From Annapolis to Gaza: A Cycle of Meaningless Negotiations and Harsh Repression
Author: Marco Rosaire Rossi
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 03/04/2008
Category: Analysis II
Throughout the conflict in the Middle East, the United States and Israel have engaged the Palestinians in a cycle of meaningless negotiations and harsh repression. In late 1988, when it became impossible for the US to ignore the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s peace plan, the US agreed to organize negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Shortly after the negotiations, Israel increased pressure on the occupied territories. At the time, Israel Defense Minister Yizhak Rabin proudly proclaimed that “the inhabitants of the territories are subject to harsh military and economic pressures… In the end, they will be broken.”
The infamous Oslo Accords of 1993—where the memorable photo of Yasser Arafat and Yizhak Rabin shaking hands was taken—was a disaster for Palestinians. Not only did it open the door for a “Swiss cheese” version of a Palestinian state, but it also granted them an independence that was— in the words of journalist Danny Rubinstein—a little bit better than “the autonomy of a POW camp.” The second Accords of 1995 was more of the same, except this time Arafat agreed to take on the responsibility of “securing” the occupied areas. As a result, Arafat worked on repressing his own people—including murdering members of Hamas—in order to impress Israeli/US elites.
Considering this history, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that after Bush announced his “vision of a democratic Palestinian State” during the Middle East peace summit in Annapolis last year, that Gaza would be in the horrifying condition that it is in now. The idea that the topic of peace would actually be discussed at the summit wasn’t taken seriously by anyone. Even White House Press Secretary Tony Snow admitted that “a lot of people are inclined to try to treat this as a big peace conference.
It’s not.” The purpose of the summit was to give the appearance of progress toward peace, while depicting Hamas as a spoiler to the process— even though they were excluded from the summit by Israel and the US—and thus, provide a pretext for Israel to repress the people of Gaza further.
At Bush’s last visit to the Middle East, Hamas officials accused Bush (probably accurately) of going ahead with the pattern and giving Israel the green-light to lay siege on Gaza.
Currently, Israel has been instituting a military strike into Gaza. 76 Palestinians have been killed in the past few weeks, including children.
Israel has claimed that this military strike is in self-defense against rockets fired into Israel by Hamas, but the self-defense arguments are completely baseless. Hamas has offered numerous cease-fire opportunities to Israel—all of which were rejected. Israel has attacked not Hamas militants, but civilians in Gaza—in blatant disregard for international humanitarian law. Also, Hamas’ rocket system is extremely pathetic— especially compared to Israel who, thanks to the US, now has the fourth largest military in the world. Hamas rocket attacks are a violation of international law, and ineffective and inhumane, but they produce a fraction of the destruction that Israel does. Since the attack began, only six to eight Israelis have been injured.
Beside the rocket attacks—which are devastating enough—Israel has cut off humanitarian aid and energy into Gaza—again in complete violation of international humanitarian law. This economic warfare is rapidly plunging the people of Gaza deeper into despair. The United Nations has reported that 79% of the people in Gaza live in poverty; a third of the population lives on less than $2 a day; half of the population is unemployed.
Without aid and energy, the situation for Palestinians in Gaza is bound to get worse. For a moment, Israel suggested that it might lift the blockade (mostly due to international pressure), but after desperate Palestinians climbed over the wall on Egypt’s border in order to get supplies, Israel backed away from the idea claiming that it was no longer necessary.
What makes the situation even more horrendous is that it is unlikely that anything will change among the upper levels of power. Like Bush’s war on terror, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has claimed that the siege on Gaza is a war that “will not stop.” Israel’s only hope is that “the moment will come when the scales will tip in this war and cause the firing in the south to be different from what it is today.” Also, like the war on terror, international law doesn’t apply to Israel. Israel has unilaterally deemed the occupied areas as “hostile territories,” a concept outside the scope of international law and similar to Bush’s “unlawful enemy combatants.” In December, the Israeli Supreme Court declared that the cut-off of oil to the occupied territories was legal despite the fact that it violates the Fourth Geneva Convention on the laws of war. In addition, the United Nations has been rendered completely ineffective in creating peace in the region by the US.
The US has vetoed over 40 Security Council resolutions condemning Israel.
Most recently, the US vetoed a Security Council statement (which is nonbinding and non-enforceable) condemning Israel’s siege on Gaza because the rest of the Council didn’t want to include language that would reinforce the lie that the siege was in self-defense.
If the cycle of meaningless negotiations followed by harsh repression is going to end, it is going to have to come from below and not from above.
The only hope for Gaza in this dire time is if the people of the world are willing to join them in struggling against the US/Israel occupation.
Hopefully, international pressure from civil society will become a force that can beat back the current wave of repression from the Israeli Army before it is too late for the Palestinians.
Bio: Marco Rosaire Rossi is a former Olympia resident and current student at the University of Peace in Costa Rica.