"Peace Process" Prospects
latest AP report from Camp David (evening, July 25) begins: "The Middle
East peace talks at Camp David collapsed Tuesday over rival claims to East
Jerusalem. Disappointed, President Clinton said he tried several approaches but
could not come up with a solution." Clinton expressed hope that the process
would continue to a resolution of the East Jerusalem problem, at which point the
fundamental outstanding issue would have been overcome.
have a sense of what is taking place, it is useful to back off a few steps and
to look at the immediate events from a somewhat broader perspective.
discussion of what is called a "peace process" -- whether the one
underway at Camp David or any other -- should keep in mind the operative meaning
of the phrase: by definition, the "peace process" is whatever the US
government happens to be pursuing.
grasped that essential principle, one can understand that a peace process can be
advanced by Washington's clearly-proclaimed efforts to undermine peace. To
illustrate, in January 1988 the press reported Secretary of State George
Shultz's "peace trip" to Central America under the headline
"Latin Peace Trip by Shultz Planned." The subheading explained the
goal: "Mission Would Be Last-Ditch Effort to Defuse Opposition on Contra
Aid." Administration officials elaborated that the "peace
mission" was "the only way to save" aid to the contras in the
face of "growing congressional opposition."
timing is important. In August 1987, over strong US objections, the Central
American presidents had reached a peace agreement for the bitter Central
American conflicts: the Esquipulas Accords. The US acted at once to undermine
them, and by January, had largely succeeded. It had effectively excluded the
sole "indispensable element" cited in the Accords: an end to US
support for the contras (CIA supply flights instantly tripled, and contra terror
increased). Washington had also eliminated the second basic principle of the
Accords: that the human rights provisions should apply to US clients as well as
to Nicaragua (by US fiat, they were to apply to Nicaragua alone). Washington had
also managed to terminate the despised international monitoring mission, which
had committed the crime of describing truthfully what had been happening since
the adoption of the plan in August. To the consternation of the Reagan
Administration, Nicaragua nevertheless accepted the version of the accords
crafted by US power, leading to the Shultz "peace mission," undertaken
to advance the "peace process" by ensuring that there would be no
backsliding from the demolition operation.
brief, the "peace mission" was a "last-ditch effort" to
block peace and mobilize Congress to support the "unlawful use of
force" for which the US had recently been condemned by the World Court.
record of the "peace process" in the Middle East has been similar,
though even more extreme. From 1971 the US has been virtually alone in the
international arena in barring a negotiated diplomatic settlement of the
Israel-Palestine conflict: the "peace process" is the record of these
developments. To review the essentials briefly, in November 1967, under U.S.
initiative, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 242 on "land for
peace." As explicitly understood by the US and the other signatories, UN
242 called for a full peace settlement on the pre-June 1967 borders with at most
minor and mutual adjustments, offering nothing to the Palestinians. When
President Sadat of Egypt accepted the official US position in February 1971,
Washington revised UN 242 to mean partial Israeli withdrawal, as the US and
Israel would determine. That unilateral revision is what is now called
"land for peace," a reflection of US power in the domain of doctrine
AP report on the breakdown of the Camp David negotiations, cited above, notes
that the final official statement, "in a gesture to Arafat," said that
"the only path to peace was resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security
Council after Middle East wars in 1967 and 1973. These call for Israel to
relinquish territory won from the Arabs in exchange for secure borders."
The resolution of 1967 is UN 242, calling for full Israeli withdrawal with at
most minor and mutual border adjustments; the 1973 resolution merely endorses UN
242 without change. But the meaning of UN 242 has crucially changed since
February 1971, following Washington's dictates.
warned that the US-Israeli rejection of UN 242 would lead to war. Neither the US
nor Israel took him seriously, on remarkable triumphalist and racist grounds,
later bitterly denounced in Israel. Egypt did go to war in October 1973. It
turned out to be a near disaster for Israel, and for the world: the prospects of
a nuclear exchange were not slight. The 1973 war made it clear even to Henry
Kissinger that Egypt was not a basket case that could simply be disregarded, so
Washington shifted to the natural back-up strategy: excluding Egypt from the
conflict so that Israel, with mounting US support, could proceed to integrate
the occupied territories and attack Lebanon. That result was achieved at Camp
David in 1978, hailed ever since as the grand moment of "the peace
the US vetoed Security Council resolutions calling for a diplomatic settlement
incorporating UN 242 but now also including Palestinian rights. The US also
voted annually against similar General Assembly resolutions (along with Israel,
sometimes one or another client state), and otherwise blocked all efforts at a
peaceful resolution of the conflict initiated by Europe, the Arab states, or the
PLO. This consistent rejection of a diplomatic settlement is the "peace
process." The actual facts were long ago vetoed from the media, and have
largely been barred even from scholarship, but they are easy enough to discover.
the Gulf War, the US was finally in a position to impose its own unilateral
rejectionist stand and did so, first at Madrid in late 1991, then in the
successive Israel-PLO agreements from 1993. With these measures, the "peace
process" has advanced towards the Bantustan-style arrangements that the US
and Israel intended, as should have been obvious to anyone with eyes open, and
is entirely clear in the documentary record and, more important, the record on
the ground. That brings us to the present stage: Camp David, July 2000.
the several weeks of deliberations, it was regularly reported that the main
stumbling block is Jerusalem. The final report reiterates that conclusion. The
observation is not false, but it is a bit misleading. "Creative"
solutions have been proposed to permit symbolic Palestinian authority in
Jerusalem -- or as the city is called in Arabic, Al-Quds. These include
Palestinian administration of Arab neighborhoods (as Israel would prefer, if
rational), some arrangement for Islamic and Christian religious sites, and a
Palestinian capital in the village of Abu Dis near Jerusalem, which might be
renamed "Al-Quds," with a little sleight-of-hand. Such an endeavor
might have succeeded, and might still succeed. But a more intractable problem
arises as soon as we ask a basic question: What is Jerusalem?
Israel conquered the West Bank in June 1967, it annexed Jerusalem -- not in a
very polite fashion; for example, it has recently been revealed in Israel that
the destruction of the Arab Mughrabi neighborhood near the Wailing Wall on June
10 was done with such haste that an unknown number of Palestinians were buried
in the ruins left by the bulldozers.
quickly tripled the borders of the city. Subsequent development programs,
pursued with little variation by all governments, aimed to extend the borders of
"greater Jerusalem" well beyond. Current Israeli maps articulate the
basic plans clearly enough. On June 28, Israel's leading daily, Ha'aretz,
published a map detailing "Israel's proposal for the permanent
settlement." It is virtually identical to the government's "Final
Status Map" presented a month earlier. The territory to be annexed around
the greatly expanded "Jerusalem" extends in all directions. To the
north it reaches well past Ramallah, and to the south well past Bethlehem, the
two major nearby Palestinian towns. These are to be left under Palestinian
control, but adjoining Israeli territory, and in the case of Ramallah, cut off
from Palestinian territory to the east. Like all Palestinian territory, both
towns are separated from Jerusalem, the center of West Bank life, by territory
annexed to Israel. To the east, the territory to be annexed includes the rapidly
growing Israeli town of Ma'ale Adumim and extends on to Vered Jericho, a small
settlement bordering on the town of Jericho. The salient extends on to the
Jordanian border. The entire Jordanian border is to be annexed to Israel along
with the "Jerusalem" salient that partitions the West Bank. Another
salient to be annexed farther north virtually imposes a second partition.
intensive construction and settlement projects of the past years have been
designed to "create facts" that would lead to this "permanent
settlement." That has been the clear commitment of the successive
governments since the first "Oslo agreement" of September 1993.
Contrary to much commentary, the official doves (Rabin, Peres, Barak) have been
at least as faithfully dedicated to this project as the much-condemned Binyamin
Netanyahu, though they have been able to conduct the project with less protest;
a familiar story, here as well. In February of this year the Israeli press
reported that the number of building starts increased by almost one-third from
1998 (Netanyahu) to the current year (Barak). An analysis by Israeli
correspondent Nadav Shragai reveals that only a small fraction of the lands
assigned to the settlements are actually used for agricultural or other
purposes. For Ma'ale Adumim, for example, the lands assigned to it are 16 times
the area used, and similar proportions hold elsewhere. Palestinians have brought
petitions to the Israeli High Court opposing the expansion of Ma'ale Adumim, but
they have been rejected. Last November, rejecting an appeal, one High Court
judge explained that "some good for the residents of the neighboring
[Palestinian] villages might spring from the economic and cultural development
of Ma'ale Adumim," effectively partitioning the West Bank.
projects have been carried out thanks to the benevolence of US taxpayers, by a
variety of "creative" devices to overcome the fact that US aid is
officially barred for these purposes.
intended result is that an eventual Palestinian state would consist of four
cantons on the West Bank: (1) Jericho, (2) the southern canton extending as far
as Abu Dis (the new Arab "Jerusalem"), (3) a northern canton including
the Palestinian cities of Nablus, Jenin, and Tulkarm, and (4) a central canton
including Ramallah. The cantons are completely surrounded by territory to be
annexed to Israel. The areas of Palestinian population concentration are to be
under Palestinian administration, an adaptation of the traditional colonial
pattern that is the only sensible outcome as far as Israel and the US are
concerned. The plans for the Gaza Strip, a fifth canton, are uncertain: Israel
might relinquish it, or might maintain the southern coastal region and another
salient virtually dividing the Strip below Gaza City.
outlines are consistent with the proposals that have been put forth since 1968,
when Israel adopted the "Allon plan," never presented formally but
apparently intended to incorporate about 40% of the West Bank within Israel.
Since then specific plans have been proposed by the ultra-right General Sharon,
the Labor Party, and others. They are fairly similar in conception and outline.
The basic principle is that the usable territory within the West Bank, and the
crucial resources (primarily water), will remain under Israeli control, but the
population will be controlled by a Palestinian client regime, which is expected
to be corrupt, barbaric, and compliant. The Palestinian-administered cantons can
then provide cheap and easily exploitable labor for the Israeli economy. Or in
the long run, the population might be "transferred" elsewhere in one
or another way, in accord with long-standing hopes.
is possible to imagine "creative" schemes that would finesse the
issues concerning the religious sites and the administration of Palestinian
neighborhoods of Jerusalem. But the more fundamental problems lie elsewhere. It
is not at all clear that they can be sensibly resolved within the framework of
nation-states that has been imposed throughout much of the world by Western
conquest and domination, with murderous consequences within Europe itself for
centuries, not to speak of the effects beyond until the present moment.