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Middle East Roundtable / Edition 6

An Israeli View:
Maybe Seven States Instead of 11

by Amira Hass

The only logical way to read the Sharm al-Sheikh summit is in accordance with the recommendation of Ariel Sharon: "only actions and not words--this is the only way to attain the vision of two states". We must judge by facts on the ground and not by the verbal promises that were disseminated. If this lesson has not been learned from the Oslo years with their stream of promises of peace and prosperity for two states, then why waste words?

The summit produced an admission of fatigue on the part of both sides, however asymmetrical they are--fatigue from the bloodletting. The summit itself featured an attempt at chumminess (Sharon inviting himself to Ramallah, joking with Abu Ala about the fence at Abu Dis, etc.) that created the appearance of parity between two equal antagonists who promise from herein to behave themselves. But the moment mortar shells began falling on the Qatif Bloc, we returned to the language of "you'll be sorry" and the clank of tank treads. These admonitions brought us back to the summit's real point of departure in Israeli eyes: the Palestinians are the aggressors; they started it. Abu Mazen rose to the challenge. He knows that the weak Palestinian position requires him to act like the aggressor who now regrets his act.

Yet just because this is the impression enforced by Israeli superiority doesn't make it right. The brutal, violent gap between the promises of Oslo that the "occupation was over" and the reality experienced by the Palestinians--of ever tighter Israeli control, direct and indirect, over their lives and their chances to progress and develop--is what ignited the "second intifada". If we now achieve a temporary calm due to fatigue on both sides without eliminating the cause--the Israeli occupation of the entire West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip--no one can predict when that calm will end. But it will. And so will the calm to follow.

Sometimes the absence of a reply points to the reply. From July 2005 the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, carriers of Israeli IDs, will no longer be permitted to enter Ramallah. That is when construction will be completed on the wall and the Erez-type passage at Kalandia, deep inside Palestinian territory. Only those who obtain an entry permit (and experience teaches us how difficult that is) will be permitted to pass. I asked the Prime Minister's Office and the IDF whether this doesn't this contradict two developments: first, permission for residents of East Jerusalem to vote in the elections for the head of the Palestinian Authority, and second, the possibility of calm and a return to final status negotiations. I received no answer.

That silence tells us, just as the bulldozers and the soldiers who already prevent Jerusalem Palestinians from traveling to Ramallah tell us, that Israel is following her plan: East Jerusalem will be separated from Ramallah, and of course from Bethlehem. Only if those bulldozers cease working immediately, if the soldiers immediately stop preventing East Jerusalemites from passing through Kalandia, will we know that the government of Israel seeks calm; that it is prepared to cease the violence of its arrogance and domination.

According to media reports, Israel rejected the Palestinian demand (demand? the Palestinians can demand something?) to remove the roadblocks put up during the past four years. The message is clear: the party that does not intend to cease building settlements cannot remove roadblocks. After all, they are intended to ensure the safety of the settlers and of ongoing settlement expansion. Thus only if all the roadblocks and checkpoints are removed and the West Bank roads cease to be strictly for Jews, will we know that Israel wants calm.

Sharon talked at the summit of "two states". Just like the Communist Party of Israel and the Sheli Party more than 30 years ago. But when you look at what is happening on the ground you realize that this is not a matter of two states for two peoples but rather of 11 states: the state of Israel, and alongside and within it the states of Gaza, Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho, Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Salfit, Nablus, and Jenin. Each of these states is separated from the others by growing Jewish territorial contiguity: a network of expanding settlements, separate, highly developed and enticing road, electricity and water infrastructure for Jews only, military emplacements, and permanent and mobile checkpoints.

Judging by the facts on the ground today, the biggest compromise that Israel under Sharon will accept is in the number of Palestinian states, e.g., seven instead of 11.- Published 14/2/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org

Amira Hass has been the Haaretz correspondent in the occupied territories since 1993.

Bitterlemons-international.org is an internet forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its specific concerns. It aspires to engender greater understanding about the Middle East region and open a new common space for world thinkers and political leaders to present their viewpoints and initiatives on the region. Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at ghassan@bitterlemons-international.org and yossi@bitterlemons-international.org, respectively.

hagalil.com 18-02-2005



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