Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Jerusalem last week in his new role as envoy for the so-called Quartet of Middle East mediators — the UN, European Union, Russia and the United States.
He landed just ahead of a visit by Egyptian and Jordanian diplomats seeking to revive talks on the Arab League’s peace initiative. That widely greeted proposal calls for normalization of Arab countries’ relations coupled with Israel’s ending the occupation and returning to its pre-June 1967 borders, establishment of a Palestinian state and a negotiated just solution for Palestinian refugees.
But despite the diplomatic flurry, and Bush administration statements about the urgency of resolving the crisis that has devastated the lives of Palestinians and imposed onerous burdens on Israelis, the Bush and Olmert policies have been the main obstacles.
Olmert continues to refuse to discuss resolution of the basic issues, including the Israeli settlements spreading through the West Bank, and the problem of the Palestinian refugees. His insistence on partial and temporary steps allows the divide-and-rule occupation to further entrench itself, further fueling tension.
The Bush administration has consistently enabled the right-wing Israeli government’s drive to prevent the emergence of an independent Palestinian state. Washington provides at least $3 billion a year in largely military aid, and Bush has openly supported the expansion of illegal settlements and the walling-off and carving up of Palestinian lands.
Real peace is possible. Both Palestinians and Israelis have shown repeatedly that they want a just solution based on two states, Israel and Palestine.
What’s needed for a just peace is well-known: an end to Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and return to the internationally recognized pre-June 1967 boundaries; dismantling of the “separation wall” and all settlements; release of the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners as well as any Israelis held by Palestinian forces; establishment of the Palestinian state including East Jerusalem as its capital, alongside Israel; and a negotiated settlement of the refugee issue.
Resolution of this festering conflict is in the interests of every American. Our government holds the key, and every member of Congress needs to hear from us on this issue.