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News ::
Israeli Parliament: There Are No Occupied Territories (english)
18 Jul 2003
Since July 1 the Israeli government has violated every recent agreement it has made by carrying out military invasions of Palestinian areas, implementing a campaign of abductions, opening fire on civilian areas without being provoked, imposing curfews and not relaxing its “draconian” closure that restricts all movement for Palestinians
Israeli Parliament: there are no occupied territories
By MIFTAH
July 18, 2003


The Israeli Parliament, known as the Knesset, approved a draft legislation on Tuesday claiming that the West Bank and Gaza are not territories occupied by Israel. This decision deals a major blow to the already faltering peace process.

The proposal, presented by the ruling hard-liners of the Likud party, states that “[the] West Bank and Gaza Strip, whether historically or based on international law and agreements signed by Israel, are not occupied territories.”

Outlining red lines that must not be crossed in future peace negotiations, the approved resolution calls upon the Israeli government not to accept any concession in relation to Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and the return of Palestinian refugees.

The issue of refugees, specifically, may push back recent movements on the U.S.-backed ‘roadmap’ to peace, such as the Palestinian factions’ truce and Israeli troop withdrawals from parts of Gaza and Bethlehem. There are about four million Palestinian refugees, most of whom live in surrounding Arab countries, hoping for the right to return. But this law confirms Israel’s refusal to recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return, in fear of destroying the country’s ‘Jewish character.’

The Knesset passed the bill with a majority of 26 lawmakers, including 17 Likud members, in favour and only eight opposed. Israeli commentators consider the resolution part of the Likud party’s efforts to hinder Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from advancing with the ‘roadmap,’ which promises an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

Although the new legislation is not yet binding, it further weakens Sharon's credibility as a man of his word, especially since he recently signaled Israeli readiness to end "occupation" of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"I think that the idea of keeping 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation is the worst thing for Israel, for the Palestinians and also for the Israeli economy," Sharon said in statements carried by the Israeli Maariv newspaper on May 25.

However, political analysts suspect Sharon’s statement was merely a political manuever that would never be put to the test. But upon receiving instant criticism from his Likud party, the Israeli leader immediately retracted his statement and continued issuing orders for more settlement construction, incursions and military control of the occupied territories. Even so, as evident from the parliament’s decision, skepticism toward Sharon’s political power lingers.

Sharon received another embarrassment this week during his European tour to improve relations and gain support for Israel’s agenda in the peace process. He failed to convince Britain and Norway to cut all ties and relations with Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat.

“We certainly meet with those we want to meet with. We shall not be told who we can meet with. No way we are going to change our policy,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen told AFP.

The Palestinian National Authority condemned the Knesset’s decision as another obstacle and set-back to the settlement of the decades-old conflict. With all the stumbling blocks in the peace process over the years, the PNA questions ever finding a peace partner in Israel.

“Such decisions are dangerous, destructive for the peace process and roadmap,” the PNA said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

The Knesset’s ratification of this legislation is one of many moves by the Israeli government that undermine the current peace agreements. Since July 1 the Israeli government has violated every recent agreement it has made by carrying out military invasions of Palestinian areas, implementing a campaign of abductions, opening fire on civilian areas without being provoked, imposing curfews and not relaxing its “draconian” closure that restricts all movement for Palestinians. In addition, land confiscation and destruction of Palestinian property continues unabated.

Despite promises to dismantle settlement outposts and halt construction on settlements throughout the West Bank and Gaza, the Israeli government has established 17 new outposts and called for the continuation of construction.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is expected to meet with U.S. President Bush in Washington on July 25 to discuss the implementation of the phases in the ‘roadmap.’

“This visit will be centered on the commitments made by Israel to freeze settlements in the progress in the peace process,” a Palestinian official told AFP Wednesday.

http://www.miftah.org
See also:
www.MIFTAH.org
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