Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Annapolis: full text "The Road Map's Dead-end"

The road map's dead-end

The Annapolis peace conference looming later this month will fail unless the Quartet powers finally screw up their map and get down to business
Ian Williams

November 12, 2007 6:30 PM | Printable version

Coming soon to a TV screen near you later this month is the latest global Origami challenge, also known as the Annapolis Middle East peace conference. There a piece of paper formerly known as the "road map", will be folded, torn and squeezed through yet more quantum-style dimensions in an attempt to prove it still has life.

In theoretical physics, superstring theorists posit up to eleven dimensions, most of them invisible. The road map, in contrast, has no less than fourteen strings that Ariel Sharon attached, all of which are invisible, or at least tacitly ignored by Britain and the "Quartet" of Russia, Europe, the UN and the US.

In reality, of course, it shows fewer vital signs than John Cleese's parrot or Ariel Sharon on life support.

Indeed, it is an easy feat to ignore Sharon's 14 "reservations" when almost the entire West ignores the separation wall that rather ostentatiously blocks off the road map, while defying a world court legal ruling against it. If these pillars of the international community actually noticed them in public, then they would be forced to admit that the Israeli government has been driving way off the direction indicated by the road map, and perhaps do something about it: like refusing the Israeli recalcitrants diplomatic, military and financial support.

Indeed, taken together, the Sharon reservations make it plain that Native American reservation status would almost be an advance for the Palestinians, compared with the Bantustans that the Israeli government has been preparing for.

Sharon, when he withdrew from Gaza, explained that the purpose was to consolidate Israel's hold on the West Bank settlements, and the government put water, electricity, roads, police and army guards into the expanding settlements even as he solemnly promised to observe the road map prohibitions against expanding them. But somehow it was considered rude to listen in on a not-so private conversation between the butcher of Sabra and Shatila and his electorate.

The EU, which is Israel's biggest trading partner, would be forced to slap on some tariffs until Israel fulfilled its promises and obligations under its agreements. The UN may notice that Israel is defiant of a string of UN resolutions, which were at the time supported by the US and UK as well as the other members.

The only viable two state solution is one that, firstly secures the consent of Hamas the large proportion, perhaps the majority of the Palestinians, that it represents. That really depends on how close the negotiations get to the Saudi plan, which is essentially for Israeli acceptance of the UN resolutions, particularly those on the withdrawal from occupied territories (which includes of course, as the Syrians point out, the Golan Heights.)

The problem with that is, of course, that three years ago George Bush abrogated international law and almost 40 years of American foreign policy by declaring that because of "new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it [was] unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." In other words, if a thief hangs on to the property long enough, he gains title. It is an interesting, but not persuasive, gloss on international law.

This is not like the squatter who asserts title by occupying property unchallenged for seven years. This occupation has been challenged consistently from the beginning.

The latest indication that the success of the conference depends on the Palestinians giving up all their legal rights under American and Israeli pressure is the report of Israeli dissatisfaction with the Palestinians' negotiations support unit, which was a result of Robin Cook's time in the Foreign Office. The team, paid for by Britain and others, is preparing the legal brief and senior Israeli officials say the unit is "increasingly becoming an obstacle with regard to progress after the Annapolis conference".

In other words, it will not do what it is told.

There are some signs that Condoleezza Rice at least recognizes that Israel's best interests are served by forgetting the dead-end road map and negotiating on the basis of the Saudi peace plan and the UN resolutions. One can hope that the US will provide the stick as well as the carrot to the Israeli donkey. But you would really need a faith-based belief in miracles.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Ian
Very nice article, as usual. However, I think you should revisit the percentage support to Hamas by the Palestinians. They NEVER did have the majority support of the Palestinians. They got the majority seats at the Parliament due to the lousy performance of Fatah but as a percentage, they received about 40% of the total votes which was their peak at those elections. Now, they hover around 12-13% after their bloody performance in Gaza which also affected their bismal achievements in the last Jordanian elections.
Wassim Abdullah-Ramallah-Palestine