View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Monday, November 03, 2003

Our Greatest Ex-President

Jimmy Carter's at it again. In his opinion piece for the USA Today, Carter portrays Geneva as providing the framework for an ultimate solution to the Israel-Palestinian war. He portrays it as Oslo was portrayed, and it certainly does look a lot like Oslo. The factual and logical gymnastics involved in making it look viable are worthy of Olga Korbet.

Although it has received little attention in the U.S. media, a detailed, soon-to-be-released Middle East accord struck by a group of influential Israelis and Palestinians paves the way to the region's best, and perhaps last, chance for peace.

Yes, the Israelis are so influential they were destroyed in the last elections, some even leaving Labor for parties further to the left. The Palestinians are so influential none of them is currently in government. The would matter even if the government were actually elected.

Its plan is an alternative to the "Quartet" road map fashioned by the U.S., the European Union, the United Nations and Russia. That also offered an encouraging prospect for peace, but even its first basic phase has been substantially rejected. Key obstacles have been Israel's insistence on colonizing Gaza and the far reaches of the West Bank, and the Palestinians' insistence on the withdrawal of all Israeli settlements, a return to the pre-1967 border and a right to unlimited return for refugees from the 1948 and 1967 wars.

Yes. "Colonizing." True technically. Playing to the worst symbolism of Israel as a colonial power. Even Sharon has said that there should be a Palestinian state, and that some settlements will have to go. Not the one large, missing issue here: the state of war that exists between the two, with the unsettling tendency of Palestinians to blow themselves, busses, children, workshippers, and restaurant-goers to bits with some regularity, unless they are stopped. Here he ignores the issue. See what happens later on.

The Quartet's plan is now a dead issue. Instead, there are continuing violent attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups and increasingly harsh reprisals from Israel. With apparent acquiescence from the Bush administration, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recently announced that additional settlement units will be built and the Israeli dividing wall farther intruded into Palestinian land.

Moral equivalence between blowing up children, and blowing up the houses of those who would blow up children. The Palestinians term "wall" for the fence is adopted, as well as the assumption of "Palestinian" land. No mention of where the offending settlements lie, and no mention of why the fence is being built.

Supporting such policies is the worst thing America could do for Israelis who want peace. There also is no doubt that the obvious lack of real effort to resolve the Palestinian issue is a primary source of anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East and a major incentive for terrorist activity.

Naturally, allowing Israel to defend itself only hurts those who want peace. And there is, too, considerably doubt about that assertion. Need we go through the history here, that Osama only named Israel as a problem when he saw it might get him support? That it's thoroughly unrealistic to expect the US to impose a settlement where none is wanted by one side? No, to the extent that other Arabs really care about the Palestinians, they might consider making them citizens, stop keeping them in camps, and funding suicide bombings.

For more than two years, the group of Israelis and Palestinians, many of whom played key roles at earlier discussions under President Clinton at Camp David and later at Taba, Egypt, has held difficult, tedious negotiations. Working without government support, both sides have made constructive concessions without contradicting the concepts of the Oslo accords of 1993, the Clinton proposals and the Quartet road map.

Israelis and Palestinians, many of whom played key roles in previous failed negotiations...Perhaps the reason they're working without government support is that all of them have no support within the government. Again, note that one of those governments is actually elected by its citizens.

Their plan proposes a two-state solution. It would settle the conflict's most critical elements, including precise border delineations, Israeli settlements, the end of excessive occupation of Palestinian lands, the future of Jerusalem and its holy places and the extremely troubling question of Palestinian refugees.

The proposed plan permits more than half of Israeli settlers to remain permanently in the West Bank, strictly limits the return of Palestinian refugees and provides for a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank, connected to Gaza by a secure highway. Highly-developed Palestinian land near Jerusalem now occupied by Israeli settlers would be swapped for equal areas of remote, uninhabited Israeli land. Satellite imagery has defined a border to the level of individual homes. Unrestricted access by specific routes is guaranteed to East Jerusalem's holy places.

Yes. Half the Israeli settlers may remain in the West Bank, subject to discriminatory laws, physcial harassment, and the constant threat of death from a hostile population not only unrestrained, but encouraged, by its government. The highly-developed land is assumed to be Palestinian, so it's assumed to have been unfairly taken, or that anything onthe other side of the 1967 Green Line is by default Palestinian land. And I'm sure that that unrestricted access by specific routes wil be just as secure as Israel's access to Mount Scopus and the Hebrew University was before 1967. Or, for that matter, just as secure as access to the Wall was before 1967, also guaranteed by cease-fire.

Presumably — and as already pledged by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia — such an agreement would induce all Arab nations to recognize Israel's rights to live in peace and to take action to prevent further violence initiated by naysaying Palestinian groups. Such a commitment should be a prerequisite to a final agreement.

Right. So the Palestinians can deliberately keep some small issue unresolved, like, say the Sheeba Farms. The issue will be small, but will be cited as the reason for continuing Palestinian murder, and certainly no impediment to implementing all the agreed-upon issues. Of course, the other Arab states will use that as a pretext for recognizing Israel. And what to do about the Golan? Surely Syria won't recognize Israel until that's settled.

Current U.S.-Israeli strategies must change. Demanding an end to all terrorism before final negotiations only guarantees they never happen. Such extremist groups as Hamas do not want a negotiated settlement and are out of the Palestinian Authority's control. Half-hearted, step-by-step approaches let violent acts on either side subvert the peace process.

Now, murder, while acknowledged, is simply wished away. The whole power dynamic within the PA is reduced to, "Arafat can't control Hamas." As though he wants to. As though giving Hamas a larger base to operate will make Israelis safer. As though "violent acts on either side" really exist. As though there is a "peace process."

As though Carter actually had something newor constructive to say.

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