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Lasting Peace remains elusive in Israeli-Palestinian peace process
AFTER SEVEN years of on/off negotiations, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process remains bogged down. Whatever spin the various participants put on the outcome, US imperialism appears unable to resolve the mutually hostile positions of the Palestinian and Israeli ruling classes - represented at the Camp David summit by Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak respectively. Huge problems, including the status of Jerusalem, refugees, a Palestinian state, and Jewish settlers, remain intractable on a capitalist basis.
A major obstacle to an agreement is the status of east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since 1967. Israeli Premier Ehud Barak is committed to retaining sovereignty over an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, while for the Palestinians, Yasser Arafat formally demands a return of all land captured by Israel, including the city designated as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Neither side can afford to come back empty-handed; both men having staked their careers on achieving a settlement. In Arafat's case, his life could depend on it. He is reported as saying that the Jerusalem question is the one thing that could get him assassinated if he gets it wrong!
Arafat may well be right about this but he faces discontent on more than one front. His Palestinian Authority is facing growing pressure from its own people. Seen as little more than a corrupt and repressive dictatorship, it has presided over increased poverty, unemployment and destitution. This has fuelled the growth of the militant Islamic Hamas opposition, and led to defections of some of Arafat's former supporters. Some concessions on Jerusalem could save his skin, at least temporarily.
By the same token, Barak's premiership is threatened by domestic opposition. His Labour-led coalition is now a minority in parliament following the resignation of several small religious parties, while an increasingly militant working class is challenging the effects of his neo-liberal economic policies.
At the same time, Clinton, as the representative of US imperialism, wants to achieve stability in what remains a strategically sensitive region. He is also keen to deliver a foreign policy triumph as his legacy.
However, the best that will emerge is a diplomatic fudge which will leave the "facts on the ground" unresolved. These facts include nearly four million Palestinian refugees, stateless since 1948, Jewish settlers on former Palestinian land, and a Palestinian east Jerusalem surrounded by Jewish settlements and linked by a network of roads, which carve Palestinian land into a series of unconnected enclaves.
Clinton appears to be pressuring Arafat into a deal which would recognise Israeli sovereignty over east Jerusalem, while accepting the same area as the de facto capital of Palestine. There's talk of a financial package of $15 billion to underpin any peace deal, with Clinton cajoling Europe and Japan to help meet the $40 billion compensation demanded by Palestinians for refugees unable to return to Israel.
It's just this kind of shoddy compromise which will leave the Arab masses enraged, while invoking the wrath of the reactionary Jewish orthodoxy. It is a recipe for continuing conflicts.
As usual, the only people who could achieve a real peace, the working class of the region, are frozen out of the proceedings. Their voice is yet to be heard.
In The Socialist 28 July 2000: