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Friday, March 25, 2005


Beyond All Limits


March 24, 2005

Beyond all limits

By: Dr. Mustafa Barghouti*

It is all well and good for Palestinian factions to meet, talk things over and agree on a united stand. The need for calm on the frontline is all too obvious. Calm is useful, but it is not our only aim. The Cairo Declaration has generally boosted the cause of Palestinian unity, but it has left a few things out. For instance, the factions meeting in Cairo did not do much to regain the initiative from Sharon. The Israeli prime minister ridiculed the call for calm even before it was made. So far, political exchanges have been taking place in the context of bilateral negotiations, and it is Sharon who defines what is acceptable and what is not in those negotiations.

Why haven't the Cairo conferees abandoned the search for partial and interim solutions and called for an international peace conference on the basis of international resolutions and laws? Why do we continue to work as if Sharon's disengagement plan has superseded all international resolutions and plans, including the roadmap?

Now that military action has been shelved, why not wage a peace offensive? Why not play up the ruling of the International Court of Justice regarding the appalling prison wall built to entrap Palestinians? We need to stop Israel from completing the wall and more settlements. Why haven't all settlement activities been stopped? This is the condition we should make. Isn't it the one, even, that the Israeli government itself agreed to? It is not enough to say that settlement activities are detrimental to peace. The halt of all settlement activities is not a preposterous demand. It is not an unrealistic condition. The roadmap unequivocally demands of the Israeli government that it halt all settlement expansion. It is not selective in its language: it is as clear as the division between night and day. And it wasn't placed at the end, as a final status issue: it was a measure to be taken by Israel in the first phase.

We are all aware of the slippery road we've taken from the Madrid Conference to the Oslo Accords. Our mistake was that we agreed to negotiate with Israel while the latter went on building more settlements. Israel continued to change the status quo as if it had complete licence, and impose an altered reality upon us. Yet everyone kept paying lip service to peace and the restoration of calm. Do the powers that be believe that Palestinians are impervious to being cheated? This approach cost us a second Intifada. It cost us thousands of dead and wounded. It has also led to the creation of dozens of settlements and hundreds of bypass roads that shred the West Bank into pieces. If settlement building is ignored Israel will end up Judaising and annexing the entire Jerusalem area and more than half of the West Bank. This would destroy any basis for the creation of an independent Palestinian state -- it makes negotiations nonsense. It would undermine everything we've been working for, and makes a mockery of justice.

Admittedly, the current domestic, regional, and international circumstances are hard. But we have the sympathy of the vast majority of the peoples who make up the real international community; sympathy consolidated by the steadfastness of our people and their recent display of democratic commitment. It is still possible to make our conditions clear: all settlement activities, including the building of the wall, must be stopped. This is the condition that we should rally behind, and now, instead of talking in general terms about Israeli aggression and the need to go back to how things were on 28 September 2000.

* The writer is secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative.

© 2004 Arabic Media Internet Network - Internews Middle East

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