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Same Old Tune by Khaled Amayreh

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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:

After a week off, we have found an fascinating article 
by Khaled Amayreh that few in the US will be exposed 
to. This is from an Egyptian newspaper, Al Ahram. 

Many people send in emails to us asking why we do not 
have an "even handed" approach to these articles. The 
reason is that I have yet seen an eloquent article that 
says why Israel is justified in occupying Palestinian 
lands. 

The other larger reason is that it is not difficult to 
find articles critical of Palestinians in the US media. 
Every city newspaper carries a ratio of nearly 25:1 
articles critical of Palestinians. 

It has been that way for so many years.

Just as it would be absurd for any fair-minded editor to 
give equal credence to a position that stated 1+1=3, we 
believe that US and Israeli policy is as wrong as the 
above mathematical equation. 

It is that simple. 

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Same Old Tune – by Khaled Amayreh

When Israel and the PLO signed the ill-fated Oslo 
Agreement in 1993, many people, save the "pessimists" and 
"extremists", thought that peace was finally around the 
corner and that a new politically stable and economically 
prosperous Middle East was in the offing. 

Shimon Peres, one of the Oslo Agreement's main godfathers, 
prognosticated then that Gaza would become the Singapore 
of the Middle East. Others, in their wild imagination and 
naïvety, predicted that the West Bank would become a new 
Silicon Valley, a sort of a Mecca for foreign investors. 

The ensuing euphoria prompted the late Palestinian leader 
Yasser Arafat to declare Palestinian towns "liberated, 
liberated, liberated," with Peres telling the world in 
every TV interview that Israel had virtually ended its 
occupation of the "Palestinian territories" and that 99 
per cent of Palestinians were living under the rule and 
control of the Palestinian Authority. Peres neglected 
to tell the world that the PA itself was under Israeli 
occupation and that the PA leader couldn't leave his head-
quarters in Ramallah and Gaza without an Israeli permit. 

Along with the false euphoria, grand names and grand 
titles characterised that episode, with substance always 
conspicuously absent or in a very short supply. 

Thus we had a Palestinian president, Palestinian 
government, state security court, and even Palestinian 
armed forces, when in fact there was very little substance 
if any to all these big names and titles. 

Nearly all of this came to naught as Israel continued to 
devour more and more Palestinian land and as Jewish settle-
ment expansion further narrowed Palestinian horizons, 
making the creation of a real Palestinian state very 
difficult if not outright impossible. 

And with the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, and the 
election of Ariel Sharon twice as prime minister of Israel, 
the entire Oslo Agreement became virtually anachronistic 
if not irrelevant, if only because Israeli policies and 
actions rendered it so. 

Of course, Gaza didn't become the Singapore of the Middle 
East. Instead, it has become a virtual concentration camp. 
This is while the West Bank continues to languish under 
sinister military occupation, with the construction of the 
separation wall and as many as 700 Israeli roadblocks and 
checkpoints, manned by sadistic and trigger-happy Israeli 
soldiers, turning Palestinian daily life into an enduring 
hell. 

Now, 14 years later, it seems that we are about to witness 
Oslo-2 as the US, Israel and other players, such as the 
new quartet peace envoy, former British prime minister, 
Tony Blair, are trying to reproduce Oslo-1 with the same 
public relations, same euphoria and the same lies. 

Indeed, it might be safe to conclude that the putative 
Oslo-2 agreement being contemplated, even if doesn't bear 
the Norwegian appellation, is going to be a poor cousin 
of the first Oslo Agreement. 

For example, the old agreement, at least theoretically, 
was based on UN resolutions 242 and 338 and the land-for-
peace formula, whereas the new proposed agreement is likely 
to be based mainly on America's good will and guarantees. 

And like the old agreement, the new one, as elucidated 
this week by Blair, promises economic prosperity for 
Palestinians, but says very little about the core issues 
of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict such as the fate of 
Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestinian refugees 
and, indeed, ending the Israeli occupation which began 
in 1967. 

And it seems that almost every one is going with the flow, 
at least for the time being. 

For its part, the PA, beset by its war with Hamas, is 
bracing itself for grand plans, encompassing every aspect 
of Palestinian life, from "liberating Gaza from Hamas" to 
"cleansing the West Bank of Jewish settlements." This 
week, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whose government lacks 
constitutional legitimacy, relies mainly on force and fait 
accompli, and depends on Western backing and Israeli 
acceptance, presented his government's platform for the 
next few months. 

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The platform includes a lot of nicely written promises, 
like building a robust economy, reestablishing the rule 
of law and enhancing the quality of life for ordinary 
Palestinians. However, it is clear that Fayyad is making 
the same mistake that Arafat did during the so-called 
Oslo-era; namely, ignoring and overlooking the umbilical 
cord of the Israeli occupation, which controls all 
economic development for the Palestinians. After all, how 
can national achievements be made in the absence of 
independence, sovereignty and freedom of movement? 

For its part, the American administration is also giving 
the impression of déjà-vu. In the early 1990s, when the 
US wanted to mobilise as many Arab states as possible for 
the war of liberation of Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's army, 
the US administration convened the Madrid Peace Conference, 
the Oslo Agreement's predecessor, in order to placate Arab 
public opinion and convince the Arab world that the US was 
serious about resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

Now, the US is ostensibly trying to do it again, by 
cajoling and if necessary bullying its Arab allies into 
joining Israel in a part-international part-regional 
conference to discuss the proverbial peace process, as 
if that moribund process needed any more discussion after 
all these years of peace initiatives and negotiations and 
agreements. The renewed American attention, however, is 
hardly altruistic and may well be related to and motivated 
by possible plans to attack Iran's nuclear installations 
on Israel's behalf. 

So, is the US trying to sell the Arabs another deception? 
Another Oslo agreement, in preparation for a new war on 
another Muslim country, this time Iran? 

Of course, an eternally opportunistic Israel will undoubted-
ly seek to emerge the sole if not main winner in any 
prospective conflagration in the region. 

This is why Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who 
wouldn't even agree to meet with PA President Mahmoud 
Abbas until he dismantles the "infrastructure of terror", 
is now having chummy chats with Abbas and even voicing 
willingness to discuss final-status issues, giving a false 
impression of flexibility and a propensity to make peace. 

But in reality Israel is only posturing and its steps are 
no more than PR tactics. Last week, the foreign ministers 
of Egypt and Jordan, Ahmed Abul-Gheit and Abdul-Ilah Al-
Khatib, visited Israel and met Israeli leaders from Olmert 
to opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu. The latter 
advocates limited autonomy for the Palestinians, a 
euphemism for continued apartheid. 

As usual in such circumstances, Israel sought to fully 
utilise the visit in order to give the impression of 
harmony and agreement between the two sides. To the 
uninitiated, the scene of Tzipi Livni and Peres amicably 
holding hands with the two Arab foreign ministers would 
give the impression of complete concordance. 

Seeking to encourage Israel to accept the Arab Peace 
Initiative, the Jordanian foreign minister told Israeli 
officials that Arab states were sincere about peace and 
were ready to normalise relations with Israel if the 
latter withdrew from all the territories occupied in 1967 
and accepted a dignified settlement of the Palestinian 
refugee plight pursuant to UN Resolution 194. 

Israeli leaders heard but didn't listen. In fact, instead 
of relating seriously to the Arab initiative, Olmert told 
the two ministers: "I hope next time you will bring some 
more Arab ministers with you." 

The snide, if not insulting, remarks actually encapsulated 
what the Israelis want, namely full normalisation with the 
Arab states, especially the oil-rich region, without making 
any serious move toward ending the 40-year- old Israeli 
occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza 
Strip. 

In addition, the Jewish state hopes that by cajoling Arab 
states, especially the Saudis, into normalising relations, 
Israel would be able to bully the PA into accepting a 
deformed, incomplete and truncated state on the West Bank, 
without Jerusalem, without the right of return and with 
the bulk of Jewish colonies remaining intact or annexed to 
Israel. 

Needless to say, the Israeli prime minister seems convinced 
that the current PA leadership's obsession with "statehood" 
overrides its demands for total Israeli withdrawal from 
the occupied West Bank. This week, the London-based Arabic 
newspaper reported that Olmert and Abbas were holding 
secret talks on a permanent settlement. Israeli and 
Palestinian officials have neither confirmed nor denied the 
report. However, with the Abbas-Fayyad regime in Ramallah 
almost completely dependent on Israel, it is amply clear 
that the secret negotiations are not being conducted 
between two equal partners but between a parsimonious 
occupier that owns or controls nearly all the assets and a 
vanquished supplicant that has to beg for everything from 
the occupier. 

Hence, it is safe to conclude that any agreements or 
compromises reached or imposed outside the umbrella of 
UN resolutions, including any prospective outcome of the 
proposed American-backed regional conference, slated to 
take place in the autumn, will ultimately meet the same 
fate and same failure that the Oslo Agreement met. 

The reason is clear. Israel rejects any peace settlement 
based on human rights and international law and insists 
on giving Palestinians only "gestures" and "good-will 
measures", but not rights. 

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