Stephen Zunes : Israel and Palestine
Despite the best efforts by the Bush administration of putting a positive spin on the recently-completed summit in Annapolis to restart the “Performance-Based Road Map to Peace,” there is little reason to expect that it will actually move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward as long as the United States insists on simultaneously playing the role of chief mediator and chief supporter of the more powerful of the two parties.
There’s little reason to hope for a breakthrough at the Middle East peace summit in Annapolis, unless there is a fundamental shift in U.S. policy in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And there’s little evidence to suggest such a change is forthcoming….
There is much blame to go around regarding the tragic turn of events in the Gaza Strip. While Hamas is the most immediate culprit, responsibility also rests with Fatah, Israel – and the United States.
In my Inbox last Friday was an email from Peace Action, the country’s largest peace group, encouraging its members to join the thousands of peace and human rights activists from across the country in the June 10 march in Washington against the Israeli occupation. This otherwise unremarkable letter served as an important reminder that U.S. support for the Israeli occupation is finally becoming an issue for the mainstream of the peace movement.
In a flagrant attack on the longstanding international legal principle that it is illegitimate for any country to expand its territory by military means, the U.S. House of Representatives, by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, passed House Concurrent Resolution 152 congratulating Israel for its forcible “reunification of Jerusalem” and its victory in the June 1967 war.
Israelis from across the political spectrum, emboldened by the interim report from the government’s Winograd Commission, which investigated Israel’s ill-fated assault on Lebanon, are expressing regrets over last summer’s conflict with their northern neighbor. Uproar over the way a relatively minor border incident managed to escalate into a full-scale war is leading to demands for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s resignation and other top government officials are under pressure or stepping down.
Even as American officials reluctantly agreed last month to include Syrian representatives in multiparty talks on Iraqi security issues, the Bush administration continues to block Israel from resuming negotiations with Syria over its security concerns. In 2003, President Bashar al-Assad offered to resume peace talks with Israel where they had left off three years earlier, but Israel, backed by the Bush administration, refused. Assad eventually agreed to reenter peace negotiations without preconditions, but even these overtures were rejected….
With even mainstream media outlets like the Washington Post and The New Yorker publishing credible stories that the United States is seriously planning a military attack on Iran, increasing numbers of Americans are expressing concerns about the consequences of the United States launching another war that would once again place the United States in direct contravention of international law.
There is increasing evidence that Israel instigated a disastrous war on Lebanon largely at the behest of the United States. The Bush administration was set on crippling Hezbollah, the radical Shiite political movement that maintains a sizable block of seats in the Lebanese parliament. Taking advantage of the country’s democratic opening after the forced departure of Syrian troops last year, Hezbollah defied U.S. efforts to democratize the region on American terms. The populist party’s unwillingness to disarm its militia as required by UN resolution?and the inability of the pro-Western Lebanese government to force them to do so?led the Bush administration to push Israel to take military action.
The Bush administration and an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Congress have gone on record defending Israel’s assault on Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure as a means of attacking Hezbollah “terrorists.” Unlike the major Palestinian Islamist groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah forces haven’t killed any Israeli civilians for more than a decade. Indeed, a 2002 Congressional Research Service report noted, in its analysis of Hezbollah, that “no major terrorist attacks have been attributed to it since 1994.” The most recent State Department report on international terrorism also fails to note any acts of terrorism by Hezbollah since that time except for unsubstantiated claims that a Hezbollah member was a participant in a June 1996 attack on the U.S. Air Force dormitory at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.