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April 28, 2003

Until Israel is recognised, this road map leads us nowhere

By Barbara Amiel in the London Telegraph

Barbara points out the obvious. Until there is acceptance of a Jewish state in the Middle East all peace plans are illusory. With real acceptance, any map is unnecessary
The road map has not officially been published but drafts have circulated. Produced by the "Quartet" of America, Russia, the EU and the UN, it is all that one might expect from that glorious collaboration - a document of bureaucratic, primitive Utopianism that could have been written by President Carter and Madeleine Albright on an exciting hormone day.

There will be "free, fair and open elections" in Palestine and an "immediate and unconditional" end to violence and incitement of hate towards Israel. Given the history of the past few hundred years, one feels it could work only if every Arab state from Libya to Saudi Arabia had the equivalent of a cultural sex change.

In return, the Israelis will immediately dismantle certain watchtowers and settlements, partially withdraw the army and reinstate blocked Palestinian funds. The Israelis see this as demanding irreversible actions in return for a series of reversible goodwill slogans from the Palestinians. Rather like selling and handing over your car for a cheque that will bounce.

Official release of the road map text is contingent on the confirmation of a new Palestinian Authority cabinet by the PLA. Commentators have focused on whether the new PA prime minister-designate Abu Mazen has or has not compromised himself in the deal struck with Yasser Arafat. But this is out-of-focus. If there were genuine acceptance of the need for peace with Israel, the number of Arafat cronies in the new cabinet would be academic.

Indeed, with such an acceptance, the Palestinians would have had their state 55 years ago when the UN gave it to them. All that matters in this discussion is one overwhelming issue: the Arab world has not wanted a Jewish state in the Middle East and until it is prepared to tolerate one, no plan will work.

This blunt fact has been with us since six Arab countries invaded the state of Israel hours after it came into being 55 years ago. The Arab League has not made peace to this day. Such unyielding hostility can be ignored, I think, only because most people are fed up with the matter.

The amount of danger and bother the world takes because of the "shitty" little country of Israel has worn everyone out. Such a state of mind is not predicated on any special affection for Muslims and Arabs. It simply takes into account that 1.2 billion incensed Muslims insist their big problem is a little sliver of land called Israel and will cheer suicidal terrorists flying planes into skyscrapers if that action helps undermine its chief ally, America.

The Arab-Israeli conflict has negatively affected the world economy, wreaked havoc with travel plans and destabilised societies. Understandably, most Western leaders want to wash their hands of it. But it is uncomfortable to say this. They rely instead on invoking the need for "accords" and "road maps". A mantra develops about Israel's "illegal settlements", and no one faces the disquieting truth that until 1967 there were no Jewish settlements on the West Bank, the territories were in Arab hands and Israel still couldn't get peace.

We cannot use the broom of Oslo to sweep the Muslim world's inability to endure the notion of a Jewish state under the carpet. This is not to say that no single state or person in the Arab world will accept Israel, only that the fulcrum is rejectionist. It is futile to make peace with a few doves who when war comes will, like Jordan or Egypt, sit back on the sidelines and lament that it's none of their doing if their kissing cousins in Syria and Iran are trying to blow Israel up.

Like squabbling scholastics, Mr Blair and Westminster will not face the real dilemma. They will quarrel over the Quartet's "evaluation" of "performance on implementation" of the road map's arcania of "obligations in parallel unless otherwise indicated". But this road map is a road map to nowhere. Until there is acceptance of a Jewish state in the Middle East all peace plans are illusory and with real acceptance, any map is unnecessary. One only hopes that God has a road map of his own.