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Palestine and President Bush’s April 14th letter

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School of Politics and Economics 

At Claremont Graduate University

California, USA

May 4, 2004

Palestine and President Bush’s April 14th letter

Abdel-fattah Mady*

A few weeks ago I sent an article to the Wilson Newsletter. That article was about the rights that Islam proclaimed for women 1400 years ago. Yet, when I read the letter sent from President Bush to Israeli Prime minister Sharon on April 14th, 2004, I decided to replace the first article with this one. In this article I outline how many in the Arab countries perceive U.S. foreign policy toward some of the main issues of the ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, namely the right of return for Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the future Israeli-Palestinian borders. Here is a brief assessment of the legal status of the occupied Palestinian territories and U.S. foreign policy before and after the April 14th letter.

Palestine before April 14, 2004:

UN General Assembly resolution 2851 (1971), and UN Security Council resolutions 446 (1979) and 465 (1980) state that all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, have no legal validity and therefore should be nullified. The U.S. vetoed UN actions several times to prevent sending international observers to inquire about the violations of international law.

Furthermore, UN General Assembly resolution 194 (1948) resolves that Palestinian refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return. UN General Assembly resolution 2452 (1968) calls upon Israel to take effective and immediate steps for the return, without delay, of those inhabitants who have fled the areas since the outbreak of hostilities during the 1967 war. Further, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) gives the right to return a solid foundation in international law. Article 13(2) of UDHR states, "everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." The U.S. has supported resolutions that were based on article VII of the UN charter in order to ensure a safe return of refugees to their homes in East Timor, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo, but not in Palestine.

Regarding the obligation to withdraw from territories subjected to armed occupation, General Assembly resolution 181 (1947) pides Palestine into two states, and announces the internationalization of Jerusalem. UN Security Council resolution 242 (1967) calls on Israel to relinquish control of territories occupied in the war of 1967. General Assembly resolution 3236 (1974) affirms "the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine...to self-determination without external interference" and "to national independence and sovereignty." Although the U.S. supported and implemented UN Security Council resolutions based on article VII to end the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and other UN Security Council resolutions related to Kosovo and Bosnia, the UN resolutions related to the Palestinian issue never saw light because of American vetoes in favor of Israel (about 40 vetoes since 1972).

Moreover, phase 1 of the "Road Map," outlined in 2003 by President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, requires that Israel "freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements). Phase 3 states that Israel and the Palestinians at an international conference will determine the final status issues. These issues include borders, Jerusalem, refugees, and settlements. As will be illustrated, the conditions included in this map make it impossible to be implemented.

Palestine after April 14, 2004:

Among the conditions included in the Road Map are: (1) Palestinians must undertake an immediate cessation of armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere, (2) the Palestinian leadership must act decisively against Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation (or “terrorism” in the U.S. terms), and (3) most importantly, Palestinians must establish a democracy. The April 14th letter has reassured these conditions. In the letter, Palestinians are asked to bring about a “fundamental political reform that includes a strong parliamentary democracy and an empowered prime minister.” (Emphasis added) This is the first time in the history of colonialism that people under occupation are asked to build institutions and be democrats in order to restore their freedom and legitimate rights. Recent empirical experiences of Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa demonstrate that it is not an easy task to build “strong parliamentary democracy” or “effective political institutions” as demanded by Israelis and Americans.

Although the Oslo agreements undermined many of above-mentioned UN resolutions and international law principles, many people in the Arab countries believe that the April 14th letter dismissed almost all of these resolutions and principles, cancelled all agreements between Israelis and Palestinians and the Road Map, and ended the peace process. According to the April 14th letter, the current administration granted full support to unilateral Israeli disengagement plan in Gaza, yet it accepted the Israeli annexation of large parts of the West Bank and abandoned the Palestinian right of return. The letter states, “in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.” To make matters worse, the April 14th letter reveals, “The United States is strongly committed to Israel's security and well-being as a Jewish state. It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.”

It is clear that the Bush promises have abandoned decades of U.S. policy and UN Security Council resolutions. Specifically, Bush’s letter endorsed the following Israeli demands:

1- The demand that Israel not be required to return to the borders of June 4, 1967 as outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 242 and subsequent relevant decisions.

2- The demand that Israel not be asked to withdraw from areas that have been heavily settled in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

3- The Israeli demand that the final talks should not include the right of return for Palestinian refugees; i.e. Palestinian refugees (forcefully expelled form their homes in 1984 and 1967) should be settled in a future Palestinian state rather than Israel.

Palestinians and Arabs believe that the most important reality is that the issue of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories can only be resolved through negotiations that bring about a complete and final end to the Israeli occupation. President’s Bush’s April 14th letter appears to be a major Road Block to that realization and to a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.**


* Abdel-fattah Mady is a Ph.D. candidate, Politics and Policy Department at CGU.

** More information on the reality in the Middle East could be found in many American and Israeli news and think tank web-pages such as: 

• B'TSELEM - The Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (http://www.btselem.org)

• Foreign Policy in Focus (http://www.fpif.org/index.html

• Information on Equality and Social Justice in Israel (http://www.adva.org

• The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (http://www.acri.org.il/english-acri/engine/index.asp)

• Washington Report on the Middle East Affairs (http://www.wrmea.com/)

• The Electronic Intifada (http://electronicintifada.net/new.shtml)

• Double Standards project (http://www.doublestandards.org/index.html

• The Middle East Facts (http://www.mideastfacts.com/).

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