Access to water is fundamental to life and perhaps the most basic human right. For Palestinians living under occupation, it is yet another human right which is controlled by Israel. The human right to water refers to domestic needs, however by denying Palestinians access to water, the Israeli government is also denying the human right to food which incorporates water for agriculture, and the human right to sanitation.

Although it is often overlooked, the Israeli monopoly of water – already a scarce resource in the region – undermines Palestinian economic development and is a critical political issue. Water is one of the six permanent status issues to be dealt with in the negotiations between the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and the Israeli Government. This conflict is about resources as well as land, and a viable Palestinian state will not be possible while Israel continues to ignore international laws and previously signed agreements regarding water with the same impunity that it ignores internationally recognised borders and previously signed agreements regarding land. Israel has denied the Palestinians the right to drill one single well in the Western Aquifer since 1967. In this way Israel ensures that the bulk of the flow continues to cross the green line into Israel, and Israel can continue to abstract most of supposedly shared water.

Palestinian water rights were recognised in Article 40 of the Oslo II Interim Agreement, bringing hopes that living standards in the Occupied Territories would improve and that water for agriculture would stimulate economic growth. According to the recent World Bank report, Assessment of Restrictions on Palestinian Water Sector Development, these hopes have “only very partially been realised”, as Gaza and parts of the West Bank suffer “chronic” water-related humanitarian crises. Problematically, while Article 40 recognised Palestinian Water Rights, it failed to define them as Israel preferred to postpone this to the final status negotiations.

The Joint Water Committee was established under Article 40 of the Olso II Interim Agreement of 1995 to manage the water resources of the West Bank. Typically, Joint Water Committees are established to manage a shared water resource and not just a portion of the resource as is the case with the Israeli-Palestinian JWC, the jurisdiction of which is limited to those water resources accessible from within the West Bank. Essentially, Israel was able to reinforce its 1967 military order placing all of the water resources of the West Bank under Israeli military control.

Under the system established by Article 40, any proposed infrastructure project or management measure within the West Bank must be approved by Israeli authorities. The World Bank report states that the way in which this has been implemented gives Israeli authorities total control over the allocation and management of West Bank water resources. Further, Israeli territorial jurisdiction over 60% of the West Bank (Area C), makes management of water resources “virtually impossible” for the Palestinian Authority.

According to the World Bank report, “fundamental asymmetries of power” prevent the JWC from functioning as a “joint” institution. The JWC is inherently flawed due to its limited jurisdiction over only those shared mountain water resources which underlie the West Bank instead of effective joint management over the entire shared resource.

The majority of the priority projects in line with Palestinian National Water Objectives have still not been realised after 14 years. Israeli projects to abstract water from the shared Mountain Aquifer are not even presented to the JWC. In some instances, Israel has taken action unilaterally, and charged the costs to the Palestinian Authority. Where sewage runs untreated towards Israel, Israeli authorities have taken to treating it and charging the costs to the Palestinian Authority, amounting to $43 million between 1996 and 2008. There is no formal billing: the Palestinian Ministry of Finance is simply informed of the decision and the charges are withheld from Palestinian tax revenue.

However, untreated waste water flows from the large Ariel settlement just 15 metres from the spring of Salfit: recently sewage flooded the spring, which is the source of Salfit water supply. Germany allocated money for a treatment plant for Salfit, but for three years Israeli authorities demanded a joint project. It was eventually approved but when work started, it was said to be close to the site of future settlements and construction was halted in 2000. A new site has been proposed, but as the new site is also in Area C, it is being held up by Israeli “planning considerations”. Since 1996, the JWC has postponed all wastewater projects proposed by the Palestinian Water Authority. In 2005, the entire Palestinian city of Qalqiliyya was flooded with sewage and waste water after the trunk line blocked, and it took three days for the army to get permission from Israel to clear the blockage. In this light, the Israeli Water Authority’s suggestion that “the Palestinians apparently prefer to let their wastewater flow into Israeli territory” (The Issue of Water Between Israel and Palestinians, Israeli Water Authority, March 2009) is unfair, if not provocative.

Records show that the Palestinian projects which have been rejected or delayed by JWC would have benefitted 1.1 million beneficiaries. This is a bare minimum: in reality almost all Palestinians have been negatively affected by Israel’s water policies. The World Bank states that in practice movement and access restrictions present a “formidable, often insuperable constraint” for Palestinians to get projects implemented: “Essentially the Israeli Water Authority has veto power, and in order to solicit approvals on vital emergency water needs, the Palestinian Authority is forced into positions that compromise its basic policy principles.”

Currently, Palestinians have access to one fifth of the resources of the Mountain Aquifer. Israel takes the rest, and overdraws the “estimated potential” by over 50% without JWC approval – almost double its share under Oslo Accords. This lowers the aquifer to the point that the shallow wells which Palestinians drilled before 1967, during Jordanian rule, now run dry. Over pumping aquifers also places the quality of the aquifer at risk. Around half of the households in the West Bank report problems in the quality of their drinking water supply, and only 31% Palestinians are connected to a sewerage network. Even those with access to a water supply network are not guaranteed supply: the infrastructure is useless without enough water in the lines. At Auja, the formerly productive Auja spring now runs dry thanks to the activity of five nearby Israeli production wells: the formerly water-abundant village must now buy back water from surrounding settlements.

As well as causing a crisis in sanitation, this has had a significant impact on the Palestinian economy. In the West Bank, average household expenditure on water is twice the globally accepted standard. Often it is the poorest Palestinians, unconnected to a water supply, who are the hardest hit: one-sixth of their household budget is spent on water costs, as Israeli restrictions on movement and access drive up the cost of tankers. The World Bank estimates these extra costs amount to $45 million annually. Further, the less entitlement Palestinians are permitted to their existing water resources, the more they must spend developing new ones.

The effect of Israel’s monopoly of the water supply has severely undermined the Palestinian economy by impeding the development of the water-reliant agricultural industry, a key sector for the revival of the Palestinian economy. This has particularly affected the irrigated agriculture which already suffers from movement restrictions: in the West Bank produce has to contend with 640 checkpoints and unpredictable closures, the cost of which must be passed on to the consumer. The World Bank estimates that the cost to the economy of foregone opportunity in irrigated agriculture in the West Bank could be as high as $480 million annually, and 110,000 jobs. In Gaza, aside from the border closures which deny access to markets, with water supply at crisis levels the potentially very profitable agricultural industry simply cannot develop. Damage to infrastructure during the war on Gaza has only compounded this, in yet another violation of both the Geneva Convention, and the Joint Declaration for Keeping Water Infrastructure out of the Cycle of Violence, agreed by the JWC in January 2001. The continued siege on Gaza has prevented the reconstruction of its water infrastructure.

Water scarcity in the Occupied Territories is not induced by natural conditions alone: it is a man-made crisis created by Israel, and imposed on the Palestinians. A 2002 report commissioned by the Israel Knesset entitled ’Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry on the Israeli Water Sector’, concludes that “(t)he water crisis was not brought about only by climatic changes that caused a fall in the quantity of rain, nor even by the steep rise in population and its standards of living in the last 50 years. The astounding failure is primarily man-made”.

The issue of water cannot be postponed any longer, and must be at the top of the list as a new round of peace talks is initiated. A recent study by the Palestinian Economic Research Institute (MAS) estimating future water needs in Palestine until 2020 provides guidelines which can be used in negotiations with Israel. The official PLO position is inline with International Water Law and the principle of “Equitable and Reasonable Utilisation”. However the World Bank report calls for minimal Water Rights to be granted to Palestinians, and Israel has rejected even these.

Given its well-documented disregard for international law it is unsurprising that, in its report “The Issue of Water Between Israel and Palestinians” released in March, the Israel Water Authority (IWA) stressed that the sides should focus less on “legal solutions” and “legal aspects”. Likewise, considering that Israeli water availability is more than six times greater per capita than water availability for Palestinians, IWA’s assertion in the same report that water agreements between countries are “not a question of principles” is also unsurprising.

Israeli discrimination in the allocation of water is part of the structural oppression of an occupied people, perpetuating a system of apartheid, an unsustainable economy and prohibiting any possibility of a viable Palestinian state. Water is a permanent status, and has therefore been negotiated over in OSLO, OSLO II, Camp David, Taba and Annapolis, yet water-related humanitarian crises remain chronic in Gaza and in parts of the West Bank. It is vital that Israel does not continue to postpone the issue of water rights for Palestinians in the next round of peace talks, however Palestinian people cannot wait for peace to be granted basic human rights and access to their own water.

ref. Palestine monitor

Also read: ISRAEL- Don’t make the desert bloom

If Hamas Did Not Exist – Israel Has No Intention of Granting a Palestinian State (A MUUST READ!!!)

Let us get one thing perfectly straight. If the wholesale mutilation and degradation of the Gaza Strip is going to continue; if Israel’s will is at one with that of the United States; if the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and all the international legal agencies and organizations spread across the globe are going to continue to sit by like hollow mannequins doing nothing but making repeated “calls” for a “ceasefire” on “both sides”; if the cowardly, obsequious and supine Arab States are going to stand by watching their brethren get slaughtered by the hour while the world’s bullying Superpower eyes them threateningly from Washington lest they say something a little to their disliking; then let us at least tell the truth why this hell on earth is taking place.

The state terror unleashed from the skies and on the ground against the Gaza Strip as we speak has nothing to do with Hamas. It has nothing to do with “Terror”. It has nothing to do with the long-term “security” of the Jewish State or with Hizbullah or Syria or Iran except insofar as it is aggravating the conditions that have led up to this crisis today. It has nothing to do with some conjured-up “war” – a cynical and overused euphemism that amounts to little more the wholesale enslavement of any nation that dares claim its sovereign rights; that dares assert that its resources are its own; that doesn’t want one of the Empire’s obscene military bases sitting on its cherished land.

This crisis has nothing to do with freedom, democracy, justice or peace. It is not about Mahmoud Zahhar or Khalid Mash’al or Ismail Haniyeh. It is not about Hassan Nasrallah or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These are all circumstantial players who have gained a role in the current tempest only now that the situation has been allowed for 61 years to develop into the catastrophe that it is today. The Islamist factor has colored and will continue to color the atmosphere of the crisis; it has enlisted the current leaders and mobilized wide sectors of the world’s population. The primary symbols today are Islamic – the mosques, the Qur’an, the references to the Prophet Muhammad and to Jihad. But these symbols could disappear and the impasse would continue.

There was a time when Fatah and the PFLP held the day; when few Palestinians wanted anything to do with Islamist policies and politics. Such politics have nothing to do with primitive rockets being fired over the border, or smuggling tunnels and black-market weapons; just as Arafat’s Fatah had little to do with stones and suicide bombings. The associations are coincidental; the creations of a given political environment. They are the result of something entirely different than what the lying politicians and their analysts are telling you. They have become part of the landscape of human events in the modern Middle East today; but incidentals wholly as lethal, or as recalcitrant, deadly, angry or incorrigible could just as soon have been in their places.

Strip away the clichés and the vacuous newspeak blaring out across the servile media and its pathetic corps of voluntary state servants in the Western world and what you will find is the naked desire for hegemony; for power over the weak and dominion over the world’s wealth. Worse yet you will find that the selfishness, the hatred and indifference, the racism and bigotry, the egotism and hedonism that we try so hard to cover up with our sophisticated jargon, our refined academic theories and models actually help to guide our basest and ugliest desires. The callousness with which we in indulge in them all are endemic to our very culture; thriving here like flies on a corpse.

Strip away the current symbols and language of the victims of our selfish and devastating whims and you will find the simple, impassioned and unaffected cries of the downtrodden; of the ‘wretched of the earth’ begging you to cease your cold aggression against their children and their homes; their families and their villages; begging you to leave them alone to have their fish and their bread, their oranges, their olives and their thyme; asking you first politely and then with increasing disbelief why you cannot let them live undisturbed on the land of their ancestors; unexploited, free of the fear of expulsion; of ravishment and devastation; free of permits and roadblocks and checkpoints and crossings; of monstrous concrete walls, guard towers, concrete bunkers, and barbed wire; of tanks and prisons and torture and death. Why is life without these policies and instruments of hell impossible?

The answer is because Israel has no intention of allowing a viable, sovereign Palestinian state on its borders. It had no intention of allowing it in 1948 when it grabbed 24 per cent more land than what it was allotted legally, if unfairly, by UN Resolution 181. It had no intention of allowing it throughout the massacres and ploys of the 1950s. It had no intention of allowing two states when it conquered the remaining 22 per cent of historic Palestine in 1967 and reinterpreted UN Security Council Resolution 248 to its own liking despite the overwhelming international consensus stating that Israel would receive full international recognition within secure and recognized borders if it withdrew from the lands it had only recently occupied.

It had no intention of acknowledging Palestinian national rights at the United Nations in 1974, when –alone with the United States—it voted against a two-state solution. It had no intention of allowing a comprehensive peace settlement when Egypt stood ready to deliver but received, and obediently accepted, a separate peace exclusive of the rights of Palestinians and the remaining peoples of the region. It had no intention of working toward a just two-state solution in 1978 or 1982 when it invaded, fire-bombed, blasted and bulldozed Beirut so that it might annex the West Bank without hassle. It had no intention of granting a Palestinian state in 1987 when the first Intifada spread across occupied Palestine, into the Diaspora and the into the spirits of the global dispossessed, or when Israel deliberately aided the newly formed Hamas movement so that it might undermine the strength of the more secular-nationalist factions.

Israel had no intention of granting a Palestinian state at Madrid or at Oslo where the PLO was superseded by the quivering, quisling Palestinian Authority, too many of whose cronies grasped at the wealth and prestige it gave them at the expense of their own kin. As Israel beamed into the world’s satellites and microphones its desire for peace and a two-state solution, it more than doubled the number of illegal Jewish settlements on the ground in the West Bank and around East Jerusalem, annexing them as it built and continues to build a superstructure of bypass roads and highways over the remaining, severed cities and villages of earthly Palestine. It has annexed the Jordan valley, the international border of Jordan, expelling any ‘locals’ inhabiting that land. It speaks with a viper’s tongue over the multiple amputee of Palestine whose head shall soon be severed from its body in the name of justice, peace and security.

Through the home demolitions, the assaults on civil society that attempted to cast Palestinian history and culture into a chasm of oblivion; through the unspeakable destruction of the refugee camp sieges and infrastructure bombardments of the second Intifada, through assassinations and summary executions, past the grandiose farce of disengagement and up to the nullification of free, fair and democratic Palestinian elections Israel has made its view known again and again in the strongest possible language, the language of military might, of threats, intimidation, harassment, defamation and degradation.

Israel, with the unconditional and approving support of the United States, has made it dramatically clear to the entire world over and over and over again, repeating in action after action that it will accept no viable Palestinian state next to its borders. What will it take for the rest of us to hear? What will it take to end the criminal silence of the ‘international community’? What will it take to see past the lies and indoctrination to what is taking place before us day after day in full view of the eyes of the world? The more horrific the actions on the ground, the more insistent are the words of peace. To listen and watch without hearing or seeing allows the indifference, the ignorance and complicity to continue and deepens with each grave our collective shame.

The destruction of Gaza has nothing to do with Hamas. Israel will accept no authority in the Palestinian territories that it does not ultimately control. Any individual, leader, faction or movement that fails to accede to Israel’s demands or that seeks genuine sovereignty and the equality of all nations in the region; any government or popular movement that demands the applicability of international humanitarian law and of the universal declaration of human rights for its own people will be unacceptable for the Jewish State. Those dreaming of one state must be forced to ask themselves what Israel would do to a population of 4 million Palestinians within its borders when it commits on a daily, if not hourly basis, crimes against their collective humanity while they live alongside its borders? What will suddenly make the raison d’etre, the self-proclaimed purpose of Israel’s reason for being change if the Palestinian territories are annexed to it outright?

The lifeblood of the Palestinian National Movement flows through the streets of Gaza today. Every drop that falls waters the soil of vengeance, bitterness and hatred not only in Palestine but across the Middle East and much of the world. We do have a choice over whether or not this should continue. Now is the time to make it.

Ref: Counterpunch
Jennifer Loewenstein is the Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She can be reached at

Also read How Israel’s extremists midwifed the birth of Hamas,

Why Barak is wrong (a MUST read)

In an interview last week, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak laid the blame squarely on Yasser Arafat for the breakdown of the peace process. Here, Robert Malley and Hussein Agha counter his claims

The Camp David summit ended almost two years ago yet the various interpretations of what happened there and its aftermath continue to draw exceptional attention both in Israel and in the US. Ehud Barak’s interview with Benny Morris makes it clear why this is the case: Barak’s assessment that the talks failed because Yasser Arafat cannot make peace with Israel and that his answer to Israel’s unprecedented offer was to resort to terrorist violence has become central to the argument that Israel is in a fight for its survival against those who deny its very right to exist.

Barak’s central thesis is that the current Palestinian leadership wants “a Palestinian state in all of Palestine. What we see as self-evident, two states for two peoples, they reject”. Arafat, he concludes, seeks Israel’s “demise”.

On the question of the boundaries of the future state, the Palestinian position was for a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967 borders, living alongside Israel. At Camp David, Arafat’s negotiators accepted the notion of Israeli annexation of West Bank territory to accommodate settlements, though they insisted on a one-for-one swap of land “of equal size and value.” The Palestinians argued that the annexed territory should neither affect the contiguity of their own land nor lead to the incorporation of Palestinians into Israel.

The ideas put forward by President Clinton at Camp David fell well short of those demands. In order to accommodate Israeli settlements, he proposed a deal by which Israel would annex 9% of the West Bank in exchange for turning over to the Palestinians parts of pre-1967 Israel equivalent to 1% of the West Bank. This proposal would have entailed the incorporation of tens of thousands of Palestinians into Israeli territory near the annexed settlements; and it would have meant that territory annexed by Israel would encroach deep inside the Palestinian state.

The suggestion made by some that the Camp David summit broke down over the Palestinians’ demand for a right of return simply is untrue: the issue was barely discussed between the two sides and President Clinton’s ideas mentioned it only in passing.

The Palestinians can be criticised for not having presented detailed plans at Camp David; but, as has been shown, it would be inaccurate to say they had no positions. It is also true that Barak broke a number of Israeli taboos and moved considerably from prior positions while the Palestinians believed they had made their historic concessions at Oslo, when they agreed to cede 78% of mandatory Palestine to Israel; they did not intend the negotiations to further whittle down what they already regarded as a compromise position.

Barak claims that the Palestinian position was tantamount to a denial of Israel’s right to exist and to seeking its destruction. The facts do not validate that claim. True, the Palestinians rejected the version of the two-state solution that was put to them. But it could also be said that Israel rejected the unprecedented two-state solution put to them by the Palestinians from Camp David onward, including the following provisions: a state of Israel incorporating some land captured in 1967 and including a very large majority of its settlers; the largest Jewish Jerusalem in the city’s history; preservation of Israel’s demographic balance between Jews and Arabs; security guaranteed by a US-led international presence.

The former prime minister’s remarks about other Arab leaders are misplaced. Arafat did not reach out to the people of Israel in the way President Sadat did. But unlike Sadat, he agreed to cede parts of the territory lost in 1967 – both in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

Barak claims that “Israel is too strong at the moment to defeat, so [the Palestinians] formally recognise it. But their game plan is to establish a Palestinian state while always leaving an opening for further ‘legitimate’ demands down the road.” Here Barak contradicts himself. For if that were the case, the logical course of action for Arafat would have been to accept Clinton’s proposals at Camp David, and even more so on December 23. He would then have had over 90% of the land and much of East Jerusalem, while awaiting, as Barak would have it, the opportunity to violate the agreement and stake a claim for more.

Barak focuses on the Palestinians’ deficiencies, and dismisses as trivial sideshows major political decisions crucial to the understanding of that failure. When he took office he chose to renegotiate the agreement on withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank, signed by Benjamin Netanyahu, rather than implement it. He delayed talks on the Palestinian track while he concentrated on Syria.

Barak’s apparent insensitivity to the way his statements might affect the other side is revealed. He characterises Palestinian refugees as “salmon” whose yearning to return to their land is somehow supposed to fade away in 80 years in a manner that the Jewish people’s never did, even after 2,000 years. When he denounces the idea that Israel should be a “state for all its citizens” he does not seem to realise that he risks alienating its many Arab citizens. Most troubling of all is his description of Arabs as people who “don’t suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judaeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category”. It is hard to know what to make of this disparaging judgment of an entire people. In the history of this particular conflict, neither Palestinians nor Israelis have a monopoly on unkept commitments or promises.

He rejects entirely the notion that Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif on September 28 2000, played any part in setting off the subsequent clashes. When we consider the context in which the visit was taking place – the intense focus on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif at Camp David and the general climate among Palestinians – its impact was predictable.

Barak suggests that Arafat had planned as his response to the Camp David summit a campaign of violent terror. That is a curious assertion in view of the fact that the Palestinians had argued that the parties were not ready for a summit and that Camp David should be understood as merely the first of a series of meetings. In contrast, as he knows well, Barak conceived of Camp David as a make-or-break-summit. He made clear early on that he foresaw only two possible outcomes: a full-scale agreement on the “framework” of a settlement, or a full-scale confrontation.

Barak’s broad endorsement of Israel’s current military campaign is cause for perhaps the greatest dismay. He appears to have given up on the current Palestinian leadership, placing his hopes in the next generation, but is there any reason to believe that today’s children will grow up any less hardened and vengeful?

The Camp David process was the victim of failings on the Palestinian side; but it was also, and importantly, the victim of failings on Israel’s (and the United States’) part. By refusing to recognise this, Barak continues to obscure the debate and elude fundamental questions about where the quest for peace ought to go now.

Ref: Guardian

· Robert Malley was a member of the Clinton team at Camp David. Hussein Agha is a senior associate member of St Anthony’s College, Oxford. This is an edited version of their response to Benny Morris’s interview with Ehud Barak. Both articles are published in the current New York Review of Books.

How Israel caused the Oslo Accords to fail

Politicians like to glorify events in which they starred. And even more so the extroverted people who cooked up the Oslo Accords exactly 15 years ago. But Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin and their partners from the academic world and media have chosen to remain silent in recent days, or to make vague statements that even they themselves don’t seem to believe about the Oslo Accords remaining the only outline for peace.

Even they, the wizards of propaganda, cannot explain, beyond the spin of the “only outline,” how an initiative that ignited a war of terror that killed thousands of Jews and Arabs, turned Hamas into the main force in the Palestinian community and brought nationalistic fervor in the Israeli Palestinian community to new heights, is the “only outline for peace.” After all, the truth is just the opposite: The “outline” gave rise to despair among both Jews and Arabs of the possibility of ever living in peace in this country, even within the Green Line.

The Oslo Accords were doomed from the start, for one because the enthusiastic Israeli negotiators accepted the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize – and today, as it says in their “vision papers,” even Israeli Arabs refuse to recognize – the State of Israel as a Jewish state and the national homeland of the Jewish people. But the impatient improvisers, who made light of the national ambitions of the Arabs and deluded themselves and us that this recognition, as Peres said, is not important, ignored the depth of the Arabs’ nationalistic feelings while allowing them to waive their commitment to end the violence.
These concessions, in effect, caused the failure of the process already at the start. The Palestinians concluded that if Israel did not insist on the main principle – recognition of the state and an end to the violence – there was almost no limit to the concessions they could achieve. And when Rabin and Peres declared that “we will continue with the negotiations as though there were no terror,” Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat was convinced once and for all that permission was granted because the Jews had no red lines.

Rabin and Peres were not the initiators, but when they adopted the outline – and the Nobel Peace Prize – they should have behaved like statesmen: They should have examined the incidents of Palestinian erosion of the agreement with a magnifying glass and refused to concede an inch to them. But they were both blinded by the wealth of compliments, honors, publications and prizes and gave in to Arafat on the “petty issues,” including his personal responsibility for the terror. (When the intelligence people brought incontrovertible proof of his direct involvement in terror, they were reprimanded by the decision makers, especially Peres.)

By making this concession, in other words by agreeing to negotiate while suicide bombers were blowing themselves up in buses and wedding halls, the decision makers caused the failure of the outline that they themselves had led.

But it was not only the minuscule chance for peace that they sabotaged. At the same time they brought about processes of division and atomization in Israeli society whose results are hard to exaggerate. A statesman, as opposed to a politician who is eager for immediate achievements, understands that decisions that are far-reaching in their historic consequences must be made with broad national consensus.

The Oslo outline included giving up parts of the homeland for which the Jewish people have longed for generations, as well as settlement sites that were established with blood. The majority of public opinion rejected these concessions, and the architects of Oslo did not have a majority in the Knesset. And then a bribe was offered to Shas and to two deserters from the Tzomet party, Gonen Segev and Alex Goldfarb. And the decision regarding the historic concessions passed with a majority of a single vote – a bought vote.

There is no question about it: It was a tragic mistake that caused tragic results. The communities that felt deceived and betrayed have yet to recover from it. Moreover, the decision to implement an additional withdrawal, from Gush Katif, was also made deceptively. Then-prime minister Ariel Sharon promised to honor the referendum of the registered Likud voters, and when he lost he denied his promise and led the uprooting from Gush Katif that, exactly like the Oslo Accords concessions, strengthened the Palestinians’ motivation to continue the terror even more forcefully, and at the same time reinforced the internal split in Israel.

As long as the architects of the Oslo Accords and their successors are in power, or in positions of influence in the media and other centers of influence, there is no chance that a genuine peace process will take place. Following are the conclusions of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) from the many discussions that he conducts with these officials: “Both Jerusalem and the right of return,” said the moderate partner to the president of the State of Israel, “are Palestinian rights.”

Here, after 15 years of concessions, withdrawals and restraint, this is the outcome.


Editorial: Wasted years, dashed hopes — 15 years after Oslo, peace continues to elude ME

IT is truly incredible that 15 years after the Oslo peace accords were signed, the Palestinians and Israelis are no closer to reaching an agreement than before they shook hands on the lawns of the White House. During the interim period, several peace project offshoots were introduced, all of which came to naught. Though the leaders of Palestine, Israel and the US changed, the basic problems did not. A bloody intifada erupted; a Palestinian state was not established; refugees did not return because there is no state to return to; a wall of separation and a serious, steady pace in the erection of Jewish settlements further downsized the area where such a state should be; and the Palestinians now find themselves in two rival (Hamas and Fatah) camps.

The one supposed bright side, the Israeli pullout from Gaza, was to be followed by a horrific Israeli siege of Gaza the following year.

And now Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has announced what so many already knew — that an agreement will most likely not be reached by the end of the year, throwing completely off schedule the deadline US President George W. Bush is supposed to have set in Annapolis in November last year.

To prevent the ship from sinking entirely, and despite official denials, the Palestinian Authority and Israel appear to be formulating a “shelf agreement” which both sides will consider the basis of further negotiations to be resumed in 2009. This means the PA will keep indulging in talks with Israel indefinitely if only to maintain the fiction of some movement or progress in the search for peace.

In other words, the PA is effectively surrendering to the American concept that the “process” must continue regardless of the outcome. The talks are no longer meant to achieve an end; they are becoming an end in themselves.

The talking will continue when Abbas travels to Washington later this month to discuss with President Bush the “progress” that has been made in the peace talks with Israel. Bush is expected to ask Abbas to stay the course, even if time, and Bush’s presidency, run out. And most Palestinians expect Abbas to comply, though they know no amount of talking will achieve anything as long as Israel continues its expansionist policies and the US continues to support such policies.

Meanwhile, everyone is waiting to see the results of the Kadima party elections and whether Ehud Olmert’s successor will be able to keep the ruling coalition in Israel together. In addition, everyone in the Middle East, as elsewhere, is waiting to see whom the US presidential elections will bring in as Bush’s successor. It is little wonder, therefore, that whatever actions the various parties are taking at present are little more than tactical maneuvers as they position themselves on the Middle East chessboard in anticipation of the outcome of the Israeli and US polls.

Oslo brought much hope of a historic breakthrough but 15 years on the headlines read as if time has stood still. Over the weekend, Israeli troops fatally shot a Palestinian teenager during a clash near Bethlehem, while Jewish settlers angered by a stabbing rampaged through another West Bank village and wounded six Palestinians. To say that peace talks between Palestinians and Israel have failed to reach any breakthrough despite nine months of negotiations is not completely correct. The starting point is more accurately September 1993.

Ref: Arab news