After Annapolis: Press for real negotiations now

This statement was issued the Communist Party USA National Board on Dec. 6.

The vast majority of the people of Israel, Palestine, the United States and the world want something done to bring peace with justice to Israel and Palestine, and feel there is a chance the recently concluded Annapolis conference can accomplish something toward that aim.

That is why so many countries attended, including some of the world’s more progressive countries, putting their prestige on the line for the process and putting more pressure on the U.S. and Israel to do what is necessary for success.

Of course, many in our country and around the world are rightly skeptical. There is clearly good reason to question the motives of the Bush administration, which seeks to continue its militarist policies on behalf of the extreme right-wing sections of our ruling class. Its threats against Iran and support of reactionary regimes like Saudi Arabia serve those on the right who would use military force to impose control over the greater Middle East, with its vast energy resources and strategic geographical position. This was part of the context for the conference.

At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has moved backward from positions of some earlier governments on key issues, such as borders of a future Palestinian state. His center-right government is being pressed by the extreme right, whose backing he needs in coming elections and who reject a two-state solution.

Previous peace negotiations in the 1990s produced mixed results. But the installation of George W. Bush in the White House marked a sharp change for the worse.

For the past seven years, his administration has shown no interest in diplomacy to resolve this 60-year-old political and humanitarian crisis. Instead, despite lip service to a two-state solution, it gave a green light to the Israeli right’s drive to prevent formation of a truly independent Palestinian state. Bush gave active encouragement to moves to expand throughout the occupied territories a web of settlements, military installations, walls, watchtowers and checkpoints that make a two-state solution increasingly difficult.

The result has been highly damaging for all involved.



Palestinians, Israelis and Americans are all paying a price

The Palestinian people endure a humiliating military occupation that has shredded their communities, taken their land and livelihood, turned them into a captive workforce and market for Israeli capitalists, undermined their leadership, deprived them of national statehood, and promoted internal divisions. One result has been to turn Gaza into a vast prison camp enclosing 1.5 million Palestinian people. All this has fueled despair and plowed a fertile ground for acts of violence by a small minority.

At the same time, the Israeli right wing has used this volatile situation to fan a sense of fear and threat among the Israeli people and, under this cover, has imposed on Israeli working families Bush-style privatization, loss of pensions, and cuts in education and other social needs. As in the U.S. under Bush, poverty and inequality have risen sharply in Israel in recent years. Militarism, racism and religious fanaticism harm the Israeli social fabric.

Americans are also paying a price. This continuing flashpoint of conflict provides a cover for reactionary regimes to hold onto power and increases the threat of terrorism and war. Our government provides approximately $3 billion a year, the bulk of it military aid, to the Israeli government. If a just peace were achieved, these billions could be used for constructive aid to the people of the region and also fund some of our pressing human needs here at home.

Bush’s foreign policies have delivered a severe setback to the standing of the U.S. in the world, starting with the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq. For some time now, significant sections of the ruling class have been voicing concern, and calls for change are mounting. A year ago, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, composed of influential political figures, identified solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict as a key priority, and called for “a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.” More recently a similar bipartisan group including Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton and Brent Scowcroft sent a letter to Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling for “credible and sustained permanent status negotiations under international supervision and with a timetable for their completion,” to achieve a two-state solution based on the widely accepted Arab Peace Initiative.

Now Annapolis. Will anything come of it?

The Communist Party USA is convinced that a just Israeli-Palestinian peace is possible and necessary. There will never be a perfect set of circumstances for negotiations. Every delay, every day the present situation continues, only serves the playbook of the far right in Israel (along with right-wing forces in our own country), which has long used lack of a peace settlement to create “facts on the ground” to entrench its occupation of Palestinian land.

Overwhelmingly, as numerous polls have shown, both Israelis and Palestinians want a just solution based on two states, Israel and Palestine.



Principles for a real solution are widely accepted

The Arab Peace Initiative, approved by the Arab League in 2002 and reconfirmed this year, and the unofficial Geneva Initiative of 2003 are widely seen as offering a way forward.

The basic principles for a real, negotiated solution are already generally accepted:

• An end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, returning to the internationally recognized boundaries of June 4, 1967, with any minor modifications negotiated by mutual agreement, as a border between the two states of Israel and Palestine.

• East Jerusalem to be the capital of Palestine, West Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Public access to all Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites guaranteed.

• A negotiated solution addressing the needs and rights of Palestinian refugees.

• As part of the process, Israeli settlements on Palestinian land frozen and then dismantled, the “separation wall” taken down, and mutual security measures and prisoner release implemented.

Experience has shown that temporary and partial measures cannot substitute for resolving the fundamental “final status” issues. Right-wing forces will have to be compelled to drop their aim of imposing a subservient Palestinian state compliant with right-wing U.S./Israeli policy. Moreover, it is up to the Palestinian people to determine their leaders and negotiators, not the U.S. and Israel.



Our government holds the key

We join with others who see the Annapolis meeting as an opportunity and a challenge to organize as broadly as possible to demand that our government act to at long last end this tragic, destructive conflict.

A significant new informal coalition has emerged in the U.S. around this conference, that includes Jewish, Palestinian and church groups who support a two-state just solution. They played a big role in getting a letter signed by 135 members of Congress calling for aggressive U.S. diplomacy aimed at “resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, through the establishment of two states for two peoples,” calling the issue “too important not to seize the opportunities that have emerged over the past weeks.”

We urge all peace-loving Americans — Jewish, Palestinian and everyone else — to press the White House, Congress and presidential and congressional candidates to take a stand for real negotiations based on the above principles. Our government holds the key.

Our political leaders need to hear the message loud and clear: the time is now to move to a just and lasting peace. It is in the interest of the people of Israel, Palestine, the U.S. and the world.

For more information, contact cpusa @cpusa.org.