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The Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict for dummies (Fifth, final Part, 1992-2002)

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So we are in 1992, and the climate is more relaxed than usual (so to speak). On 30 October last year (1991) was held in Madrid the Peace Conference for the Middle East, sponsored by Bush Sr. and Gorbachev, which was attended by Arab states, represented by their foreign ministers, Israeli Prime Minister Shamir and a Palestinian delegation (the PLO has not participated) and on 16 December 1991 the UN General Assembly has revoked Resolution 339 of 1976 which condemned Zionism as a form of racism and discrimination (see Part 3). The U.S., fresh of having waged war to Iraq (the first, so-called Gulf War) and aware of the importance of new possible alliances in the area, push for a general solution of the problem in the Middle East.

At the end of 1992, the Soviet Union is disintegrating. It is ending, for the U.S., the threat posed by the Soviet bloc, the cold war has cooled. The U.S. are planning total control. Russia – that has endless problems at home – sponsors peace in the Middle East. Meanwhile, an episode of usual abuse, in December 1992 Israel has deported more than 400 Palestinians in Lebanon. The UN Security Council strongly condemns this initiative and provides for their immediate return.

We are now in 1993. Take place in Oslo in August, with the mediation of Norway, secret talks between the PLO and the Israeli Labor Shimon Perez regarding an agreement on autonomy for Gaza and the Palestinian city of Jericho. The lines dashed in the Oslo agreements are actually quite vague.
In September there is an exchange of letters between Arafat (PLO) and Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, in which: Yasser Arafat recognizes Israel’s right to exist in peace and security; Rabin recognized that the PLO represents the Palestinian people.
With the patronage of U.S. President Bill Clinton (who is not only famous for other personal matters of an entirely different species), on September 13, 1993, Arafat and Rabin put their signature, in Washington, to a Declaration of Principles in view of possible arrangements (all to be determined and develop) for the Palestinian autonomy. Indeed, it establishes a period of 5 years of Palestinian autonomy in order to complete negotiation, on the basis of UN Resolution 242, which must begin no later than three years on: In particular providing the Israeli withdrawal from some areas of the occupied West Bank. Comes the so-called Palestinian Authority with the task of administering the territories assigned to Palestinian control.
But all the most important and thorny issues are referred back to future negotiations. In particular, the problem of refugees, East Jerusalem, settlements, boundaries, water and so on.
Oh well, some said, better than nothing.

Anyway, in 1994 and 1995, although any kind of violence still remains a constant, especially in the occupied territories, at the political level the PLO and Israel conclude in May, an agreement on the administration of theGaza Strip and the Jericho area.
In July, Arafat gets back to Palestine and establishes his headquarters in Gaza. In August is signed an agreement, as “preparation” for the transfer of administration of the territories that have been “left” to Palestinian Autonomy. Israel and Jordan sign a peace treaty.
Based on the Declaration of Principles of 1993 (Washington) is signed an agreement between Israel and the PLO for autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza.
Everything is going as best it could, when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated by a student of the extreme right in Israel, in Tel Aviv, on November 4, 1995.

In 1996, the Likud (right party) wins the elections with Benjamin Netanyahu (defeating labourist Shimon Peres) and the situation remains essentially frozen until 1999. This, as I said, does not mean that among the Israeli right and the left there is this great diversity of views with respect to some important problems, such as settlements in the occupied territories, hypocritically distinguished into illegal and legal settlements, all of which was implemented during governments from both Right and Left.

Between 1997 and 1999, we are necessarily quick. To be noted that in 1997 the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government reach an (hallucinating) agreement under which the Palestinians gain control of 80% of the city of Hebron, while the remaining 20% is kept overprotected by the Israeli army, in the possession of about 400 (yes, four hundred) ultra-orthodox religious Jews.
Also in 1997 (February) a census among the Palestinian population counts approximately 2.9 million Palestinians in the occupied territories. Of these, 1,869,818 in the West Bank (including occupied Jerusalem), and 1,020,813 in the Gaza Strip.
Roughly 210,000 other people, out of the census, live in East Jerusalem.
Then, to tell it easyer, the Labour goes back to power in 1999 with Ehud Barak. There was much talk of Barak and his “generous concessions”, but most words have been put into the mouth of someone who has an interest in supporting a sort of Palestinian rejection to any situation of peace and, above all, we’re dealing with absolutely superficial analysis.
If it is true that with Barak the Palestinian Authority, belatedly and with difficulty, gains the theoretical control (of course, only administrative and not military) on 40% of the West Bank and 75% of the Gaza Strip, it is equally true that this remains a territory fragmented and discontinuous. The Palestinian autonomy areas are disconnected and surrounded by the territories under Israeli military control, in favor of the colonists settled deep into territories contiguous to “Palestinian” ones, who behave as they please with the unqualified support of the army.
Basically, then, Barak does not commit that much in the plan drawn up in Washington, instead he culpably devotes for nearly a year, without success, in the negotiations to reach an agreement with Syria.

By this time we are in 2000, and the Palestinians are nervous for the delay in the alleged peace path, and not getting even on paper, what was to be hoped on the premise and the “promises” of Washington. In this situation, in itself not brilliant, Barak finally realizes it’s time to get back to the negotiating table, but only for personal reasons: his government’s majority was cleaved and he fears, ahead of elections scheduled for February 2001, not to have the ‘support of the Israeli left, after having made his own business for one year. Bill Clinton is charged with the mediation, but also he is in a process of delegitimization in the upcoming elections, perhaps but not only, for the mess he made with the Lewinski affair. Meanwhile (May 2000) Israel withdraws from occupied territories in Lebanon, even under pressure from the Lebanese Hezbollah, which we have already spoken.
Whatever it is, in July 2000 Clinton manages to drag Barak and Arafat in the U.S. (at Camp David) to realize into a real treatise the Oslo accords.
It is at this point that Barak advances his infamous “generous offer” (known to history in this way), that, on the one hand, is objectively unacceptable, because it extends and generalizes to the entire West Bank the plan of fragmentation of territory under Palestinian control (with yoke conditions with regard to resources, borders, settlements, water), while he refuses to withdraw from East Jerusalem, to address the issue of Palestinian refugees, to deal with the dismantling of Jewish settlements. On the other hand, he puts in the mouth to the propaganda of western media an absolutely false event: namely that it had been Arafat to mess up the Camp David accords.

As a matter of fact, despite everything, it is Barak who delays and stops several times during the negotiations, and then puts forward a proposal that Arafat could never accept, nor sell to his people in comparison with what was instead obtained from Lebanon, from Egypt and Jordan (i.e. the return of all territories occupied by Israel). Moreover in a territory fragmented and interspersed with large areas occupied by Jewish settlers, that could possibly be swapped with minor areas in Israeli territory (as a proportion of 9 to 1).
But the appropriate unwillingness of Arafat, as mentioned, will be propagated to the point that Barak will spend the last months of his disastrous intervention to tell the world that one cannot find an agreement with Arafat.
Ultimately, the meetings at Camp David are really a fiasco, but negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders do not stop.
And what though in September 2000 – almost to assert its imminent rise to power (which will take place in February 2001) – the leader of the right (Likud), Ariel Sharon, already notorious for having been “indirectly” responsible for the massacres of Sabra and Chatila, decided to provoke the Palestinians, marching on foot with an army of armed guards in the so-called Temple Mount (next to Al Aqsa Mosque), in East Jerusalem.

It’s a real outrage. Start the second intifada (so called Al Aqsa Intifada).
But as we said, the negotiations foundered at Camp David, continue in Taba (small seaside resort in Egyptian territory) and one can glimpse, in January 2001, something as close to a possible agreement that was ever reached between Israelis and Palestinians. The negotiations at Taba in fact require the total evacuation of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli annexation of 3-6% of the West Bank, offset by Israeli territory, the dismantling of all Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, Jerusalem the capital of two States, future negotiations on the refugee problem.
With all due reservations, too good to be true.

In fact, with the elections of February 6, 2001 became Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, whose only goal is to annihilate every, single achievement in 10 years of difficult negotiations. Sharon promises to Israelis security and on 6 September 2002 announces that the Oslo Accords have no value. Which, through the history and initiatives of the Israeli leadership, is not surprising.
As for promises of security, little has been achieved for the elementary principle that by the occupation and the humiliation of a people subjugated no army, no matter how “capable”, can guarantee anything.
Episodes, also recent, show as a matter of fact (as an Israeli historian told) that “only a sick mind can hope that the occupation will lead to the end of the guerrilla and terror.”

After September 11, 2001, the landscape is enriched by the war in Afghanistan, Bin Laden myth, the myth of Saddam Hussein WMD, the war in Iraq, the Islamic resurgence, the renewal of the general intolerance for “different” in the Western world. This issues are often linked to the Palestinian problem, which is still often a good excuse, or justification of what is happening between the Islamic and Western world with Judeo-Christian roots.
The brilliant U.S. President Bush Junior, pulls out of his hat a new and original peace plan called the “Road Map”. It’s a chief program that provides the steps to achieve a solution as much pacific as generic. Its phases, however, from the beginning were not followed.
This program has been accepted and emphasized by the complacent and disinterested European leaderships, Russia and the UN (whose weight is pretty limited), but its vagueness is more cospicuous than that of the Oslo accords. Someone once observed, in this regard, that before applying any map there must be at least one road. What is not there.

Here ends my brief summary (yes, I know, that someone found it, anything but brief.) It’s been done without claiming to have said nothing new and moreover with an understandable pack of inaccuracies.
The scenery changes dramatically with the death of Arafat, the unilateral disengagement plan from Gaza Strip, the predictable and enormous difficulties within the Strip, the changed outlook for the West Bank, Sharon’s commitment to give way in any case to the Road Map and its difficulties in dealing with his own voters in Israel. But perhaps this will be, we all hope, another story.

I wrote this in 2005. For now, unfortunately I must say I was wrong.


Written by pipistro

May 7, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Posted in Israel, Palestine

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