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The 'road map'
Bush's plan for an Israeli/Palestinian conflict settlement comes unstuck
THE JOURNEY along George Bush's 'road map' to a Israeli/Palestinian peace settlement hit an obstacle when Palestinian militias attacked an Israeli army checkpoint in Gaza, last Sunday.
The attack was co-ordinated by three Palestinian militias - Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades; the latter being a part of Palestinian president Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. It was their message to the US-backed Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, rejecting his call for an end to the Intifada (the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation which started in October 2000) and to their guerrilla campaign.
Abbas has pledged to resume talks aimed at securing a ceasefire with the militias but Hamas has rejected truce talks, accusing him of selling out Palestinian national rights. (It is rumoured that Hamas was close to agreeing a ceasefire until Israel forces assassinated two Hamas militants last week.) They say their armed actions is resistance to the Israeli occupation, although they do not exclude civilian targets from their attacks.
Moreover, the rocket attacks and the targetting of Hamas and other militia militants by Israel armed forces is making the attempts of Abbas to get the militias call a ceasefire even more unlikely.
After the Gaza attack Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was quick to announce that the Israeli government would block a move towards a Palestinian state unless there was a "cessation of violence". But Sharon, despite his hardline, right-wing views, was pressured by US secretary of state Colin Powell at the recent Aqaba summit to continue the road map "even in the presence of violence".
This has angered his Likud party whose anti-road map faction, which includes finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu, heckled Sharon at a party conference for defending the road map, despite his insistence that he rejected the right of return of (four million) Palestinian refugees.
The US administration, while backing the Israeli government with billions of dollars and military hardware, is also aware that Abbas is in no position to risk confrontation and a possible civil war with the well-armed militias (Israel having effectively destroyed the Palestinian Authority's security apparatus).
Bush, by promoting the 'road map', wants to diminish Arab and Muslim anger over the role of US imperialism in the Middle East, which has focused on the issue of Palestinian national rights.
Ongoing instability in the region is threatening capitalism's investment markets and its wider geo-political interests.
Many suspect that Sharon while sucking up to his US patron is quietly happy to see Abbas squirm in his dilemma since this renders the prospect of a 'viable' Palestinian state by 2005 redundant.
After all, of the 100 plus Israeli settlements built on the West Bank over 60 were constructed after Sharon was elected prime minister in 2001. The likely number of 'wildcat' settlements facing dismantling by Sharon is a mere 15. Moreover, the Israeli government is pressing ahead with its giant 'security fence' which bisects much Palestinian terroritory and incorporates many settlements into a 'greater Israel'.
Since the collapse of the Oslo peace accords and the second intifada over 3,000 people have been killed, including 2,300 Palestinians and over 700 Israelis. Palestinians have suffered the economic costs of occupation with mass unemployment and increasing poverty. 25,000 who hold work permits in Israel are regularly halted from crossing the border.
The bulldozing by Israel Defence Forces (IDF) of Palestinian homes and orchards and the sealing off of towns and villages by IDF checkpoints, adds to the daily toll of humiliation and oppression. These factors propel many young Palestinians into becoming suicide bombers.
Meanwhile, inside Israel, the cost of the war is perpetuating and deepening the longest recession in the country's history. In a bid to make the working class pay for the capitalist crisis, finance minister Netanyahu is cutting public spending; making workers redundant and cutting wages, as well as privatising state-owned enterprises.
Capitalism and the imperialist powers have no real answers. The failure of the 'peace process' over the last decade has produced a deep scepticism amongst both Palestinians and Israelis over the road map plan. Their failure makes the task of building a socialist movement amongst both Israelis and Palestinians all the more vital and urgent.
In The Socialist 14 June 2003: