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

March 15, 2003

Bush Road Map

Not to worry

It appears obvious now that Bush’s decision to announce a road map on Monday was to assist Blair in the absence of a UN resolution approving war and to provide something to the Arabs. War is sure to follow immediately thereafter.

Telegraph reports
Sources in Washington said that Mr Blair had argued passionately that a public attempt to be "even-handed" in the Israel-Palestinian conflict would help Arab allies in the region as well as his own difficulties with public opinion and Labour backbenchers.
I have been reviewing what is being said in the leading newspapers, and I can tell you that no one calls the plan to be released, the "Quartet Road Map” but rather “a road map” or “Bush’s Peace Plan”. Heretofore, all announcements regarding the Quartet’s Road Map were joint announcements of the Quartet. Not this time.

In last December when the Plan was delayed the People Daily of China said,
The bottom line is that the United States may want to implement Bush's Middle East peace plan on the basis of a "road map," either of its own or of the Quartet, at a time of its own chosen.

Professor Steinberg at JCPA makes absolutely clear that the Quartet’s Road Map would be a disaster for Israel mainly because of the involvement of the quartet and because of a timetable rather than stages.

In this regard, Bush said yesterday, the “The US has developed this plan over the last several months in close cooperation with Russia the EU and the UN.” And that “we will expect contributions from Israel and the Palestinians to this document.”.

Three things are of note, 1) it is a US plan not the Quartet’s plan, 2) it was prepared in cooperation but not necessarily with agreement and 3) it’s a work in progress.

The Boston Globe reports
Bush's announcement yesterday stunned diplomats at the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, which has coordinated Middle East peace efforts. Minutes before Bush's 10 a.m. declaration, diplomats were asking each other if anyone knew the subject of the president's address. ''We had no idea whatsoever it was coming,'' said one diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Yet the NY Times reports
Mr. Bush's announcement was seen as a victory — a surprising one, in the view of many — for both Mr. Blair and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who has pushed for adoption of the plan since last fall. Mr. Powell also was said to feel strongly that it was necessary to put it forward to quell the anger toward the United States in the Muslim world.
This is just the usual spin by the NYT to support Powell. I do not believe for a moment that the NY Times is right in this. The announcement has nothing to do with the Arab street, it is quieter than the European street. And this is not a victory for Powell and the State Department, they were taken by surprise. It was worked out by the Elliot Abrams in the White House. Powell went along for the ride.

In Bush’s speech yesterday he said
This road map will set forth a sequence of steps towards the goals I set out in the June 24 speech, 2002”,
which are
Ultimately, Israelis and Palestinians must address the core issues that divide them if there is to be a real peace, resolving all claims and ending the conflict between them. This means that the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 will be ended through a settlement negotiated between the parties, based on UN resolutions 242 and 338, with Israeli withdrawal to secure and recognize borders.

We must also resolve questions concerning Jerusalem, the plight and future of Palestinian refugees, and a final peace between Israel and Lebanon, and Israel and a Syria that supports peace and fights terror.
He also set out the process. Israel accepts both the goal and the process set out therein but rejects most of the amendments to this speech by the Quartet. In this regard even Powell has reiterated stages and sequences will be as set out in the speech. My guess is that the Quartet will not have a role. Maybe Blair will.

In any event it remains for Abu Mazen to get full powers on Monday and for further contributions from Israel.

WaPo chimes in
Bush made his first substantive remarks on the crisis in months in a Feb. 26 speech, when he said the Palestinians must reduce terror before Israel will be expected to take "concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable and credible Palestinian state." Only "as progress is made toward peace," he said, must the Israelis end "settlement activity" in the occupied territories.

A senior European diplomat argued yesterday that one of the road map's chief strengths is the intention to muster international solidarity to command concessions.

"When we negotiated it," the diplomat said, "the idea was to impose the road map, not to put it on the table and say to our Palestinian and Israeli friends, 'Do what you want with it.' Because we know there are a hundred amendments coming from the Israeli side. If you don't impose it on both sides, it's a lose-lose situation.

"The Israelis will start changing the whole text, word by word, the Palestinians will do the same, and we'll have to go back to the next Quartet meeting and start all over again."
The Diplomat is not bashful is saying the intent was to impose the plan. If he is not happy and if he thinks that there will be endless wrangling, I am happy.

I know that many complain about Mazen’s views and past but he is the only one with enough stature to carry an agreement off. That ‘s why both Bush and Sharon have accepted him. No doubt they have talked to him enough to ascertain his present views. Furthermore if he gets all the needed powers to be free of Arafat, he will be invited to the White House to add to his stature.

Finally, the biggest objection to the creation of a state is that it will be a threat to Israel. Bush has clearly said that such a state must be peaceful. I do not believe that either he or Sharon will compromise on this. Assuming that they can make it a reality and end the conflict, who could object.