G-8 Reverts to UN Resolutions on Israel-Arab Conflict

DEBKAfile Intelligence

11 June 2004

June 10, 2004: Leaders of the world’s eight industrial nations and their five Middle East guests agreed that Middle East peace was important. They also endorsed in principle President George W. Bush’s Greater Middle East Initiative for democratic reform and clapped politely when he introduced the new Iraqi president Ghazi al-Yawar as the first Arab champion of democracy and an example to all.

However, three leading regional rulers, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and King Mohammed of Morocco, pointedly absented themselves from the amiable get-together on June 9-10 at Sea Island, Georgia; their reservations were seconded by France and Russia. Furthermore, the combined Bush-Blair attempt to bring NATO into Iraq ran into stiff opposition and never made it to the final communiqué.

The US president’s most significant achievement was in de-linking a Middle East settlement from his reform package – “regional conflicts must not be an obstacle for Middle East reforms” - which depend on each country and cannot be imposed from outside. Bush must be credited with finally persuading a world forum to invalidate the favorite Arab pretext for everything amiss in the region – from anti-democratic practices and poverty to Islamic extremism and Palestinian terrorism.

But the Europeans exacted a price from the US president for approving this de-linkage: broad support for “a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on UN resolutions.” The G-8 thus dusted off the tired old UN resolutions as the basis for an Arab-Israel settlement. Every leader present knew perfectly well that most UN “peace” resolutions were carried by automatic Arab majorities supported by the defunct Soviet bloc and were more often recipes for war than for peace. Anyway Israel had its own interpretations of key resolutions supported by the United States but never accepted by the Arabs and Palestinians.

Yet contemporary initiatives were not even mentioned in the G-8 communique; neither the Middle East “road map” nor Sharon’s disengagement and evacuation plan. Bush gave ground on this issue to Israel’s detriment in return for a non-binding European gesture.

While the Georgia summit was working on its communiqué, a senior official in the Israeli prime minister’s office in Jerusalem assured the media Wednesday night, June 9, of the binding nature of President Bush’s letters to Ariel Sharon in exchange for his promise to remove settlements. The official stressed that those letters, containing concessions to Israel on Palestinian refugees and West Bank settlement blocs, obligated the White House whomsoever its occupant after November 4.

DEBKAfile’s political experts contradict this assertion: those letters do not bind the incumbent president, let alone his successors. Prime minister Sharon’s office need look no further than Iraq for an American presidential flip-flop. After solemnly vowing to replace the former regime with new faces, Washington has sponsored a provisional government in Baghdad, in which at least six cabinet members were generals in Saddam Hussein’s armed forces or belonged to his ruling Baath party – as both Kurdish and Shiite religious leaders have not been slow to note.

UPDATE: In a separate statement published later on June 10, the G8 welcomed Israeli plans to withdraw from settlements, placed emphasis on the roadmap and called on the Quartet to meet in the region before the end of the month and engage with Israeli and Palestinian representatives.