ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Palestine: Sense of Hopelessness

With a year before his presidential term ends, US president George W Bush and his advisers have decided to re-engage in seeking a resolution to the vexed Palestinian crisis. In June 2002 Bush had first endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state; the “road map” agreed to by the quartet that included the European Union (EU), the United Nations, Russia, and the US, had accordingly threshed out an approach plan for a Palestinian state to be established. While the goalposts agreed to by the quartet have all been overtaken by other tumultuous events, the road map remains on paper, one consulted from time to time, when the socalled international community reminds itself of pressing problems in need of a resolution.

Thus, the proposed peace conference, to be held next month in Annapolis, US, reveals a new-found urgency in finding solutions to “final status issues” – Jerusalem, borders, settlements, refugees, security, water and bilateral relations. Discussions between the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert and the Palestinian president, Mahoud Abbas, have however been stymied for the Palestinians want a detailed timetable for the implementation of solutions to some key disputes, while the Israelis want a broader, more general document with no timetable. While Olmert has held out the possibility of a compromise on one of the thorniest issues so far – the status of Jerusalem, this is bound to be opposed by Israeli opposition parties, notably the Likud. Moreover the talks that US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, recently conducted on her west Asia visit, to prepare the ground for the conference, took place against the background of a surreal disjuncture. For Palestine is already divided, after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip following a conflict with Fatah earlier this year. The US, assisted by a supine EU, has been against negotiating with the Hamas unless it renounces violence, recognises Israel and accepts existing peace agreements. The Annapolis conference will thus gloss over the destiny of 40 per cent of Palestinians who live in Gaza and who are facing a collective punishment as a result of the “international community’s” continued boycott of Hamas, imposed since the latter’s victory in elections conducted fairly and democratically in the occupied territories nearly two years ago.

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