Sunday, April 18, 2004

A new letter today in the Guardian. The Guardian, and a lot of other newspapers, lost their minds over President Bush's approval of Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan. So many predict doom. The Guardian had a big headline reading, "Bush Rips up the Roadmap".

I've been critical of Bush's handling of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the past; I thought he could have done some good had he been more engaged early. But to reference the history of diplomacy in the region as a good alternative to Bush's bluntness is a sad joke. This diplomatic history more of less consists of telling both sides what they want to hear and playing them off against the middle. Bluntness is not necessarily a bad thing.

In general, anyone who thinks Bush's statement is some great revolution either hasn't read it or doesn't understand UN Security Resolution 242. Bush only stated what everyone knows: Palestinian refugees will return to a Palestinian state, but not Israel. This is the essence of the two-state solution. It is not tantamount to giving up right of return. This is a subtle but important point for those activists who insist on ignoring all diplomatic nuance and reading whatever they want into these statements, including pro-Israel activists who think this is some sort of blank cheque.

With regard to what is being called an approval of Israeli settlements; this is simply an incorrect reading based on the fraudulent idea that Resolution 242 calls for a literal withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza. It doesn't. It calls for withdrawal from "territories" rather than "the territories". That is an explicit textual omission to make clear that Israel would not withdraw to the 1949 armistice line because that line did not guarantee its security. Eugene Rostow, a US delegate, and the Israeli UN delegation negotiated that omission.

Israel can compensate the Palestinians for this territory, which is a tiny part of the West Bank, with land swaps, just as Barak offered at Camp David and Taba.

Here's the letter:

Suzanne Goldenberg (Analysis, April 15) was needlessly alarmist. All President Bush has done is say what everyone already knows, but is afraid to say for fear of antagonising an Arab world still bent on Israel's destruction: the two-state solution is premised on the idea that Palestinian refugees will return to a Palestinian state and not to Israel and that Israel will hold on to the big settlements adjacent to the green line. In return, Israel can give the Palestinians other land from pre-1967 Israel. None of what Bush said precludes this and does not amount to ripping up the road map.

Michael Brenner
New York

http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,3604,1193070,00.html

Goldenberg's analysis, which was printed under the headline, "Bush rips up roadmap" can be found here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1192128,00.html

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