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Condi Does Jerusalem or Rice to the Rescue? PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Saturday, 13 January 2007 10:31
Condi Does Jerusalem or Rice to the Rescue?

AG
- Patrick Seale - Bush has not understood or been persuaded that resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict on a basis of justice and equity would restore American credibility in the Arab and Muslim world and would have a positive knock-on effect on all the other regional problems -- including the Iraq war and Iran?s rise as a regional power hostile to American hegemony... So, Dr. Rice sets out for the Middle East at a great disadvantage.

www.agenceglobal.com

Secretary of State Rice says she is on another "listening" tour, but she also has an agenda: to persuade the Arab states to support George Bush's escalation in Iraq, and to persuade Mahmud Abbas to accept provisional borders for an Palestinian state.

What Will Condoleezza Rice
Do in the Middle East?

Patrick Seale


Agence Global
January 13, 2007

Copyright ? 2007 Patrick Seale
[Republished at PEJ News with AG permission]

 
Even as she flew to the war-torn Middle East at the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice played down the significance of her trip. She was not coming with a project or a plan, she told reporters on the plane, but only to listen! Nothing could better illustrate America?s passivity towards the Arab-Israeli conflict and its loss of authority in the region.

Dr. Rice?s major problem is that her boss, President W. Bush, is mired up to his neck in the Iraq war and appears to be escalating his confrontation with Iran. Bush?s belligerent references to Iran in his speeches, and the recent American raid on the Iranian consulate in the Kurdish city of Irbil, are ominous signs that, instead of seeking a dialogue with Tehran, Bush is heading for a showdown.

Iraq and Iran are Bush?s primary headaches. These are the conflicts which are destroying his presidency. In his mind, they greatly overshadow the conflict between Israel and its immediate neighbours -- the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon. In any event, his neo-conservative advisers reject all linkage between the Arab-Israeli conflict and the war in Iraq and argue that Israel should have the freedom to solve its conflict with the Palestinians and the Syrians on its own terms and, if necessary, by force.

Bush has not understood or been persuaded that resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict on a basis of justice and equity would restore American credibility in the Arab and Muslim world and would have a positive knock-on effect on all the other regional problems -- including the Iraq war and Iran?s rise as a regional power hostile to American hegemony.

So, Dr. Rice sets out for the Middle East at a great disadvantage. She is starting her visit in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, and will be seeing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas, before going on to other capitals.

In spite of her disclaimer, it is rumoured that she has one immediate aim: to explore the possibility of convincing Olmert and Abbas to work towards setting up a Palestinian state within provisional borders.

At the same time, she will seek to win support for Bush?s strategy of sending more troops to Iraq and will attempt to mobilize moderate Arab states -- notably Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan -- against Iran. Hers is a thankless and, almost certainly, a mistaken agenda.

The notion of a Palestinian state within provisional frontiers may be tempting to the beleaguered Mahmud Abbas -- who has so far got nothing significant out of Olmert, not even the dismantling of a single illegal outpost -- but it is bound to arouse widespread Palestinian distrust. Anything in the nature of an interim agreement will be seen as a trick to give Israel time to grab still more Palestinian land.

What the Palestinians urgently want are long-overdue negotiations on final status issues -- refugees, boundaries, Jerusalem, water -- leading to the end of the conflict and to the establishment of their independent state.

Another unfortunate aspect of Rice?s approach is that she is aiming at a separate Israeli-Palestinian deal rather than at a comprehensive peace settlement, which would include Syria and Lebanon. Indeed, the Bush administration is reported to be urging Olmert not to respond to Syria?s peace overtures. This is a profound mistake.

Syrian has the power to sabotage any deal between Israel and the Palestinians unless its own claims are addressed, notably the recovery of the Golan Heights, seized by Israel in 1967. That is why a simultaneous approach on the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese tracks leading to a comprehensive settlement is the only viable way forward.

The tragic paradox of the present situation is that whereas all the parties recognise that American participation is essential in the Arab-Israeli peace process, the United States has chosen virtually to exclude itself over the past six years. Low-key visits to the region by Dr. Rice to ?listen? to the parties are not sufficient. They are no longer an adequate alternative to a firm U.S. commitment to seeking a global resolution of the conflict on the basis of clear parameters.

The Arabs had hoped that the capture of both houses of the U.S. Congress by the Democrats at last November?s mid-term election might cause President Bush to correct his aim. This has not happened. On Iraq, he has dismissed the advice of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group to withdraw U.S. combat units from Iraq, and is instead sending in more troops. The Democrats might seek to cut funding for this ?surge?, but this is far from certain.

On the Arab-Israeli conflict, most Democrats are as pro-Israeli and as hawkish as the Republicans. Tom Lantos, the new chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the House of Representatives is a fervent "friend of Israel." Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the House, is equally one-sided. She has hurried to distance herself from the important new book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, by former president Jimmy Carter.

In a speech in 2005 to AIPAC, the main pro-Israeli lobby, Pelosi declared: "There are those who contend that the Israeli Palestinian conflict is all about Israel?s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This is absolute nonsense. In truth, the history of the conflict is not over occupation, and never has been: it is over the fundamental right of Israel to exist."

With such people in positions of power in Washington, what hope have the Palestinians of getting justice from the United States?


Patrick Seale
is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

Copyright ? 2007 Patrick Seale

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Released: 13 January 2007
Word Count: 907

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Agence Global is the exclusive syndication agency for The Nation, The American Prospect, Le Monde diplomatique, as well as expert commentary by Richard Bulliet, Mark Hertsgaard, Rami G. Khouri, Tom Porteous, Patrick Seale and Immanuel Wallerstein

Last Updated on Saturday, 13 January 2007 10:31
 

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