PUBLICATION OF George Bush’s long-delayed ’road map’ to a Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement and an independent Palestinian state by 2005, was inched forward last week. But only after Palestinian president Yasser Arafat agreed, at the eleventh hour, to a new cabinet led by the ’moderate’ Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas. The Israeli shekel hit a 15-month high on news of the deal.
Earlier, the wrangling between Arafat and Abbas over cabinet appointments and its powers, vis-à-vis the President, threatened to end the process before it began.
The US administration (supported by Tony Blair, the EU and Russia) wants to neuter Arafat’s power and establish a more pliable Palestinian authority acceptable to Ariel Sharon’s Israeli government.
This will, they hope, begin a process of ’confidence building’ measures in the envisaged first phase including; a clampdown on attacks on Israel by Hamas et al in return for the ending of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the lifting of the military checkpoints (or ’chokepoints’) and the dismantling of some of the illegal hilltop Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Arafat, effectively a prisoner in his Ramallah HQ since December 2001, came under enormous pressure to accept the appointment of his opponents to some key posts after Egypt’s intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, read him the riot act.
But the new cabinet isn’t likely to endear itself to long-suffering and poverty-stricken Palestinians, many of whom despise this authoritarian elite and their opulent lifestyles.
Moreover, an attempt by Abbas to clampdown on Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades could provoke a civil war. Only hours after announcing the new cabinet a Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and an Israeli security guard at a railway station in Kfar Sava, Israel – cocking a snook at Abbas and demonstrating contempt for the road map.
And, according to The Independent: "Scores of gun-toting al-Aqsa militants… marched through the Balata camp in a show of force yesterday, [24/4/03] shouting slogans against the Palestinian Authority."
But the road map faces another large obstacle – Ariel Sharon. The right-wing Israeli prime minister, who has waged a brutal one-sided war against the Palestinians and has encouraged the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, has made it clear (by demanding 100 changes to the road map) that an ’independent, viable Palestinian state’ is a non-starter.
In any case, any ’solution’ while capitalism remains in Israel/Palestine will not be able to satisfy the Palestinians’ aspirations for a genuine state and decent living standards, nor can it satisfy Israeli Jewish workers’ desire for economic and physical security.
Only the building of a socialist movement amongst both Israelis and Palestinians which challenges capitalism and the region’s rulers, can meet the needs of the working classes.
From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, CWI in England and Wales