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Formalizing Apartheid With A Peace Initiative

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                          VIEWPOINT
"Exploring The Powerful Issues & Emotions of The Middle East" 
  Reaching out to 51,228 Viewpoint readers around the globe
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Editor's Note:

This is a short article about the upcoming peace conference 
that is really not about peace, but something else. Of 
course you will not read articles like this in the main-
stream press. 

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Formalizing Apartheid With A Peace Initiative
-by: Neta Golan and Mohammed Khatib

Next month the US plans to host a regional meeting to 
discuss peace in the Middle East, or at least peace between 
Israel and the Palestinians. The maneuvering, deal making 
and negotiating about what will be on the table has been 
going on for some time. 

But the details of the agreement being discussed have been 
a well guarded secret but for the steady flow of leaks and 
trial balloons. Deciphering this information combined with 
facts on the ground, one can put together a clear outline 
of Israel's 'next generous offer.'

Political maneuvers can be spun to sound good if the 
details are kept vague, but when held to scrutiny it 
becomes obvious that the upcoming Israeli offer is not so 
generous. Like the Oslo Accords and the 'disengagement' 
from Gaza, the peace process being cooked now is a move 
to consolidate Israeli control of all of historical 
Palestine while taking a large portion of the Palestinian 
population off Israel's hands. The devil is in the details 
that follow. 

The agreement on the table offers Palestinians what 
Israel's president Peres calls 'the equivalent of 100% of 
the territory occupied in 1967.' According to Peres, Israel 
will retain its major West Bank population centers, also 
known as settlement blocs, which Peres claims make up only 
5% of the West Bank. In exchange Israel will offer to give 
the Palestinians the same amount of territory elsewhere. 
According to Peres, Israel will exchange land in Israel 
populated by Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship. 
This will allow Israel to remove some of its Arab 
population, which most Jewish Israelis perceive as 
'demographic threat' to the nature of the Jewish state. 

When Israeli politicians like Peres talk about retaining 
5% of the West Bank, they do not include occupied East 
Jerusalem. Israel illegally and unilaterally annexed East 
Jerusalem in 1967-68. Hence, Israeli sources claim there 
are 250,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, completely 
discounting the estimated additional 250,000 settlers in 
occupied East Jerusalem. 

Israel's settlement blocs are being created and built as 
you read these words. For years Israel has been creating 
population centers on strategic land that will carve the 
West Bank into disconnected islands, maintain Israeli 
access to the West Bank water resources and surround and 
strangle Arab Jerusalem. The de facto annexation of this 
strategic 9.5% of the West Bank's land behind Israel's 
apartheid wall has already taken place. The 'peace' process 
will simply make it official. 

In March 2006 the newly formed Kadima party was elected to 
implement Ariel Sharon's 'convergence plan.' According to 
this plan, the non-strategic settlements outside of the 
settlement blocs would be dismantled. The evacuated 
settlers would be resettled in the 'blocs' behind the wall 
that would in turn be annexed by Israel. 

On April 14, 2004, President Bush wrote to then Prime 
Minister Ariel Sharon, 'In light of new realities on the 
ground, including already existing population centers it 
is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status 
negotiations will be a full and complete return to the 
armistice lines of 1949...' This letter was subsequently 
ratified in both US Houses of Congress. 

Israel took this as a green light from the US to keep what-
ever areas they can fill with settlers. Therefore, despite 
the Road Map requirement that Israel freeze settlement 
expansion, Israel accelerated the creation of so called 
'existing' population centers in strategically important 
areas, otherwise known as the settlement blocs. 

In the same letter to Sharon, Bush also stated, 'It seems 
clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework 
for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of 
any final status agreement will need to be found through 
the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling 
of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.' 

Consequently, in the offer to be made by Israel, 
Palestinian refugees will be allowed the right to return, 
not to their homes, but to small, non-contiguous parts of 
their original homeland, divided into disconnected 
territorial units, with no chance of maintaining a sustain-
able economy and with no control over water, power, or 
other necessary resources. They will be allowed to return 
to a cage, with Israel manning every door. 

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Israeli plans, backed by these US guarantees, create 
an unlivable apartheid situation for Palestinians. But 
Palestinians are not even likely to receive such a 
'generous' apartheid offer in November. Now, with less 
than sixteen months left in the Bush administration, Ehud 
Olmert lacks the political clout to carry out Israel's end 
of the deal. Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak recent-
ly stated his opposition to what he called 'withdrawal 
from Israeli principles that have stood for 40 years, 
merely to gain favor in the eyes of an American president 
who is leaving office in a year. 

Therefore, at the Olmert's administration`s insistence, the 
goals of the regional meeting have been watered down to a 
joint statement that will outline the basis of the future 
agreement. Olmert is demanding that the joint declaration 
include a reference to Bush's April 2004 letter to Sharon 
and to the Road Map. 

Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni's stated objective 
is to declare a 'transitional' Palestinian state with 
'provisional' borders, an option that appears in the 
second phase of the road map. When Israel accepted the 
road map in March 2003 it attached '14 reservations.' 
Israel considers these reservations as integral parts of 
the road map. 

Israel`s fifth reservation states: 'The provisional state 
will have provisional borders and certain aspects of 
sovereignty, be fully demilitarized..., be without the 
authority to undertake defense alliances or military 
cooperation, and Israeli control over the entry and exit 
of all persons and cargo, as well as of its air space and 
electromagnetic spectrum.' Such a state would be squeezed 
between the separation wall, Israel's demographic border', 
and the Jordan Valley, Israel's 'security border' with 
Jordan. 

With the Jordan Valley making up approximately 30% of the 
West Bank, under this scenario Israel would likely retain 
more than 40% of the West Bank. This transitional 
Palestinian state would consist of a series of isolated 
Bantustans, or as Sharon, who fathered the plan, preferred 
to refer to them, 'cantons.'

In the past the Palestinians have pressed to have this 
option of the temporary state removed from the road map, 
since the history of Israel`s occupation shows that 
'temporary measures' are almost always permanent. However, 
Palestinian negotiators now accept the possibility of a 
temporary state on the condition that they receive 
international assurances that the third and final phase 
of the road map, that includes a permanent settlement, 
will be implemented within six months. Israel has no 
intention of accepting this condition. 

It is questionable whether Palestinian President Mahmoud 
Abbas will be able to accept this offer without a timeframe 
for a permanent settlement. But perhaps he is not even 
meant to accept. For if Abbas refuses another Israeli-
American 'generous offer' his rejection could be presented 
to the world as more proof that there are no Palestinian 
'partners for peace.' 

Israel would then be 'justified' in implementing its 
convergence plan unilaterally. Unilateral 'convergence'  
will make it possible to create a situation in the West 
Bank similar to what unilateral 'disengagement' has 
created in the Gaza. Gaza's residents, 70% of whom are 
refugees from what is now Israel, are currently isolated, 
starving and under total Israeli blockade from land, air 
and sea. 

Olmert, Bush, Blair and their accomplices in the 'Quartet' 
have vast, sophisticated and boundlessly resourced PR 
machinery that, through unlimited access to an uncritical 
media, can put a compelling 'peace spin' on an apartheid 
process. During the November meeting they will assure the 
world of their commitment to a Palestinian state (with 
the appropriate Abbas/Olmert/Bush photo ops). 

They will promise to commit millions of dollars, funding 
Palestinian 'institution building' and humanitarian aid 
and arming troops in order to 'keep the peace' inside the 
Bantustans. Arab states will normalize relations with 
Israel, strengthening the 'moderates' of the entire region, 
thus softening the Arab street as a prerequisite for an 
American led strike on Iran. 

Even the participants in the summit realize that the 
Israeli occupation is no longer sustainable in its current 
form. If we, the peace and justice community, manage to 
expose this latest maneuver for what it really is, Israel 
could be forced into fair negotiations for the first time. 

For this to happen we must mobilize immediately. It is our 
job to educate the rest of the world about what these talks 
really mean and the truth about what is happening. The 
writing is literally on the wall and on the ground. It took 
many months if not years to expose the ugly truth behind 
the first 'generous offer.' Let's not make that mistake 
again. 

----------------------------------------------------

Neta Golan is an Israeli peace with justice activist 
living in Ramallah and a co-founder of the international 
solidarity movement. 

Mohammed Khatib is a leading member of Bil'in's Popular 
Committee Against the Wall and the secretary of Bil'in's 
Village Council. 
For more information: www.apartheidmasked.org 

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