WUJS- The Collapse of the Peace Process And the Road Back to Peace
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Israel: Accusations and Rebuttals
The Collapse of the Peace Process And the Road Back to Peace
In July 2000 the Palestinians and the Israelis met at Camp David in the USA to try and hammer out an "end of conflict" deal. This would have been the final stage of the Oslo Peace Process begun in 1993.
The parties left Camp David without a deal having been agreed.
On September 29, Rosh Hashanah, demonstrations and rioting broke out among the Palestinians. This persisted and escalated into the Intifada (uprising). A cycle of violence from both sides has resulted.
Peace talks were broken off with the start of the violence. There were numerous attempts to restart the talks but without success. Two key attempts, sponsored by the Americans were the Tenet Plan and the Mitchell Report.
Accusation: The Intifada began because the Palestinians were frustrated at their lack of progress at the Peace talks and Israel's refusal to end the Occupation.
Rebuttal: At Camp David Israel's then Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians more than anyone had offered them before. The offer included a Palestinian state and control over much of East Jerusalem including the Old City (minus the Jewish quarter - with the Temple Mount to be discussed). The Americans at the talks expressed surprise at the extent of the offer that Barak put on the table. Arafat and his negotiators rejected the offer. They did not put any alternative offers on the table. Since the talks broke down Arafat blamed everyone else but himself. He blamed the Americans and the Israelis but the reality is that Arafat chose to reject Barak's unprecedented offer and not to even present any alternatives. Arafat then chose to ride the wave of extremist violence. This violence has not merely ended the talks but has destroyed the trust built up between Israelis and Palestinians.
Accusation: The trigger to the Intifada was when Israel displayed its colonial tendencies as Ariel Sharon (then leader of the opposition) went up to the Temple Mount.
Rebuttal: Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount was merely an excuse and not the reason for the start of the violence. Incitement had been going on for a long time before Sharon's visit and sporadic violence had also occurred. The major demonstrations did not break out until a full day after the visit. The Mitchell report stated categorically "The Sharon visit did not cause the Intifada." Indeed the Palestinians themselves have made clear that the violence had been planned long before Sharon's visit.
The violence that followed Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount occurred for two major reasons:
First, the Palestinian Authority leadership made a strategic choice to pursue violence. It was deliberately initiated and cultivated by the leadership. Official organs of the leadership were involved in the violence. Weapons supplied by the PA under the terms of the Oslo Accords have been used against Israelis. According to the Palestinian media, Imad Al-Falouji, the PA's Communications Minister confirmed that Chairman Arafat authorized preparations for the Intifada immediately after the end of the Camp David talks. He added that the Intifada was not started because of Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount. (see also Why Oslo Failed .)
Second, throughout the 7 years since the signing of the Oslo Peace accord incitement and anti-Israel propaganda had not ceased. The Palestinian people were not being prepared for peace with the Israelis or for the concessions that they would have to make. Schoolbooks and television continued to paint a picture of Israelis as the enemy. Both before and since the outbreak of violence the Palestinian media has incited violence against Israel and Israelis.
Accusation: The Israelis rejected peace in February 2001 by electing right winger Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister by a massive majority. Sharon, an uncompromising figure with accusations of war crimes hanging over him from the Lebanon War is disinclined to
Rebuttal: Ariel Sharon was elected after 5 months of Palestinian violence. This was an expression of Israeli disillusionment with the Peace Process and its handling by Ehud Barak. The Sharon Government is not against peace. It is also not an extremist government. Sharon is from the centre-right Likud party. His government is one of National Unity with members from the centre-left Labour party, among others. The Government's foreign minister is Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shimon Peres. The Government has consistently tried to reach agreement with the Palestinian Authority. They accepted the Mitchell report and the Tenet agreement.
In public opinion surveys, over and over again, the Israeli public have expressed their desire for a peace agreement with the Palestinians: despite the ongoing violence, this has not wavered. The only thing that has reduced is Israeli trust in Arafat and faith in the achievability of peace. The Israeli desire for peace remains constant. In a JMCC poll in December 2000, 64% of people supported negotiations. This was a rise of 10% from the previous year. 62% of voters, voted for Sharon in the elections. This demonstrates that the majority of Israelis see no contradiction between Sharon and peace.
And in fact, subsequently Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli Prime Minister to evacuate Israeli settlements. Under his leadership, Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians responded by firing Qassam rockets into Israel and giving the racist and reactionary Hamas movement an absolute majority in free elections held in January 2006.
Accusation: Israelis don't want peace. They ignore the ceasefire and send the army into areas of the Territory meant to be under PA control.
Rebuttal: On May 22nd 2001 Sharon declared a unilateral cease-fire in an attempt to restore the peace process and calm violence. For ten days Israeli forces observed the ceasefire despite over 70 attacks from Palestinians. On June 1st the Dolphinarium disco in Tel Aviv was attacked by a suicide-bomber. 20 people were killed. Almost all of them were teenagers. Israel is committed to ending violence and establishing peace but it has a commitment to the security of its citizens. Many people are sympathetic to Israel when it is a victim of terror yet fail to see that Israel needs to take steps to defend herself. No government in the world could allow its people to be repeatedly attacked without reacting.
Israel is forced to send the army into areas under Palestinian control in order to defend Israeli citizens and capture terrorists whom the PA refuses to arrest. For example, Israel sent soldiers into Beit Jala in order to stop continued shooting at the residents of the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo.
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