oslo Accord to the point where they constitute about half the total area of the West Bank. They include settlements expansion, the separation wall that continues to cut off the Palestinian villages from each other and the villagers from their land, security fences around settlements, security roads, and bypass roads. They will determine the area and the shape of the promised "Palestinian state".

According to Bush vision, Israel would keep Greater Jerusalem area, large Jewish West Bank settlements, enough territory around the settlements to keep them safely connected to Israel and the Jordan Valley on the border with Jordan. The wall that has been built on Palestinian lands extends Israel’s land beyond the pre-1967 borders by twenty kilometers inside the West Bank in Ariel settlement area and ten kilometers around Ma’ale Adomim settlement. The military controlled roads and the by-pass network prevent the expansion and development of Palestinian towns and villages. 

After discounting the “facts on the ground”, land left for the future state will be only for a Bantustan entity rather than a viable state. It will consist of three suffocating enclaves cut off from one another inside the West Bank in addition to the impoverished and overcrowded Gaza Strip which is separated from the West Bank by Israeli land. There is even no guarantee that Israel may abandon any settlements inside the Palestinian autonomy enclaves in the final agreement.

The Nablus-Jenin northern enclave is already separated from the center by the large settlement bloc of Ariel-Eli-Shiloh. The central enclave of the Ramallah area is separated from the southern Hebron and Bethlehem enclave by clusters of Israeli settlements, highways and tunnel roads. The area of East Jerusalem has been isolated by Jewish settlements from Ramallah in the north by Givat Ze’ev, from Bethlehem in the south by Gush Etzion with its fifteen thousand settlers and from the east to the Dead Sea by Ma’ale Adumim which has twenty-eight thousand settlers. Jewish enclaves have been established in the Old City and in the surrounding Arab neighborhoods of Silwan, Ras el-Amoud, Wadi el-Joz and Sheikh Jarrah. The three Palestinian enclaves are divided so that people traveling from one to the other have to go through areas controlled by Israel. Under the security cover, Israel has appropriated large areas of agricultural land around Jerusalem for building the security wall.

Top diplomats in the EU countries prepared unpublished report in November 2005 criticizing Israel’s colonizing policy. It suggested that Israel had completed the annexation of East Jerusalem with its 230,000 Arab residents by building settlements in and around it, and “the Prospects for a two state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine were receding”.

After many conditions to be met by the Palestinians, Bush wants negotiations on the final status to be held between only Palestinian moderates and the Israelis. Bush set no meaningful conditions on Israel and did not refer to moderate Israelis. Spokeswoman for the Israeli prime minister ruled out negotiations at this time on the borders of the Palestinian state, Jerusalem and the refugees. If such negotiations ever took place, the two parties would not enter the process as equals and this has been the main obstacle to peace since Oslo.
Israel will enter into the peace process from a position of strength as the occupation force that holds all the cards including controlling the salaries of would be Palestinian negotiators. Israel used its powers to choose who can speak for the Palestinians, and it demonized and isolated those whom it did not like. The presumed chosen Palestinian negotiators, Abbas and Fayyad, have no political or military power at their disposal to challenge the Israeli occupation if they want. And worse, Abbas was the architect of Oslo agreements that had treated the West Bank and Gaza as disputed rather than occupied lands.

All Israeli governments since 1967, the so called hawks and doves, have not been willing to make concessions on Jerusalem, the settlements and the refugees’ right of return. Short of surrender to Israel, negotiations with the Israelis on the major issues have little chance of success.

The Palestinians need justice not negotiations. Only a resolution based on the international laws that govern the status of occupied lands may produce some semblance of justice for the Palestinians. The international laws do not admit territorial acquisition through war, and they guarantee the right of refugees to return to their homeland. Israel has ignored all previous international resolutions pertaining to the Palestinian rights, and there is no guarantee that it will reverse its behavior as long as the US continues to support its policies and legitimize its actions.

New resolution by the International Court of Justice in favor of the Palestinians may not lead to “the two state solution living side by side” due to Israel’s intransigence. But the international community should try it anyway. It will arm the Palestinians with opinion from the highest legal organ of the United Nations and may expose the hypocrisy of the moderate Palestinians ally.

-The author is a Palestinian writer and political analyst; he is a regular contributor to PalestineChronicle.com.

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