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April 30, 2003

The Road Map to Nowhere: Do we really need another doomed Mideast peace process?

Joshua Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and frequent contributor to Commentary wrote this piece.

But it is Arafat who has appointed Mahmoud Abbas, and whether the latter will prove to be a lever for shunting Arafat aside or merely a pair of gloves to cover Arafat's terror-stained hands remains to be seen.

Is it true, for one thing, that the quartet makes a fairer broker of this quarrel than America? To be sure, U.S. policy is pro-Israel, in the sense of a strong commitment to Israel's survival and generous foreign aid. But Washington has often sided with the Arabs and clashed with Israel. It forced Israel to abandon its gains in the 1956 Sinai war, did nothing to break Egypt's blockade of Israeli shipping leading to the Six Day War, stayed Israel's hand in the Yom Kippur and Lebanon wars, rescued Arafat from Beirut, staunchly opposed Israeli settlements in the territories captured in 1967, refused to move its embassy to Israel's capital lest this offend the Arabs, voted for numerous anti-Israel resolutions in the Security Council such as one condemning the 1981 destruction of Iraq's nuclear reactor and another condemning only Israel's actions in the early days of the current intifada, intervened none too subtly in 1999 to encourage the election of the dovish Ehud Barak as prime minister over the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu, and, under Clinton, hosted Yasser Arafat at the White House more often than any other foreign leader. In short, although linked strongly to Israel, the United States has gone to lengths to honor the interests and demands of the other side. (He then goes on to review the EU and the UN in similar fashion)

[...] The missing ingredient is a decision by the Palestinians and the other Arabs to accept the existence of a Jewish state in their midst and to live in permanent peace with it. Despite all the Palestinians have suffered these two and a half years, public opinion polls show that a clear majority of them support continuing the intifada and suicide bombing and that about half say that the goal should be the "total liberation of Palestine," in other words, the elimination of Israel.

Since the Six Day War, the critical divide in international approaches to the Arab-Israeli broil has been between a negotiated settlement and an imposed one. That an imposed settlement is precisely what our European partners in the quartet have in mind was made abundantly clear by their response to Bush's announcement of the road map.

The simple reality is that the moment the Palestinians make a wholehearted turn toward peace, no road map will be necessary.