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“Peace Process” Prospects


Noam Chomsky

The

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.

To

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.

Any

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.

Having

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."

The

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.

In

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.

The

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

and ideology.

The

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.

Sadat

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

process."

Meanwhile

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.

After

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.

Throughout

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?

When

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.

Israel

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.

The

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.

The

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.

The

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.

These

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.

It

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.

 

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