Is the road map a way forward?

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After meeting with the members of the Quartet to discuss the so-called road map a week ago, US President George W. Bush said, "I view the road map as a part of the vision that I described, it is a way forward." A study of the proposed road map suggests otherwise.


Perhaps assuming that Yasser Arafat will reject this plan, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week announced his willingness to accept it. The talk emanating from Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah tends to support an assumption of Palestinian rejectionism. At the same time, Israeli acceptance of the road map involves a renunciation of the traditional approach of all Israeli governments until now – including Ehud Barak's government – to reject the internationalization of the Arab-Israeli conflict that the road map explicitly dictates.


To understand the novelty of the new document it is necessary to place it in the continuum of agreements that Israel signed with the PLO in recent years.


On September 4, 1999, then prime minister Barak signed a memorandum of understanding at Sharm e-Sheikh with Arafat whereby the Palestinians committed themselves to combat terrorism, end incitement, and collect illegal weapons.


The Sharm e-Sheikh memorandum was simply a regurgitation of an identical Palestinian pledge in the Hebron Protocol from January 17, 1997.


But at no point did the PA take sustained action against terrorist infrastructures or official incitement in the PA. To the contrary, the PA has used all the resources at its disposal to increase the size and sophistication of its arsenal and to incite its population to use this arsenal against Israel.


Unfortunately, both the Sharm e-Sheikh memorandum and the Hebron Protocol are much more exacting in their demands towards the Palestinian Authority than the newly formulated road map.

While the fine print hasn't been revealed yet, the new document apparently makes no actual performance-based demands on the Palestinians. So too, there are no benchmarks to define whether the Palestinians have actually done anything either to reform themselves or to destroy their terror infrastructures. The road map includes nothing, for instance, about imprisoning all the heads of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Tanzim.


As for Israel, the demands made of it by the road map mark a departure from all previous agreements. In contrast to the Mitchell Committee report, for example, a freeze on Israeli settlement activities must take place irrespective of the PA's compliance with the document's amorphous demands regarding combating terrorism.


In addition, it is up to the Quartet members rather than Israel to determine when sufficient "progress" has been made for the sides to move toward the establishment of a Palestinian state.

As opposed to all the Oslo agreements, which did not presuppose an end to the negotiations, Israel must at the outset agree that the Palestinians will receive sovereignty regardless of their behavior on the ground.


While the Oslo Agreements were based upon the assumption that Israel and the PLO would reach agreements through bilateral negotiations, the road map plan explicitly rejects this notion.

This new plan is based on an internationalization of the negotiating process where the UN, EU, Russia, and the US will determine the outcome of negotiations and Israel will be reduced to a bit player whose views will be "taken into account."


Another novel aspect of the road map is that it changes the terms of reference of the negotiating framework by specifically mentioning the so-called "Saudi peace initiative." That plan, which has never been officially proposed by the Saudi government, calls explicitly for the "return" of Palestinian refugees to Israel and to Palestine.


The fact that Israel is singled out in the new road map as the party guilty of attacking civilians indicates that far from being honest brokers, in its road map the Quartet has determined that Israel is the guilty party in the Palestinian terror war against it.


Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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