Sharon is Killing Chances for Peace

Israel, the occupying Power, has started a new chapter in its bloody military campaign against the Palestinian people, which began on 28 September 2000. This new onslaught has been characterized by additional war crimes and state terrorism. Israeli military actions have taken the form of almost continuous strikes directed against the Palestinian Authority, its presidency and its security apparatus. At the same time, the Israeli occupying forces continue to carry out extrajudicial executions and continue the closure and siege of Palestinian cities throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The irony is that Israel, while committing all of this, is expecting the Palestinian Authority to fulfill its responsibilities under the agreements reached in the field of security and to act against not only suicide bombers but also against Hamas and Islamic Jihad at large. This is clearly something that the Palestinian Authority cannot do, and many say should not do, as long as Israel continues with its campaign, violating its own responsibilities and destroying any attempts to implement the Mitchell recommendations and resume the peace process.

After the bombings that occurred in West Jerusalem and Haifa, the U.S. administration appeared to endorse the Israeli actions against the Palestinian Authority. Many even say that Ariel Sharon got a green light in this regard during his visit to Washington, D.C. In any case, it appears that Israel has succeeded in imposing its own agenda on the U.S. campaign against international terrorism, both exploiting and distorting that campaign to its own advantage. This development is very dangerous and could lead to negative, unforeseen results. Furthermore, such a U.S. position is obviously inconsistent with the comprehensive policy statement on the Middle East made by Secretary of State Powell on 19 November and, prior to that, the words of President Bush regarding the Israel-Palestine vision before the U.N. General Assembly.

Clearly, the U.S. needs to reconcile what it calls its vision on the Middle East on the one hand with its apparent inability to deal with Mr. Sharon on the other hand. Sharon has never been shy about expressing his hostility for the Mitchell Report and his opposition to reaching a final settlement. He succeeded in suspending the Mitchell Report with an American cover when the Administration accepted the so-called "7 days of quiet" before implementation, thus negating the whole logic of the report and its recommendations. The question now is whether Sharon will succeed in suspending Powell’s statement as well with the American acceptance of the so-called "finishing with terrorism first" scheme.

We do hope now that Sharon will not again succeed in suspending, if not thoroughly negating, Powell’s statement through what he has been carrying out on the ground. At this point, the situation on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, has gravely deteriorated and remains one of high volatility and increasing tensions, threatening the prospects for peace and the stability and future of the region as a whole. With this bleak picture before us, we do hope that the international community will take the necessary measures to prevent Sharon from completely killing any peace chances in the Middle East.