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From Pullout to Peace

The Jordan Times, Editorial

It seems that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is serious about pulling out of the Gaza Strip, perhaps all of it, perhaps not, and maybe with some West Bank settlements thrown in for good measure. This, in and of itself, is good news. Any evacuation, from any part of occupied Palestinian territory must be welcomed. Nevertheless, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Jordan, Egypt and the international community are all interested that the withdrawal should not happen unilaterally.

There are several reasons for this. On the political level, the US is understandably eager that any withdrawal should be seen in the context of the so-called Middle East roadmap for peace. For the political purposes of this administration it would serve to show that its plan is indeed in effect and progressing, an important foreign policy victory in an election year. But it is also important for the PNA and neighbouring countries. If the pullback comes as part of a coordinated manoeuvre, and in the context of the roadmap the move will be harder to reverse for the Israeli government, and will be a first step towards the establishment of a Palestinian state as stipulated by the Quartet plan. If it encompasses similar withdrawals in the West Bank, it could ease Palestinian hardships there, and may allow for further meaningful negotiations. In the overriding interest of Palestinians, Israelis, Jordan and Egypt, this may serve to lessen tension and violence.

There are also practical reasons for the withdrawal to be coordinated.

While Gaza has been the centre of some internal Palestinian unrest recently, there appears to be little danger yet of any full-fledged civil war as some have been suggesting. Nevertheless, an enabled and empowered PNA is essential for the people of the Strip: Work on developing its economy and rebuilding its infrastructure would be impossible without this.

But for this to happen, Israel must be willing to allow it to happen by coordinating its moves with the PNA and allowing it to do its work. The international community must also be willing to help. UNRWA continues to be hopelessly underfunded, and as the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian areas is only getting worse, it is in everyone's interest that this organization is enabled to do its work. Again Israel must play ball.

Donor countries are understandably reluctant to invest money in infrastructure only to see this infrastructure destroyed next time Israel sees fit to invade the Strip. Israel must start putting its own rhetoric aside and make some political calculations. What is good for the Palestinians is good for Israel. The better life is for Palestinians, the more secure Israelis will be.

Ultimately, there is only one way to secure a full and lasting peace, and that is through a full and negotiated Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories. The price Israel will pay is evacuating all the settlements and sharing Jerusalem. The prize is peace. America's role is crucial, and while it may be a lot to ask an American administration to be too adventurous in an election year, if an Israeli withdrawal comes along through negotiations, the next step would be for the US to allow Palestinian President Yasser Arafat back in from the cold. It is clear that whatever the Israelis or the Americans think of him, Arafat is not only the elected leader of the Palestinian people, he is the only one with the personal authority to keep the Palestinian factions and the Palestinian people together.

Source: The Jordan Times, March 14, 2004 - http://www.jordantimes.com

Gaza First:
But Not Gaza Only!
Rosenberg, Director of Policy Analysis for Israel Policy Forum and former editor of AIPAC’s Near East Report, discusses the worsening Israel-Palestinian conflict and the decision by Israeli PM Sharon to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. According to Rosenberg, “This [move] could be very good news. But only if Sharon’s proposed unilateral moves are coordinated with the Palestinians. No warring party has ever made peace by itself.” (Source: Israel Policy Forum, March 5, 2004)

Rehow Sumsum:
Sesame Street Divided
Lauren Gelfond reports on the latest reincarnation of Middle East Sesame Stories - three separate Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli versions inspired from the U.S. production “Sesame Street”. In these versions produced during the current Intifada, ‘characters no longer meet “the other” in the street or at all. But they -- human, animated, or Muppet -- must observe a mandate of tolerance’. (Source: Jerusalem Post Magazine, March 5, 2004)

A Palestinian Refusenik's Open Letter:
To the Jewish People
“If we look to find a reason to hate each other, we will always succeed individually, and then fail together. But if we constantly strive to find reasons to come together, to seek hope and to achieve fairness for both sides, not even the worst kind of hate can stop us.” Palestinian American columnist Ray Hanania discusses his efforts in advocating in favour of the moderate Palestinian voices in the face of ongoing violence and hatred in the Israeli-Arab conflict. (Source: http://www.hanania.com/, January 14, 2004)

Common Ground News Service February 20, 2004
CGNews promotes constructive perspectives and dialogue about current Middle East issues.

From the Common Ground News Service
hagalil.com 22-02-2004



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