by Enver Masud
WASHINGTON, DC -- The Wye River Plantation accords announced October 23, 1998 were dead on arrival, and are more likely to lead to continued strife, and perhaps civil war, rather than to peace.
Amidst the hoopla surrounding the White House announcement by President Clinton, and the Chairman Arafat-President Netanyahu handshake, no mention was made of the basic dispute between the Palestinian Authority, and the State of Israel -- statehood, borders, refugees, settlements, home demolitions, water rights, Jerusalem. Instead the announced accords require the Palestinian Authority to take measures aimed at guaranteeing the security of Israel, while Israel is not required to take any measures to guarantee the security of Palestinians.
With Arafat's self-imposed, May 4, 1999 deadline for the announcement of a Palesinian state fast approaching (May 4 being the date for completion of the peace process under the Oslo agreement), the accords seem aimed at placing more conditions on the Palestinians for return of territories occupied by Israel, and for giving Netanyahu an excuse to deny the return of those territories. They also require Arafat to take repressive measures guaranteed to increase divisions among Palestinians, and may even lead to civil war.
Under the October 23 accords, Chairman Arafat agreed to step up "anti-terrorist efforts" in the West Bank, and to eliminate anti-Israel provisions in the PLO founding charter. The Israelis agreed to cede 13 percent more of the occupied territory on the West Bank, and release 750 of the 3000 political prisoners held without trial in Israeli jails.
Arafat's "anti-terrorist efforts," to be monitored by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, are intended to further crackdown on Palestinians opposed to the agreement. Arafat agreed to disarm about 10,000 of the PLO police force, stifle dissident voices, and to arrest Palestinians on the basis of "evidence" provided by Israel. In the days following the announced accords, Arafat's forces muzzled Sheikh Yassin, Hamas' spiritual leader, and arrested about 300 of the Hamas resistance.
The Wye River acords could hardly have been more fortuitous for President Clinton, and the Democratic Party. At the November 8 elections, rather than expected victories, the Republican Party lost ground, and President Clinton's chances for impeachment receded with the humbled Republican Party scrambling to find a way out of the impeachments hearings. "God, I'd like to forget all of this. I mean, who needs it?" said Judiciary Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill).
As for the Palestinians, the New York based Human Rights Watch has stated: "The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is replete with serious human rights violations -- including arbitrary arrest, torture, and unfair trials -- that the parties have tried to justify by invoking security concerns, . . . Instead of creating strong mechanisms to prevent such violations, many sections of the Wye River [accord] can be read as encouraging them."
According to The Washington Post (November 6), "In most of the Middle East the interim peace accord that emerged from the Wye Plantation talks last month has landed with a thud, eliciting caution, at best, and outright disdain among those who see the agreement as a betrayal of Palestinian aspirations to regain all of the West Bank lands occupied by Israel."
"The reaction in such hard-line states as Iran, Syria and Libya has been characteristically harsh," says The Washington Post, and "has failed to spark much emotion or hope even in such moderate states as Egypt, a close ally of the United States and a staunch supporter of the peace process since it became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel in 1979."
"How much baksheesh did Clinton have to dish out?" asks Eric Margolis, The Toronto Sun (October 25), "President Jimmy Carter's much ballyhooed Camp David agreement was the biggest bribe in history. Israel got US $3 billion and Egypt $800 million - annually. Additional sums were covertly paid to Sadat and his cronies. Israel got lots of secret goodies."
The predictable results of Arafat's surrender to United States' largess, and to the Israeli occupation force are evident.
Izzedine al Qassem brigades, Hamas' military arm, in a leaflet faxed to news organizations announced: "The (Palestinian) Authority's security apparatus, its officials and elements, will never be safe."
"Israel's internal security service has warned Benjamin Netanyahu," according to The Sunday Times (October 25), "that a newly formed Jewish underground may try to bomb Muslim holy shrines or assassinate Arab and Israeli leaders in an effort to stop troops withdrawing from the West Bank."
And in Israel and the occupied territories the killings go on. Associated Press reports: October 26 - Two Palestinians commandeer the car of a Jewish settler in the West Bank town of Hebron, kill him and dump his body by the side of the road. An elderly Palestinian farmer is bludgeoned to death near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, and an Israeli suspect is arrested. October 29 - A suicide bomber drives a car rigged with explosives into an Israeli jeep escorting a school bus in the Gaza Strip. The assailant and a soldier are killed. Hamas claims responsibility. November 6 - Two suicide bombers drive a car packed with explosives into the Mahane Yehuda outdoor market in Jerusalem, killing themselves and injuring 21 Israelis. Hamas claims responsibility.
These incidents, as expected, have given Israel the excuse it needed to delay ratification of the Wye River accords, and to continue its policy of settlement expansion.
Netanyahu has said he will not move forward with implementing the Wye River accords until the Palestinians do more to combat Islamic militants. According to Associated Press (November 11), "Netanyahu aides have also said that construction in the Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa in traditionally Arab east Jerusalem would begin in the near future."
The British Broadcasting Corporation reports (November 16) that Israel's Foreign Minister, Ariel Sharon, speaking days before he is due to lead negotiations on the final status of the occupied territories said in a speech to members of one of Israel's extreme right parties. "Everyone should take action, should run, should grab more hills, . . . We'll expand the area. Whatever is seized will be ours. Whatever isn't seized will end up in their hands."
Meanwhile, Netanyahu demands that Hamas' military wing, Izeddine al Qassam, and the military wing of Islamic Jihad be outlawed. The Palestinian Authority says it outlawed them in 1996. "As for Jerusalem," says Netanyahu, "I have old news for our Palestinian neighbors: Jerusalem was, is and will be the capital of the state of Israel."
Associated Press reported (November 16) that Netanyahu "suspended a West Bank troop pullback Monday and demanded that Yasser Arafat retract threats to use force to bring about a Palestinian state." If Israel refuses to carry out the withdrawals on time, says Palestinian negotiator Hassan Asfour the agreement is "as good as dead."
[UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed November 22, 1967, emphasized "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war," and contained the underlying formula for all M.E. peace initiatives since then -- land for peace. In exchange for withdrawing from Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian territory captured in the 1967 war, Israel was promised peace by the Arab states. This resolution is the basis for peace talks begun in Madrid, Spain in 1991.]
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