Sharon answers Geneva with Gaza bombs

Submitted by martin on 23 October, 2003 - 11:56

Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was quick to reject the "Geneva Accord", published on 14 October as an outline for peace in Israel-Palestine. And a vehement speech in the Israeli parliament was not enough.
He followed up on 20 October by three large bombing raids on Gaza. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have promised to respond by more suicide bombings in Israel. And so the terrible spiral continues, the main result being pauperisation, atomisation, and mass casualties among the Palestinian population of the Occupied Territories.
Hypocritically, in his parliamentary speech, Sharon counterposed the US-EU-UN-Russian "roadmap" to the "Geneva Accord", saying it was the only way to peace. In fact Sharon has shot the roadmap to bits. He continues to build new Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, and the new "Separation Wall", cutting deep into the West Bank.
For now, at least, the USA has let the roadmap fall. Talk of financial sanctions against Israel has come to nothing.
The "Geneva Accord" was initiated by former Israeli minister Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian minister Yasser Abed Rabbo. It has the support of some other Israeli opposition figures - but not Shimon Peres, leader of the Israeli Labour Party - and of Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qureia and president Yasser Arafat. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the Accord's authors published it when they did at the urging of the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who was anxious for some sort of initiative which might put diplomacy back on the agenda.
The roadmap was supposed to be a schedule of steps, driven essentially by international diplomatic pressure, towards a settlement only loosely defined. It was supposed to lead to a "sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian state", but provided no guarantees against the outcome being considerably less.
The "Geneva Accord" offers no driving mechanism, but instead a more definite formula for a settlement. According to Uri Avnery of the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom: "I have no connections with this initiative. The Israeli participants belong to the left wing of the Labour and Meretz parties, and I do not belong to this circle...
"But... 90% of the proposals are the same [as Gush Shalom's own peace plan, drafted in consultation with Palestinian co-thinkers, and published in August 2001]... Both drafts are based on the principle of 'two states for two peoples', with their capitals in Jerusalem, a border based on the Green Line, removal of the settlers from the Palestinian territories and a practical solution of the refugee problem..."
Avnery regretted the other ten per cent - notably, some "limitation on Palestinian sovereignty that may impair the feeling of equality" - but welcomed the document as a hopeful move towards "the end of the era of despair".
From the point of view of socialist and democratic principle, the basic requirement of justice in Israel-Palestine is self-determination for both nations, Palestinian-Arab and Israeli-Jewish - that is, Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and the creation of an independent Palestinian state with the same rights as Israel. To achieve real liberation, and not just formal equality, those two states will have to become parts of a socialist federation of the whole Middle East.
The newest feature of the Geneva Accord is it includes a more definite step by the Palestinians than previous texts away from the formula of the "right of return". The Gush Shalom text of 2001 deals with it by proposing to recognise the "right of return" "in principle", but in practice setting out a limited programme of resettlement of Palestinians into Israel and measures of financial compensation. The Geneva text omits the recognition "in principle". In practical gist it is not very different.
The demand for the "right of return" originated in 1948, when some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven out from the territory which became Israel in the course of the war between the Jewish community, the Arabs of Palestine, and the surrounding Arab states.
Tentative negotiations in the early 1950s about some refugees returning, and others being integrated into Arab states, never came near a settlement. Israel kept a hard face. The Arab states (with the partial exception of Jordan) deliberately refused to allow the refugees to integrate, and promised them that war against Israel would eventually bring their mass collective "return".
So "right of return" became code for "fight the 1948 war again, but with the Arabs winning this time".
Today it has become a demand for the mass resettlement of some four or five million descendants of the 1948 refugees into Israel. No-one believes this will happen short of a full-scale Arab conquest of Israel - which is very improbable, and anyway would create more horrors than it would remove.
If the formula can be dropped - and measures carried out to afford all the refugees some sense of restitution - then that will be a step forward to a Jewish-Arab peace which, before too long, could allow freedom of movement and the ending of discrimination.
The Geneva text is an important further proof that, despite all the atrocities of Hamas, there is a basis for peace on the Palestinian side. But Sharon does not want peace - not, at least, until he has carried the process of battering, pauperising and demoralising the Palestinians much further.
Against that battering and pauperising, we must organise solidarity with the Palestinians. Justice for the Palestinians! Two nations, two states!

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