US President George W.Bush suggests that “a Palestinian state with interim borders and aspects of sovereignty” should be created. He declared US’s new initiative on the Middle East on Monday in Washington.
Optimists say that this should have been done long ago, and pessimists think that it is too late for any statements of this kind. Time will tell who is right. It is to be mentioned for a start that George W.Bush never mentioned neither Arafat, nor Sharon in his speech, which is rather unusual: negative statements concerning Arafat are very typical of the US administration. Now, we see quite a different president, a president who knows a way to bring peace to the Middle East. In his words, Palestinian borders will be interim until all remaining problems connected with creation of a new state and “final settlement of the Mideast peace” are solved.
Judging from this statement, peace is unlikely to set in very soon. President Bush must have forgotten the history of the Mideast conflict, because it is not right to mention such problems as return of Palestinian refugees to the occupied territories, Jerusalem status, and so on, as “remaining” problems. These problems are very important and need closer attention. It is rather naive of Washington to say that a lean compromise is better than a fat lawsuit. The naivete is deceptive, because following the above-mentioned statement, George W.Bush dropped hints about the US’s wish to see some other man at the head of the Palestinian Authority. “When Palestinians have new leaders, new governmental institutions, and new security measures in relations with the neighbor countries, the USA will support the creation of a Palestinian state,” said the US president. “I call upon the Palestinian people for the election of new leaders who are not involved in terrorism.” It is perfectly clear that this kind of peace plan is rather disagreeable for Arafat. The USA wants to tell Arafat that it is time for him to retire, as the time has come for people who are not blood-stained to rule the country.
Top US government officials, who required anonymity, confirm that the White House considered the appeal for Arafat’s resignation as a variant for a Mideast settlement. NBC reports that Bush’s statement reveals that the majority of his administration stick to a hard line concerning the Palestinian Authority and its incumbent leadership.
The speech turned out to be a surprise for Arab politicians, but Israelis, on the contrary, were filled with optimism. However, President Bush immediately damped the optimism: he demands that Israel should withdraw its troops from the PA territory and cease the construction of houses in the Jewish settlements of Samaria, Judea, and the Gaza Strip, and George W.Bush thinks that Israel should pull back to the lines it had before the 1967 Mideast war. At the same time, it was pointed out that Israel had the right to defend itself. President Bush is sure to understand that the peace initiative may cause a rather unusual reaction of the world community; he said that he would discuss the Mideast peace initiative with other world leaders at the nest G8 meeting.
What was reaction of Israel and Palestine to the speech of the US President? The majority of Israeli politicians view the speech positively; however, some analysts say the speech contains no exact suggestions, except for a recommendation to replace Arafat.
Aide to Arafat Saib Erekat told the AP that “Arafat was voted for by the Palestinian people in elections, and President Bush should take the people's opinion into consideration.” If Arafat is nominated for the next elections, he is for sure to be elected “president of Palestine.” Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/06/25/43197.html