Thursday, March 27, 2014

US “peace sponsor” role: Some observations

US role as a “peace sponsor” is striking, ill-balanced - to say the least.

The US exerted pressure over Arab leaders meeting in Kuwait not to issue a final communiqué at the end of the Summit – but a mere “declaration”.

Conversely, when Israel refused the peace initiative proposed by the Arab Summit of  Beirut in March 2002 it did not lift its eyebrows at Israel, to “pressure” it to accept the opening towards a global peace with the Arab countries. Sharon at that time reacted arrogantly that the Arab Summit initiative “was not worth the ink it was written with”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry cut short a visit to Rome to rush  to Amman for quick talks  with King Abdullah, in order to try to bring the parties closer together, and to keep the peace process on-going, at stake by  differences over the impending release by Israel of the last batch of pre-Oslo 1993 Palestinian detainees.

King Abdullah, regardless of the outcome, is not a basic component of the formula.

Kerry had asked President Mahmoud Abbas to send his top negotiator Saeb Ereikat to Rome, but Abbas refused, stressing “that he  would not discuss anything until the release of the 4th and last batch of prisoners”, originally scheduled for 29th March.

The agreement reached in July 2013 to launch bilateral peace talks, under US patronage, included the release on four stages of 104 Palestinian prisoners detailed since before Oslo Accords of 1993, against the suspension of all Palestinian demarches to join international bodies. If the first three batches of 26 prisoners each were released, Netanyahu’s Government, however, made it clear that it would cancel the 4th group, considering the “worsening of relations between the two sides”, with the date of ending the talks -  April  29 - is getting nearer.

Mahmoud Abbas indicated Israel’s bad intentions in a speech before Arab Summit this week in Kuwait which backed the Palestinian position, expressing its “total and frank refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state - a condition sine qua non posed by Netanyahu before any peace treaty.  “We don't need a new chain  of agreements that Israel would bury under many conditions, of reserves and interpretations before honouring its obligations”, Abbas stressed.

In the meantime, Israel Radio reports that US Administration might have suggested the release of Jonathan Pollard, accused of spying for Israel, in order to encourage Israel to go ahead with  the release of Palestinian prisoners and the renewal of bilateral talks. Regardless whether this is true or not, why should the occupier be granted incentives or rewards to carry out its obligations?

The US would have pressured the Palestinian side to accept the extension of the date of peace talks, beyond April 29, to get the release of the 4th batch of prisoners - meaning, each step expected from Israeli side (the stronger party) is attached to a “bill”  that should be honoured by Palestinians (the weaker party).

The meeting between Kerry and Abbas last  evening took  place nine days after Abbas visit  to the  White House where President Obama urged him to take “risks” for the sake of peace. Two weeks before, Obama had asked Netanyahu to take “tough decisions” considering the  approaching date of 29 April to reach a “framework agreement” on final status issues, namely: borders, settlements, security, status of Jerusalem, refugees. Nevertheless, Israel translated “tough decisions” by more settlement construction announcements – amid US silence, and EU “disappointment”, not even reaching deploration.

Western hypocrisy is yet more frustrating …

Palestinians had always placed more trust in Europe, because the Continent happens to be closer to our area geographically, and had twice  tried - before us - the bitter taste of occupation, namely during WWI and WWII.

US and European Governments are the last ones allowed to talk about international law.  They all erupted at Russia’s  “annexation”  of Crimea, calling for stepped-up sanctions. Crimeans were in favour of the “annexation”, let alone the fact that historically Crimea is part of Russian territory.

US and European leaders alas  seem to be oblivious of recent history. Hasn’t Israel unilaterally annexed Jerusalem in the aftermath of June 1967 war, against the will of its citizens, defying international law and legitimacy, and again the Syrian Golan Heights in 1981?  But who of them would dare point a finger of accusation at Israel?

Despite the “peace process”, the US abstained from pressuring Israel to halt building or expanding settlements in the oPt, in violation of international law. The US further never hesitates to veto draft Security Council resolutions in support of Israel. For example, in February 2011, 14 UNSC members voted in favour of a draft resolution that would have condemned illegal Israeli settlements, and only the US voted against it. Ironically, Russia is now being demonized for vetoing a draft Security Council resolution on Crimea ..

US role as a peace sponsor, peace-broker, therefore  cannot in any case be qualified as “honest” or “even-handed”.

Referring to the accusation that Russia, through its “annexation” of Crimea, infringed international law, Russian President  Putin has rightly commented: “It’s a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law – better late than never”.

It is most regretful to conclude these observations by underscoring the fact of double standards on the level of international community ...

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