By Munir K. Nasser
Chief Correspondent, Washington, DC
A group of Middle East experts in the US have said it is time to develop a new framework for the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians following, they argue, the demise of the Oslo process.
At a conference held at the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine (CPAP) in Washington, CPAP Chairman Hisham Sharabi said future negotiations would not be under exclusive US sponsorship. Such negotiations are now "fully an international responsibility," he said.
Sharabi added that it was evident from the start that the Oslo process would not achieve the goals of the 1991 Madrid Conference. These goals, he said, were based on United Nations resolutions which would result in a full Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and in a Palestinian state. This framework was "abandoned" in 1993 in favor of the Oslo Accords.
Sharabi called on the Palestinians to mount a "sustained struggle" and "organize it seriously." He said there is an urgent need for Palestinians living in Israel and the Occupied Territories to build infrastructures such as schools, hospitals, and opportunities for employment. He also called on the Palestinians in the Diaspora to create a "coordinating agency" to organize their combined effort.
Clovis Maksoud, director of the Center for the Global South at American University, and former Arab League ambassador to the US, referred to the "paradox" in the relationship between the Arab public and the Arab leadership. The Arab street "has been emboldened, but not yet empowered," and those who are in power do not have influence over the people, he said.
Maksoud noted that Arab leaders are in a bind. They "condemn the atrocities that the Israeli occupation has undertaken," they attempt to freeze economic relations, yet some of them are bound to agreements already made with Israel, he explained. At the same time, "do we have to remain prisoners of indecision as we are today?"
Maksoud said the United States is attempting to continue with negotiations "as if the last six to seven weeks did not exist." He added, however, this Intifada has shown that Oslo is "not the only game in town." Palestinians want peace, but it must be rooted in international legitimacy, he stressed.
Naseer Aruri, president of the Trans-Arab Research Institute, referred to Oslo as "an instrument to prolong" the Israeli occupation. Under Oslo, he said, bypass roads have continued to divide Palestinian land, Palestinian refugees would have "no restitution" but rather a meager payment, the Palestinians in Israel would have to accept their reduced status, and all Palestinians would have to forfeit their internationally recognized rights, he argued.
Aruri said Oslo has been "the single most important instrument" for Israel to achieve Zionist goals, providing a "protective umbrella" under which Israel could evade responsibility for the occupation. Moreover, "Oslo is the first diplomatic arrangement" to allow a country to colonize a people without having to rely disproportionately on the military, he argued. Now, it is apparent that "the Oslo process has collapsed." The move past Oslo is "long overdue," he said
Aruri condemned the "ongoing crimes committed by Israel" which would not have occurred without the tacit acceptance of the US. Because of this, he added, the "only rational alternative" is to open up the process to wider international involvement, and base it fully on international law.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)