Can the US bring peace in the Middle East?

Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 01:18 am
Israel and the Palestinians are considering their responses to the long-delayed presentation of the so-called "roadmap" to peace in the Middle East.

Copies of the plan were delivered on Wednesday to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas - also known as Abu Mazen - whose appointment was a key step towards its launch.

It is intended to be a phase-by-phase route to ending conflict, and could lead to full Palestinian statehood as early as 2005.

Early on Thursday, four(CNN reports seven) Palestinians, including a two-year-old child, were killed during an incursion by Israeli troops, local officials say.

Witnesses said 10 Israeli tanks and other military vehicles, backed up by helicopters, went into the eastern part of Gaza City at dawn, and a gun battle broke out.

At least seven other people were reportedly wounded, two of them seriously, and a house was destroyed.

The Palestinians reacted with markedly more enthusiasm than Israel to the roadmap, which UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen said was a final plan.

"Not one comma, not one word will be changed," he told the Reuters news agency. "This is the basis of what we are going to do."

The new Palestinian Foreign Minister, Nabil Shaath, called for immediate implementation of the plan, the Associated Press news agency reported.

But Mr Sharon said in a statement he had received the blueprint "for the purpose of formulating comments on the wording," AP reported.

A bomb attack in Tel Aviv in which three people were killed by a suicide bomber failed to delay its publication.

Speaking to reporters soon after the plan was released, US President George W Bush said he was an "optimist".

He said the failure of previous similar plans was not reason to give up: "I'm an optimist. I will seize the opportunity."

He said Israel was going to have to make some sacrifices in order to move the peace process forward but no sacrifice should be made that would allow and encourage terror.

The "roadmap" was drafted by envoys from the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.

It calls for an immediate ceasefire, a crackdown on Palestinian militants, an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns and the dismantling of Jewish settlements erected since 2001.

BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says that even these initial confidence-building measures will prove difficult to implement.

President Bush said the proposals represented a starting point towards achieving the vision of two states, a secure State of Israel and a viable, peaceful, democratic Palestine.

"I urge Israelis and Palestinians to work with us and with other members of the international community, and above all directly with each other," he said in a statement read by his spokesman Ari Fleischer.

"Both Israelis and Palestinians have suffered from the terror and violence, and from the loss of hope in a better future of peace and security."

But the Palestinian militant group Hamas rejected the "roadmap" outright.

"It is a plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause," Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to discuss the "roadmap" with both Mr Abbas and Mr Sharon next week.

The release of the plan comes hours after the new Palestinian administration took office.

In his first policy speech on Tuesday, Mr Abbas - a critics of attacks against Israelis - pledged to control militant groups and illegal weapons.

The new cabinet is the result of intense international pressure on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to give up some of his powers and implement democratic reforms.

Ministers include both critics of Mr Arafat and loyalists from his mainstream Fatah movement.

The US and Israel have refused to deal with Mr Arafat, who remains isolated in Ramallah by Israeli forces.

Phase 1 (to May 2003): End of terrorism, normalisation of Palestinian life and Palestinian political reform; Israeli withdrawal and end of settlement activity; Palestinian elections
Phase 2: (June-Dec 2003) Creation of an independent Palestinian state; international conference and international monitoring of compliance with roadmap
Phase 3 (2004-2005): Second international conference; permanent status agreement and end of conflict; agreement on final borders, Jerusalem, refugees and settlements; Arab states to agree to peace deals with Israel
The 'roadmap': Full text
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Steve 41oo
Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 07:32 am

You didn't have a response in your poll for

"no, G W Bush will fail to live up to his promises".

He's made lots of promises, especially to Tony Blair, returning the favour over Iraq, but once he goes into re-election mode the fine words now will be viewed as merely an aspiration, necessarily to be sacrificed for the Jewish vote.
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 07:35 am
Steve (as 41oo) wrote:

"no, G W Bush will fail to live up to his promises".

this gets my vote
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 10:40 am
News Update
Last Updated: Thursday, 1 May, 2003, 15:30 GMT
Gaza gun battle 'kills 12'
Twelve Palestinians, including three Hamas militants and three children, have been killed in Gaza City during a big incursion by Israeli troops, Palestinian doctors say.

A leading Hamas member, Yusef Abu Hein - the main target of the raid - and two of his brothers were reported to be among those killed.

Israeli troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships surrounded a house where Hein's family live, and a gun battle ensued when he and his brothers refused to give themselves up.

The BBC's James Rodgers in Gaza said they traded fire with the Israeli force for hours and the fighting could be heard across the city.

According to witnesses, the Israeli troops finally blew up the house, killing those inside.

The incursion came hours after the release of an internationally-backed "roadmap" on Wednesday aimed at ending the violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

The most troubling is the timing of this incursion. It seems like the IDF is laughing in the face of Bush and they want to send a signal to the world=> "We still own the occupied territories and we still kill at will, no matter what Bush and his fellows tell you"
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 10:51 am
An interesting article from the Ha'aretz.


Betting on Abu Mazen - to Lose

The "road map" has been unfurled at last, its destination a independent Palestine by 2005. So why are so many Israeli government hawks walking around with smiles on their faces?

The war in Iraq may be one big reason, the newfound sense among rightists that the Middle East can be made over by force of will, force of arms, and force of example.

Another possibility is rooted in the gambling instincts of George Bush and Ariel Sharon, who may well be betting heavily on new Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen - to lose.

The road map, a now-rare diplomatic collaboration of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, was formally presented Wednesday to the eleventh prime minister of Israel and the first prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.

On the face of it, rightists in Israeli officialdom should be anxious. The Bush administration, with a robust push from Britain's Tony Blair, has pledged to vigorously pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace through cooperation and mutual compromise.

The plan speaks of a phased approach, leading with political and procedural reform of the Palestinian Authority and PA efforts to quell attacks on Israelis, to be matched by broad Israeli military withdrawals from areas re-occupied during the Intifada, and the institution of a freeze on new settlement activity - this last a concept particularly odious to hardline Israeli officials.

So why are these people smiling? The mood elevation stems from clear channels of communication with Washington, and the signals they are receiving from the White House and Capitol Hill, argues Haaretz commentator Akiva Eldar:

"The message that they are getting now, is that the Rumsfeld-Richard Perle school of thought is now in charge, people who were against the Oslo peace process, people who don't trust the Palestinians, people who feel that after what they did in Iraq, the Palestinians must now go after and crack down hard on the Islamists, the radicals, the terrorists - something the Palestinians may be unable to accomplish," Eldar says, adding of the neoconservative-oriented U.S. officials, "These are people who are against any conciliation."

In their interpretation of the road map, Sharon need not make a single move until the Palestinian Authority has demonstrated that it is putting up a significant battle against the militants in its midst. Moreover, "they know that Sharon has raised the required threshhold to so high a level that it is unrealistic to believe any Palestinian could reach it."

Israel is soon to hand Abu Mazen's security authorities its lists of wanted militants, along with a demand that the fugitives be put behind bars for lengthy terms - a sharp contrast from Arafat's rule, during which the PA Chairman's men leaked the lists to give fugitives time to go underground rather than be seized. Those wanted men who actually were taken into custody were, in many cases, released before long - a system Israel was swift to dub the revolving door.

But hawks can allow themselves to breath easy in the face of possible future demands for concessions, Eldar maintains.

"They have every reason to expect that the vicious circle of terrorism, retaliation, and targeted killings will simply go on," he says, adding that newly appointed senior PA security official Muhammad Dahlan lacks the power to break the cycle even in his native Gaza, where the PA police apparatus was not wholly pulverized by Israel, as it was in the West Bank.

As if to prove their point, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the fierce, wheelchair-bound spiritual leader of Hamas, lost no time Wednesday in dismissing the road map and vowing no let-up in attacks by the militant Islamic group, which has sworn to blast the Jewish state entirely off the map of the Middle East.

"The road map aims to assure security for Israel at the expense of the security of our people," Yassin said in Gaza City. "It is a plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause. It is rejected by us."

There is also ample reason to believe that the process of instituting PA reforms - sabotaged by Arafat at every turn - has itself already done significant damage to Abu Mazen's standing and his ability to seek an end to terror attacks.

True to form, Arafat clearly relished the repercussions of opposing Abu Mazen as long as possible in the near-operatic wrangling over a new cabinet. Arafat's refusal brought him rafts of telephone calls from world figures, and direct arm-twisting from a personal envoy of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Like a recalcitrant child for whom scolding and cajoling is better than no attention at all, Arafat had re-established his own relevancy, if only for a night, and at Abu Mazen's expense. In the eyes of many Palestinians, the international intervention sapped the new prime minister's credibility as an independent leader.

The American administration, ever mindful of a do-or-die election next year, wants no part of being embarrassed by Abu Mazen's PA, as previous administrations were embarassed by Arafat's, Eldar says. Washington also has little trust that Abu Mazen has the strength to deliver on the issues that count, just as the White House has scant interest in demanding that Israel make concessions like wholesale troop pullbacks, only to be hit by fresh waves of suicide bombings.

In sum, Sharon is betting on Abu Mazen to fail.

What's in it for Sharon? Eldar believes that the Israeli leader quietly but genuinely believes what Israeli ultra-hawks like Likud cabinet minister Uzi Landau and American neocons like Richard Perle are pleased to say out loud: that everything connected with Oslo must go - up to and including the whole of the Palestinian Authority.

Because the road map is at heart a return to many of the aspects of Oslo and its offshoot the Peres-Abu Ala plan, even with a similar cast of characters, the hawks reject its very basis. As in U.S. neocon recommendations to then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, "They reject the principle of land for peace. They believe that Israeli-Palestinian military cooperation doesn't work. They believe in peace by force, by regime change. They believe that the victory in Iraq proved that they were right, that the way to deal with terrorism is simply by force."

At the end of the day, "If 'Bush comes to shove' and the administration must decide whether to crack down on Sharon or on Abu Mazen, it's very clear what they are going to do."

What, then, is Sharon's solution to the conflict? A senior security official recently told Eldar of a conversation with Sharon, in which the prime minister said Israel must stick to its guns for the next 30 years, at which time alternative technologies will reduce the need for oil, thus sapping Arab influence on Europe and the world.

Many in the Bush administration have a similar position, believing that if you have enough power and will, there is no need to concede. Eldar says that the Israeli stand-pat faction has been much encouraged by the growing list of U.S. senators and members of Congress that support the Sharon formula, a whole-hearted acceptance of the vaguely worded "Bush vision" enunciated in a June speech, alongside grimly qualified reservations over the road map.

"All Sharon has to do, at this point, is to hold on until the beginning of the election year," Eldar concludes.

For his part, Bush, ever mindful of the Jewish vote, can also discreetly bet on Abu Mazen to lose. If the scenario plays out as neocons hope, he can appear to have a peace process going, but will have no need to pressure Israel into concessions.

"Then Bush can turn around and tell the Europeans, the Egyptians and the Saudis, 'I did my job. I've accepted the road map, I've turned my back on the Israeli demands for revisions to the plan, now it's up to you to deliver your Palestinian friends.'"

In any case, Eldar says, "someone will always provide him with a terrorist attack, so he can say, 'What do you expect me to do now?'"
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 03:03 pm
May. 1, 2003
US Christians call for 'biblical road map'
As the Bush administration puts pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to begin implementing the road map, several Jewish and Christian groups in the US are launching grassroots campaigns to have the peace plan dropped in favor of the Bible. In more than a dozen cities across the country, a coalition of Jewish and Christian groups called "The Committee for a One-State Solution" recently initiated a billboard campaign urging the public to contact the White House to reaffirm their support for Israel and pray that US President George W. Bush supports the Jewish State. The black-and-white billboards, currently featured in eight states, quote a verse from Genesis in which God pledged to give Israel to Jacob's descendants. "Pray that President Bush honors God's covenant with Israel," reads the billboard. "We're doing what we can to tell the State Department, George Bush, the UN, Arafat and Colin Powell that every grain of sand on that piece of geography between the Mediterranean and Dead Sea belongs to the Jewish people," said the founder and president of the Religious Roundtable, Ed McAteer, who is a member of the coalition along with American Values, headed by Gary Bauer, the Apostolic Congress and Americans for Safe Israel (AFSI). "Bush is absolutely, 100% wrong on supporting and even talking about an idea called the road map," said McAteer. According to one campaign planner, the billboard locations, which currently include 60, three-month slots in Colorado, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland, were chosen based on their large Evangelical populations and close 2000 presidential election results. In addition to posting billboards, the coalition has also sent out 12,000 blue and white bumper stickers urging Christian Zionists to pray for Bush to support Israel. "We're hoping this will be something that will turn the president away from the road map, turn him away from a Palestinian state," said AFSI executive-director Helen Freedman. The Zionist Organization of America also launched an anti-road map initiative this week. The campaign plans to run full-page ads arguing that the Palestinian leadership hasn't renounced terrorism and the creation of a Palestinian state would jeopardize Israel's security.
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 03:50 pm
May 1, 2003, 9:00 a.m.
Abu Mazen’s Alternative to Terrorism
Is it a demographic bomb?

Death and destruction aside, what is most disturbing about Tuesday's terrorist attack in Tel Aviv is who has claimed responsibility. The attack was jointly planned by Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, according to Agence France Presse.
Hamas always has been candid about its goal: the annihilation of Israel.

But the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades are tied to Fatah, and Fatah is the organization of Yasser Arafat ; and of Mahmoud Abbas, a.k.a. Abu Mazen. A terrorist attack by the Martyrs' Brigades, in association with Hamas, just hours after Abu Mazen was confirmed as the new Palestinian Authority prime minister, sends an unmistakable message about the chances for Arab-Israeli peace anytime soon.

Perhaps the terrorists underestimate Abu Mazen. Perhaps even now he is preparing a muscular response. In his inaugural address, delivered just prior to the attack, Abu Mazen denounced terrorism "by any party and in all its shapes and forms" ; a way of saying "Israel does it, too" (but since even Reuters and the BBC display that sort of moral relativism it would be unfair to expect more of any Arab leader at this point).

Most media reports have said that Abu Mazen "suggested" that his new government will move against terrorist groups ; as President Bush has demanded before there can be movement toward Palestinian statehood. But if you actually read Abu Mazen's address you'll see that his "suggestion" was vague at best. "The unauthorized possession of weapons," he said, "is a major concern that will be relentlessly addressed." That sounds more like Sarah Brady than it does an antiterrorist warrior.
Article too long to post. Can be seen at,
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Frank Apisa
Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 05:51 pm
I don't think there will ever be anything resembling a real peace between the Arabs, Palestinians, Islamics, Jews, and Israelis. I think they are all too deeply entrenched in their bitterness and hard-headedness.

But if by some unreal twist of fortune peace does break out -- my guess it more likely will occur IN SPITE of what the United States is doing -- rather than BECAUSE of what the United States is doing.
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 06:17 pm
I disagree! If there is to be peace between the Moslem world and Israel the road will have to wind through Washington. The parties will never achieve peace on their own.
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Frank Apisa
Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 07:22 pm
Well, frankly, au, I don't think the peace will come in any case. But while I respect your feelings on this issue, I must reaffirm my considerations on the subject.

The presence of the United States in these negotiations has become a net negative to the process rather than a positive.

We are not neuteral on the issue. We are firmly on the Israeli side -- and we are not dealing at arms length with the Arabs, the Palestinians, or the Islamics.

If there ever will be peace there -- something I suspect will NEVER happen -- it will have to be the two sides working with someone other than the United States.

And I'll say it again: In my opinion, if peace ever does come there -- it will be in spite of US efforts, not as a result of them.
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 09:22 pm
Frank - that is what I think too. Genuine peace, no. Accomodation with each other, yes. And I really do think the Bush administration has exacerbated the situation by being so obviously one-sided. Not that I don't think the Israelis have a strong case - they do. They were promised a homeland years ago, and finally paid for it by their own sweat and blood. And the Palestinians did not exist as that until Jordan finally booted them out. So there are issues on both sides. But if Bush had stepped in early about the settlements, they may have been able to work some things out.

But basically, they are completely different cultures and beliefs. They have different beliefs on life and death, and honor means different things to them, and the observance of the religions is both similar and distinct. And I don't see how they could live together. Side by side, yes. We haven't managed integrated living in this country, and there are far more similarities between groups here.

Besides, it is rare that a third party can achieve this, and we don't have such a great track record with it. Eventually, I hope, they will get tired of killing each other and decide that living is better. But they will do it, not us.
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Reply Sat 3 May, 2003 10:27 am
The absence of US pressure on Israel means that Washington is directly contributing to the deterioration of the situation in the occupied territories by encouraging Israel. And when the Palestinians defend themselves they are called terorists.

Why is Powell heading to Damascus to convince Syria they have no interest in supporting Hezbollah. Why isn't he talking with Sharon and his ministers on how to end the killing of innocent Palestinians?
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Reply Tue 6 May, 2003 03:42 pm
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon threw a U.S.-backed peace plan into doubt Tuesday, saying the Palestinians must drop their demand for Arab refugees' "right of return" to Israel if negotiations are to proceed.

Israel has always objected to the right of return for about 4 million Arabs who fled the war that followed Israel's creation in 1948, but never made renouncing the demand a condition for peace talks before.

The new Mideast plan unveiled by Washington last week says the fate of the refugees will be negotiated in the third and final stage of the so-called "road map." The right of return is a cornerstone of Palestinian policy.
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Craven de Kere
Reply Tue 6 May, 2003 07:38 pm
Conservative Craven:

The US can bring peace only if the Palestinians stop trying to drive Isreal "into the sea". once they get it in their heads that Isreal is here to stay we have a shot at peace.
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Frank Apisa
Reply Tue 6 May, 2003 08:21 pm
Anyone who wants to bet me, I'm willing to risk $1000 per year from now 'til whenever.

My side of the bet: A reasonable person would say there is no peace in the Middle East.

You have to take the side: This is a reasonable approximation of peace.

I'll take all the bets that come my way.
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Reply Thu 8 May, 2003 11:09 am
I have a question which I would like answered as a stand alone issue. Assuming all the other issues are resolved. Can Israel accept the right of return? Would it result in the end of the Jewish state of Israel? Would it's acceptance be national suicide?
I ask you to look at the issue from the view of an Israeli if you can.
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Reply Thu 8 May, 2003 11:58 am
The right to return.

Why has a Jewish taxidriver in New York, who never has been in Israel, more right to 'return' to his homeland than a Palestinian in Jordan who still has the keys of his frontdoor of the house he used to live in in current Israel.
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Reply Thu 8 May, 2003 12:07 pm
That is exactly why I asked the question the way I did. I was not looking for you or anyone else to answer the question with a question or for that matter to justify the right of return. Answer if can will the question as it was asked. Will the right of return if accepted be national suicide for Israel?
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Reply Thu 8 May, 2003 12:42 pm
Israel: "Right Of Return" is a Non-Starter Though Israel has almost always objected to any implementation of the so-called "right of return" for Arab refugees, it's now more official than ever. A series of statements this week by the highest Israeli officials has made this clear. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said on Sunday that the PA must waive its demand for the right of an estimated 550,000-700,000 Arab refugees from 1948, and their three million descendants, to return to what is now Israel. Shalom said that the second stage of the Road Map plan - the creation of a PA state with provisional borders - is conditional on this waiving. On Tuesday, in a traditional pre-Independence Day interview with public Israeli media, Prime Minister Sharon also said that the PA must drop its "right of return" demand. Sharon called it ''a recipe for the destruction of Israel,'' as it would flood Israel with Arabs. Israel currently has a population of 6.7 million, including roughly 1.3 million Arabs

The entire article at
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Frank Apisa
Reply Thu 8 May, 2003 12:53 pm
There will NEVER be anything resembling peace in the Middle East so long as the state of Israel exists there - and there are any Arabs or Islamics living in that area also -- because both sides are concrete headed.

More than likely, the next major war (yep, we still have one more to fight) will have its initial skirmishes fought in that area - and then the general destruction of the planet will follow closely.
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