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by Jalal Ghazi

Neo-Cons Work to Undermine Annapolis Summit

(PNS) -- The Middle East peace conference in Annapolis will mark the day when Arabs make their biggest concession to Israel in over a decade. In 2002, the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah declared that if Israel withdrew to its 1967 boundaries and allowed Palestinian refugees to return home, Arab states would normalize relations with Israel. Five years later by their very presence in Annapolis, the Arab states are signaling they are willing to normalize ties with Israel without receiving any concessions on borders, East Jerusalem or refugees.

"If not for the Arab consensus we felt today, we would not have decided to go," said Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal when he announced his decision to go to Annapolis after attending an Arab League summit. The willingness of Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar to normalize relations with Israel was triggered by what they perceive as a greater threat from Iran. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

The 2002 peace initiative was considered a huge compromise because the 1967 borders would have required Palestinians to give up 78 percent of the historical boundaries of Palestine. As the Arab leaders walk into Annapolis, the Palestinian situation is dire -- Israel has effectively confiscated 50 percent of the West Bank and continues to expand and build settlements.

Most importantly the Palestinians are at their weakest since Israel was created in 1948 and are forced to accept whatever Israel gives them. Now they look back at the pre-Oslo Accords years, which gave Palestinians self-rule in parts of the West Bank and Gaza, as the "Golden Years." At that time Palestinians could go to every Palestinian and Israeli city. Now they have to go through checkpoints. In an end run around the six cities that fell under the Palestinian National Authority, Israel expanded settlements and fortified them, connecting them through multi-billion dollar highways bypassing Palestinian cities.

Separating the Palestinian cities meant that their economy became vulnerable to Israeli closures and collective punishment, which was not possible before Oslo since the two economies were integrated. Palestinians could no longer use strikes as non-violent resistance as they did during the First Intifada (1987-1993) or access Israeli courts to challenge home demolitions.

Palestinians, particularly Hamas turned to violent means, including suicide-bombing operations. While Hamas hoped a sustainable campaign of attacks would eventually destroy the Israeli economy, the attacks made Palestinians lose moral ground and the support of progressive Israelis and the international community.

The suicide operations were used as a justification to build the Wall that separates West Bank cities from Israel. Once even former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vehemently opposed the construction of such a wall because it was too expensive. However, Nitzak Mashia, the spokesperson of the "separation barrier" project explained in 2003 that this was no longer the case. "Economists calculated that this project is actually profitable because it will pay for itself in six months if the terror ends and the foreign investments return. Terrorism has cost Israel 30-40 billion Shekels, but the wall will only cost 7 billion."

Nothing in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has destroyed the quality of life of the Palestinians in West Bank as much as the wall. It cuts them off from their schools, hospitals, and lands and, in many cases, it isolates them from their families and relatives.

To make matters worse, the establishment of the Palestinian Authority enhanced divisions between the two major Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, peaking with Hamas' military takeover of Gaza. This allowed Israel to declare Gaza a "hostile entity" and severely curtail electricity and fuel to the area.

The Palestinians can no longer turn the clock back. The United States and Israel have specifically demanded that Fatah, which now controls the West Bank, not talk with Hamas. This means that the division between the West Bank and Gaza is bound to become stronger overtime. It is a lot easier now for Palestinians in Gaza to go to Egypt than the West Bank, and it is easier for Palestinians in the West Bank to go to Jordan than Gaza. Thus, in effect Gaza will eventually become de facto part of Egypt and the West Bank will eventually become part of Jordan.

And East Jerusalem, which is closed to Palestinians under 45, will not be part of any future Palestinian state.

If the Palestinian Authority were to declare an independent state tomorrow and call it the Abbasid Density of Palestine, or the Palestinian Empire, that would not change the fact that it will be a pseudo-state. Its citizens have already been stripped of their civil rights, which they ironically enjoyed more of under direct Israeli occupation before the Oslo Accords was signed.

It is true that the Palestinians can raise the Palestinian flag in areas under the control of Fatah or Hamas, but these areas are nothing more than big prisons with gates controlled by Israeli military officers who can lock them whenever they want. The Annapolis peace conference may very well provide the locking key.

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Albion Monitor   November 27, 2007   (

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