ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Palestinian state in Washington`s best interest
Bassam Abu Sharif

April 20, 2005

Following his meeting with President Bush, Ariel Sharon returned to Tel Aviv happy and reassured. No one pressed him to implement international resolutions, despite their scantiness. Sharon`s mission enjoyed unexpected success. President Bush on his part reiterated his opposition to settlement expansion, without referring to Sharon`s response, which rejects putting a halt to expansion.

Instead, President Bush emphasized that the return to the borders of the truce of 1949 was unrealistic (meaning that it was realistic for the Palestinians to accept the status quo, which is that Israel will annex large parts of the West Bank).

President Bush focused on the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip and on economic development. He also agreed to provide Israel with the huge funding requested by Sharon to develop the Negev and the Galilee to reinstall the 3,700 settlers who will evacuate their colonies in the Gaza strip. The former director of the World Bank, James Wolfenson, was appointed coordinator for the economic situation in the Gaza Strip.

Sharon has succeeded in misleading the American administration, while the Arab countries have again succeeded in proving their lack of knowledge of what goes on in Washington, the results of the interaction of power groups there and how to influence American decision-making in light of that interaction.

Sharon played the role of the weak one before Bush and asked him for support instead of exerting pressure on him in light of the stiff opposition he is facing within the Likud and from the settlers.

President Bush sympathized with him and promised support in order to see the Gaza disengagement implemented. Bush`s promise of support to Sharon includes the following:

First: Not to exert pressure on Sharon to implement the road map quickly (in order to give him a chance to annex as much as he wants from the lands of the West Bank).

Second: Grant Israel all it requests in terms of aid for rebuilding the Negev and the Galilee in order to take in the settlers and build new military bases (as if the Gaza Strip were the Sinai Desert). The amount comes to $15 billion.

Third: Aid Israel with modern military technology, especially in the field of mighty missiles, work and coordinate together to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear technology, and continue to exert pressure on Syria so that it enflames internally and have the internal conflict rage to overthrow the regime.

In addition to these three promises President Bush will, based on the agreement reached in Texas, carry out gestures supportive of Sharon, including exerting pressure on Syria to hand over the remains of Israel`s spy Eli Cohen (buried there), considering the release of the Israeli American spy Jonathan Pollard who was sentenced to life in prison ten years ago and exerting pressure on Egypt and Jordan to increase the pace of economic cooperation.

In its second term the current American administration is affected to a great extent by the positions of the major economic cartels, especially the oil cartels. These cartels are willing to respond to the modest political demands of Arab countries.

Those who do not know that the influence of the neoconservatives in Washington has receded to a great extent cannot use this fact to activate other parties capable of influencing official US decision-making. Therefore the US administration feels that it is free of any Arab pressure, or that it is not obliged to exert pressure on Israel at the moment.

The decline of the influence of the neoconservatives is a decline for the influence of Zionism in the United States. This matter appears to be difficult to comprehend by many Arab countries, which still live under the illusion of the influence of Zionism in the US and its ability to influence state decision-making.

As the best interests of the US require moving forward with the withdrawal from Gaza and waiting for the right moment to tie that with the implementation of the road map, Bush gave Sharon the money he wanted, agreed not to exert pressure and agreed to the drawing up of new borders that do not have any connection to the borders of the 1949 truce.

Sharon returned happy and free to expand Ma`aleh Adumim and to draw up a new plan for the separation from the West Bank following the separation from Gaza.

Green Jerusalem, a name given to an area of land much greater than the area of Greater Jerusalem, is Sharon`s first plan in the West Bank. According to this plan, Jerusalem will extend eastward to the Dead Sea, northward to the borders of Bireh, westward to the monastery of Latroun and southward to Bethlehem.

In addition, the valleys and roads leading to these places will remain under Israeli control and Sharon will annex the following:

1) The major settlements.

2) All lands consumed by the annexation wall.

3) Vast areas from the governorate of Hebron.

4) All lands that are within the plan for Green Jerusalem.

With this Sharon will have engulfed 42 percent of the West Bank and imposed security custody on what remains. It is settlement colonization at its ugliest. Sharon will continue to talk about the Palestinian side not fulfilling its pledges (to cover up for their lack of abiding to any agreement or pledge) and will only carry out the understandings of Sharm El Sheikh a tiny bit at a time.

The Arab and Palestinian leaders have real pressure cards that are far more influential than their resignation documents. So why then do they not gather them and examine ways of using them?

More than one Arab leader will be heading to Washington; have their positions been coordinated against the backdrop of the declining Zionist influence and having state positions controlled by US interests?

If Bush wanted to stop settlement activity and expansion, stop the annexation of lands, the building of the wall and begin the implementation of the road map he would have done so, but the absence of Arab pressure means that he does not have to.

Therefore, we say that these are the points to be addressed when exerting Arab pressure:

- An immediate halt to settlement expansion with international monitoring.

- Negotiations to implement the road map with high-level presence from the four-member committee, once the withdrawal from Gaza begins.

- Commencement of the evacuation of West Bank settlements.

- Removal of all military roadblocks and dirt barriers from the roads of the West Bank.

- The withdrawal of the Israeli army from areas A and B and the handing over of these areas to the Palestinian Authority in all aspects (security, economy and administration).

Washington needs a victory in the Middle East and therefore it needs an independent Palestinian state, just as the Palestinians need Washington in order to achieve this.

This means that the interests of the US require serious and hard work toward establishing a sovereign, independent, viable Palestinian state with geographic continuity (Bush`s words). So why not aid the US administration to do this?

Aiding the US administration in this context can come about in only one way; by exerting pressure on it and making it feel that its interests would be affected if it did not do so. Such a position would strengthen the administration`s ability to confront any opposition to the adoption of a firm stand in favor of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Bassam Abu Sharif was a special advisor to the late Yasser Arafat. Acknowledgement to Media Monitors Network (MMN)