Back Room Negotiations Leave Palestinians Out Cold
April 13, 2004

Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is due to arrive in Washington on Tuesday for a meeting with his American counterpart President George Bush.

The two are expected to ‘discuss’ Sharon’s plan for “unilaterally disengagement” from Gaza, land occupied by Israeli forces during the 1967 war. Sharon’s aides have been finalizing agreements with the Bush administration, preparing for what some U.S. officials are already describing as a “historical” move towards peace.

1967 borders, the expected and desired future borders of the Palestinian state, make up 22% of historical Palestine and include Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The acceptance of 22% of the land, in accordance with UN resolutions 242 and 338, is the Palestinian historical concession, which effectively gives up their right to all of the land, or 55% of it, in accordance to UN resolution 181.

A day before his departure, Ariel Sharon vowed to keep major settlements in the West Bank. “For all eternity,” the Israeli PM told the settlers gathered at Ma’ali Adomeem, an Israeli settlement built on Palestinian land and viewed as an obstacle to peace and a violation of international law. “I have a good feeling,” he said when referring to his disengagement plan and repeated his pledge to never give up east Jerusalem, an annexation that remains unrecognized internationally.

Ariel Sharon is aiming to gain something out of his desired withdrawal from Gaza, which is home to 1.3 million Palestinians, with 7500 settlers living illegally in enclaves that make up 13% of Gaza and are expected to be removed as they are a burden on Israel to secure and can not logically continue to live in Gaza.

Nevertheless, Sharon is seeking some “guarantees,” which will assure him that Israel will not have to fully comply with international law and resolutions, enabling him to pick and choose which illegal occupation colonies Israel will keep in a future peace settlement with the Palestinians.

U.S. sources in Washington said last week that “understandings” had been reached with Israel on key aspects of Sharon’s plan after officials close to him said he expected approval to retain parts of the West Bank.

Palestinian officials and PM Qurei have condemned Sharon’s statements and warned against American compliance with Sharon’s demands. “The Gaza withdrawal cannot be exchanged for maintaining Israeli occupation in Jerusalem or in the West Bank,” remarked Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. The Palestinian PM Ahmad Qurei further cautioned, “we warn, starting from now, that there should not be promises made at the expense of our issues […] We are the side that needs assurances.”

This dangerous wheeling and dealing by the American and Israeli leaders goes against international will and wishes, and is guaranteed to cost Washington whatever little credibility, if any, it has, when it comes to being a peace broker in the Middle East.