Recently, the mass media have focused on the meeting between US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The meeting did take place, but, as was expected, brought no results, and the parties failed to come to any agreements. General Powell did not live up to his role as peacekeeper. Maybe the failure was not because of the general, who honestly tried to introduce peace between the Jews and Palestinians. More than likely, it is Sharon who is reluctant to come to peace with Palestinians or Arafat has unexpectedly recollected his young age. The problem of the whole situation is in the key negotiator (the USA). Indeed, no peace settlement can be spoken about because the USA has never had any variant for the Mideast conflict settlement that would be agreeable for both sides. On the eve of his visit to the Middle East, Colin Powell said he doubted that the mission would bring positive results. What can he offer to the conflicting sides in exchange for the demands on Israeli to withdrae its troops and a cease-fire? As it turns out, nothing at all. US diplomacy in the Middle East is skidding either to the left or to the right. First, US diplomats support the Mitchell-Tenet plan, then they switch to the Saudi peace initiative. Now, they say that they have not been seriously supporting both. The USA claims that it is seriously working on a plan to solve the Middle East crisis. According to this plan, the USA will recognize the Palestinian state, introduce observers, and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development will render aid to the Palestinian people. In addition, Israeli settlements in the Gaza strip are to be handed over to the Palestinian authorities. It is very likely that this plan may be soon discarded by the USA like all the others.
Let us get back to Powell visit. The media consider the meeting between Colin Powell and Yasser Arafat a failure. A meeting with Ariel Sharon then followed, which brought no sufficient results whatsoever. No concrete terms for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied Palestinian territories were agreed upon during the meeting, which means that further talks make no sense. We cannot say so far that Colin Powell’s mission is a total fiasco; however, it looks very much like a failure.
Ariel Sharon decided to improve the situation. He suggested a regional conference on the Middle East confict with the participation of Israeli, the Palestinians, and Arab countries and that the European Union should send its observers to the conference. The conference is to decide issues of borders and the furture capital of the Palestinian state.
Colin Powell thinks the idea is much promising; however, no dates or places for its implementation have been mentioned. The two conflicting parties demonstrated once again their “unanimity” concerning peace settlement: Ariel Sharon OKs the conference idea at a time when spokesman for the Palestinian Authority Saeb Erekat says the suggestion is senseless, as it will be impossible for Yasser Arafat to take part in the conference. Observers say that this approach demonstrates that the idea of a regional conference has no prospects, because Palestinians will never support Israel’s intention to remove Arafat from office.
One of top spokesmen for the Palestinian administration, Saeb Erekat, called Sharon’s idea a trick designed to prolong Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Erekat says that “should Sharon be really interested in a peaceful settlement of the Middle East conflict, he would have already adopted the Saudi peace plan instead of suggesting unpromising initiatives.”
When Israel ignores Arafat, it provokes Palestinians into responsive actions. A similar situation was observed during the summit in Beirut. Palestinian acts of terrorism were in response to Israel’s actions directed against the Palestinian leader. The situation may repeat itself under the present conditions: acts of terrorism directed against the Jewish state may cause a second stage of operation "Defensive Shield," which will destroy the Palestinian Autonomy completely.
What is the attitude of the USA? Which of the two conflicting sides does it support? Certainly, the USA supports Israel. It is inconvenient to sit on the fence, indeed.
Isn’t it time to change the co-sponsor of the peace process because it has a one-sided viewpoint regarding the problem? As long as the USA supports Israel, no progress will be achieved in the peace process.
Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/04/15/39747.html