[truepeace] GLW: Camp David signals PA leaders' capiulation

Green Left Parramatta glparramatta at SPAMgreenleft.org.au
Sat Aug 5 09:10:09 MDT 2000


This article appears in the latest issue of Green Left Weekly,
Australia's radical weekly. Visit http://www.greenleft.org.au
and bookmark us. Visit the Democratic Socialist Party site at
http://www.dsp.org.au

***************************************************************

PALESTINE: Camp David signals PA leadership's capitulation

 RAMALLAH -- The media hyperbole and fanfare surrounding the
 summit meeting between the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian
 Authority (PA) and the United States at Camp David in Washington
 over the last few weeks illustrates the importance the US
 attaches to imposing its solution on the Palestinian population.
 It also indicates Washington's need to convince the world that a
 process of real negotiation and compromise is taking place
 towards a final ``fair and lasting peace'' agreement.

 The Camp David summit represents one of the final steps along the
 path that began with the signing of the Oslo Accords between the
 Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Israeli
 government in September 1993. What has become painfully evident
 since Oslo is that this path leads only to the extension of
 Israel's control over all of historical Palestine and the
 imposition of a system of separation reminiscent of South African
 apartheid.

 At the end of the on-again, off-again Washington summit there was
 no signed agreement, yet the broad blueprint of the final
 agreement had emerged.

 When Oslo was signed in 1993, further discussion on several
 issues was postponed to talks on a ``final status'' agreement
 between the Israeli government and the PA. These issues concerned
 the fate of Palestinian refugees, what would happen to Israel's
 Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the
 status of Jerusalem and the contours of the future Palestinian
 ``state''.

 Since 1993, Israel has worked to create a fait accompli by using
 Oslo to expand its presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At
 the same time, the Palestinian opposition has been silenced
 through repression by both Israel and the PA. The extremely
 difficult economic situation and cynicism about the political
 process has made it difficult to mobilise the once-vibrant
 Palestinian movement.

 The right of return

 The question of Palestinian refugees is the central issue in the
 conflict between the people of the Middle East and the Zionist
 colonisers of Palestine. Israel was formed in 1948. More than
 800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes and land in
 the years before and following the establishment of the state of
 Israel.

 The eviction (today known as ethnic cleansing) of the native Arab
 population was a essential for the Zionist movement to achieve
 its goal of a Jewish-only state. The Zionist leaders at the time
 established the Jewish Trade Union Federation Histadrut and the
 Kibbutz movement with the major aim of excluding Palestinians
 from both land and labour. The physical expulsion of Palestinians
 from their land was the logical endpoint of this colonial
 project.

 Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees settled in Jordan,
 Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and other countries. Living in make-shift
 tents, over time their areas developed into crowded ``camps'' --
 enclosed areas filled with concrete dwellings and often lacking
 basic infrastructure such as sewerage, electricity, water and
 phones.

 Since 1948, Palestinian refugees have formed the backbone of the
 Palestinian revolutionary movement. The demand raised by the
 refugees and their children -- the right of return -- has been
 considered sacred by all Palestinians. No Palestinian leader,
 until recently, has dared question this fundamental right. Al haq
 al Awda is scrawled over the walls of all camps across the Middle
 East.

 The right of return strikes at the heart of the Zionist project
 because to allow Palestinians to return to their land and homes
 would challenge the racist character of the Israel state. Any
 Jew, from any country in the world, is guaranteed the right to
 live in Israel but non-Jews are prevented from doing so.

 Israel's laws guarantee privileges to Jews but deny them to
 non-Jews (such as the right to own land). More than 6 million
 Palestinian refugees are living in the Arab world and Israel's
 leaders fear their return because it would alter the demographic
 majority of Israel's Jewish population. A key aim of Israel and
 its US-backers over the last 50 years has been to neutralise the
 Palestinian refugee question.

 Capitulation?

 All indications are that the PA has capitulated on this key
 demand -- despite official media proclamations by the PA that
 this is not the case.

 During the Camp David talks, a broad sketch of the likely
 agreement emerged: Palestinian refugees would be allowed to
 return to the ``Palestinian state'' and there would be no future
 claims against Israel; Israel would allow 100,000 refugees to
 return under a family reunification scheme and express ``sorrow
 for the plight of refugees'' without taking responsibility for
 causing the refugee problem in the first place.

 What are the indications that the PA may accept this scenario? A
 few weeks before the Camp David summit, PA leader Yasser Arafat's
 chief economic advisor, Khaled Islam, requested US$40 billion of
 which half would be used to resettle refugees in the West Bank
 and Gaza Strip. Jordan has also requested a similar amount to
 resettle the Palestinian refugees in that country.

 Several months ago a scandal broke out in the Gaza Strip over
 comments made by the head of Preventative Security in the Gaza
 Strip, Mohammed Dahlan, to the central refugee committee in the
 area. Dahlan reportedly told the leaders of the committee that
 they would have to forget about the right of return and accept
 monetary compensation instead. When the head of the committee
 complained about Dahlan's comment to Arafat he was arrested and
 held for several days by Preventative Security.

 The last several months has seen armed clashes between the PA and
 residents in several camps across the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
 Although these clashes have not been related to political issues
 as such, many observers believe they are an attempt by the PA to
 demonstrate control over the camps. Gun battles between PA
 security forces and residents in different camps have erupted at
 least three times over the last four months. Refugee activists
 have also been arrested and held without trial by the PA.

 The Camp David summit participants agreed that the most
 contentious issue under discussion was Jerusalem and that other
 issues had been generally agreed upon. Given that the Israeli
 position is clearly opposed to any return of refugees, one can
 only assume that the PA has now accepted this.

 Separation and control

 According to media reports, Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak
 offered the PA ``95% of the West Bank''. On the surface this sounds
 generous and close to what Palestinians have been demanding since
 adopting the ``two-state solution'' to the conflict in 1988.
 However, further analysis reveals the lies behind the statistics.

 Israel insists on controlling Jerusalem. According to Israel's
 definition of Jerusalem, it covers at least 30% of the West Bank.
 When this is removed from the ``95%'', Palestinians would receive
 around 65% of the West Bank.

 Furthermore, Israel will annex three major settlements within the
 West Bank -- the Ariel, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion blocs. These
 settlements are in the north, centre and south of the West Bank.
 Their connection to Israel will mean the division of the West
 Bank into three Palestinian enclaves. The settlements are
 connected by ``bypass roads'' (a euphemistic term for major
 highways) which have been under construction since 1992 and which
 allow Israel to setup checkpoints thereby dividing Palestinian
 areas from one another at any time at Israel's choosing.

 This differs little from the plans has proposed by Israel since
 it occupied the West Bank in 1967, particularly the Allon Plan
 proposed by general Yigal Allon, one of the leaders of Israel's
 army in 1967. A succession of plans since that time, including
 Benyamin Netanyahu's ``Allon plus'' plan and a similar plan put
 forward by Ariel Sharon, head of the opposition Likud Party, are
 basically variations of this.

 The guiding principle behind these plans is physical separation
 so as to avoid direct control by Israel over the Palestinian
 population but to ensure Israel's control of the West Bank's
 economy, land and natural resources.

 The difference between 1967 and today is that Israel has managed
 to establish the infrastructure and political conditions
 necessary for implementing such a scheme -- this includes the
 construction of settlements connected to Tel Aviv, bypass roads
 and a pliant Palestinian leadership.

 US imperialism

 Israel was from the outset based on a movement that aimed to
 colonise the Middle East. It would not have survived without the
 support of, at first, the British government, and then the US.
 The primary reasons for support US support was to establish a
 reliable ally in the strategic oil-rich region and to provide a
 beachhead against revolutionary movements in the area.

 Israel has been rewarded handsomely. It is the largest recipient
 of US aid in the world (more than US$5 billion a year) and has
 living standards equal to Europe.

 Israel was founded on the backs of the Palestinian people, and
 for this reason the key anti-imperialist dynamic in the region
 has been the Palestinian-Israel conflict. Israel has been faced
 with the problem of how to create a nation from a diverse group
 of people with no common national characteristics other than
 sharing a religion. The Oslo process represents the solution that
 best suits the interests of the Israeli state and US imperialism.

 Since 1985, an Israeli bourgeoisie has arisen that clearly
 controls the reigns of state power. As a new state, Israel was
 built by the Labor Zionist movement which claimed socialist and
 left-wing credentials. In reality, the Labor Zionist movement
 resembled more closely the fascist movements in Italy and Germany
 with their elevation of the nation above class or individual.

 Rule by the Labor Zionist movement was the strategic choice of
 the Zionist movement leadership because it offered a solution to
 the major obstacle facing colonisation -- how to exclude cheaper
 Palestinian labour from the market and how to settle Jewish
 immigrants. The weak Jewish bourgeoisie was an unreliable option
 because they preferred to utilise cheaper Palestinian labour
 rather than new settlers expecting a higher wages.

 The Labor Zionist movement championed ``Hebrew Labour'' and
 utilised the collective form of settlement called the Kibbutz
 (mistakenly described as ``socialist'' by liberal, ``left-wing''
 Zionist apologists).

 The Labor Zionist bureaucracy has never been hostile to private
 capital or the development of a home-grown bourgeoisie. Rather,
 this elite has fostered and supported the growth of a local
 bourgeoisie through preferential treatment by the state and more
 recently the privatisation of state-owned companies. Since the
 economic crisis of the mid-'80s, Israel's bourgeoisie has run the
 state in alliance with segments of the old political elite and
 strongly backed by US imperialism.

 The Oslo process represents the economic and political program of
 the ``new'' Israeli bourgeoisie. It needs to ``normalise'' relations
 with other countries in the Middle East (until the Oslo
 agreements, Israel was boycotted by most Middle East countries)
 and move Israel's economy from one based on low-tech industries
 such as textiles and garments to a high-technology economy which
 uses cheap Arab labour in factories in Jordan, Egypt and the
 Palestinian areas, in joint ventures with foreign (particularly
 US) capital.

 The last decade has seen significant steps along these lines.
 Exports from food and beverage sectors fell by almost 20% between
 1996 and 1997, while high-tech industry exports increased by
 34.7%. The government of Israel has pursued a policy of import
 liberalisation and free trade agreements with many countries,
 reducing the cost of imports. Between 1992 and 1997 imports of
 clothing and finished products almost tripled while exports from
 that sector remained static. Israel has free trade agreements
 with the US, Canada, Hungary, Poland, the European Union, Turkey.

 A Middle Eastern `Costa Rica'

 The process of privatisation began in the mid-1980s, when several
 state-owned enterprises were sold, but it accelerated in the
 late-1990s. The total proceeds from privatisation amounted to
 $400 million in 1985-90, $2.2 billion in 1991-93 and $1 billion
 in 1994-96. The large state-owned conglomerates which dominated
 Israel's economy in the first decades have been largely sold off
 to private capitalists.

 Until now, the ``solution'' to the Palestinian ``problem'' has
 remained elusive. Critically, the Palestinian uprising in the
 West Bank and Gaza Strip of the late 1980s and early '90s
 revealed the impossibility of continued direct occupation by
 Israel.

 The Oslo process was designed to end the uprising and place a
 compliant Palestinian leadership in control of the Palestinian
 population. This was done through supporting the growth of a
 Palestinian bourgeoisie drawn from the ranks of the PLO
 apparatus, the local Palestinian bourgeoisie who have
 traditionally served as ``middle-men'' for Israel's imports to the
 West Bank and Gaza Strip, and wealthy Palestinians in the
 diaspora.

 These Palestinians enthusiastically adopted the neoliberal
 economic framework of the World Bank. A recent workshop,
 ``Leadership and Good Governance in the Palestinian Authority'',
 was organised by the World Bank in the US and was attended by
 Palestinian ministers. They returned espousing Costa Rica as a
 model for the Palestinian economy, with its free trade zones,
 non-unionised and cheap labour and incentives to attract foreign
 investment.

 The capitalists are the only group in Palestinian society that
 benefit from the economic and political agreements because of
 their relationship with Israel's capitalists. The Palestinian
 economy is dominated by monopolies controlled by various
 capitalists close to President Arafat. These monopolies are
 connected to companies in Israeli that see the West Bank and Gaza
 Strip as an important market.

 The Palestinian delegation to Camp David was composed largely of
 these capitalists. Khaled Islam is Arafat's chief economic
 advisor and owner of the largest capitalist conglomerate in
 Palestine. His interests include the Jericho Casino, the two
 largest hotels in Palestine and one of the major Palestinian
 banks.

 Jamil Tarifi is minister of civil affairs and the head of
 Palestine's largest construction company. Abu Ala is speaker of
 the Legislative Council and one of the wealthiest men in
 Palestine. Nabil Shaath, minister of planning and international
 cooperation, is head of the gravel and sand monopoly as well as
 numerous private companies. Abu Mazen, Arafat's deputy, owns the
 largest advertising company in Palestine.

 Opposition

 All indications are that a formal agreement is close.
 Negotiations are set to resume but the major issue facing the
 Palestinian leadership is how to sell an agreement to the
 population.

 During the Camp David summit, a broad-based opposition made it
 clear that the people would accept no less than the right of
 return, a Palestinian state and Palestinian sovereignty over
 Jerusalem. Numerous demonstrations were held across the West Bank
 and Gaza Strip demanding that the negotiators stick to the
 official Palestinian ``red lines''.

 The largest opposition group, Hamas, warned that any agreement
 that gave away these rights would not be binding on the people.
 The head of the Refugees Department of the PLO resigned because
 he had been excluded from the negotiations on refugees.

 It became clear that the Palestinian negotiators could not sign
 an formal agreement that gave up the movements fundamental
 demands without meeting tremendous opposition at home. Instead,
 they chose not to sign but to continue negotiations over the next
 few weeks.

 Despite attempts by the PA organise big demonstrations in support
 of ``the hero Arafat'' upon his return home, they were poorly
 attended .

 On one level, US President Bill Clinton and his propagandists are
 correct: the next few weeks will be critical and will go down in
 history as an extremely significant period in the struggle of the
 Palestinian people.

 Not because there is any chance of a just peace resulting from
 the talks, but because the eventual agreement will represent the
 final capitulation of the Palestinian leadership to an
 imperialist-imposed solution.

 Whether the Palestinian people accept such a ``solution'' is the
 question mark that hangs over the negotiations and will only be
 answered in the next stage of the Palestinian people's long
 struggle.

 BY AHMED NIMER

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