by Mohamed Sid-Ahmed
The decision of the US Congress to go forward with the impeachment proceedure threatens to overshadow Bil Clinton’s spectacular Middle East trip to rescue the Wye Accord
Quote from Text:
“Clinton’s decision to visit the Palestinian Authority and to touch down in the new Gaza International Airport was interpreted by Netanyahu as signalling Washington’s readiness to recognise an independent Palestinian state — an interpretation reinforced by Hillary Clinton’s televised statement some months ago that she favored the creation of a Palestinian state… nobody believed it was a simple slip of the tongue.”
Once again President Clinton has focused all his attention on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute at a time the campaign in Congress for his impeachment is reaching a climax. Once again, Clinton feels driven to achieve an outstanding success on the international front to disprove his critics’ argument that the Monicagate scandal has ruined his credibility as a statesman for ever.
Failure to implement the Wye Accord has exacerbated the deep feelings of mistrust and suspicion between the parties to the peace process. For example, Clinton’s decision to visit the Palestinian Authority and to touch down in the new Gaza International Airport was interpreted by Netanyahu as signalling Washington’s readiness to recognise an independent Palestinian state — an interpretation reinforced by Hillary Clinton’s televised statement some months ago that she favoured the creation of a Palestinian state. Although Hillary’s statement was later dismissed as not representing the official US stand, nobody believed it was a simple slip of the tongue. The highlight of Clinton’s Middle East trip was, of course, his witnessing of the Palestinian National Council’s near-unanimous vote to rescind the provisions of the Palestinian National Charter that Israelis interpret as denying Israel’s right to exist. [IMRA: Can there be any other interpretation?”]
Although forced to admit that the PNC vote represented a fundamental step forward, Netanyahu did not give the Palestinians any credit for the change, attributing it rather to his own government’s firmness and uncompromising stand — an attitude that faces us with the need to further probe what criterion should be used in ‘measuring’ progress.
Peace, as perceived by Netanyhau, should be reached without ceding one inch of the territory he attributes to biblical Israel. He considers the concessions made in this connection by the previous Labour government to be tantamount to capitulation, an irresponsible policy which compromised the very essence of the Israeli state. How credible can such a stand be at a time Netanyahu not only finds himself obliged to sign the Wye Accord, which stipulates that Israel must pull out of Palestinian territories, albeit from a limited part of those territories, but is also faced with the PNC’s near-unanimous vote recognising Israel’s right to exist?
Arab supporters of the Wye Accord have argued that a bad agreement is better than no agreement at all and that, despite its shortcomings, the deal struck in Maryland serves the interests of the Palestinians better than it does those of Netanyahu. According to this line of reasoning, the fact that it has at least opened the door to a resumption of the long-stalled peace process is preferable to having to admit yet another failed attempt in that direction. However, to make the criterion of success here the avoidance of a worst-case scenario rather than the realisation of the best possible scenario can adversely affect a fundamental condition in any peace process, which is assumed to operate to the benefit of all the protagonists.
Clinton’s Middle East trip was an opportunity for the Palestinians to demonstrate that they are capable of treating the Israelis as subjects, not objects, of history. The tripartite meeting that brought together the protagonists just before Clinton left for home demonstrated that the Palestinian approach has not been reciprocated by Binyamin Netanyahu. Nor is it likely to be reciprocated as long as Clinton’s political future hangs in the balance.
Dr. Joseph Lerner,
Co-Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645