Occupied TerritoriesSharon is the problem [Archives:2003/691/Opinion]

December 4 2003

Hassan Al-Haifi
The obvious fact that is becoming more apparent, is that Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel, represents the major drawback to the achievement of a peaceful settlement of the Middle East problem, especially between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. This is not just an Arab or Palestinian claim, or the claim of Europeans, who have now become “Eurocentric anti-Semites”, as William Safire of the New York Times alludes. Many prominent Israelis themselves have now also pointed this out on more than one occasion. Many Israeli liberals have often suggested for some time that the Israeli government must display more visible seriousness towards the quest for a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians.
More recently, many Israeli military personnel under uniform went even further. The refusal last month or so of 27 conscientious Israeli pilots to carry out bombing missions against Palestine civilians underscores the serious criticisms by the very elements that Sharon wants to carry out his bloodbath of the Palestinians. The latter was further enhanced by the more recent criticism of the Chief of Staff of the Israeli “defense” forces, as well as the objections raised by four former Shin Bet (Israeli Secret Police) directors against the current policies of the Sharon government in the occupied territories and the deliberate suffering encountered by the Palestinians. All have clearly pointed out that such aggressive policies actually work against the interests of Israel, and in fact undermine the security of Israeli citizens, while Ariel Sharon continues to carry out a determined effort to choke out the Palestinians and render them homeless.
Furthermore, there is the civil society exercise, known as the Geneva Accord, which was undertaken by Yasser Abdo Rabbo, former Information Minister of the Palestine Authority and Yossi Beilin, former Israeli Justice Minister and their respective colleagues. The participants in the exercise represent a cross-section of prominent Palestinian and Israeli prominent figures, most of whom are active in their respective non-governmental sector.
Although the accord did not bear any official weight, it nevertheless showed that it is feasible for both Israeli and Palestinian factions to reach agreement when extreme dogmatism is set aside and a neutral sponsor, such as the Swiss government, steers the negotiations to a viable agreement covering all the issues of concern to both factions – even such sensitive issues as Jerusalem (with all its ramifications), illegal Jewish settlements and Palestinian refugees.
To add to this emerging anti-Sharon phenomenon, the fourth development comes as a severe blow to the public relations of the Israeli government, which emphasizes that persistent Zionist intransigence under the false pretense of “fighting terror”, is not so easily digested by international public opinion anymore. Whitewashing a clearly obvious deliberate campaign to make life (and death) a miserable plight for the Palestinians is simply no longer possible, especially with the well-informed European public. Responding to recent polls, the majority of the people of Europe (in literally every member state of the European Union) viewed Israel as the most serious threat to world peace. Even formerly staunch supporters of the Zionist state, such as the Dutch, concurred with the overall European perspective. Zionist and Zionist supporters' efforts to belittle this inescapable reaction to continued Zionist intransigence in the Holy Land or allude anti-Semitism as the cause d''tre behind such unexpected European outlook could not dispel the obvious setback dealt to the very expensive and well-organized blemishing efforts in the public media continuously unleashed in the various media channels in Europe and the United States.
Of course, the Sharon government shrugged off all these developments by dubbing them from “treason” to the usual accusation of Anti-Semitism. In the meantime, it is business as usual in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with Israeli troop incursions, destruction of Palestinian homes and infrastructure, settlement building, blocking access to houses of worship (Christian and Moslem) and the continued unabashed construction of the “Security Wall”, mostly on Palestinian territory, etc. It is worth noting that for the last two months the Palestinians have not undertaken any violent activities amidst Israeli civilians, albeit with some intermittent operations against military or settlement positions – genuine resistance activities against an illegal occupation.
The continued rude position of the Sharon government is not surprising, with the right wing extremists continuing to hold the political reigns in Tel Aviv. However, the American position and the similarly oblivious manner to which recent development have been received by the Bush Administration, continue to encourage Sharon to proceed on his agenda and to display contempt for any genuine efforts towards a peaceful solution of the conflict or to get the “Road Map to Peace” on forward gear. Accordingly, there are really no grounds for expecting any wisdom in US policy in the Middle East to be seen by anyone nor for dismissing Dr. Mahathir Mohammed's last resounding observations before his retirement from the international and domestic Malaysian political arena.