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Palestine: Israel and US attempt to crush uprising
Over the past few months, the United States and Israel have made a determined attempt to bring the current Palestinian intifada to a halt. Their latest ploy has to arrange a so-called "ceasefire". Brokered and monitored by the CIA, the declared aim of this ceasefire is to bring violence to and end and facilitate a return to negotiations.
The CIA proposals back up the Israeli position that the source of violence is Palestinian resistance to occupation. They demand that the Palestinian Authority (PA) direct its efforts to bring the current intifada to an end through the demobilisation of the population and the arrest of opposition activists. Only when this has been carried out, and after a "cooling off" period of six moths, would there be any prospect of a resumption of negotiations. The ceasefire proposals allow Israel to "enforce" and "preserve" the buffer zones it has set up in areas controlled by the PA. In effect, they legitimise the continued Isreali occupation and penalise the Palestinian resistance. The responsibility for the violence is placed firmly upon its primary victims.
This has been the consistent approach of the US towards the Middle East. While making pronouncements about being even-handed it has continued to back Israeli aggression. Indeed, Israelís ability to wage terror against the Palestinians is largely dependent upon the military and political support of the US. Colin Powell, the US Secretary of Sate, made this position very clear when he sated that "security (Israelís) comes before peace". In the transition between Clinton and Bush US policy has been seamless. This is evidenced by the fact the CIA ceasefire proposals are based upon the report of the Mitchell Commission. It arose out a Palestinian demands for an inquiry into the upsurge of violence which followed Ariel Sharonís provocative "visit" to East Jerusalem. The proposal for international team of investigators was vetoed by US and the Israelis. As an alternative, Clinton dispatched his favoured trouble-shooter George Mitchell to the region to conduct his own inquiry. Given his pro-Zionist credentials, the fact that he was one of the highest recipitants of Israeli lobby money when he was a senator, the contents of Micthellís subsequent report were hardly surprising. It strongly backed the Israeli view of events. There was nothing in it about removing settlements, or withdrawing tanks from the occupied territories, or about the of use aircraft by Israel to bomb Palestinian cities. Like the CIA brokered ceasefire that followed from it, all it offered to Palestinians was the opportunity to return to negotiations once the intifada had been halted.
The reaction of the Palestinian leadership to these initiatives has been contradictory. While it has welcomed the intervention of the US it has stopped short of giving its full endorsement to any of its proposals. Yasser Arafat clearly hopes that the US will put pressure on the Irsealis to move on key issues. As this is unlikely to happen, he is only left with the option of returning to negotiations that will offer no more than what he rejected at the Camp David talks last year. The price of entering new negotiations, the abandonment of the intifada, also poses dangers. So far Arafat has been able to ride on the popular anger and boost his flagging reputation. But the halting of the intifada and the inevitable repression required to enforce that decision would seriously undermine his authority. To return to the negotiating table without making substantive political gains would been seen as a massive betrayal. It would represent the defeat of the uprising and the needless waste of hundreds of Palestinian lives. This is why Arafat is prevaricating.
So far the ceasfire has failed to take hold. It certainly hasnít restrained the actions of the Israeliís. They have maintained their blockade of the Wrest bank and the Gaza Strip, continued to assassinate Palestinian activists, and to demolish homes. This month witnessed one of the biggest ever demolition of Arab houses in East Jerusalem. The Israeli army has also armed settler vigilante squads and encouraged them to "take the war" to the Palestinians. Everyday, there are reports of Palestinians being killed by settlers or Israeli soldiers. Despite these actions, western leaders have praised Israel for its policy of Ďrestraintí. According to an Israeli source, Tony Blair expressed a "surprising degree of understanding" when he received Ariel Sharon in Downing Street.
The failure of the US and Israel to crush the uprising, and the prevarication of Arafat, clearly shows that it is a powerful movement. Even the Economist, the conservative British weekly, has observed that "the new Palestinian intifada is rapidly assuming the form of a serious anti-colonial revolt." It is a rejection of the politics of the so-called peace process and the Oslo Accords which have only served to intensify the subjugation of the Palestinian people, and continued to deny them the right to self determination.
However, there is a danger that the struggle could become militarised. The suicide bombs of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, like the one that killed twenty people at a nightclub in Tel Aviv, only serve undermine the struggle and provide a justification for the actions of the Israeli state. To make a political advance the intifada must retain its popular character and draw on the support of the Arab masses across the Middle East. In this way it will challenge not only the state of Israel and the US, but also the corrupt Arab regimes that bow to the will imperialism and oppress their own people.