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What did you do today, to promote peace?
Meeting People’s Expectations


George S. Hishmeh *

Washington DC - The Palestinian delegation, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, was elated with their American reception last week, especially the unexpectedly lavish praise from US President George W. Bush. This, despite the fact that none of this was in the form of a letter similar to the one Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon received a little over year ago.

Yet there was good reason for the Palestinian exuberance, as no American president had committed himself to the Palestinians as Bush had, being the first to call for a two-state solution. Bush showered Abbas and the performance of the Palestinian people with public praise for the successful presidential election held under Israeli occupation.

He noted before the White House press corps: "We meet at a time when a great achievement of history is within reach, the creation of a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state."

He continued, "President Abbas is seeking that goal by rejecting violence and working for democratic reform. I believe the Palestinian people are fully capable of justly governing themselves, in peace with their neighbours." Bush pledged to "stand with you, Mr President, as you combat corruption, reform the Palestinian security services and your justice system and revive your economy.

"Mr President, you have made a new start on a difficult journey, requiring courage and leadership each day and we will take that journey together."

The American president resurrected long-forgotten aspects of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict when he declared: "Israel must continue to take steps towards a peaceful future, and work with the Palestinian leadership to improve the daily lives of Palestinians, especially their humanitarian situation. Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes roadmap obligations or prejudice final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank and [occupied] Jerusalem.

"Therefore, Israel must remove unauthorised outposts and stop settlement [colony] expansion. The barrier being erected by Israel as a part of its security effort must be a security, rather than political, barrier ... Israel should ... As we make progress ... Israeli forces should withdraw to their positions on September 28, 2000."

Meaningful Linkages

Bush went on, recalling the usually forgotten stipulation that "any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice lines [or Green Line] must be mutually agreed to. A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity of the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work. There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bank and Gaza. "This is the position of the United States, and it will be the position of the United States at the time of final status negotiations.”

He also broke with Congress and authorised (reportedly with advance approval from the Republican Party leadership) the payment of $50 million (Dh183 million) directly to the Abbas government and then expanded, much to Israel's chagrin, the mandate of General William Ward to negotiate security matters between the Palestinians and Israelis.

All this is music to the ears of many Palestinians. However the missing link here is a genuine timetable for the implementation of these high-sounding American promises to the beleaguered Palestinian leadership, which is facing an uphill battle in next month's parliamentary elections from Hamas, the diehard Palestinian Islamist group.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be travelling to the region in a few weeks' time to "consult with Israelis and Palestinians on the [Gaza] disengagement, their shared commitments and the way back on the roadmap.”

The imminent dispatch of Rice and the expansion of Ward's mandate probably signals a marked improvement over the unhealthy relationship between the State Department and the White House when Colin Powell ran the country's foreign policy in the first Bush administration.

At present, the key officials see eye-to-eye on the Middle East. In fact, this was evident on the eve of the Bush-Abbas talks, when Rice invited the leadership of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), a Palestinian-American organisation that is slowly gaining the administration's confidence and respect, for an exchange of views on the upcoming visit.

They felt gratified that Rice stressed to them that when the time comes for final status negotiations, the Bush administration will not abandon the Palestinians.

In fact, Dr Ziad Asali, the ATFP president, told this writer that he felt Bush had delivered publicly "on all sensitive issues, including [occupied] Jerusalem and the Armistice line by issuing sympathetic language that met high Palestinian expectations".

But the key point that has yet to be spelled out by the administration is setting a timetable for all these expectations. Abbas hit the nail on the head when he declared after his meeting with Bush, "We should end this conflict before it is too late."

* George S. Hishmeh is an Arab American columnist based in Washington DC.
Source: The Arabic Media Internet Network (AMIN.org), June 2, 2005.
Visit AMIN.org Online: www.AMIN.org

When Left and Right Are Right
by David Kimche
David Kimche, former Foreign Ministry director-general, writes, “We are all - Left and Right - entrenched in our views, convinced we know best what is good for Israel. But what if diehard right-wingers and diehard leftists started listening to each other's arguments? What if sane rightists - not the messianics - and sane leftists - not the Israel-bashers - opened themselves up to the other point of view?” (Source: The Jerusalem Post, June 2, 2005)

Advertising for a Lasting Peace
by Maurice Levy
Maurice Levy, of the advertising and communications company, Publicis Groupe, reveals how months of secret sessions has lead to a joint Israeli and Palestinian advertising campaign promoting peace. “We aren't deluding ourselves. Advertising will never be a substitute for the hard work needed to craft a peace agreement. That has to do with fundamental issues like land, justice, liberty and security. Yet we must remember that without an underlying popular will and desire to move forward, any Israeli-Palestinian agreement will be much more difficult to reach - and will be much less solid.” (Source: International Herald Tribune, June 9, 2005)

Jerusalem: The Candle of Humanity
by Rami Assali
Rami Assali describes a walk through the Old City of Jerusalem. “What makes a garden beautiful is the arrangement of various kinds of flowers in a way that harmonizes the colours combined together. What’s a garden with only roses, or daisies, or lilies, or trees? It’s a garden with no harmony, no life, no spirit. Even if the roses are very beautiful, they won’t make a beautiful garden. What makes my Jerusalem unique and special is its diversity, not its holiness. Why did God make Jerusalem holy for all religions in the first place? Because it is a message that Jerusalem is nobody’s and everybody’s city.” (Source: CGNews, June 10, 2005)

Shooting for Equality – On the Soccer Field and Off
by Daniel Ben-Tal
Writer Daniel Ben-Tal chronicles the rising success of soccer team Ichud Abu Ghosh-Mevasseret. Although Arab players on Israeli teams is nothing new, “Ichud (United) Abu Ghosh-Mevasseret has taken coexistence one step further by forming Israel's first combined Jewish-Arab club that is explicitly more than just about soccer.” (Source: This is an abbreviated version of an article that appeared in ISRAEL21c, May 15, 2005)

Common Ground News Service promotes constructive perspectives and dialogue about current Middle East issues.

hagalil.com 22-08-2004



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