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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

December 23, 2002

The Abominable Snow Map

PA gets from U.S. latest draft of Mideast 'road map'

Aluf Benn, in IMRA understates the significance of the Saudi initiative as it refers to the right of return of Palestinian refugees but otherwise read on;

The United States has given to the Palestinian Authority the latest draft of the Middle East "road map" to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel Radio reported.

The revised version of the peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, presented on Friday to the Quartet of Middle East mediators - the United Nations, Russia, the European Union and the United States - is more stringent with the Palestinians than the previous versions, and reflects serious controversy between the U.S. and its partners.

A provision included in the latest draft stipulates that a Palestinian state can only be established "when the Palestinian people will have a leadership willing and able to establish practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty. With such reformed civil institutions and security structure, the Palestinian leadership will have the active support of the Quartet and the broad international community to establish an independent viable state."

The U.S. wanted to add the requirement that Palestinian leadership not be "compromised by terror," but the other members of the Quartet objected. The American version refers to the Palestinians in general, while the European language discusses the Palestinian Authority specifically. This difference reflects Europe's will to keep Arafat in place while the U.S. calls for his ouster.

Under the new version, in the transition phase the Palestinian state will not have full sovereignty but only "certain attributes of sovereignty."

A change to which Israel objects refers to the Saudi peace initiative as approved by the Arab League, as one of the sources from which the road map draws its authority, along with the UN Security Council resolutions, the Madrid Framework, the principle of land for peace and prior agreements between the parties. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has adamantly opposed this reference because the Saudi initiative calls for an Israeli withdrawal to the borders of June 4, 1967. The previous version said only that the parties should make special consideration of the Saudi initiative.

The new version omits a requirement that Israel should discontinue military operations in populated areas - a code name for assassinations. This item raised much controversy between the U.S. and Russia on the one hand and the Europeans and the UN on the other, since the latter strictly condemn any killing that is not sanctioned by a court of law.

Also, the Palestinians are called on not only to "dismantle" terrorist infrastructure but also to "confront" anyone involved in terrorist activity. The Palestinians are required to collect unauthorized weapons in the very first stage of implementation of the plan. In the first draft, the Palestinians were only required to make a statement condemning terrorism and to reform their security agencies. Under Israeli pressure, the Quartet agreed to define clearer requirements for the Palestinian side.

The U.S. and the other members are still not agreed about Israeli settlements in the territories. The U.S. maintains settlement construction should only be halted once a comprehensive cease-fire is obtained, while the others demand an immediate and unconditional halt to building. The previous version required the freeze to start in Jerusalem, while the requirement in the current version is more vague.

Under the new version, implementation is still subject to the supervision of the Quartet. The U.S. did not back Israel's reservations about the role that the Europeans, the Russians and the UN would play.

The new version calls on the Arab countries to terminate any financial support not only of the terror organizations themselves but also for "all other forms of support for terrorism," and calls on them fully to normalize their relations with Israel at the end of the process.
Dennis Ross comments on it in the LA Times (registration required).