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Much like the announced plans by President-elect Barack Obama to launch the most massive public works program since World War II by investing in the nation's highways and bridges, the same approach was used by the newly installed Israeli government to stimulate the economy. This approach, though, was considered a comprise approach since there were vastly differing views on what issues should be made priorities following the Oslo Peace Accords (Alterman 141). According to this author, "The shift of priorities was visible on the ground within a year or two: major highways and interchanges, long-neglected by the Likud governments, were upgraded. Environmental projects received public funds. Even the long-neglected rail system received a boost, which though modest was nevertheless its largest since pre-State British Mandate times" (Alterman 141). Despite this shift in priorities over the years, Israeli expansion and Palestinian statehood remain at the forefront of the ongoing and convoluted loggerheads being experienced between these two peoples. In this regard, Dunsky (2001) emphasizes that, "The 1993 Oslo peace accords the Israeli government signed with Yasser Arafat stipulated they would negotiate the future of the West Bank and Gaza. Since then, both Labor and Likud have expanded Jewish settlements by 40%. The settlements, basically colonies on Arab land, are illegal under international law" (1).
Ensuing Negotiation between Israel and Palestinian Authority.
From her perspective as a member of the management team for Project Israel 2020, Alterman reports that, "One of its most exciting moments came immediately after the news of the Oslo Peace Accords, in the summer of 1993. The team enthusiastically convened and drew up a think-tank volume -- the first of its kind -- about the implications of peace for Israel's future land use, environment, transportation, economic development, as well as for Jewish-Arab relations" (122). Even these apparently benign initiatives, though, represented a potential sticking point for further negotiations. In this regard, Alterman notes that, "In the Israeli context, commonplace elements of plan making, such as simple demographic projections and urban development policies may become politically volatile issues if they are perceived as touching upon Jewish-Arab relations or security issues" (122).
Unfortunately, the region occupied by the Palestinians and Israel remained a veritable powder keg at the time, and it would seem that almost any excuse would serve to resume the hostilities between them. For instance, according to Miller (2007), "While young Palestinians threw stones during the first Intifada, between 1987 and 1993, they discovered a more devastating weapon in round two. Suicide bombings soared after September 2000, with the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Jerusalem's Temple Mount, sacred to Jews, and also the site of the Al Aqsa mosque, which Muslims revere" (44). The visit by Sharon was akin to the otherwise-insignificant assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria that sparked World War I, at least on a regional level. In this regard, Miller points out that, Sharon's visit was the flashpoint for the second, so-called 'Al Aqsa' intifada. In January, 2002, a young Palestinian woman named Wafa Idris was catapulted into Palestinian celebrity by becoming the forty-seventh Palestinian suicide bomber -- but the first woman to kill herself while murdering Israelis" (44). The celebrity that was attached to this suicidal act by Idris may be difficult to conceive in the West, but Miller suggests her actions placed her on the same celebrity level as Elvis or Hillary Clinton in terms of her effect on Palestinian society: "Her picture was everywhere in the West Bank and Gaza -- on Palestinian TV, on posters. Poets wrote songs in her honor. Women named daughters after her" (Miller 43). In this environment, it is little wonder that a negotiated settlement to these divisive issues would require some significant statesmanship, and President Clinton's efforts in this regard are discussed further below.
President Clinton's Effort to Negotiate a Settlement.
According to Khatchadourian (2000), "Political matters were bound to be left vague, since as we saw, the [Oslo Peace] Accords concentrated on the transitional autonomy stage, leaving other crucial matters to later negotiations" (78). President William "Bill" Clinton certainly did not enjoy any special advantages when it came to negotiating a peaceful settlement pursuant to the Oslo Peace Accords, and was saddled with some personal baggage of his own at the time. Nevertheless, there are indications that the president was willing to make some compromises of his own for both sides. For instance, Luxner (1998) reports that, "In Washington, the Palestinians have staffed a mission since 1979 under various names -- first as the Palestine Information Office, then from 1988 until 1993 as the Palestine Affairs Centre. After the Oslo peace accords were signed between Israel and the PLO, the modest mission changed its name once again, becoming the PLO Representative Office" (8). In 1997, though, the PLO was forced to cease operations in Washington at the vocal request of the pro-Israeli lobby (Luxner). According to this author, though, "In December, however, President Clinton allowed the Palestinians to formally re-open the office with its nine-member staff, saying that the PLO's presence in Washington was in the national interest of the United States. He took the controversial step by waiving part of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987, in which Congress branded the PLO a terrorist organization and severely limited the ability of U.S. officials to have contacts with it" (Luxner 8). Likewise, at a one-day conference at the State Department in Washington, D.C. with 42 other nations, on November 30, 1998, President Clinton suggested that any negotiated settlement must provide substantive positive outcomes for both sides and stated, "No peace stands a chance of lasting if it does not deliver real results to ordinary people" (quoted in Khatchadourian at 78).
During July 1999, following Prime Minister Ehud Barak's taking office, President Clinton met with Yasser Arafat, President Clinton, and Husni Mubarak of Egypt. Based on his preparatory statements, the president noted that he sought to "proceed toward a final agreement with the Palestinians"; however, the president's aides emphasized at the time that, "Syrians are [President Clinton's] first priority. With the Palestinians, Barak can expect drawn-out negotiations involving issues like the status of Jerusalem and the future of the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories. By contrast, a Syrian deal could come quickly -- " possibly within a year" (Khatchadourian 86).
The inextricably interrelated nature of the different interests of the parties to these negotiations became clear during President Clinton's efforts to negotiate a peace in the region. For instance, just one month later, negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinian broke down in what Khatchadorian describes as "his and Arafat's first public squabble, as Arafat's cabinet quickly rejected the proposal, demanding that Barak should start the [second] withdrawal within three weeks" (quoted in Khatchadorian at 86). Likewise, in July 1999, Egyptian President Barak communicated his optimism concerning the prospects for a resolution of one of the major sticking points, the Golan Heights issue, within the first 15 months in office to conclude peace agreements with Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinians. Pursuant to achieving that goal, President Clinton corresponded with Assad to emphasize his confidence that Barak "was willing to hold peace talks after a three-year stalemate," and encouraging him to "seize the moment of opportunity' for peace negotiations with Israel"; in addition, President Clinton also requested that Assad "stay in touch with him" (quoted in Khatchadorian at 98).
A report from Bird (1998) suggested that although President Clinton was sincere in his efforts to help mediate a peaceful resolution to the ongoing violence between the Palestinians and Israel, he was the wrong man at the wrong time to achieve these difficult goals based on his personal problems at the time. In this regard, Bird emphasizes that, "President Bill Clinton has his heart in the right place when it comes to the peace process. But his own troubles personally and with Congress prevent him from acting" (15). Nevertheless, President Clinton did go through the motions, at least, but only in a perfunctory fashion. For example, Bird points out that, "As the latest made-for-media sex accusations against him began to unfold in Washington, D.C., the imperiled U.S. president met for two long sessions totaling three hours with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but avoided honoring him with a luncheon or a dinner. Two days later, Clinton met with President Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority, his partner in a peace agreement now four and a half years old and rapidly falling apart over Netanyahu's unwillingness to make significant withdrawals on the schedule called for under the Oslo accords" (Bird 15).
To his credit, though, President Clinton was faced with some historical issues that could not be easily negotiated away in a matter of hours, and it quickly became apparent that these negotiations would not result in any substantive compromises because the parties to the negotiation could not even agree to meet with each other. In this regard, Bird adds that, "With the U.S. not even able to get the parties…[continue]
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