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