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In the aftermath of militarily defeating Iraq, the Bush administration is moving on several fronts to reshape the Middle East. The aim is to impose U.S. domination over the entire strategic region and eliminate all opposition to the new "Pax Americana."
Nothing is more important for carrying out this imperial strategy than liquidating the Palestinian resistance movement, which lies at the very center of the struggle in the Middle East. Washington policy makers have been pursuing this objective for decades.
The Palestinian cause is near and dear to the hearts of people across the region. Against seemingly insuperable odds, the Palestinians have held out against the combined might of the United States, Israel and the pro-imperialist regimes in the Arab world for more than half a century. Destroying the Palestinian resistance therefore has an importance for Washington that goes far beyond the borders of historic Palestine.
The U.S. leaders' latest tactic is the much-ballyhooed "road map for peace," unveiled only days after the conquest of Baghdad. The "road map" calls for resuming negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The first question that must be asked is why the Bush team would now want to start negotiations, something they have been emphatically uninterested in previously.
In his first 26 months in office, Bush himself met with the murderous Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon no less than seven times--more than with any other foreign leader--while refusing any direct talks with the Palestinians.
The pattern is remarkably similar to what happened in 1991. The first Palestinian Intifada (uprising) had been going on for more than three years. Despite massive repression, Israel, backed as always by the United States, had been unable to defeat the Palestinians.
Two major global developments that year weakened the Palestinian position: the defeat of Iraq in the first Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which Palestinians saw as a key strategic ally.
Unable to crush the Palestinians but noting their diminished support, the first Bush administration decided that the time was ripe to open negotiations--first in Madrid and later in secret talks in Oslo, Norway.
>From the U.S. point of view, the objective was clear: terminate the Palestinian struggle by creating a Palestinian "entity," something that would resemble a state but not have real independence or sovereignty.
The Oslo "peace process" dragged on for seven years. Israel regularly refused to follow the timetable or meet the deadlines prescribed in the agreements. The mainstream U.S. media just as regularly blamed the Palestinians for the breakdowns in the process.
In the early autumn of 2000, the failure to achieve anything resembling statehood led to the eruption of a new Palestinian Intifada. It continues to this day.
Since September 2000, more than 2,300 Palestinians and close to 800 Israelis have been killed. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been seriously wounded and thousands more arrested, tortured and imprisoned. Palestinian cities, towns and villages have been attacked, cordoned off and placed under constant curfew.
The Palestinian economy has virtually collapsed. Living standards have plummeted because of the curfews and blockades imposed by the Israeli occupation army in the West Bank and Gaza. Poverty and hunger are now widespread among the population.
Billions of dollars in U.S. military and economic aid has poured in to support the Israeli war against the vastly outgunned Palestinian population. Without the massive assistance it receives, Israel would not be able to carry out its relentless repression.
THE IRAQ WAR AND THE 'ROAD MAP'
Despite all U.S./Israeli efforts the Palestinians remain undefeated, as in 1991. But the conquest of Iraq was a very serious setback for the entire Arab world. Iraq was the biggest and most powerful of the Arab countries not in the U.S. orbit.
What Washington is now offering is even less than the woefully inadequate Oslo process. It proposes to give the Pales tin ians a "state" unlike any other state in the world.
The borders of the Palestinian entity would be controlled by Israel, as would its airspace and water. The Palestinian "state" would not have contiguous territory. Many Israeli settlements would remain inside the Palestinian territory, along with their bypass roads, and, of course, the Israeli army to provide security.
The Palestinian "state," existing along side Israel--the world's fifth- ranking military power--would be required to be disarmed.
Negotiations on critical issues like Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestin ian refugees and final borders would be postponed until the end of the process.
But Sharon has demanded that before the negotiations can even start, the Palestinian Authority must agree to renounce the right of return for all Palestinians expelled since 1948. Today they, with their descendants, number more than 4.5 million people.
According to Israeli law, all Jewish people have the "right to return" to citizenship in Israel, no matter where they live in the world. None of the Palestinians driven out of Palestine by Israel has been allowed to return, in violation of United Nations resolutions. None has ever received compensation for confiscated property.
One aim of this demand of Sharon's is to split the Palestinian people.
As a condition for even unveiling the "road map," Washington insisted that a new Palestinian position of prime minister be created and that Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, be approved in that position.
It remains to be seen, given the many Israeli pre-conditions, whether the negotiations will even commence.
The "road map" announcement has been accompanied by an intense pressure campaign on Syria to end its support for the Palestinian cause. Secretary of State Colin Powell traveled to Damascus, the Syrian capital, carrying ultimatums to the government of President Bashar Assad.
As soon as the heavy fighting ended in Iraq, Undersecretary of State John Bolton warned Syria, along with North Korea and Iran, to "learn the lessons of Iraq."
Several Palestinian organizations opposed to the Oslo and "road map" agree ments have offices in Damascus.
Pressure has also been brought to bear on Syria to cut its ties to Hizbollah, the Lebanese organization that waged a long and successful campaign to drive the Israeli army out of southern Lebanon.
The goal of destroying all opposition to U.S. plans in the region is abundantly clear.
So too, is the objective of Bush's May 9 proclamation that his administration is now seeking the creation of a "U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Zone." Given the vast disparity in economic strength between the United States and the oppressed countries of the region, the outcome of such a "free trade zone" would be the complete economic subjugation of the entire region. Israel would be the U.S. junior partner in such an economic reshaping of the area, along the lines of its military relationship with Washington.
The main obstacle to Washington's extremely dangerous and ambitious plans for the Middle East remains the resistance of the people, particularly the Palestinian people. Solidarity with the Palestinian cause has never been more timely or critical than today.
Copyright Workers World Service 2003. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .