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Biannual Newsletter - Second Edition
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UN Resolution 1325
UN Resolution 1325
A Vision for Palestinian Women’s Rights Organizations based on the Global Study on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325
(Ten strategies for tackling issues pertaining to Women, Peace and Security)
Date posted: April 14, 2004

A substantial and dangerous shift in U.S. policy in the Middle East took place this afternoon in the White House. US President George W. Bush explicitly endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plans to permanently maintain major Israeli settlements in the West Bank (which are illegal under international law and comprise 15% of the whole territory), while denying 4.6 million Palestinians (refugees who were uprooted, dispossessed, and displaced in 1948) their right to return to their original homes in historical Palestine (Israel). Bush applauded Sharon’s moves as “historic and courageous actions,” giving his full backing to the “unilateral disengagement” plan and presenting Sharon with a letter of “assurances.”

The letter, signed by President Bush, awards retroactive legitimacy to Israel's illegal settlements by stating:

“As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”

Further, and in violation of UN Resolution 194, the letter blatantly rejects the inalienable right of return for Palestinian refugees by stating:

“The United States is strongly committed to Israel's security and well-being as a Jewish state. It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.”

President Bush’s statement and letter trumps two pillars of US policy towards the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, namely that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land are an obstacle to peace and that the U.S. will not dictate the terms of a final peace settlement. Moreover, this shift in policy makes the US complicit in the Israeli occupation's lawlessness and violation of international law, ultimately disregarding essential legal foundations such as the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949, which strictly prohibits the occupying power from making demographic changes in, and moving parts of its population into, the territory it occupies.

By fully accommodating Sharon and his shortsighted extremist government, the US is preempting key issues intended for mutual agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis within the framework of the final status negotiations; the US has abandoned its very own “road map” to peace.

Sharon has undoubtedly exploited the US predicament in Iraq and Bush’s election drive to extort concessions and changes in US policy towards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. More dangerously, the Bush administration’s publicly declared endorsement of Sharon’s plans is a clear demonstration of Washington’s willful neglect of the real causes of conflict (most notably Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories).

The imminent and long term effects of such a negligent shift in policy will be destructive to the whole region; the results of today’s declarations will further inflame Arab and Islamic public opinion. It will most certainly undermine what is left of US standing in the region, destroying both its credibility and any chance it still has of playing a constructive role in peace-making.

The position adopted by the US this evening worryingly shows a complete disregard for the Palestinians in the negotiations concerning their future. America has forcefully assumed the position of deciding the fate of the Palestinian people during exclusive and secretive negotiations with Israel. Dispensing with Palestinian rights, Sharon’s plan received unfettered support from Bush, who foolishly expected Palestinians to embrace their new found “freedom,” despite the fact that Israel will maintain full control of airspace, territorial waters, and land passages of the West Bank and Gaza.

The US has effectively given Sharon a green light to retain at the very least six "large settlement blocs" in the West Bank, with a population of 92,500 Israeli settlers, if not more, as part of any final peace accord with the Palestinians. Sharon promised that the Jewish settlements inside Hebron and the nearby enclave of Kiryat Arba, as well as Maaleh Adumim, Givat Ze'ev, Ariel and Gush Etzion “will remain under Israeli control and that will continue to grow stronger and develop.”

Today, the prospects for a real peace settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis seem more distant than ever.

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