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Date: Sun, 8 Feb 98 12:32:06 CST
From: Workers World <ww@wwpublish.com>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: U.S. not neutral in Palestinian-Israeli conflict
Article: 27330

U.S. not neutral in Palestinian-Israeli conflict

By Richard Becker, Workers World,
12 February 1998

Albright fumes at Netanyahu, Arafat for foot-dragging, read the headline in the Feb. 2 San Francisco Chronicle.

The main point of this story, like countless others in the corporate media, was that the United States government is a neutral broker. Washington, you are supposed to think, is putting equal pressure on the Israelis and Palestinians to end their mutual hostility and reach a just and lasting peace.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the U.S. government provides billions of dollars a year in critical military and economic aid to Israel. Washington has provided Israel with the most deadly high-tech weapons, including nuclear bombs.

The United States has blocked innumerable United Nations resolutions condemning Israeli seizures of Arab land, and allowed Israel to ignore the resolutions that have been passed. Contrast this with U.S. threats of all-out war against Iraq for placing any restrictions on UN weapons inspectors.

Toward the Palestinians, Washington has displayed the most virulent hostility. U.S. administrations--Democrat and Republican alike--have historically opposed the Palestinian people's right to their homeland, from which most Palestinians were expelled to make way for the Israeli state.

For decades, the U.S.-Israel position was to oppose any negotiations with the Palestinians. New conditions that arose in the early 1990s caused a shift in Washington's tactics.


The Intifada--a mass uprising that began in 1987 and lasted for several years--demonstrated that the Palestinian struggle could not simply be crushed by force.

With the changed world conditions of 1991, the Bush administration and then Clinton decided to seek a negotiated solution--one that they hoped would neutralize the Palestinian struggle.

The United States engineered the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and 1995 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. This came about after the collapse of the Soviet Union and defeat of Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War had seriously weakened the Palestinian position.

After the 1993 accord, the Israelis withdrew from about 60 percent of Gaza and the West Bank town of Jericho.

As the first step in implementing the 1995 agreement, Israel agreed to withdraw its forces from the eight West Bank cities including Hebron by March 1996. In September 1996, the Israelis were to start a three-stage pullout from most of the rural areas of the West Bank, to be completed in one year.

In addition, all Palestinian women political prisoners were to be immediately released from Israeli jails. A schedule was created for releasing prisoners.

A route of passage was to be set up between the geographically separated West Bank and Gaza. A Palestinian airport and seaport were to be opened, and a number of other steps implemented.

No steps were to be taken to change conditions on the ground before the final status talks to be held in 1998.


The Israeli government headed by Benyamin Netanyahu has refused to implement the agreements it signed.

The withdrawal from Palestinian cities was not completed until the summer of 1997. Part of Hebron remains occupied.

More than 3,500 Palestinian prisoners remain jailed--most under terrible conditions. By a five to four vote, the Israeli High Court recently upheld the right of Israeli authorities to torture Palestinian prisoners.

No passageway exists between Gaga and the West Bank. No Palestinian airport or seaport has been allowed to open.

The strangulation of the Palestinian economy has led to a huge rise in unemployment and a corresponding decline in living standards.

There have been no Israeli withdrawals at all from rural areas. Today, less than 8 percent of the West Bank is under Palestinian control.

Instead of withdrawing, the Netanyahu government has launched a massive expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, seizing more Palestinian land. Palestinian institutions and rights in Jerusalem have been subjected to new attacks from the Israeli authorities.

Some 60,000 of the 180,000 Palestinians living in Jerusalem are threatened with expulsion.

Now the Netanyahu cabinet's position is that Israel will retain at least 60 percent of the West Bank as security zones--settlements and bypass roads. Bypass roads connect the 135 Israeli settlements--half of which have been expanded in the past two years--with Israel itself.

This will thus cut up the remaining 40 percent of the West Bank into small islands of disconnected territory.

This plan, if implemented, would prevent the emergence of an independent Palestinian state.

Israeli reneging on the Oslo agreements, which many Palestinians considered inadequate to begin with, has fueled resistance from several Palestinian left and Islamic organizations. Several suicide bombings by Islamic militants have taken place in Israeli cities. The Israeli government has used these desperate acts of resistance to justify further violating the accords.

President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have responded by placing the bulk of the responsibility for the breakdown in negotiations on the Palestinians. They are demanding new concessions from the Palestinian side.

One effect of the U.S. stance has been to shift the entire negotiation process even further toward the Israeli position.

For example, when Netanyahu came to Washington in January for talks with Clinton, he proposed that Israel would withdraw from just 6 percent of the West Bank--and only if the Palestinians met 50 new conditions listed in a 12-page document.

These conditions included cutting the Palestinian police force in half, throwing out the Palestine National Charter, and turning over 30 alleged terrorists to Israel.

This was obviously meant to be an offer that Palestinian President Yasir Arafat could not accept--thus making it look as if the Palestinians were responsible should the negotiations break off.

Clinton's response was to call for Israel to withdraw from 10 percent to 12 percent of the West Bank over the next six months. But the original Oslo Accords had called for Israel to have withdrawn from most of the West Bank by 1997.

The latest rounds of negotiations show once again that the United States and Israel, secondary disagreements aside, are working together to undermine the emergence of a Palestinian state.