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

April 21, 2003

The Release of the Road Map (Ted Belman)

All that sound and fury signifying nothing?

Ha'aretz reports,
Israel's consul-general in New York, Alon Pinkas, said on Friday that Israel is insisting that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state as the primary starting point for negotiations on the 'road map' Mideast peace plan, expected to be released early next week.
Surely this is a joke. On the eve of the Road Map being released and rammed down everyone's throat, Israel is reduced to this. Of what possible significance can such a recognition have?
Pinkas said that while PA Chairman, Yasser Arafat, has recognized Israel's existence as part of the Oslo Accords, he has never recognized Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
Whether it is Jewish or not is an internal matter for Israel to decide. The only possible significance it could have, is to say, that but for such recognition, Israel could be forced to allow the right of return, even if that would mean that for all intents and purposes, Israel would cease to be a Jewish state. Why is it necessary for Israel to seek such a recognition? Israel is sovereign (or is it?) so why does it need such recognition. It is their right to decide. It needs the consent of no one.

Since Israel was rebuffed by its friend Bush on its demand that the "right of return" be a non-starter, it is reduced to asking, feebly I might add, for such meaningless acknowledgement.

To raise an issue as a pre-condition to entering negotiations and be denied, is worse than not raising the issue at all, before entering negotiations. For Israel to succeed in obtaining such a recognition, it would be a pyrrhic victory. One that has no value.

Meanwhile there is no real resistance to the Road Map other than what is being mounted by Israel's friends in the US. Where is Israel?

What is obvious is that Israel appears to have accepted the Road Map with all its limiting principles which greatly enhance Arab rights and reduce Israel's rights. This is so shocking as to be incomprehensible.

One is reduced to thinking that Sharon must have received private, bankable, assurances from Bush that satisfy Israel that it won't be forced to accept more than a token number of returnees (It being too much to hope that it could refuse the "right of return" entirely.). But this is wishful thinking. Firstly, the US negotiated this agreement knowing Israel's position on it and secondly, accepted a reference to the Saudi Plan which requires recognition of it. So clearly it is not a red line for the US. Either that or Israel won't accept it.

Furthermore the Saudi Plan demanded return of 100% of the territories subject to exchanges of land that were of equal value. Could this be what the US is thinking? Could this be what Israel is accepting?

What about statements made by Sharon to the effect that he is thinking of giving them a state on a little more than 50% of the land. Let us assume that that is all he offers and that it won't be accepted. Then what?. The Road Map calls for a provisional state by 2004 and a permanent state by 2005. What happens if there is no agreement. The Road Map doesn't deal with this. Either the time line has no significance or Israel's right to say "no" has no significance.

Just what is the Road Map? Bush talks about "releasing it" but no one talks about what significance that such release would have, beyond the obvious, which is to say that it is an expression of principles agreed to by the Quartet. What happens if it is not agreed to by the parties to the conflict. Isn't it remarkable that there has been no discussion about both sides accepting it so that it binds them. (Remember how Oslo was formally accepted.) Or are they just to proceed along its paths without agreeing to it. The reason for this glaring absence is that the Quartet knows that neither side would get it through their governments, so it would be a non starter. Therefore, they have chosen to "release it without amendment". Since it hasn't been agreed to by the sides, it is irrelevant legally. So why all the fanfare?

It is expected and confirmed by both sides that they will proceed down its paths although not formally agreed to. This simply requires executive agreement and not parliamentary agreement.

The wheels can come off at any time and then what? Will it be consigned to the dust bin of failed plans or is there a secret agreement between the members of the quartet that they will impose it by passing a UNSC resolution binding on the parties.?

What we know for sure is that Mazem has to make concrete moves against terror (What about incitement?) and Israel has to end settlement activity (Does that include abandoning all settlements?). Both are to be monitored by the CIA who is no friend of Israel. It is generally acknowledged that terror will continue to some extent. Why so? Why isn't their a zero tolerance for terror or at least 100% effort?). One of the reasons is that it would allow a normalization of the situation, which the Quartet wants to avoid because there would be no incentive for Israel to be more forthcoming.

But the question remains. Given that the Map says all issues are to be negotiated between the parties, what happens if the parties can't come to an agreement. Why is Israel not asking for clarification of this issue. Is its right to negotiate all issues, meaningless. If it is meaningful, then all else is meaningless.