The Guardian July 19, 2000


Middle-East crisis hotting up

Yasser Arafat says he will proclaim an independent Palestinian state on 
September 13, whether Israel likes it or not, provoking a storm of 
diplomatic activity in Tel Aviv, London and Washington.

The declaration, made by the 129-strong Palestinian parliament endorsed 
Arafat's proposal for a state which would claim authority over the entire 
West Bank and Gaza Strip, even though over 60 percent is still occupied by 
Israeli troops and hundreds of thousands of Zionist settlers.

Arab Jerusalem would be the Palestinian capital and its borders would be 
those of the 1949 Armistice line which prevailed until June 4, 1967  the 
day before the Israeli invasion which seized the West Bank and the Gaza 
Strip.

"There will be a battle for Jerusalem", Palestinian Communications Minister 
Imad Faluja warned. "No Israeli may live in the occupied territories and we 
will not allow the settlers to return to their homes."

Israel has warned that its response would be to annex the Jordan Valley, 
the Zionist settlements and what it calls "Greater Jerusalem" if Yasser 
Arafat goes ahead with his threat.

But the "old man" of the Palestinian national movement has said all this 
before. No-one knows whether Arafat is again bluffing to get the "peace 
process" going again or whether he's now resigned to a new period of 
confrontation with the Israeli occupiers.

It's certainly being taken seriously in Tel Aviv. Israeli Prime Minister 
Ehud Barak flew into London to try to get Tony Blair to put pressure on 
Arafat to back down. He then dashed to Paris to meet President Chirac to 
make the same plea.

And US President Bill Clinton convened an emergency Middle East peace 
summit to head off the crisis.

In London Barak was giving away nothing. "I hope, of course, that 
everything will be decided in negotiation", he said outside No l0. "I made 
it clear... that if unilateral steps will be taken by one side, we will 
have to respond with our own unilateral steps", he added.

According to the Israeli media, Barak is prepared to return 80 percent of 
the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian National Authority, 
while the rest would be "leased" or annexed by Israel.

Few Palestinians believe even this  and in any case everyone knows the 20 
percent Tel Aviv covets includes "Greater Jerusalem" and the Jordan Valley. 
And nothing is being said about the plight of the millions of Palestinian 
refugees who have been promised nothing at all.

Arafat is under increasing pressure from the Palestinians under his 
authority and the much larger refugee community across the Arab world to 
stand up to the Israelis.

Israel has sent three extra battalions into the West Bank backed up by 
tanks, helicopter gunships and a new "gravel gun" designed to disperse 
crowds.

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New Worker, paper of New Communist Party of Britain

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