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

May 09, 2003

Mideast map too broad for solid peace

Many supporters of Israel, including me, have trepidations about the road map, the latest peace plan for the Middle East. The very evenhanded nature of the proposal suggests equivalent responsibility for the evolution of the crisis. But supporters of Israel know that the source of conflict over the past half century has been Arab rejectionism.

Before there was an Israeli occupation, there were multiple wars challenging Israel's right to exist. Before there were settlements, anti-Israel terrorism had become all too common. Two and a half years ago, when peace was achievable, the Palestinian leadership chose violence.

More importantly, supporters of Israel are concerned that the other three quarters of the quartet of nations which drew up this plan will fixate on the proposed timetable for it instead of the need to truly achieve its key benchmarks. Or, that they will treat partial (or even token) compliance as satisfactory rather than disrupt a mirage of momentum. These are genuine concerns, animated by a passionate desire to protect innocents from the scourge of terrorism.

So there is no shortage of skittishness, even amid the hope that this latest attempt at achieving peace can succeed.

The question then becomes, what are the steps that can be taken to increase the likelihood of success without increasing the dangers? One piece of the puzzle is to press for real adherence to the detailed obligations in the road map. But another is to focus both parties on the eventual prize.

The road map itself is opaque about end points. On the "big four" -- borders, refugees, settlements and Jerusalem -- the road map provides guidance that is more delphic than specific. However, the general terms of an eventual agreement are relatively clear. And, leading members of the international community (including and particularly the Bush Administration) should articulate that outline to support the process and give realistic structure to both expectations and negotiations.

The basic framework can be summarized as two states with borders about the same as before the 1967 war; a sharing of Jerusalem; and no "right of return" for Palestinians to Israel, but massive international assistance for them to return and/or settle in the new Palestinian state, which would also receive generous international assistance to get up and running. Israel would abandon settlements that are not contiguous with its renegotiated borders, democracy and the rule of law would prevail in both states, with solid security guarantees for each.[more]