Jan 24, 2005
On January 9, Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority. Both Israel and the U.S. hailed his election, saying that the late Yasser Arafat had been the obstacle to peace, but now that a "moderate" was elected, peace became a possibility. Bush quickly invited Abbas to the White House, and Israel spoke of opening the door for him.
But just a week after Abbas' election, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon grabbed the first possible pretext to send the Israeli army into Palestinian cities and refugee camps, giving them free reign to shoot "at will."
Sharon retreated a bit when Abbas ordered the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, part of the Fatah movement which he heads, to integrate its forces into the Palestinian police and then said he would send Palestinian policemen into the northern Gaza Strip to protect Israel.
In fact, Sharon didn't listen to Abbas' promises, but to the U.S., which wants to continue with the pretense that it was Arafat, and Arafat alone, who stood in the way of resolving the conflict in Israel-Palestine.
That's as much of a lie as is Sharon's pretense that he is for peace.
The disastrous situation in the area has been caused by the policies of the Israeli government pushing more Israeli settlements into Palestinian territory. And there are courageous people in Israel who point this out.
The Israeli peace group Gush Shalom (Peace Block) says in one of its press releases that the settlers continue to establish themselves in the Gaza Strip despite Sharon's and the Israeli government's decision that they will have to leave this year. Further, it says, "In the West Bank the occupation is intensified. Merciless military road blocks continue to prevent any possibility of a normal life. The photo showing a Palestinian violinist forced to play for soldiers at a road block evoked terrible memories for numerous Israelis. [This was done by Nazis against Jews in the death camps.] The construction of the wall of separation continues, with some route changes to conform to the decision of the Israeli court, but totally ignoring the decision of the International Court. The settlers root up Palestinian olive trees to build new housing. The number of settlers increases throughout the West Bank and the road network reserved for Jews continues to be built. More and more illegal outposts continue to be built under the protection of the Israeli army and with the tacit aid of various government ministers. Enormous sums are invested in these projects, while in Israel pensions are cut and the sick wait in the aisles in the hospitals."
This exactly describes the reality. Under such conditions, the responsibility of which falls on Israel, there is not going to be a movement toward peace unless Israel recognizes the national rights of the Palestinian population. And both populations will continue to pay the terrible human price they have paid for years.
In a recent speech, Sharon promised Israelis better times ahead, greater security, peace of mind, economic growth and social progress. Israelis won't obtain any of these goals so long as the Palestinians don't obtain what they have fought for over the decades.