From A World to Win News Service

Palestine: The Roadmap and the Wall

Revolutionary Worker #1195, April 20, 2003, posted at

We received the following from the A World to Win News Service:

7 April 2003. A World to Win News Service. Only days before the U.S. and U.K. launched their war on Iraq, President Bush met with U.K. Prime Minister Blair and then promptly announced the imminent release of a new "roadmap for peace" in the Middle East.

First, if when seeing Bush's announcement you had the feeling that you'd already seen this film, you're not alone-- this was not the first time that Bush has announced his new commitment to a Middle East peace initiative on the eve of a war. Eighteen months ago, just before attacking Afghanistan, Bush declared his support for creating an independent Palestinian state. That, as everyone knows, led to exactly nothing, at least in terms of moves towards creating an independent Palestinian state.

So it was no surprise that this time Bush's announcement was greeted with widespread cynicism even by friends of the U.S. It was widely interpreted as a sop to Blair and to pro-U.S. governments in the Arab world, like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, who are caught between their complicity with the U.S. war on Iraq and the general hatred of the U.S.'s oppressive policy in the Arab world, and in particular the infamous double standards America practices towards Israel. After Bush's announcement, Blair raced home to London, called a press conference, and held up the announcement in an effort to establish that he was more than merely a U.S. "poodle" and could exert a "moderating influence" on U.S. aggression. "The U.S. is now committed--I believe, genuinely--to the roadmap for peace," Blair told the House of Commons.

The problem for Blair and the pro-U.S. Arab rulers is that they got little help from Bush or anyone else in power in the U.S. Almost immediately after Bush's announcement, former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu returned from a meeting in Washington to announce that the U.S. was granting Israel an additional financial support package of $10 billion, including $1 billion in outright military aid, on top of the $3 billion routinely granted. There was not even the slightest pretense that the U.S. would use its massive financial leverage over Israel to ensure its compliance with the terms of the roadmap. This was emphasized further when Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, called American Zionist leaders into her office and told them that they had nothing to worry about, that the U.S. had no intention of doing anything that would hurt Israel. The diplomatic expert for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz (17 March) also reassured his readers: "The more public opinion in their countries opposes the war, the more Blair and Aznar grasp the Palestinian issue as a political life-saver.... They have to prove to their constituents in Europe that they care about ending the Israeli occupation of the territories to win legitimacy for their occupation of Iraq."

Sharon himself made no effort to disguise his contempt for the "roadmap." The Israelis have already made demands for 100 amendments, including dropping all reference to an "independent" Palestine, and leaving only a reference to "attributes of sovereignty." Sharon spelled out the only kind of Palestinian entity he would be prepared to accept: no real Palestinian military capability, no control over borders, an Israeli veto over foreign treaties, and Palestinian control of a much smaller portion of the West Bank's territory than had been seriously envisaged in any previous peace discussions.

The stepped-up U.S. support for Israel has also further emboldened the Sharon government to make new "realignments" in the enormous Warsaw ghetto-style separation wall that Israel has been erecting around the West Bank since last July. The wall will now dip further into the West Bank than even previously planned, bringing additional thousands of Israeli settlers on illegal settlements into what will in effect become part of Israel. Palestinians call it "the apartheid wall." In Israel itself the wall is sometimes referred to as "Israel's roadmap to peace."

This is not just cynical chatter. The wall itself is turning the West Bank into the largest prison camp on the planet. It will be 660 km [1,064 miles] long, seven times the length of the Berlin Wall. It stands eight meters high and is made of large concrete slabs. It is protected with barbed wire, CCTV and electrified fencing, and has military roads running on either side for tanks and other military vehicles. Watchtowers will be built every 300 meters [328 yards]; a trench 4 meters [4.3 yards] deep and 6 meters [6.5 yards] wide also protects the wall.

Originally it had been publicly announced that the wall would run along the western side of the West Bank. But in late March Israeli papers revealed that it will also run along the Jordan Valley, on the east side of the West Bank, as well. This means the bulk of the West Bank will be encircled. The 2 million Palestinians living there will in effect be inmates in a giant prison camp with Israeli guards controlling all movement in and out. The wall also encloses vital natural resources, including the western mountain aquifer that provides the West Bank's Palestinians with over half of their water.

While the Israeli government says that the wall is not meant to establish a political border, there can be little doubt that this is exactly one of the main intentions behind it. For decades, the Israelis have repeatedly violated UN resolutions and other agreements prohibiting settlements in the Occupied Territories. They call this process establishing "facts on the ground." There is every reason to think the wall will be one more so-called fact. At a cost of $2 billion, it is not exactly temporary fencing.

The wall literally concretizes Sharon's plan for the only kind of Palestinian entity the Israeli government would accept. Most importantly, it will enclose about 60% of the West Bank, meaning some 40% of the West Bank will be cut off from the rest, and could be integrated into the territory of the Israeli state.

The U.S. and British rulers have repeatedly stated that they are waging war in Iraq in the cause of promoting democracy and long-term peace in the Middle East. What they have been doing in practice however, in an area of the Middle East that is under the domination of their closest ally, Israel, shows the true face of U.S.-style liberation: turning the land of those who resist them into one vast prison.

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