Just Say No to Washington

Category: World Affairs Topics: Bill Clinton, Foreign Policy, Occupation Views: 785
785

Until a global balance of power emerges, the United States will maintain the upper hand in mediating the Middle East so-called peace process. Whether Israelis and Palestinians are pleased with the US interference in their quarrel, they have to live with it.

Yet while the Israelis are able, through very influential Zionist lobbies in the US and a very pro-Israeli US Congress, Palestinians are always cornered; they are the side most often asked to compromise, even when it comes to their most fundamental rights.

But the Palestinian Authority must also bear part of the responsibility in being the weaker side. Not once since the signing of the Oslo peace accord in 1993, has the PA officially confronted US bias.

Following the failure of the Camp David talks, President Bill Clinton, the self-proclaimed the honest broker, began a smear campaign against PA President Yasser Arafat for not being as courageous as Prime Minister Ehud Barak during the talks. Such criticism was echoed among US administration officials, Congress and the American media. Meanwhile, Clinton began to show his true colors. In an Israeli television interview said that he is seriously considering the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, an act considered to be a clear violation of the spirit of the negotiations.

The Clinton administration's bias toward Israel has been exposed repeatedly in the past, but it has never been as blunt and careless as it was following the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising. The anti-Palestinian sentiment grew noticeably and it was reflected to a degree in Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's media briefings and official statements, where she shamelessly uttered that it was in fact the Israeli army who was "besieged" by Palestinian stone throwers.

But despite the apparent biases, the PA continues to entrust the US to direct and mediate the peace talks. Time and again, PA negotiators have experienced extreme pressure to let go of their crucial demands such as the refugees' right of return. It is indeed a puzzling paradox.

Why do Palestinians keep coming back to Washington? There is no doubt that the Palestinian leadership feels trapped. Part of the trap was set up by the leadership's own actions through the signing of shallow and unfair agreements with Israel such as the Oslo accords. The other part of the trap was a product of the current political setting in the Middle East--fragmented Arab and Muslim nations, an incompetent United Nations, and a largely uninvolved European Union.

While such circumstances indeed demand an alternative Palestinian strategy to cope with the Middle East imbalance, putting all the eggs in the American basket should not have been the alternative.

Unlike President Clinton's claim that his presidency contains a golden opportunity for a peace deal, Palestinians should view Clinton's departure itself as an opportunity. Although the incoming President, George W Bush was assisted to an undeniable extent in his bid for office by the Muslim and Arab support, Palestinians should not make the same mistake of trusting him without witnessing a genuine change of American policies in the Middle East.

The Palestinian Authority must learn that even if it lacks genuine support from the US, as well as genuine international support, it cannot justify any future "compromises" by its weakness and isolation.

Moreover, the PA must set before the incoming president its absolute refusal to re-negotiate what has already been honored in international law, such as the end of Israeli occupation in all Palestinian territories including Jerusalem, the right of return, the removal of all settlements, control over the borders and more. Palestinians have compromised enough, and talking about any more compromises is a recipe for further failure.

The Palestinian leadership must make it clear to both the US administration and the Israeli government that the fate of its people should no longer be subjected to political ploys or financial pressure.

There is no need for PA negotiators to keep returning to Washington, when the US hasn't even protested against the killing of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers. The PA is not morally responsible to Washington, but rather to millions of refugees and those who died in their quest for freedom.

While Washington has much to offer Israel, it clearly has little to offer Palestinians. For the PA, staying in Gaza is a much more dignified option. And when Washington sends for the PA to take part in yet another round of talks outlined by Israel, the Palestinian leadership should "just say no."

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Ramzy Baroud is a freelance writer in Seattle, Washington and a regular columnist for iviews.com.


  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Bill Clinton, Foreign Policy, Occupation
Views: 785

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