In This Edition: Roadmaps And Roadblocks
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Sludge Report #104
Roadblocks And Roadmaps
Over the past week pressure has been coming on the United States to do more for peace in the Middle East. And in the circumstances it is hardly surprising.
What had been till now a policy of relative infrequent use of F16 bombers by the Israel Defence Force in retaliation raids, has now become almost routine.
Meanwhile the assassination ( aka murder ) policy of the IDF against alleged Palestinian terrorists has been stepped up with numerous rocket attacks on houses and cars in the West Bank and Gaza.
And finally we have had several punitive IDF tank and armoured bulldozer incursions (aka invasions) into the Palestinian territories.
If it was not already clear that the combatants in the Holy Land were unable to stop the violence themselves, it is more than clear now.
As a result the need for a change in the US stance on the crisis is becoming increasingly apparent to a wide variety of parties.
Last week even the often subdued US media began asking officials what it was that the US thought it was doing in the Middle East.
In the following exchange, which took place during the State Department’s regular briefing on August 20th, a reporter wanted to find out why the US believed that a UN resolution on the conflict proposed by Palestinian observer was unworkable. More specifically he wanted to know why the US believed that any “Action in the Security Council” would be unhelpful to the crisis.
QUESTION: So it is, in fact, not any action by the UN Security Council; it's only on what ideas that you think are unworkable, or anything?
QUESTION: It seems to be anything. I don't know.
QUESTION: Because presumably it could come up --
MR. REEKER: Action. Action in the UN Security Council. I don't know how much clearer I can say it. We don't think any action in the UN Security Council is what will contribute to these objectives. And this is in the context of the discussion that is going on today in New York and that we have been reflecting on beforehand last week and again today in preparation for that discussion.
QUESTION: Okay, Phil. Leaving aside the question of monitors, where your objections are well known, what is your objection to a resolution that would demand Israel withdrawal from Orient House and the other institutions in East Jerusalem?
MR. REEKER: We understand the concerns about Orient House. We have talked about that many times. It has long symbolized the importance of political dialogue and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, and it is vital that both parties remain committed to these objectives and avoid the actions that threaten the fundamental belief in a negotiated settlement.
And so we are actively engaged with both sides. We stand ready to assist in security talks, the tripartite security talks, to let the two parties try to come up with steps to implement security, to get the violence down, urging the parties to move quickly in that direction, as we have done before.
But we don't believe that the solution is through steps taken in New York, through resolutions. We believe it is through the parties to work together to implement the Tenet work plan, to implement the Mitchell Committee recommendations, and that continues to be our position, just as it was last week.
QUESTION: Is there any sort of rationale for that position, or is it just sort of arbitrary decision?
MR. REEKER: No, and I would suggest that very few of our decisions are arbitrary.
QUESTION: So what is the rationale for it?
MR. REEKER: The rationale is that the two parties need to make the decision. By passing rhetorical statements in New York, by debating and polarizing an already volatile situation, by attempting to impose other ideas on the parties that aren't going to change reality on the ground -- that is not going to accomplish anything. We need to work with both sides to end the violence and transform the environment in a way that will permit the resumption of the political process. They have the road maps. They have a structure to pursue security talks and dialogue that are vital to creating an environment in which they can then move into the Mitchell Committee recommendations, which is what both sides and the international community have endorsed as the path out of this crisis.
The question raised by the above exchange is very simple, and is summed up by the reporter when he asked, “Is there any sort of rationale for that position, or is it just sort of arbitrary decision?”
State Departments spokesman Philip Reeker had little answer to this, other than to return to the overused roadmap metaphor that appears to be the primary thrust of US policy at present.
“They have the road maps. They have a structure to pursue security talks and dialogue that are vital to creating an environment in which they can then move into the Mitchell Committee recommendations, which is what both sides and the international community have endorsed as the path out of this crisis,” Reeker replied.
But do the parties really have the necessary roadmaps?
In any event, Sludge is inclined to think that even if they do have the maps, the road is presently impassable due to US and Israeli policy.
True the Mitchell and Tenet agreements potentially provide a path to peace, but before the beginning of this path can be reached the violence first has to stop.
This in turn is rather difficult when Israel appears to have no intention of stopping its offensive against the Palestinian Authority. In fact the violence against the Palestinians appears to be being stepped up at the very time they are being told to be docile by Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and US President George Bush, speaking seemingly in unison.
But the biggest roadblock to peace is not an Israeli construction, it has been provided by the US.
While the US claims that it is standing back from the conflict in the Holy Land, in fact – thanks to its actions at the UN HQ in New York – it is firmly in the middle of the conflict.
By using its Security Council veto powers to prevent any “action” at the UN, the US is denying a role in the dispute to the only party that has any moral authority to become involved.
The only organisation which officially has as its purpose preventing war and policing international disputes, is denied any role in the most pressing conflict of our time.
It is as if the biggest kid on the block has told the police to back off in an increasingly brutal street fight – but wishes to somehow assert that it is not itself taking sides.
Meanwhile in the world of international media and diplomacy the question of the US veto is reported and discussed as if a decision by the US to not use the veto would somehow be a concession to the Palestinians.
In fact we have a situation in which the US is - and has been for decades - actively preventing the normal force of international law being applied in a situation where it is clearly needed.
Therefore it makes little sense for the US administration to prattle on about roadmaps without first removing the large roadblock they have imposed on the process.
What the US Administration appears unable to understand, is that in the process of maintaining the position it has, it is now acting against its own national interests.
By leaving the international community – and particularly the Islamic nations – powerless to deal with this pressing crisis - international parties are left with little choice other than to attempt to influence US policy to have the veto lifted.
And there is only one obvious way to do this, via OPEC’s control over the oil supply.
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