An excellent piece by the former US Prez Jimmy Carter in The Guardian. (My fav US politician and fav broadsheet)
Israel should withdraw from the occupied territories, and its right to exist must be recognised by all Arabs
Monday March 20, 2006
For more than a quarter of a century, Israeli policy has been in conflict with that of the US and the international community. Israel's occupation of Palestine has obstructed a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land - regardless of whether Palestinians had no formal government, one headed by Yasser Arafat, or one with Mahmoud Abbas as president and Hamas controlling the parliament and the cabinet.The unwavering US position since Dwight Eisenhower's administration has been that Israel's borders coincide with those established in 1949, and, since 1967, the universally adopted UN resolution 242 has mandated Israel's withdrawal from the occupied territories. As part of the Quartet, including Russia, the UN and the EU, George Bush has endorsed a "road map" for peace. But Israel has officially rejected its basic premises.
With Israel's approval, the Carter Centre has monitored all three Palestinian elections. They have all been honest and peaceful, with the results accepted by winners and losers. Hamas will control the cabinet and prime minister's office, but Abbas retains all authority exercised by Arafat. Abbas still heads the PLO, the only Palestinian entity recognised by Israel. He has unequivocally endorsed the Quartet's road map. Post-election polls show that 80% of Palestinians still want a peace agreement with Israel and nearly 70% support Abbas as president.
Israel has announced a policy of destabilising the new government (perhaps joined by the US). The elected officials will be denied travel permits, and every effort is being made to block funds to Palestinians. In the short run, the best approach is to give the dust a chance to settle and await the outcome of Israel's election this month. Hamas now wishes to consolidate its political gains, maintain domestic order and stability, and refrain from contacts with Israel. It will be a tragedy if it promotes or condones terrorism.
The pre-eminent obstacle to peace is Israel's colonisation of Palestine. There were just a few hundred settlers in the West Bank and Gaza when I became president, but the Likud government expanded settlement activity after I left office. Although President Bill Clinton made strong efforts to promote peace, a massive increase of settlers occurred during his administration, to 225,000 [not including East Jerusalem], mostly while Ehud Barak was prime minister. Their best official offer to the Palestinians was to withdraw 20% of them, leaving 180,000 in 209 settlements, covering about 5% of the occupied land.
The 5% figure is grossly misleading, with surrounding areas earmarked for expansion, roadways joining settlements with each other and to Jerusalem, and wide arterial swaths providing water, sewerage, electricity and communications. This intricate honeycomb divides the West Bank into fragments, often uninhabitable or even unreachable.
Recently, Israeli leaders have decided on unilateral actions without involving either the US or the Palestinians, with withdrawal from Gaza as the first step. As presently isolated, without access to the air, sea, or the West Bank, Gaza is a non-viable economic and political entity. The future of the West Bank is equally dismal. Especially troublesome is Israel's construction of huge concrete dividing walls in populated areas and high fences in rural areas. The wall is designed to surround a truncated Palestine completely.
This will never be acceptable either to Palestinians or to the international community, and will inevitably precipitate increased tension within Palestine and stronger resentment from the Arab world against America, which will be held accountable for the plight of the Palestinians.
The acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and others pointed out years ago that Israel's permanent occupation will be increasingly difficult as the relative number of Jewish citizens decreases demographically both within Israel and in Palestine. This is obvious to most Israelis, who also view this dominant role as a distortion of their ancient moral and religious values. Over the years, opinion polls have consistently shown that about 60% of Israelis favour withdrawing from the West Bank in exchange for permanent peace.
Casualties have increased during the past few years as the occupying forces imposed tighter controls. From September 2000 until March 2006, 3,982 Palestinians and 1,084 Israelis were killed in the conflict, and this includes many children: 708 Palestinian and 123 Israeli.
There is little doubt that accommodation with Palestinians can bring full Arab recognition of Israel and its right to live in peace. Any rejectionist policies of Hamas or any terrorist group will be overcome by an Arab commitment to restrain further violence and to promote the wellbeing of the Palestinian people.
Down through the years, I have seen despair evolve into optimism. Even now, we need not give up hope for permanent peace for Israelis and freedom for Palestinians if three basic premises are honoured:
1. Israel's right to exist - and to live in peace - must be recognised and accepted by Palestinians and all other neighbours.
2. The killing of innocent people by suicide bombs or other acts of violence cannot be condoned.
3. Palestinians must live in peace and dignity, and permanent Israeli settlements on their land are a major obstacle to this goal.
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. (born October 1, 1924) was the 39th President of the United States (1977–1981) and the Nobel Peace laureate in 2002.
project-syndicate.org (With Thanks -- The Guardian)