In Jerusalem yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that Israel would not halt construction ofillegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, rejecting one of the central recommendations of aninternational panel on the Palestinian uprising led by former US Senator George Mitchell.
Sharon’s announcement came as Israeli troops and tanks staged four separate raids into the Gaza strip, bulldozingolive trees and injuring 24 people in a spray of gun and tank fire, according to Palestinian officials. On TuesdaySharon told reporters that Israeli forces would not initiate military operations against Palestinians, and thatsoldiers would only fire if they felt their lives were in danger, but it is unclear if any meaningful restrictionshave been placed on the Israeli Army.
President Bush called both Ariel Sharon and Yasir Arafat yesterday, urging both sides to “end the violence,”following up on an announcement this weekend that the U.S. would re-engage itself diplomatically in theIsraeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians have repeatedly called for international intervention, and for the USto resume its central role in the negotiations.
But can the U.S., which provides Israel with nearly $3 billion a year in military and economic assistance and isIsrael’s staunchest ally, play an honest role in bringing about an end to Israel’s 34 year occupation of the WestBank and Gaza Strip? Does the Mitchell Commission report even represent the basis for movement toward a just peace?
- Richard Murphy, former Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East and South Asia under Reagan(1983-1988), Senior Fellow for the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations.
- Richard Falk, Millibank Professor of International Law at Princeton University, author of many books oninternational law and human rights, most recently “Human Rights Horizons,” and a member of a UN Human RightsCommission panel which in February investigated human rights violations in the occupied territories.