[TODAY]Israel running amok in MideastIs there any way to resolve the bloody Israel-Palestine conflict? Unless Israel changes its policy on occupied territories in Palestine, there can be none.
What are the problems with Israeli occupation policy? Israel refuses the right of return of 3.7 million displaced Palestinians to their homes in Palestine; in fact, it seized land and property that formerly belonged to them. The Israeli policy limits the Palestinians' basic rights, including the freedom to choose their place of residence and travel; the policy aims to make Palestine a permanent part of Israel by building Jewish settlements.
In 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Agreement at the White House. Is that agreement just a scrap of paper? It had the fatal flaw of not including a clause on the right of return of displaced Palestinians; thus no follow-up agreement was possible.
For how long will the international community have to sit back and watch this bloody carnival? If the United States changes its position, there is a way. Washington should pressure Israel to return what belongs to the Palestinians under the Geneva Convention to them. If it does not, Washington should stop providing aid and weapons to Israel. Unless Washington stops siding with Israel, there is no way to resolve the conflict in the Middle East, because Israel has a clear goal. Israel aims to build itself as a pure Jewish country. That is why it needs what amounts to ethnic cleansing.
Israel is determined to make the displaced Palestinians give up their hopes of returning to their homeland. At Camp David in 2000, with the support of U.S. President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak prepared a draft agreement that ambiguously touched on the subject of the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland. The summit, to no one's surprise, failed to bridge the gap between Israel and Palestine.
The Fourth Geneva Convention bans occupation forces from cruel treatment of people living in occupied territories and says that they must return all land and property to the original owners. Israel, however, will not respect such international law because its aim is to take over Palestine permanently by building Israeli settlements there. In 1971, Meir Shamgar, then the justice minister of Israel, attempted to justify Israel's longstanding occupation of Palestine; he said Israel did not have to respect the Geneva Convention because Palestine is under the administrative control of Israel.
The anti-Israeli movement by Palestinians is called intifada. The ongoing intifada is the second round, following the first uprising that took place between 1987 and 1993. Intifada is an anti-Israeli movement and at the same time it is an expression of distrust toward the leadership of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is insensitive to the loss of Palestinian interests.
The intifada today is outside the control of Mr. Arafat. The moment he signed the Oslo Agreement that failed to guarantee the right of return of displaced Palestinians, Mr. Arafat lost Palestinians' trust. Today, Ariel Sharon's administration in Israel blames Mr. Arafat for the suicide bombings of terrorists and insists that Mr. Arafat's obstinate attitude worsened the situation. That is a serious distortion of the truth.
The intifada no longer belongs to the Palestinian Authority led by Mr. Arafat; that is what makes the anti-Israeli movement an intifada. Despite that, Western countries, especially the American media, uncritically accept Israel's arguments that have a hidden intention.
Israel argues that the Oslo Agreement was the best way to achieve permanent peace status in the Middle East, and that Palestinian radicals disapproved of the agreement, preferring to rely on terror. At the same time, Israel expands its Jewish settlements. Where are those settlements built? They are on land belonging to Palestinians. Israel has no intention of agreeing to Palestinian statehood in the real sense of the words. The intifada began with minimum violence, like throwing rocks at Israelis. And yet Israel's strong counterattacks with weapons forced the anti-Israeli movement to become more and more violent. The intifada originated from frustration. Suicide bombings by Palestinian youth are a gesture of their struggle to relieve that frustration. Without understanding that impulse, it is impossible to understand the real nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel is afflicting the weak with violations of international law and human rights practiced in civilized society. The United States should twist Prime Minister Sharon's arm hard so that he will return to Palestinians what belongs to them and achieve peace in return for the occupied land.
The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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