Pave way for the Palestinian state

The failure of US envoy George Mitchell to secure the resumption of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis amounts to a dangerous development. If Washington does not engineer the emergence of a Palestinian state before Barack Obama leaves the White House, it will be too late.

Israel is accelerating its drive to colonise the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas the international community has designated for the Palestinian state. Along with Gaza, these areas, occupied by Israel in 1967, constitute 22 per cent of geographic Palestine. It is the minimum the Palestinians and Arabs are prepared to accept in exchange for ending the 62 year-old conflict with Israel.

While Israel has repeatedly pledged to halt colonisation, its governments — whatever their political hue —  have trebled the number of colonists since the peace process was launched in 1991. Israel’s powerful western allies have done nothing.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has laid down what he sees as the shape of a deal with the palestinians. His remarks consist of a series of ‘nos’: no Palestinian capital in occupied East Jerusalem, no Israeli withdrawal from large colonies jutting deep into the West Bank, and no Palestinian control of the border between the West Bank and Jordan. His vision is of a ‘state’ consisting of unconnected Palestinian enclaves (comparable to bantustan in apartheid South Africa) surrounded by Israeli-controlled territory.

Game plan
These enclaves would resemble the Gaza Strip today where Israel controls access by land and sea as well as airspace. Israel’s ultimate aim is to squeeze the 2.5 million East Jerusalem and West Bank Palestinians into these enclaves and put pressure on them to emigrate.

Instead of attaining peace, Israel would remain a fortress state armed and financed by the West, a destabilising entity in a deeply hostile neighbourhood. Such an outcome is totally unacceptable to Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and the international community.

However, the Palestinians are too weak to prevent Israel from acting out this scenario, the Arabs have been rendered toothless, and the powers-that-be take no action against Israel.  Consequently, the world is certain to reap the whirlwind of Arab and Muslim fury.

The Obama administration — unlike its predecessor — understands that anger over Palestine unites Muslims from many countries and backgrounds and must be given credit for trying to do something about it. But Israel and its supporters in the US reject the administration’s call for a colonisation freeze and the Palestinian Authority can not afford to negotiate until a freeze is in place.

Muslims have many other reasons, both medieval and modern, to hate the West. But failure to resolve the Palestine conflict, the contemporary font of Muslim anger, means that resentment in the world-wide Muslim community, the Umma, will continue to grow.

Little wonder that the latest comments attributed to Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, dwell on the sufferings of Palestinians in Gaza while laying claim to the Christmas day bomb attempt on a US airliner landing in Detroit. “The United States will not dream of enjoying safety until we live it in reality in Palestine. It is not fair to enjoy that kind of life while our brothers in Gaza live in the worst of miseries.”
Earlier tapes said to have been made by Osama have not focused on Palestine, revealing that exploiting Gaza can be profitable politically — even for Osama bin Laden. Since Israel’s 2009 war on Gaza, Muslims from Europe, the Indian Subcontinent, the US, Turkey and Malaysia have joined peaceful campaigns protesting Israel’s siege and blockade. Some could opt for violence.

Resentment provides a pool of ready recruits for militant groups, particularly among alienated educated young people like Omar Farouk Abu Mutallab, the upper class Nigerian educated in London who staged the Christmas attempt. No more than a few score bombers are needed to unsettle and shake governments perceived by Muslims as hostile. Last weekend, with no evidence of any imminent plot, Britain upgraded its ‘terrorist threat level’ to serious.

Muslim resentment over Indian policies in Kashmir has so far been largely contained to the subcontinent in spite of Pakistan’s efforts to exploit and internationalise the problem.  Fortunately for India, Pakistan has long been dismissed by Muslims as a protege of the West.

Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, and Yemen head the list because they are occupied or targeted by the largely Christian West, which has been seen an enemy of Muslims since the medieval Crusades (1095-1291). This perception has deepened since the western colonial powers, expelled during the last century, have returned to or intervened in Muslim countries.

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