Saturday, April 30, 2005

TODAYonline - Oasis of Peace at NUS

*Rolls eyes*...nearly as bad as that particular Ridge article. I mean talk about one-sided with very spurious argumentation and causal linkages. He doesn't go anyway near to doing justice to what is a very complex problem/issue. IT'S NOT AS SIMPLE AS THE CREATION OF A PALESTINIAN STATE AND THE RECOGNITION OF JERUSALEM AS AN INTERNATIONAL CITY.

If it were, the Oslo and Dayton Peace Accords would have worked and he wouldn't have to write this article. There already is a Palestinian state (we'll talk about its viability later). Jerusalem was meant to have been split. So where are the fault lines?

1. Territory: Basically how far should Israel pull back from the territory it has annexed. In particular how much of the West Bank and Gaza Strip should be relinquished back to the Palestinians. While arguably Sharon has taken the unprecedented step of a unilateral pull-out from the Gaza Strip, there is quite a bit of truth that in return he will strengthen the grip on the remaining territories.

Regardless, Israel has shown a willingness to give up land for peace, see peace treaties with Egypt and Syria (Golan Heights). So, I would say that territory is really a big issue except in the sense of Israel domestic politics.

2. Right of Return: NOW this is the clincher. Israel cannot allow unlimited right of return of Palestinian refugees (who are mostly concentrated on the borders of Syria and Lebanon). Doing so will drastically alter the nature of the ethnic balance in Israel. The argument is that Israel will be swamped with refugees, the Jews become a minority and Israel ceases to exist. This is a real problem that cannot be brushed aside, sort of like Singapore's previous merger and exit from Malaysia.

So the real compromise would be a limited right of return that would be under Israeli terms but would be fair to the Palestinians. Perhaps even compensation for land annexed. This was the gist of the Saudi-backed plan as well as the 'peace accord' trashed out by non-governmental (and some opposition members) officials in Geneva about a year back.

Okay now to deal with the rest of his 'article'.
1. Ariel Sharon's unilateral pull-back from the Gaza Strip. He's right that this was in response to the Intifada but only in a very very broad sense like consumers money causes manufactured products...there are alot of intermediate linkages that need to be drawn damn it!

Now, there might be a political side to this pull-out as stated above (consolidating control over the rest of the controlled territories). But more than that why did Sharon stare down the very powerful Jewish Settlers Lobby and nearly split his party into two, nearly losing his majority and actually approached Peres to form a coalition government? Not to mention turning from a defence hawk into a peace liberal? He could have continued with his (generally unsuccessful) policy of repression and it would probably have been popular.

Maybe, something that Mr Clement hasn't realised is how the Palestinians are utterly void of anything that approached political and national unity?!! Or maybe Sharon finally realised that expecting the PA to actually be able to enforce a truce on HAMAS was to expect a burning bush to reappear in the middle of both Israel and Palestine and demand an end to the fighting.

This puts the Abbas and the PA on the other foot, such that they actually have to do something now and can no longer sit on their hands and claim it's all Israel's fault. To be fair to them, they are merely inheriting the problems from Yassar Arafat, who unfortunately squandered all his political capital and goodwill, indulging in a good dose of nepotism and cronyism and not doing anything to actually help with the peace process like stepping down when he began to show signs of senility and actually handing power over to his chosen successor.

2. Israel's repression/defence and the Palestinian Intifada. Both precusors and responses. Chicken and egg problem, each side is so locked into the violence that neither side can really back out and each side blaming each other for the respective violence. Mr Clement makes too simplistic a generalisation by claiming it's all the Israeli's fault.

I think it's fair to say that Sharon was only able to get away with what he did (provocation and repression) simply because the peaceniks could not show anything for their efforts. The PA needs to share some of the blame. Not to mention HAMAS, you think they only want the West Bank? First the West Bank then the rest of Israel. Hello?!!!! They still deny the right of Israel to exist! Wow, how DO you negotiate with someone who wants to eradicate you?

Both sides are essentially working under a siege mentality now. So just as the Palestinians are suffering so are the Israelis. Why else is the Wall so popular? It actually stops suicide bombers (from an average of 43 to around 11 per month). Yes it's not sustainable. Yes, it's killing the Palestinians by inches and yes it probably will create more people wanting to kill them. BUT what's the alternative? The pull-back is one. Giving back the Palestinians the ability for economic survival in another. But just as Sharon has stayed the hand of the military so must the PA stay that of HAMAS for there to be the basis of a negotiation for a lasting peace.


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