Starving The Palestinians for the Rice/Weisglass Accords
By Ahmed Amr
We are now witnessing one of the more bizarre chapters in the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. A final peace agreement - negotiated between Tel Aviv and Washington - is already in the process of being implemented. As a side show, the Palestinians are being told to shape up or starve in exchange for an invitation to negotiations that were concluded way back in October 2004. It's all a little like getting an invitation to attend your own funeral - a year after the burial.
Two years ago, Dov Weisglass was assigned by Ariel Sharon to negotiate terms of a final settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Predictably, Sharon had no intention of including the Palestinians in these very secret and very historic meetings. But since all negotiations require partners, Tel Aviv came up with the brilliant idea of conducting direct negotiations with the Bush administration. It was the next best thing to having Sharon negotiate with Sharon.
No one knows exactly what went on behind the closed doors - where Condoleezza Rice substituted for the absent and uninvited Palestinian partner. After all, these negotiations were not only secret but also undeclared.
In hindsight, it all seems so obvious. Every once in a while, during the course of the negotiations, Condi would make public noises about the course of the Apartheid wall. There would be some back and forth between Washington and Tel Aviv and the Israelis would make slight alterations. Rice's objections would usually be crafted in a way that conveyed the message that the wall's construction must allow for a future contiguous land area to allow for a 'viable' Palestinian Bantustan. Washington never had a problem with the wall itself - which it officially recognizes as a 'security fence.' But Rice, Bush and the Israelis all knew that they were involved in the serious business of demarcating the future boundaries of Israel - a state that still refuses to declare the exact location of its borders.
The Israeli objective was simple enough - acquire as much land us possible with the least possible number of Palestinians. That's why Gaza was a no-brainer. Sharon gave up a few settlements and dislocated a few thousand settlers after providing them with lavish compensation financed by George Bush. In return for giving up 2% of the land area of historical Palestine, Israel also managed to get rid of 1.5 million Palestinians.
In the process, Israel got all kinds of public relations mileage and defused a demographic bomb that had already exploded. With Gaza included, Israel and the occupied territories contained a population that was half Palestinian. If you counted the hundreds of thousands of Russian Christian immigrants with one long forgotten Jewish ancestor - the Jews were becoming a minority within the boundaries of 'Greater Israel.'
We should all recall that when Dov Weisglass and Sharon were marketing the Gaza disengagement to the Israeli public, they never mentioned Oslo or 'the road map' or international law. Rather, they promised that a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza would defuse the demographic bomb, reduce international and domestic pressure to resolve the conflict and freeze the political process.
The Gaza disengagement should be seen for what it is - the implementation of the first part of the final agreement worked out during the secret negotiations between Dov Weisglass and Secretary Rice in 2004. In terms of their significance in determining the destiny of the Palestinian people, the "Rice/Weisglass Accords" are as important as the Balfour agreement. That British/Zionist agreement of 1917 paved the path for the dispossession of the native Arabs to make room for more 'spiritually correct' Eastern European Zionist immigrants. From the Israeli perspective, the 'Rice/Weisglass Accord' makes a few minor adjustments to the original Zionist blue prints to accommodate the inescapable reality that the Palestinians are not likely to vanish anytime soon.
Once the major outlines of the "Rice/Weisglass Accord" were hammered out, Weisglass made the mistake of letting the cat out of the bag in an interview with Ha'aretz in October 2004. "It is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians. That is the significance of what we did. The significance is the freezing of the political process. And when you freeze that process you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian State, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress."
Condi and her Likudnik neo-con foreign policy architects were intimately involved in the design of every detail of Sharon's game plan - which is now being implemented by Olmert. The negotiations were intense and involved dozens of meetings between Weisglass and Rice. As Weisglass put it "when my conversation with Rice ends, she knows that I walk six steps to Sharon's desk and I know that she walks twelve steps to Bush's desk. That creates an intimate relationship between the two bureaus and prevents a thousand entanglements."
To put icing on the cake, Weisglass and Sharon managed to secure a multi-billion dollar aid package to finance the 'hardships' that would accrue from their disengagement charade. Another bonus was that Bush gave the Israelis the first-ever American statement that, in a final agreement, Israel could annex the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. As Weisglass pointed out "In years to come, perhaps decades, when negotiations will be held between Israel and the Palestinians, the master of the world will pound on the table and say: We stated already ten years ago that the large blocs are part of Israel."
Years to come? Decades? How was that supposed to fit in with Bush's repeated public statements supporting the creation of a Palestinian State by the end of 2005? Was Bush making a promise he had no intention of keeping? Would he lie to the Palestinians and the world? Does the President of the United States do that sort of thing?
Another thing that made Weisglass ecstatic about his secret deal with Condi was that Bush granted Israel a 'no-one-to-talk-to certificate.' As he puts it "that certificate says: (1) there is no one to talk to. (2) As long as there is no one to talk to, the geographic status quo remains intact. (3) The certificate will be revoked only when this-and-this happens - when Palestine becomes Finland."
It is important to note that the Weisglass interview in Ha'aretz was published two years before the Hamas elections. Do Israelis really care whether they get or don't get recognition from the new administrators of the 'Palestinian Authority?' Does anybody seriously think that Israel would have negotiated in good faith if the 'other' Palestinians had won the recent elections? As far as the Israelis are concerned, the negotiations were over and done two years ago and Condi and Bush have already made the necessary concessions on behalf of the Palestinians.
The only remaining problem is to get the Palestinians to swallow the raw deal. And the way to do that is to starve them to the point where they have no other option but to digest the poison in the hope that it might contain some nutritional supplements.
Which brings us to the predictable narrative being force-fed by Israel's mass media allies. It goes something like this: "Israel is willing to make painful concessions but Hamas is not a credible partner. The only option left for Tel Aviv is to go it alone by making unilateral withdrawals. The intransigent Palestinians must be isolated and subjected to economic sanctions because they refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist."
A more reality-based narrative is that every major player in Washington knows the final score. Washington and Tel Aviv have finalized negotiations. They have agreed to a step-by-step solution. The Gaza disengagement was the first stage. Once construction is completed, the Apartheid Wall will define Israel's expanded borders in the West Bank. Occupied East Jerusalem will be annexed. There will be no need for a Palestinian negotiating partner because there is no need for a peace agreement or any other exchange of documents. For the Israelis, the 'peace process' and 'recognition' are infinitely less important than a lucrative real estate transaction sealed by the president of the United States.
The Washington led campaign to starve the Palestinians should be seen as a distracting maneuver designed to place blame on Hamas for the failure of a 'peace process' that the neo-cons have spared no effort to derail. In fact, excluding the Palestinians from influencing the final outcome is an essential requirement for the implementation of the 'Rice/Weisglass Accord.' Both Washington and Tel Aviv are fully aware that with or without Hamas, no credible Palestinian leadership can ever sign on to their 'final agreement.' The trick is to implement the agreement while the rest of the world is busy pressuring the Palestinians to make the 'necessary concessions' in return for an invitation to attend peace talks that will never happen. Israel has already found a willing peace partner - in Washington.
The most disgraceful aspect of this whole charade is that many European states and more than a few Arab States - including the Saudis and Egyptians - are playing along. In effect, the Palestinians are being starved to make for a good Israeli cover-up story that portrays Olmert's government as a beleaguered victim forced to act unilaterally in the face of Palestinian 'intransigence.'
The "Rice/Weisglass" accords have nullified the Camp David Accords, The Oslo Accords, The Road Map and numerous Security Council resolutions. Tel Aviv and Washington have casually tossed all previous agreements into the dustbin of history. Even so, the Palestinians are being pressured by the European Community to reaffirm their commitment to these worthless documents in exchange for food. As for the Arab governments, they are insisting that the Palestinians abide by the terms of the Beirut Peace Plan of 2002 - an agreement that Israel unceremoniously rebuffed.
Some might conclude that the Europeans and Arabs - including some Palestinians - are falling victim to another American/Israeli scam. Even at this late date, some appear reluctant to accept the historical verdict that the 'Road Map' was a Likudnik public relations stunt to bury the Oslo Accord. Ignoring the glaring neon signs on the wall, they pretend that the 'Road Map' is still operative. It shouldn't surprise anybody that they tend to be the same folks who failed to attend Oslo's funeral long after it became apparent that it was nothing more than a step-by-step process to circumvent United Nations Resolutions.
Only the blind can fail to decipher the details of the only agreement that matters to the Bush Administration - the "Rice/Weisglass" accords. Even as the accords are being unilaterally implemented, the whole world is watching, yawning and demanding Palestinian concessions. What exactly is left to concede and is it really necessary to starve the Palestinians to make the enforcement of the accord a good public relations show for Washington and Tel Aviv?
Ahmed Amr is the editor of NileMedia.com
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