Influences of Iraq conflict on Israeli-Palestinian relations

Article published on Oct. 15, 2002
community published
Article published on Oct. 15, 2002

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The main question of many of today´s serious political analyses is not if but when the war with Saddam Hussein will start, and whether it will be carried out with or without support of the UN Security Council. The Middle East has recently remebered the second aniversary of th beginning of „Intifada Al-Aqsa“.
What is the connection between these two dominant international issues and what are the methods of US politics in such diverse problems?

President Bush has refused every possibility of peaceful solution because – as he says – he doesn´t believe in Saddam´s willingness to show inspectors all Iraqi military installations. Prime minister Sharon has also refused every possibility of continuing the former peace process, because he doesn´t believe in Arafat´s willingness (not ability!) to punish members of Palestinian terrorist organisations.

Firstly: in both cases there is a discrepancy between the expectations of the USA / Israel and those on the other side of the conflict (Iraq / Palestinian Authority), and on what could be accepted. What I mean is that no US president would permit any foreign commission to control the US military programme, although it includes weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological weapons, etc. Moreover: the US´s export of these dangerous materials has gotten out of control – as we can see in the case of Iraq. In the 1980´s the US government exported chemical weapons straight into those factories in Iraq which are today the focus of UN inspectors.

As for Israel – it is unthinkable for them to judge their own people who are responsible for murders of members of the Palestinian leadership (and their families), although Israel expects exactly this from the Palestinian Authority. Sharon has put Yasser Arafat under house arrest simply because he (legitimaly) needs punish the murders of Israeli citizens. But who will judge the murders of Palestinian citizens?

Secondly, there is a matching distrust between two states, if one is potentially dangerous to the other. But the raison d´être of modern international law is to find a way of peaceful solution which avoids war. The highest institution of this world order is the United Nations. What is their role today?

At the end of September the United Nations Security Council (UN SC) passed a resolution condemning the house arrest of Yasser Arafat in his residence in Ramallah and the bombardment of the area by Israeli forces. Israel has refused this resolution as it has many others in the past.

For Palestinians these resolutions are very strong political arguments against Israel. They can show all the world that Israel is an agresor without respect of international law, and thta primarily what Palestinians want is to keep to international rules.

On the other hand Israel has been dependent in every moment of its existence only on its own power. The only ally Israel can belive is the United States. Only the US can be a just arbiter of the peace process, respected by both sides because they have a clear, strong and powerful political mandate. Not the United Nations. The UNSC is the platform for compromise between the five most important countries of today´s world - countries with divergent opinions. Could their compromise be a good base for negotiating in such a complicated issue?

In the case of Iraq the US pretended to take the UNSC's resolutions as deathly serious. What is no problem concerning Israel is a great international threat in connection with Iraq. Israel doesn´t respect resolutions because they go against their plans of defence against terror or against their territorial claims. Iraq has now promised that they will fully respect former UNCS resolutions about controling weapons of mass destruction and about the free work of UN inspectors in Iraq. However the US wants a new, even stricter resolution…

The Bush administration has changed a strategy of negotiations and dialogue for a strategy of power and arms. Clinton´s rhetoric of compromise has been changed for Bush´s rhetoric of power hegemony.

The higway to war in Iraq is now open. The small path to peace in Israel is quickly disappearing. Qui bono?