Meditation Focus #89
Co-Creating A World That Works For All
What follows is the 89th Meditation Focus suggested for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, June 1, 2003.
CO-CREATING A WORLD THAT WORKS FOR ALL
2. Meditation times
3. More information on this Meditation Focus
4. Peace Watch for the Middle East
As world leaders converge to the G8 Summit in Evian, France, there are a number of critical issues, some of which were addressed during previous summits, which would require far more attention and sustained follow-up by Western governments to ensure a reasonably credible implementation of the numerous promises made during all those summits. Yet the growing fragility of the world's economy and the dissensions created by the rift between several European countries and the United States because of the unilateral actions taken by the UK/US "coalition" in Irak, not to mention the hidden agenda promoted by a very discreet global elite maneuvering to control the world under the guise of globalization policies, all make for a very difficult environment in which hopes for humanitarian actions aimed at protecting the lives of billions of the poorest, most destitute people on Earth could be dashed once again despite the mounting protests by anti-globalization organizations generally representing the majority of world public opinion on these issues. Among those issues, clean water as a dwindling resource vital for the well-being and survival over a billion human beings currently unable to easily access clean water will be once again on the agenda. Failed promises from previous G8 Summit and a growing concern with regard to the privatization and commercialization of access to water as well as the lack of progress in sanitation measures to protect water resources must be matched up to the fact that during the three days of the summit more than 170,000 people worldwide will die from diseases triggered by lack of safe drinking water.
Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks, and especially in synchronous attunement at the usual time this Sunday and the following one, to contribute in fostering in our elected leaders' minds and hearts the will to successfully tackle the growing number of issues that are critically important for the survival of billions of our brothers and sisters, particularly in poor, developing countries. Water is both a source of life and sustenance as well as a symbol of the preciousness of our global living environment whose balance and health is key to our own balance and health. May we all become caretakers at heart and in our actions to protect and restore the fragile Web of Life and ensure that all humans and all other species on Earth are considered just as worthy of respect and protection as any other member of the human family living a most favored life because of his/her access to more financial wealth and to more resources. May the sacredness of all Life be honored and cherished and may our hearts open up to the endless miracles of Life - a direct reflection of the wise, caring Love of our Universal Creator - which has made possible our very existence on this beloved sphere of Life called Earth, for the Highest Good of All.
This whole Meditation Focus is also available at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/full.html to find your current corresponding local time if a closeby city is not listed above.
3. More information on this Meditation Focus
This complement of information may help you to better understand the various aspects pertaining to the summary description of the subject of this Meditation Focus. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing. This complementary information is provided so that a greater knowledge of what needs healing and peace-nurturing vibrations may assist us to have an in-depth understanding of what is at stake and thus achieve a greater collective effectiveness.
Row over water access boils over
More than a billion people around the world have no clean water, leading to the death of a child every 15 seconds. Gaby Hinsliff and Mark Townsend report on the hot topic in Evian
Sunday June 1, 2003 The Observer
From the picture windows of the newest of the nine restaurants at the exclusive Royal Parc Evian hotel, the view of the shimmering expanse of Lake Geneva is by all accounts unrivalled.
But, if they tire of it, the leaders of the world's richest industrialised nations gathering here today can always enjoy a dip in one of its four swimming pools - or perhaps languish in the steam room of its world-famous spa, sipping waters that are flavoured with essential oils of juniper and elderberry.
In Evian-les-Bains, home of one of the world's most famous mineral springs, water is the one thing that is never in short supply.
It is a particularly cruel irony, then, that one of the main topics on the agenda of the G8 group of industrialised nations arriving here this morning is the fact that a staggering 1.1 billion of the world's people do not have access to clean water. For the international aid agencies hoping to use the meeting to highlight the cause, it is a case of water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.
Even the genteel ladies of the Mothers' Union have been battling for the cause, with a campaign to send empty plastic Evian bottles to the French President, Jacques Chirac, labelled with demands to reduce the burden on developing countries.
For Britain, water is not officially high on an agenda that will range from climate change - Tony Blair, who flies into Evian today, will call for the world to move beyond the commitments at the Kyoto summit and invest in new technologies which do not damage the environment - to trade talks and terrorism.
To the anger of charities, Valerie Amos, the new International Development Secretary making her first major appearance on the public stage since she replaced Clare Short, is not expected to announce any new funding for water aid.
'Where has the British Government's conscience gone? For every 15 seconds they say "no" another child dies from lack of safe water,' said Stephen Turner of Water Aid, which is to launch a report at the summit calling for spending on clean water supplies to be doubled.
But for the French government, home to the world's two most powerful private water companies, which between them control almost two thirds of the world's privatised supplies and are keen for more, it is an issue of acute interest.
Michel Camdessus, the former head of the IMF, is due to discuss the findings of a high-level inquiry into the financing of water supplies at the summit. It is a controversial subject, with many protesters offended at what appears to them to be a cynical deal by developed countries with thriving private water industries to gain access to the markets of the Third World: others, such as Water Aid, argue that those desperate for a drink simply need it piped in by whatever method proves most effective, be it private or public sector.
Such debates may seem a million miles from the lives of those like Sema Kedir, the mother of three found hanging from a tree near her home in central Ethiopia. The only clue to her fate lay in the shattered remains of a clay pot near by.
She had collapsed on the final leg of the 12-mile hike from the nearest water well and spilled the precious liquid that would have kept her children alive for another day or two. Already in debt to a neighbour, she could not afford to raise money for a new pot: there seemed no way out.
It was cases like hers that helped persuade the international community to agree a target in Johannesburg last year to halve the number of people without clean water. But so far there is little sign of concrete progress towards the target.
The stakes could not be higher. Access to clean water saves the average household two working hours a day, ending the punishing ritual of long trips to wells such as that made by Kedir; reduces the mortality rate from diarrhoea by 65 per cent; it is even proven to drive up school attendance.
During the three days of the summit more than 170,000 people will die from diseases triggered by lack of safe drinking water, according to the charity Tearfund.
Yet even the toilet water in the G8 official hotel is cleaner than the well Kedir stumbled seven hours in the dark to reach. One flush consumes as much water as the average person in Africa uses for a whole day's drinking, cooking and cleaning.
But water is not the only issue on the agenda this weekend. The summit is US President George Bush's first real chance to heal the rift with 'old Europe' over the Iraq war: cancellation of the billions of international debt run up by Saddam Hussein will be high on the agenda for discussion.
The battle against polio, the success of trade talks this autumn in Mexico - whose President Vicente Fox is one of the handful of non-GM nations based on the other side of the lake, ready to be ferried in for a few hours' audience with the G8 itself - and safeguards on the exploitation of mineral resources in developing countries are also live issues.
Perhaps of most acute interest to the G8 will be a discussion of the precarious state of the world economy, and its implications for the powerhouses of the West. But they can expect little sympathy from the anti-globalisation protesters, already skirmishing yesterday with the police in south-west France. With a romantic weekend package in one of Evian's spas still costing less than a sanitation system for a school of 350 children in Africa, the G8 may have its work cut out to convince the sceptics.
The G8 summit Special report: G8
Globalisation special Observer Worldview
The globalisation debate: special report
The G8 agenda 01.06.2003: David Redhouse: Will the water promises be kept?
01.06.2003: Water: the facts
01.06.2003: Bob Geldof hits the dirt road again, media in tow
01.06.2003: How war changed the protest virgins
The G8 agenda
The G8 meets at a time when global leaders have found much to disagree on and with campaigners questioning whether such high-level summitry ever delivers on the pledges made. So what are the major points of contention at the Evian summit?
Sunday June 1, 2003
President Chirac is likely to be seeking rapprochement with his American counterpart at the G8 summit in Evian and the intimate nature of the event will give him his chance. But too enthusiastic a Gallic kiss and make up between the two seems unlikely. Both leaders attended the tercentenary of St Petersburg before drifting off to Evian for the G8, but while the Russian junket was a a sufficiently large and lavish affair to avoid diplomatic embarassment the G8 will certainly see the French, Germans and Russians on the one hand, and the US and Britain on the other, being forced to sit and smile sweetly for the camera together. Considering that the US camp briefly considered staying over the border in Switzerland, merely getting Bush in the same frame as Chirac will be achievement enough for the ill-starred official photographer.
What's on the agenda?
Apart from the usual sumptuous entertaining, the main topics of discussion this year will include The War Against Terror, Weapons of Mass Destruction and the international water supply. President Chirac told the Third World Water Forum in March this year that: 'Of the eight billion inhabitants living on earth in twenty years' time, two thirds may face water shortages.' This, Chirac added, was something that the G8 should put at the centre of its agenda. 'France has made sustainable development and the future of the African continent the priorities for the [G8] meeting. Water is a key issue in this respect,' he said.
The issue of the world's water supply is a continuation of a recent theme of the G8, that of Africa. Although Africa is not represented on the core G8, this will be the second year that a delegate from the continent has attended. Last year's head of the African delegation was the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, this year's is Mr Omar Bongo, president of the oil rich West African nation, Gabon, since 1967. Mr Bongo is not an uncontroversial figure, having been forced by Citibank to close his accounts with them in 1999 after $130 million flowed through them.
Recent initiatives focused on Africa have included the G8 announcing a plan to cancel $100 billion of debt for third world countries at Cologne in 1999, and pledging $1.3 billion to a UN fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria at Genoa in 2001. Also at Genoa, heads of state from some of Africa's most powerful nations joined the G8 leaders in signing the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), a declaration heralding a new era of cooperation between the leading African nations to try to solve the continent's problems. Cooperation has, however, been stilted both by the west's unwillingness to abandon agricultural protection which makes it impossible for African farmers to compete and because African governments have done little to put their warm words about ensuring good governance into practice when it has come to hard cases like Zimbabwe's President Mugabe.
What good has the G8 done?
The NGO 'Jubilee 2000' was central to the pressure on the G8, including the 70,000 strong demonstrations at the Birmingham summit in 1998, that led to the 1999 Cologne debt relief declaration. However, for all the fine words of debt relief and cancellation, after Okinawa in 2000, Jubilee 2000's UK Director, Ann Pettifor said: 'They have merely repeated their promises of a year ago. They did not keep their promises then. Why should we believe them now?' The 'promises' the G8 were accused of failing to keep were the $100 billion of debt cancellation announced at Cologne, which Jubilee 2000 claimed had only reached $15 billion by 2000.
Phil Twyford, Oxfam's international advocacy director, was similarly unimpressed by the G8's backing of the NEPAD initiative: "They're offering peanuts to Africa - and repackaged peanuts at that,' he said of the promises of aid, debt relief and military intervention at the 2002 summit at Okinawa. Given the crisis in the Congo, the last of those promises will be very current at Evian.
How poor sanitation kills the equivalent of 20 planes full of children every day
June 1, 2003 - The Observer
- 1 liter of water... costs five times as much in a Nairobi slum as in an American city
- 10 liters provides the daily drink, cooking and washing needs of one person in the developing world
ALSO flushes one toilet in the UK
ALSO represents less than 10 per cent of daily use for one UK citizen
ALSO weighs 10 kilograms - women in Africa and Asia carry an average of 20 kg of water over six kilometers every day
- 6,000 children a day die from unsafe water and sanitation - equivalent to 20 jumbo jets crashing every day - according to the UN
- 73 million working days estimated lost to the Indian economy each year because of waterborne diseases
- 470 million people live in regions of severe water shortage - by 2025 this figure will increase six-fold
- 1.1 billion people (roughly one-sixth of the world's population) do not have access to safe water
- 2.4 billion people (roughly two-fifths of the world's population) do not have adequate sanitation
Idyllic lakeside town encircled by wall of steel (May 31)
Evian, the idyllic spot on the shores of Lake Geneva where the leaders of the world's richest countries meet this weekend, is about to become one of the most heavily protected towns in the world, sealed off under a massive Swiss-French security operation against the double threat of terrorist attacks and demonstrations by anti-globalisation protesters. Access routes to the tiny town are heavily guarded and at least 15,000 police are being deployed across the Swiss and French sides of the lake to keep protesters at a safe distance. Switzerland has had to borrow 1,000 German police to boost the security effort. (...) Most of the dignitaries from the 25 countries joining the special summit session will be barricaded against protesters inside their luxury hotel at Lausanne, now ringed with a wall of shipping containers topped with barbed wire. They are likely to find protesters trying to block their path by ferry or road. CLIP
Protesters flood in for alternative summit (May 31)
Up to 250,000 are expected as security stepped up - In the "intergalactic village" compost heaps are growing, groups of activists brush their teeth around communal sinks, debates rage in crowded marquees while a couple roll in each other's arms in the middle of the main entrance. Neat rows of state-of-the-art tents have mushroomed in the fields outside the small French town of Annemasse, as buses and trains full of anti-globalisation protesters have made their way here to make their views known about the G8 summit, 10 miles down the road in Evian. "There are only eight of them and billions of us," read banners planted all over the "chill out" quarter of one carefully organised "alternative" campsite in the town where organisers hope 100,000 people from across Europe and further afield will gather over the next few days. (...) Veteran protesters argued that the Iraq war has served as a catalyst, with spontaneous anti-war demonstrations producing a natural bridge between the mainstream public and the anti-globalisation movement. "People feel fragile in their daily lives these days and international institutions have lost their credibility," said Jose Bove, a veteran French campaigner who has achieved celebrity status in France and is being prosecuted for vandalising a McDonald's car park. "The G8 is just not legitimate. We are here to show that," said Mr Bove, wearing an anti-lorry T-shirt after attending a protest at the Mont Blanc tunnel. "Each time we gather like this, the pressure grows. We are forcing the G8 leaders to answer our questions. Dracula cannot stand daylight. If you put him in the light, he will shrivel and die."
No Roads Lead To Evian (June 1, 5:40 am)
3-5000 people are marching from Annemasse towards Evian. They will try to block the junction of the two major roads that lead to Evian. The march assembled at 4 am, and has travelled 3 km so far. This will likely be the key confrontation of the G8 summit.
Anti-G8 Protesters on the March to Disrupt Summit (June 1)
ANNEMASSE, France (Reuters) - Protesters marched toward Geneva before dawn on Sunday to try to disrupt the start of the Group of Eight summit as security forces braced for anti-capitalist demonstrations.
Water: Emergency at Evian (May 30)
From the Earth Summit in Johannesburg to the World Forum on Water in Kyoto, to the G-8 in Evian, the question of water has become one of the central themes in the debate over sustainable development and improvement in living conditions for the global population. At the dawn of the millennium the international community made strong commitments. However, the reduction by half from now until 2015 of the people without access to potable water and to sewage systems constitutes a major challenge: only in so far as the urban populations for each case are concerned, about a billion people. Significant financial efforts will be required to reach these goals: the supplemental annual expenditures are in the order of 15 billion dollars for potable water and 30 billion dollars for sewage systems. These numbers are significant, but the stakes are even more so: the absence of potable water and sewage systems are recognized as one of the principle causes of global mortality and illness; although it has never been calculated, the "social" cost attached is, on the basis of the evidence, enormous. Nevertheless, the risk of a divorce between these international commitments and their concrete realization exists. The search for a solid consensus on the respective roles of public and private actors is, in my eyes, a determining aspect in "moving to action". This consensus could be established around four simple ideas. CLIP
Special Coverage of the G8 Protests (DOZENS OF ARTICLES!)
Video Coverage - Live Stream from Evian and much more by Indymedia http://www.indymedia.org/g8/
This site brings together coverage from numerous indymedia centers concerning the G8 summit in Evian, France.
Guide to Photos of Anti-G8 Demonstrations http://uk.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=70094&group=webcast
COVERAGE OF PROTESTS IN EVIAN AND SEVERAL OTHER ISSUES
International Demonstrations Against The G8...
The anti G8 protests at Lac Leman are part of larger, world wide disagreement with governments' politics. In Peru (http://uk.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=70175&group=webcast
A Ya Basta! (http://www.yabasta.it) delegation from Italy is en route to
Baghdad / Palestine, to coincide with the G8. Report at http://uk.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=70117&group=webcast
Many more Anti-G8 reports at http://uk.indymedia.org/
Hungry for change (May 30)
Brazil has one of the world's most unequal societies, but at next week's G8 summit its new president will unveil a blueprint to change all that.
On Eve of G8 Summit, Bush Delivers Emergency AIDS Relief to Republican Allies http://www.indymedia.org/
Having signed a five-year $15-billion global AIDS relief bill days in advance of the G8 summit in Evian, France, George W. Bush is now asking Congress to skimp on the new measure by trimming more than $1 billion from this year's suggested funding. This is only one of many unusual features in an aid initiative that is meant to signal a return to a more "compassionate" U.S. foreign policy.
G8 seeks to bridge Iraq tensions as Bush calls for unity against terror (June 1)
4. Peace Watch for the Middle East
Please also keep in mind the current situation in the Middle East where renewed peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians in the context of the proposed 'roadmap' to peace will take place in the coming days and may soon lead to some very positive results, particularly because there are now noticeable signs on both sides of a willingness to break the cycle of violence.
Israel Eases Military Closures Ahead of Summit (May 31)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said it was easing military closures on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, making a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians before a three-way summit with President Bush.
The army made clear on Saturday Israeli forces would remain in the Palestinian areas, but Palestinians with permits would be allowed into Israel to work each day.
"The political establishment approved tonight the removing of the full closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip starting from midnight," the army said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon offered to ease the closures at talks on Thursday with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas that both sides portrayed positively.
A full closure was imposed on the Palestinian territories in May after a wave of suicide bombings by Palestinian militants spearheading a 32-month-old uprising for an independent state.
Israel says its military measures in the West Bank and Gaza, seized in the 1967 Middle East war, are needed to stop the suicide bombings. The Palestinians say they are a collective punishment.
Abbas and Sharon meet Bush in the Jordanian city of Aqaba on Wednesday to discuss implementation of an international "road map" to peace.
Israel Radio said a group of Israeli government officials was leaving for Aqaba on Sunday to work out security and logistics for the summit.
Visiting Poland, Bush said in his weekly radio address that he would do all he could to move the Israeli and Palestinian leaders toward an agreement.
"The work ahead will require difficult decisions and leadership, but there is no other choice," said Bush, who is taking a more hands-on approach to Middle East peacemaking after the Iraq war.
Under the international road map, drawn up by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia, the two sides are to take reciprocal steps leading to a Palestinian state in 2005.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns met Palestinian leaders including Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Saturday to prepare for Wednesday's summit.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, who attended Saturday's meeting, said Burns was helping the two sides hammer out a statement that would conclude the summit.
Abbas told al-Jazeera satellite television the two sides will pledge to cease hostile actions, stop the incitement and recognize each other. He said he expected Palestinian militants to halt attacks on Israelis within 20 days, well after the summit on Wednesday.
It was not immediately clear if the truce deal would satisfy Israel, which wants Abbas to crush militants.
Palestinians fear a harsh crackdown by Abbas could spark a civil war. They also argue that their security forces have been weakened by Israeli army sweeps, making the task more difficult.
In new violence on Saturday, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian near the West Bank city of Jenin. The army said he was killed as he laid an explosive charge. Palestinian witnesses said soldiers fired on two students on their way to college, killing one.
Palestinian PM: Cease-fire to Be Reached in 20 Days (May 31)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday he expected militant Palestinian factions to agree to a cease-fire in their battle against Israeli occupation within 20 days.
Abbas, otherwise known as Abu Mazen, told al-Jazeera television that he had made significant progress in talks with leaders of militant groups, such as Hamas, which are responsible for attacks that have killed scores of Israelis.
"In a period that won't exceed twenty days, (there will be) an agreement for a full calming down in all Palestinian territories," Abbas told the satellite station based in Qatar.
Israel has demanded more than a cease-fire, saying Abbas must crack down on the militant groups who are spearheading the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation which began in September 2000.
Abbas said earlier this week in an Israeli newspaper interview that the cease-fire might be reached sooner. He did not explain the discrepancy.
Abbas also commented on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unprecedented use of the word "occupation" this week to describe Israel's control in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which it seized in the 1967 Middle East war.
"What he said about occupation is recognizing reality," Abbas said.
Sharon met Abbas on Thursday in Jerusalem for the second time this month and offered to withdraw forces from some Palestinian areas, which would become a proving ground for a Palestinian crackdown on the militants.
Abbas said on Saturday the Palestinians needed time to rebuild their security services before taking up the Israeli offer. Palestinians say their security forces have been weakened by Israeli army raids.
Sharon and Abbas are set to meet President Bush in a three-way summit on Wednesday in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba. Bush wants to push forward the international "road map" peace plan.
Palestinians, U.S. Discuss Declarations (May 31)
JERUSALEM - The United States accepts a Palestinian plan to persuade militant groups to halt anti-Israeli attacks rather than launch an immediate crackdown, the Palestinians said Saturday ahead of a three-way summit with President Bush.
The security issue has been a main sticking point in starting the U.S.-backed road map to peace a three-stage plan aimed at creating a Palestinian state in 2005.
Israel has said that for now it would accept a cease-fire from the militants, though it wants Palestinian officials to act to disarm and disband the groups as soon as possible.
In a goodwill gesture, Israel began easing restrictions on the Palestinians Saturday night. An army statement said a two-week ban on Palestinians entering Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be lifted at midnight.
Following similar meetings with the Israelis earlier, U.S. officials met Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to haggle over the road map's first step: declarations by each side recognizing the other's right to statehood and security.
U.S. officials want the declarations ready when Bush meets Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a summit Wednesday in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba.
In talks between Abbas and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns on Saturday, the Americans accepted Abbas' position that there must first be a cease-fire before militant groups can be dismantled, Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said.
"This is an important goal for us," Shaath told reporters. Neither Burns nor Abbas made a statement. The U.S. Embassy declined to comment on Shaath's statement.
Abbas has said he preferred persuasion to stop suicide bombings and other anti-Israeli attacks, and that within days he could have a cease-fire agreement with Hamas, the main group carrying out attacks.
The Israelis have demanded Abbas wage a crackdown. A Sharon aide said Friday that the Israelis would accept a cease-fire first, but that it must be the first stage of action.
The declarations by the Israelis and Palestinians recognizing the rights of the other to security and statehood are supposed to be the first step of the U.S.-backed road map peace plan, which begins with a halt to the violence. In its first stage, it also calls for a freeze in Jewish settlement construction.
Shaath said Saturday the Americans made a commitment to "move ahead with the implementation of the road map with all its details."
Burns and Elliott Abrams, who heads the Middle East desk at the National Security Council, met separately Friday with Palestinian security chief Mohammed Dahlan and Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. U.S. officials have told both sides the United States intends to set up American-led groups to closely monitor implementation of the road map.
The PLO's legislative committee authorized Abbas and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to choose Palestinian delegates for the summit, the official Palestinian news agency said Saturday. Israel and the United States have been trying to sideline Arafat, charging that he is involved in Palestinian terrorism. Under the law that created Abbas' post, however, the PLO executive has the final say on peace talks.
Israeli media reported Israel might start easing restrictions as soon as Saturday night on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in accordance with promises Sharon made to Abbas at a Thursday meeting.
The expected measures include partially lifting a closure on the West Bank, allowing some Palestinians into Israel to work and opening fishing areas off the Gaza coast. Israel also has promised to release about 100 of 1,000 Palestinians held in military detention centers without trial or charges. It was not known when the prisoners would be released.
Israelis, Palestinians Try to Break Cycle (May 30)
JERUSALEM - It's happened over and over during the past 32 months: a deadly Palestinian suicide bombing sparks an Israeli assault on Palestinian cities, tearing asunder peace efforts and spawning more attacks.
But when Palestinian militants killed 12 Israelis within 48 hours a week ago, Israel held back, launching no major reprisal raids in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
As Palestinians and Israelis embark on a new, U.S.-backed peace plan, there are signs of a willingness to break the cycle of violence and deny radicals the effective veto they have long been able to wield.
Reasons range from U.S. pressure backed by the post-Iraq war clout enjoyed by the Bush administration to a noticeable weariness on both sides after a long period in which thousands died and the economies, particularly on the Palestinian side, have been battered.
As part of the peace plan, Palestinians are required to clamp down on Palestinian militant groups.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has suggested he'll try persuasion first, arguing in an interview in the Israeli daily Haaretz this week that his security forces have been decimated during months of fighting.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has demanded a tough crackdown begin before the road map can be implemented.
The plan's chances for success remain unclear, and there are still powerful forces that could try to undermine the effort particularly the Islamic militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which have rejected the plan as a ploy to quash the Palestinian uprising for too little in return.
The so-called "road map" offers the Palestinians full statehood by 2005 but leaves vague the question of borders, the future of refugees and the sharing of Jerusalem.
With the plan on the table, said Dan Meridor, a leader in Sharon's Likud party, "the government is restraining itself very much." He said that even though attacks and attack attempts continue almost daily, "the Israeli army is not responding as it would in the past."
Israel had planned a "major military operation" in the West Bank and Gaza after the recent suicide bombings, Haaretz reported, and Sharon canceled a visit to the United States where he was to meet with President Bush. But the government held back for fear it would be accused of sabotaging the peace effort, the newspaper said. The military declined comment.
In the past, the Palestinian Authority has used Israeli military operations as a reason why they could not move against the militants. However, comments from Abbas' new administration seem more sympathetic to Israel's efforts to defend itself.
The softened rhetoric and apparent restraint come amid strong international efforts to push both sides into implementing the "road map."
Palestinians endorsed the plan and Sharon's Cabinet accepted it too, but added a list of objections.
Abbas and Sharon met Thursday to discuss the road map and prepare for a three-way summit with Bush in Jordan next week.
The first phase calls for Palestinians to take steps against militant groups and prevent suicide attacks against Israelis. Israel must freeze all construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, dismantle illegal settlement outposts and gradually pull out of Palestinian autonomous areas it has reoccupied.
Palestinians say Israeli restraint is needed to allow Abbas to consolidate his power, persuade the militants to stop attacks and crack down on them if they refuse.
Critics have said Israel's demand that all terror end before any peace moves are carried out gave militants a virtual veto: If they were able to pull off even one attack, all talk of peace would end.
But Israel says it is truly committed to the new peace plan and may have to be more flexible.
The government does not expect that Abbas will be able to stop all attacks, but they expect him to work tirelessly to end terror, Sharon adviser Raanan Gissin said.
"We say 100 percent effort on dismantling (militant groups), on disarming, on making arrests. Show us that you're making the effort," he said.
Abbas agreed it was important for the Palestinians to stop the attacks and appealed for Israeli patience.
"If we go back to the cycle of reaction and action, that will make it difficult for us to achieve the goal," he told Haaretz. "It is impossible to achieve 100 percent success in a brief period."
He said Israel needs to end its practice of targeted assassinations, free prisoners and stop demolishing Palestinian homes, which would help gain Palestinian support for the new peace moves "and prevent more suffering."
Sharon's decision not to react to the recent attacks was likely the result of the "overwhelming" U.S. pressure on the leaders to make the road map work, said Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University.
"The full weight and prestige of the U.S. government is now involved and neither Sharon nor Mahmoud Abbas is willing to say no to Bush," Steinberg said.
The restraint has its limits, and the Israeli public will not allow negotiations to continue for long among a wave of terror attacks, said Uzi Arad, director of the Institute of Policy and Strategy at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.
"The thing is fatalities. If they keep firing rockets, and they do not kill and no one gets hurt, then of course there will be restraint," Arad said. "But when they have people being killed, women and children, there will not be restraint."
Sharon Laments 'Occupation' and Israeli Settlers Shudder
(...) It has been, for Israel's settlers, a most unsettling week. First the Israeli government endorsed the idea of eventually creating a Palestinian state, giving qualified backing to an American-backed peace plan. Then Mr. Sharon criticized what he called Israel's "occupation" in the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, captured in the 1967 war. This is a right-wing Israeli government, and Mr. Sharon is a visionary and engineer of the settlement movement, which since the war has moved more than 200,000 Israelis into the West Bank and Gaza. Yet in a conflict in which every word can be inspected for political freight, in which names for everything from the city streets to the violence itself are contested, Mr. Sharon has adopted a term "occupation" that is central to the lexicon of Israeli doves and Palestinians. For settlers, it was almost as though President Bush had described Texas as American-occupied territory.
Summits with Bush confirmed
Sharon signals 'occupation' end (May 27)
Sharon signals 'occupation' end Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has signalled he is serious about reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians. Mr Sharon indicated a willingness to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza - unusually for him describing Israel's military presence in the Palestinian territories as an "occupation". "I think that the idea of keeping 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation is the worst thing for Israel, for the Palestinians and also for the Israeli economy," the website of Israeli daily Maariv quoted him as saying.
Bush Looks Toward Mideast Peace Talks
Bush vows to do all he can to help reach peace deal
PM Abbas demands full control of Gaza and Ramallah now
Palestinians Hopeful on Terror Cease-Fire (May 31)
Bush Warns of Difficult Decisions Ahead for Mideast
Talks in Mideast Called 'Positive'
Q&A: What The Road Map Means (BBC)
Israel Has to Surrender Its Settlements Policy (May 29)
Roadmap to Solution of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Text of the peace plan developed by the U.S., EU, UN, and Russia. From the United Nations.
Full Coverage on the Middle East Conflict
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