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The Show Goes On---And On – by Ali Abunimah

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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:

Is the upcoming "Peace Conference" a show or real? 
Here is one interesting viewpoint. 

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                  Video Clip Of The Week

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The Show Goes On---And On – by Ali Abunimah

The "Middle East Peace Process" is like one of those big 
budget Broadway extravaganzas; they go on for years, but 
with each revival the cast changes. What may seem like a 
tired production to some nevertheless manages to remain 
fresh to the gullible throngs willing to hand over the 
price of admission. 

Unlike a few hours of theatrical escapism, however, the 
producers of the Middle East Peace Process hope that the 
audience will actually believe that what they are viewing 
on stage, whether performed in Madrid, Oslo, London, 
Washington or Sharm al-Sheikh is real-life and even has 
the potential to end the conflict caused by a century of 
western-supported Zionist colonization in Palestine. 

In the latest revival, Condoleezza Rice plays the US 
secretary of state determined to bring the long-running 
conflict to a close with skilful diplomacy designed to put 
in a place a "process" eventually leading to a two-state 
solution. George Bush, tired of being typecast as a 
warmonger, tries on the role of lame-duck president who 
spent years enabling Israeli colonization, but who, with 
an eye on his legacy, is now committed to peacefully ending 
the conflict once and for all. 

Other key actors include Mahmoud Abbas, a colorless 
quisling whose only power base is the American and Israeli 
guns that keep him installed in his Ramallah Green Zone - 
filling in for the late Yasser Arafat as leader of the 
Palestinians, and Ehud Olmert, understudy to Ariel Sharon 
who left the stage unexpectedly. 

Special guest star Tony Blair, who just completed a long 
and controversial run as prime minister of a marginal 
European power, hopes that by joining the peace process 
cast as "Quartet special envoy" he can breathe life into 
a flagging career. 

Once in a while, reality bursts on to the stage to disrupt 
the show - and that has happened again just as the 
producers are getting ready to take it on tour to 
Annapolis, where President Bush plans to hold a meeting 
of key leaders some time this autumn. 

Last week, just after Abbas's representatives met with 
Israeli counterparts to try to hammer out a "declaration 
of principles" to unveil at the Annapolis meeting, the 
Israeli army announced the expropriation of almost 300 
acres of Palestinian land near occupied East Jerusalem for 
the purpose of expanding the already massive Jewish-only 
settlements which bisect the West Bank and render a 
contiguous Palestinian state impossible. Since the peace 
process began in 1993, Israel has confiscated an area 
equivalent to the size of Washington, DC, for the 
construction of Jewish-only colonies fully confident that 
none of the actors on stage will lift a finger to stop it. 

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Rice feigns frustration: "Frankly it is time for the 
establishment of a Palestinian state," she said at a press 
conference with Abbas. "We frankly have better things to 
do than invite people" to the Annapolis meeting "for a 
photo op". Yet she will be lucky if she even gets that. 
Already the meeting date is likely to be pushed back, not 
only because of accelerated Israeli colonization, but 
because despite the spin there is no fundamental agreement 
between the Israelis and Palestinians on the details of 
what a two-state solution would look like. As I have 
argued elsewhere and in my book, One Country, peace 
through partition is an unachievable fantasy. 

What's more, none of the players has the credibility or 
strength to negotiate on behalf of those whom they purport 
to represent. Abbas and his unelected cronies are seen by 
many Palestinians as petty collaborators determined to do 
all they can to retain their place at the master's table. 
Despite an overwhelming desire among Palestinians for 
unity, Abbas, blackmailed and bribed by the EU and US, 
refuses to talk to Hamas to heal the rifts caused by the 
efforts of Fatah militias armed and supported by Israel 
and the US to overturn the results of the January 2006 
election won by Hamas. There can be no serious peace talks 
without Hamas on board. 

Olmert, who is fending off multiple criminal corruption 
probes, heads a coalition that depends for its majority 
on Jewish racists who cannot countenance peace and equality 
with Palestinians under any circumstances. Last week, Tony 
Blair met with one of those coalition leaders, deputy prime 
minister Avigdor Lieberman who heads the proto-fascist 
Israel Beitenu party. According to Ha'aretz, Lieberman told 
Blair that any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict 
"has to include Israel's Arab citizens as well, when the 
basis for an agreement should be a land swap and a 
population transfer." In other words, there can be no peace 
without the expulsion of over one million Palestinian 
citizens of Israel. Lieberman has repeatedly promised to 
bring down the government if Olmert even discusses "core 
issues" at Annapolis such as borders, settlements and the 
rights of Palestinian refugees expelled by Israel. 

Ha'aretz did not record Blair's reaction to this renewed 
call for ethnic cleansing from a senior Israeli official. 
(How would Blair have reacted if Ian Paisley had publicly 
declared that there could be no peace in Northern Ireland 
without the expulsion of all Catholics from the Six 
Counties so that Protestant supremacy could be 
perpetuated?) But it is a measure of how bankrupt the 
process is that EU and US officials meet willingly with 
avowed ethnic cleansers of Lieberman's caliber (presumably 
on the basis that he is elected) and yet refuse to deal 
with Hamas, the democratically-elected representatives 
of Palestinians under occupation. Hamas leaders have 
repeatedly offered Israel a long-term ceasefire and 
negotiations exactly on the Northern Ireland model that 
led to the Belfast Agreement of which Blair is so proud. 

Blair is apparently unable to understand that what ended 
the conflict in Northern Ireland was not his charm, but 
the acceptance by all parties of the fundamental principle 
of equality among all people regardless of ethno-religious 
identity and the progressive reform of state institutions, 
like the police, that had been nothing more than sectarian 
militias in official uniforms, just as the Israeli police 
and army that steal land for Jews are nothing more than 
thuggish sectarian militias with uniforms. 

In Palestine-Israel, this means abrogating all laws in 
Israel that systematically privilege Jews and harm non-
Jewish citizens, ending Israel's military tyranny in the 
Occupied Territories, and allowing refugees to return home. 
Nothing like that will be on the agenda in Annapolis which 
is why the effort will fail. 

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Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and
author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-
Palestinian Impasse
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