Saturday, May 9, 2009

Peace in our time?

There is growing speculation about a revamped peace plan for the Middle East. But what will it contain – or achieve?

Ben White, Saturday 9 May 2009

"Recently, and in the last week in particular, there has been a flurry of speculation in the Arab and western media about changes afoot in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and in particular, how the US intends to engage with the conflict and the region as a whole. If the reports and analysis are to be believed, something is shifting, and the various players are staking out their positions in the changing landscape.

One of the main questions being asked is whether the US and Israeli administrations are heading for a conflict. Many answer in the affirmative, including the Guardian's Simon Tisdall, who yesterday wrote that Israel is "under siege" as PM Netanyahu heads for "showdown talks" with Obama on 18 May. Other commentators have also perceived a "widening rift between the U.S. and Israeli governments"......

This week, however, it was rumoured that the US was considering returning to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, having requested some changes in the content. According to a report in al-Quds al-Arabi, a redrafting of the plan was discussed during a meeting between Obama and Jordan's King Abdullah, and discussions were being held on the matter between the Jordanians, Egyptians, Palestinians, Saudis, and even Syrians.

This has been subsequently denied as alleged changes include dropping the Palestinians' right of return and the normalisation of relations between Israel and the Arab states. Since the story surfaced, Jordan's foreign minister stressed that the initiative would continue "without change", while Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa also said there was "no amendment" [COMMENT: as John Pilger would say, "don't believe a rumor until it has been officially denied!"].......

Unfortunately, it is likely that the enormous disparity between the peace process and the facts on the ground in the occupied territories will live on in any new initiative. The Palestinian people continue to seek basic political and human rights, rather than gestures and Jericho casinos. The two-state solution may be the only game in town, but there is no evidence that Obama can – or wants to –MIddle prevent it being a slogan masking apartheid."

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