Sharon and Peace, Incompatible Concepts
By Hassan A. El-Najjar
The Israeli Sharon government decided yesterday to change the status of the Palestinian President, Yassir Arafat, from house to city arrest. For about three months, Israeli tanks surrounded the Palestinian President's office building in Ramallah, thus putting him in effect under house arrest. Now, the Sharon government announced that he can leave the office building to go anywhere in town. But why was he kept under siege in his office for three months and why was yesterday's announcement? The Sharon government kept saying that restrictions on Arafat would be lifted only if he would arrest the assassins of the Israeli cabinet member, Rehev Am Zeeve. Last week, Palestinian security forces arrested three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who were accused of the assassination. Arafat expected that the Israeli government would observe its obligations and fulfill its promises. Instead, the Sharon government announced a new demand. It requested that they be handed in to be tried in Israel. The new Israeli demand is in violation of the Oslo agreement, which gives the Palestinian Authority the right to try Palestinians wanted by Israel before Palestinian courts.
This is a double outrage committed by the Sharon government, once for not observing its obligations and promises, and another for imposing new conditions for the resumption of the peace process. It seems that Sharon and peace are incompatible concepts. This has been his policy since he took office, last year. Every time the Palestinian side agrees to an Israeli condition, then new conditions are mentioned. Thus, Sharon has demonstrated one more time that he does not want peace with the Palestinian people. Actually, Arafat has been criticized by many Palestinians for arresting members of the PFLP, particularly its leader, Ahmed Sa'adat. They argue that Zeeve's assassination was in retaliation for the assassination of the former PFLP leader, Abu Ali Mustafa. They also argue that if Israel wants the assassins of Zeeve to be arrested and tried, the Palestinian Authority should demand the arrest and trial of the Israelis responsible for the assassination of Mustafa.
Since Sharon took office, the Israelis have been active in assassinating Palestinian activists and leaders. They have continued doing that hoping that Palestinians surrender and accept their plans for the settlement of the Palestinian problem. However, the historical record of the past 54 years of the conflict demonstrates that Palestinians are not going to surrender or settle down for less than what the U.N. resolutions have given them. Thus, the conflict goes on, particularly with absence of any international mediation. The Israeli Prime Minister, Sharon, has made his position very clear from the beginning. He has no plan for peace with his neighbors. He lacks any vision for peaceful coexistence with them. Thus, without serious intervention from the United States, the benefactor of Israel, to put an end to the Israeli aggression, the bloody conflict will continue, with more innocent people suffering needlessly or paying the ultimate price. Is there anybody out there, in Washington, who can listen and act out before it is too late?
Dr. Hassan A. El-Najjar is the Editor of www.aljazeerah.info and author of "The Gulf War: Overreaction & Excessiveness." (2001).