FR. RAYMOND G. HELMICK & DR. NAZIR KHAJA If one looks at the map showing the borders of Israel in 1967 versus what Palestinian lands Israel has since colonized and claims as its own, with unconditional support from US, the picture of illegal confiscation is evident. In keeping with its policy of creeping annexation Israel insists that East Jerusalem not be included in the settlement freeze proposal that the US has made. This is a killer for any diplomatic effort toward settlement of the conflict. No Arab or Muslim leader could be bribed or coerced into agreeing to this. We were told first that, as a sweetener, Israel would be guaranteed a permanent presence of its army in the Jordan Valley. By what right? And by what right could the US promise it? That part seems to have been put aside, but other sweeteners include 20 further F35 jets (besides the 20 Israel already has on order as part of its spending this years financial subsidy from the US for its military). It would seem to resemble the way the Camp David summit was set up in 2000, even as Yasser Arafat argued to President Bill Clinton that it was doomed for lack of adequate preparation. Arafat then received a promise that he would not be blamed if, as he expected, the conference failed, and we can see how far that promise was honoured. Anonymous sources in the Israeli intelligence apparatus whisper to Haaretz that Israel must strike a deal now before the Palestinian Authority headed by Abbas disintegrates with nothing available to replace it, an outcome that would open doors for a Hamas takeover or worse. Do they believe that they can extract agreement from Abbas for a Palestinian state that would be no state? What happens if he holds direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and at the end of 90 days there is no result? The likeliest result is a fastening of the blame for failure on Palestinian intransigence in the face of valiant Israeli effort, as after Camp David. That would indeed bring about the collapse of Abbas, and it would force Hamas to totally reject any result that might come of the process. Is that what the designers of this venture seek? Where indeed does this come from? The gentlemans name is Dennis Ross. He was the principal US negotiator for 12 years, during the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He was there because he represented AIPAC, the main organ of the Israel Lobby in the US, before which the Congress quakes in fear. Ross seemed to strive mightily for peace for those 12 years, and it was only when he published his vast book, The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Peace in the Middle East (2004) that we knew what utter personal aversion he had held for Arafat throughout that time, and how he regarded every appearance of Palestinian principal negotiator Saeb Erekat at a meeting as trouble. With the beginning of the Obama administration, he was given the job of special adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Arabian Gulf, but Ross failed so signally that he was brought back to the White House, where his titles are special assistant to the president and senior director for the Central Region, which includes the Middle East, the Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia. He functions there as personal access for Prime Minister Netanyahu, and was the craftsman of the 90-day proposal with all its sweeteners. This means that Netanyahu is now dealing with a proposition, which he has made to himself. All the drama, all the protestations, all the requirement for a seven-hour cajoling of Netanyahu by Clinton are in aid of that. The probability that Netanyahu would come to such talks with an offer to operate within the context of international law, and negotiate with Abbas as an equal is practically nil. Even if he did, he would be negotiating with a man of dubious authority. Abbas whose term as president has already run out, is operating with an appointed government which substitutes itself for the Hamas government elected in January 2006, whose mandate has also run out. A missing element in all this is any proposal for new elections, of PA president and Legislative Council. Those shadowy anonymous spokespersons for Israeli intelligence fear that there would be no viable successor to Abbas and the whole structure would shatter before they could win their prize. But the Palestinian people, if given the chance, would clamour for the succession of Marwan Barghouti, a proven peace-seeker who has won his spurs by the reconciliation work he has done between his Fatah and Hamas fellow prisoners. Is there any chance, then, that the actual powers, Israel and the United States, would allow a fair legislative election, with all the real stakeholders running their candidates? When last it seemed more than apparent that the current peace process, begun with so much fanfare at the White House just in September was going nowhere, Hamas, rather than resort to violent opposition, called on Abbas to dedicate himself to a restoration of Palestinian unity, without which no effort for peace or the end of occupation could succeed. That remains the best advice. Those of us who have taken the trouble to ask Hamas what it truly stands for have been convinced that it is prepared to be a positive factor in this process. Abbas has been at odds with Hamas since the 2006 election, but that has resulted essentially from the maneuvering of Israel and the United States. He has the options now to look for Palestinian partners. For the Arab side and also an increasing number of others in the international community the US offer to Israel seems to be more than appeasement. President Obamas credibility and strength is being called into question. It is being argued that he is not seriously intent on stopping Israeli encroachment and by continuing to arm Israel to the teeth the president is giving a wrong message, making peace and stability in the region even more precarious. The question that is being asked is, how long will US continue to remain entrapped with Israel in this cycle of promises. And what, if any, other approach does US have in getting Israel committed to peace and international rules? Fr. Raymond G. Helmick, S.J. is instructor in conflict resolution, Department of Theology, Boston College and Dr. Nazir Khaja is Chairman of Islamic Information Service, Los Angeles Arab News