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Sludge Report #101: Colin Powell’s Curcuit Breaker

In This Edition: Rational Thinking On The Holy Land - For the Government of Israel - For the Palestinian Authority - For the International Community’s Mediator, the USA - Conclusion: Colin Powell’s Curcuit Breaker
NOTE: Authors of this report will be anonymous and wide ranging, and occasionally finely balanced. Indeed you are invited to contribute: The format is as a reporters notebook. It will be published as and when material is available. C.D. Sludge can be contacted at The Sludge Report is available as a free email service..Click HERE - to subscribe...

Sludge Report #101

Rational Thinking On The Holy Land

In the wake of the latest round of violence in the Middle East, C.D. Sludge is inclined to think that all three parties to the conflict in the Middle East are in need of some basic guidance on how to achieve the aim that both sides say is their ultimate aim, peace.

To this end a simple form of logical, rational, analysis is long overdue.

In the paragraphs that follow Sludge makes an initial stab at such an analysis concluding that the best opportunity for peace making presently lies with neither the Palestinians nor the Israeli’s, but rather with the U.S. at UN Headquarters in New York.


For the Government of Israel

Q: What is the objective?

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Ultimately, peace and coexistence with the Palestinians. In the interim, security for the citizens of Israel, i.e. the end of suicide bombings..

Q: What is being done?

1. The West Bank and Gaza Strip are being held under a security cordon and blockade.

2. Israeli troops and tanks are deployed near “trouble spots” where they routinely come into conflict with groups of stone-throwing Palestinian youths. These troops are armed with often lethal rubber coated bullets and tear gas.

3. A policy of extra-judicial “targeted killing” of terrorists is being followed in which several helicopter launched attacks have been made on alleged Hamas and Islamic Jihad bombers.

Q: What is being achieved as a result?

1. Ordinary, peaceful, Palestinians are being put to extreme hardship by the blockade. This creates an atmosphere of resentment and anger in the Palestinian territories. It is also abundantly clear that the blockade does not in fact prevent suicide bombings from taking place.

2. The presence of blockading troops in the West Bank and Gaza provide a target for protesting youths. The use of lethal rubber coated bullets creates an ongoing stream of dead Palestinian youths – martyrs – the funerals of which inevitably turn into more protests, leading to more deaths.

3. Every time a Hamas or Islamic Jihad activist is killed in a “targetted killing” another eight are created from the sense of injustice felt by the Palestinian people at this policy.

GENERALLY: All three policies attract widespread international criticism, thereby strengthening the resolve of the Palestinian negotiators and their sense of injustice.

Q: Is this achieving the desired objective?

A: No. No and No.


For the Palestinian Authority

Q: What is the objective?

Ultimately, peace with Israel and the ability to build a modern state within the Palestinian Territories. In the interim, getting the Israel Defence Force to lift its blockade and getting the Israel Government to return to the negotiating table.

Q: What is being done?

1. Protests are held almost incessantly against the occupation, mainly by stone throwing youths.

2. International lobbying trips are conducted by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.

3. Extremist Palestinian groups, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, mount suicide bombing attacks on military and civilian targets.

Q: What is being achieved as a result?

1. Children die.

2. Expressions of support are received from the International community but nothing concrete is achieved.

3. Widely held Israeli convictions that the Palestinian people do not really want peace, but actually seek the annihilation of Israel are reinforced. Retailiatory actions are provoked from the IDF and international sympathy for the Palestinian cause is undermined.

Q: Is this achieving the desired objective?

A: No. No and No.


For the International Community’s Mediator – the USA

Q: What is the objective?

Ultimately, peaceful coexistence for the Palestinian Authority and Israel. In the interim, an end to the killing.

Q: What is being done?

1. Diplomatic envoys are at work in the area talking to both sides to the conflict. Periodically high level envoys such as Colin Powell are dispatched to see what they can do. Both sides are criticised encouraged and cajoled towards peace.

2. At the UN the US is holding the bulwark against the imposition by the UN Security Council of peace monitors in the area

3. Ultimately the clear existence of US support for Israel prevents Arab neighbours to the conflict becoming too involved.

Q: What is being achieved as a result?

1. Occasionally there is an appearance of some progress but this appears to almost without exception be undermined by ongoing violence. Ultimately trenchant U.S. criticisms of Israeli policies such as the “targetted killings” policy are ignored. As a result of this there is an appearance that the U.S. diplomatic efforts are all talk no substance.

2. Israel is encouraged by its seeming immunity to criticism around the Security Council table to continue to pursue policies which are illegal at international law such as “targetted killings” and retributive retaliatory bombings. These in turn serve to continue the cycle of violence.

3. This element alone among the policies of all three parties to this conflict appears to be achieving the desired result. So far. However a price is being paid as resentment within the Islamic (oil exporting) world of U.S. involvement in the Middle East is growing by the day.

Q: Is this achieving the desired objective?

A: No. No, and Maybe.


Conclusion: Colin Powell’s Curcuit Breaker

So where does this leave the participants to the conflict in the Holy Land.

According to most observers the answer is precisely nowhere.

The situation is described variously as a deadlock, a cycle of violence and an unsolvable unholy mess.

Certainly the prospects of peace negotiations - which have previously been the carrot encouraging diplomatic efforts towards peace - now seem a very long way off. All that is seriously being sought now, is simply an end to the violence and killing.

In the above analysis one thing is clear. Without an abrupt and dramatic change in policy by one of protagonists the present impasse will continue, and will likely escalate still further.

In public the debate over the conflict mostly seems to revolve around questions about the relative moral quality of various forms of violence. I.E. Is suicide bombing worse, morally, than targeted killing, or the blockade of the West Bank?

Sludge must confess that in past opinion pieces on this conflict (See… Sludge Report #68 – Who Is Terrorising Who? ) Sludge has participated in this fruitless discussion. As a result Sludge has been criticised trenchantly by several angry Israeli supporters. (see… Feedback: Sludge Report #94 Responses and Sludge Report #100 - F16s Back In Action + Feedback).

This discussion it would appear is a dead end. Killing is killing, whatever the quality. And at a rational level, the only legitimate response to all this is simply that enough is enough. It is time for the killing to stop.

And since it is also abundantly clear that neither of the parties to the conflict is willing, or perhaps able, to make any substantial concessions towards peace, it is now time for the USA as mediator to step forward decisively.

A circuit breaker in this conflict is urgently needed and there is one obvious place one can be applied.

The US can renounce the use of its Security Council veto to prevent the deployment of peace monitors in Israel.

Interestingly, while Israel’s PM Ariel Sharon could not possibly say so publicly, it may in fact be convenient for him if the US makes such a move without his acquiescence.

That way he can maintain his appearance of being a strong leader, and claim that he is being forced to do his best with a bad lot.

Anti©opyright Sludge 2001

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