The U.S. Must Adopt a Policy of Conflict Resolution rather than Conflict Management in the Middle East

13 June 2002
Contact: Samar Assad: 202-338-1290

The U.S. Must Adopt a Policy of Conflict Resolution rather than Conflict Management in the Middle East

By continuing on the path of conflict management, the United States has failed to bring an end to Palestinian-Israeli violence and has failed to embark on the path of peace. While Arab leaders, most recently Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, have urged the White House to take steps that would bring an end to the conflict, the Bush administration has opted to follow the dictates of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon’s objective, said Diana Buttu, a legal advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Negotiations Affairs Department, is to “unravel the peace process and all its achievements.”

“While Arab and European leaders have worked to resolve the conflict, Sharon has diverted the attention of the United States in order to continue the occupation and the colonization of the Palestinian territories,” Buttu told a press conference at the National Press Club on Thursday, 13 June 2002. Sharon, Buttu said, “pressed on Bush the idea of Palestinian reforms” to divert attention from the occupation and to carve the Occupied Territories into eight bantustans. “All the conditions and terms laid down by Sharon are means to prolong the occupation.”

Buttu and Marwan Bishara, a Palestinian author and professor of international relations, addressed the latest round of diplomatic visits by Middle Eastern leaders to the White House and the implications for the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Bishara stressed the need to reform U.S. policy toward the Middle East, adding that any U.S. proposal, including the much talked about international conference, must be “ingrained in international law and American values.” He urged the United States to free itself from “Sharon’s security parameters” when dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Commenting on statements made by Secretary of State Colin Powell regarding an interim Palestinian state, Bishara argued that this would not solve the conflict. “Half a state on half of the West Bank will not work. A state is the accumulation of sound policy, not a substitute for it,” Bishara said.

“Arabs do not hate Americans, they are angry with U.S. foreign policy,” Bishara said. Israelis also feel betrayed. Bishara argued that the peace camp in Israel is finding it difficult to challenge Sharon’s policies in the Occupied Territories while Bush calls Sharon a man of peace. He warned that as long as there is a “culture of impunity” in Israel, a “culture of violence” will continue.