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- 06:02am May 4, 2002 EST (#1994
FISK : Middle East (Ldn: Independent)
Sharon the merciless and Arafat the corrupt have nothing
meaningful to offer each other Self-delusion has crossed the
Atlantic. George Bush is having visions again – just as he did
before the most recent bloodbath in Israel and Palestine – and Colin
Powell, whose latest Middle East mission was a wholesale disaster,
wants to devise "a set of principles" for an Arab-Israeli peace.
And, as usual, it is the occupied, not the occupier, who is warned
this is the "last chance" for peace.
That the United States wants to enlist the Europeans, Russia and
the UN in its plans for a Middle East peace conference is perhaps
the only sign of realism in the initiative. Otherwise, it's the same
Yasser Arafat has to earn "trust" – this from the White House
spokesman, Ari Fleischer – and will not, for the moment, receive any
invitations to the White House. He has to curb "terror". But Ariel
Sharon, whose army was accused of war crimes in Jenin by Human
Rights Watch yesterday, will be joshing with Mr Bush in Washington
It was impossible, in Jerusalem yesterday, to take any of this
Mr Arafat had just emerged from his Ramallah headquarters to call
the Israelis "Nazis" while Mr Sharon, only two days earlier, had
announced that Netzarim, the illegal Jewish settlement in the
Palestinian Gaza Strip, was the same as Tel Aviv. Since Mr Sharon
came to power, no fewer than 34 new settlements or outposts for
Jews, and Jews only, on Arab land, have been constructed.
A glance at the events of the past 24 hours shows just how far
the Bush administration has strayed from reality. For days, the US
President demanded that Israel withdraw its troops from West Bank
cities. Mr Sharon simply ignored him. "When I say withdraw, I mean
it," Mr Bush snapped at one point. Mr Sharon ignored him.
Yesterday, as Mr Powell warned Mr Arafat that it was his "last
chance" to show his leadership, the Israeli Prime Minister was
sending an armoured column to re-invade the Palestinian city of
Nablus for the second time in two weeks. There was to be no "last
chance" for Mr Sharon; only for the iniquitous Mr Arafat.
And what on earth, one wondered, was the point in parading the UN
secretary general, Kofi Annan, alongside Mr Powell on Thursday
night? The UN Security Council resolution calling for an Israeli
withdrawal from Palestinian Authority areas of the West Bank –
supported by the United States – is still being flagrantly ignored
by Israel. Only a day earlier, Mr Annan was forced, in utter
humiliation, to disband his fact-finding mission to Jenin after
Israel refused to accept it. So what was his presence supposed to
mean? The impotent secretary general just stood next to the equally
impotent US Secretary of State.
The squalid, corrupt little dictator of Ramallah, Mr Arafat, and
the brutal, merciless leader of the Middle East's mightiest army, Mr
Sharon, have nothing to offer each other. Mr Arafat cannot fulfil
his required role of colonial governor – to "control his own people"
– while Mr Sharon cannot fulfil his promise to provide Israelis with
security. As one of his legal advisers admitted hours after
Washington's call for a peace conference, the diminution in
Palestinian violence "won't last for ever".
Never, since the end of the 1991 Gulf War, have Israelis and
Palestinians been so far apart. So what possible inducements can
Washington extend to either side? If Mr Arafat wants an end to
occupation and to settlements on Palestinian land, and a capital in
east Jerusalem, Mr Sharon will not oblige. If Mr Sharon wants to go
on building settlements and maintaining the occupation and claiming
all of Jerusalem as the "eternal and unified capital of Israel", Mr
Arafat will not oblige.
Meanwhile, the Americans blissfully hope that Mr Bush's "visions"
– of Israeli and Palestinian states happily co-existing side by side
– will survive the nex
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