Arab diplomats slam apartheid wall

Arab diplomats have slammed Israel's wall being constructed in the occupied West Bank, reiterating warnings that the barrier is creating an apartheid situation.

    The barrier makes life unbearable for Palestinians

    "The wall is going to kill any prospect of a two-state solution. If this isn't a solution, what is?" asked Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muashar on Sunday at the second annual US-Islamic World Forum in Doha.

    The wall will eventually make conditions so unbearable for Palestinians they will be forced to flee to neighbouring Jordan, he said.

    "The wall is a direct threat not only to Palestinians but directly to Jordan," he said. "We simply cannot afford to watch the wall being built in this manner."

    Muashar was participating in a roundtable with former Palestinian information minister Yasir Abd Rabbu and former Israeli deputy prime minister Amnon Lipkin Shahak.

    When Shahak stood up to speak a small group of Arab delegates left in protest.

    The discussion was chaired by Dr Shibley Telhami of the US-based Brookings Institution's Saban Centre for Middle East Policy and Centre Director Martin Indyk.

    The barrier at the centre of Sunday's roundtable, slices off some of the most fertile areas of the West Bank and separates thousands of Palestinian farmers from their land.                                     

    "The completion of the wall will lead to a new stage in the conflict"

    Yasir Abd Rabbu
    Former Palestinian Information Minister

    Abd Rabbu echoed Muashar's statements, saying Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was trying to create a similar exodus to that of 1948, when Israel was created, but using more subtle methods.

    "The completion of the wall will lead to a new stage in the conflict," he said. "It will create an apartheid system for Palestinians within their own land."

    Sharon is trying to create a situation similar to that of South Africa under apatheid by attempting to form bantustans over less than 50% of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, said Abd Rabbu.

    The separation barrier towers
    over a Palestinian child

    The Israeli prime minister's plan is aimed at preventing any future creation of a viable Palestinian state, he added. 

    Abd Rabbu criticised those who describe the barrier, which at some points towers eight metres, as a fence, saying "it does not separate two gardens".

    He also pointed out that Israel, under pressue to dismantle settlements, has removed mainly deserted settlements. Under international law, all settlements are illegal, a stance not recognised by Israel.

    One-state solution

    Abd Rabbu also slammed Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya's bi-national or one-state solution.

    "I don't think it is a responsible statement," he told "It could be one of the fantasies of an intellectual but it should not represent a policy statement," he said.

    Abd Rabbu warned that such a solution would leave Palestinians as second or third class citizens among an Israeli minority, a stance echoed by Muashar.

    US involvement

    Muashar said there has been a lack of seriousness from all sides involved to implement any peace initiative. Despite Washington's promises before the US-British invasion of Iraq that there would be an increase of US involvement in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, it has ebbed, he said.

    This was due to the difficulties facing occupation forces in Iraq, where security and stability have yet to take hold some 10 months after the invasion.

    Palestinians and Israelis have
    protested against construction

    And the fact that it is a US presidential election year was sure to keep Washington disengaged from the process, which Muashar warned is a "recipe for disaster". 

    Indyk said US involvement this year would be difficult because of the elections.  

    For his part, Abd Rabbu criticised the Bush administration's Middle East policy.

    "The most dangerous phenomena of the world today (is) where Americans believe their solutions, beliefs and ideals are the only good ones," he told

    Washington's approach has managed to make large populations in the Arab and Islamic world become hostile to US values, which he listed as democracy, personal freedom, free market and transparency.

    "The US cannot promise Iraqis democracy and support an apartheid solution in Palestine. Where is the balance there?"

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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