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US Now Distorts Peace Process

By Clovis Maksoud. Clovis Maksoud is a professor at American University in Washington and a former ambassador of the League of Arab States to the US and UN. / March 28, 1994

THE watered-down United Nations Security Council Resolution 904 adopted March 18 in the aftermath of the Hebron massacre reveals the flaws in the ``peace process'' initiated in Oslo and enshrined on the White House lawn on Sept. 13, 1993.

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By waiting three weeks to adopt the resolution, the United States signaled its reluctance to allow the UN a real role in resolving the Middle East conflict. The vote marginalizes the UN. It is merely an effort to absorb Palestinian anger and entice the PLO back to the table. While this strategy seems to have worked, there is no guarantee it can be sustained without introducing substantial changes in the agenda and timetable of the talks.

No sooner had the Hebron tragedy taken place than the US and Israel went into high gear, insisting that the Palestine Liberation Organization return to the negotiating table and abide by the text of the Sept. 13 Declaration of Principles. Any attempt to change the agenda by raising the issue of Israeli settlements, they said, would be considered a violation of the agreement. But circumstances on the ground have changed. It is disingenuous for the White House and the Rabin government to stick to the text and letter of the PLO-Israeli agreement. Insistence on a return to negotiations distorts an already unequal negotiation. This perception itself necessitates an overhaul of the process and a restatement of its terms of reference if it is to achieve credibility and popular acceptance.

The adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 904 was intended to bring the PLO back to the negotiations. US abstention on the crucial subject of Jerusalem was mind boggling. That the fate of Jerusalem is to be negotiated in the final stage does not mean that it is not an occupied territory. UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright's threat that any future reference to Jerusalem as ``occupied'' would lead to a US veto has transformed Jerusalem into a time bomb similar to that of the settlements and the armed settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories.

This US position reinforces Israel's illegal and unilateral annexation of Jerusalem. It renders moot the fate of Jerusalem in the final-stage negotiations; Jerusalem will simply be annexed. While Israel holds that the Declaration of Principles precludes the discussion of settlements during negotiations for the interim agreement, the US in its current posture helps Israel preempt any consequential or acceptable outcome on Jerusalem.

It is increasingly clear that while the Gaza-Jericho agreement led to a mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO, its implementation involves Palestinians serving Israeli objectives. It is not a resolution of the rights and concerns of both parties. Israel has made its own security more a priority than the Declaration of Prinicples timetable; it ignored the Dec. 13, 1993, Army withdrawal process. The Hebron massacre of Feb. 24 underlines the fact that the Gaza-Jericho agreement is devoid of a guarantee for Palestinian security. Hence, the ``mutual recognition'' aspect of the agreement is now interpreted as a means for Palestinians to serve Israel's objectives.