Welcome push for peace

US PRESIDENT George Bush’s toughening of posture on Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories is most welcome. This is what the Palestinians and Arabs have always wanted the US to do: Taking a just and objective position on Israel-Palestine dispute.

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Published: Sun 10 Apr 2005, 10:30 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:27 PM

A day before the Israeli leader Ariel Sharon’s arrival in Washington for talks, President Bush has sent out a loud and clear message to Israel on the issue of Jewish settlements. The president has insisted on Israel freezing all settlement activity in Palestinian territories as a precondition to the US-sponsored peace roadmap.

Bush’s statement forms the pattern of gradually but definitely hardening US stance on the Jewish settlements. In the past two weeks, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice pulled up Israel twice on the expansion of settlements saying the Jewish state must stop all ‘activity that would prejudge the outcome of a final status agreement’ between the Israelis and Palestinians. Evidently, Washington is keen to push the so-called Middle East peace roadmap it unveiled in the summer of 2003 during the second term of President Bush.

The realistic US stance on the Jewish settlements is most welcome and offers a much-needed boost to the peace process. Washington has apparently come around to the Palestinian-Arab view that the unbridled expansion of Jewish colonies in the occupied territories undermines the peace process and kills all hopes of a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Even as Sharon talks of withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, the Jewish state under him is planning to build as many as 3,500 new settler units on the confiscated Palestinian land in East Jerusalem. The new settlements would completely strangle East Jerusalem cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank. More importantly, it would cut off the Hebron and Bethlehem regions in the south from the central and northern regions of the West Bank, effectively shattering Palestinian dream of a ‘viable’ and ‘contiguous’ state within the 1967 Green Line.

Evidently, this is why US too is upset over the new settlement activity. But, Washington should go beyond issuing perfunctory calls to persuade Israel to stop the settlement expansion. As both President Bush and secretary of state Rice have emphasised, compliance by both the Israelis and Palestinians is crucial to the success of peace roadmap. President Bush, when he presented the Middle East roadmap two years ago suggesting a two-state formula to resolve the dispute, had promised an ‘independent, viable state’ by year 2005. Now that 2005 is already here, the US must do everything possible to make that vision a reality. The Palestinians have gone to great lengths and paid a heavy price to keep their part of the bargain. It’s time Israel is made to do its bit for peace.

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