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

May 06, 2003

The “What” and the “Why” of the Road Map

The end game is what counts, the rest is diversion

The “What”

The Map has the primateur of the Quartet, suggesting that the members of the quartet are in agreement, where no agreement exists. At best the Map is an acknowledgement of what each side wants for their client states without reconciling the contradictory wants.

It also suggests that it is a joint effort when it is not. The US is obviously in control and has acted all along, like it is their Map, although prepared in consultation with the others. The others don’t share this view but can’t do otherwise but go along. The US thus released the Map at a time of their choosing, presented it themselves and will be solely responsible to make it happen.

The Map imposes certain requirements on Israel without its consent and puts in play certain principles that the Arabs want to argue, to the detriment of Israel.

Refugees

Take the issue of the refugees. The Israelis would prefer that it is not an issue. Putting it on the Map is in itself, a huge victory for the Arabs. To start with Res. 242 provides for “a just settlement of the refugee problem”. At the time of its passing the refugee problem included both Jewish and Arab refugees. This resolution was not binding. In the Oslo Accords, this resolution was accepted as a basis for negotiations. In Bush’s vision speech he said that we must resolve “the plight and future of Palestinian refugees”. This is a reformulation of Resolution 242 and omits reference to Jewish refugees and identifies the refugees as Palestinian as opposed to Arab.. One is left to wonder how this will colour negotiations.

The Map calls for a settlement in accordance with Bush’s June speech but goes further,
The settlement will resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and end the occupation that began in 1967, based on the foundations of the Madrid Conference, the principle of land for peace, UNSCRs 242, 338 and 1397, agreements previously reached by the parties, and the initiative of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah – endorsed by the Beirut Arab League Summit – calling for acceptance of Israel as a neighbour living in peace and security, in the context of a comprehensive settlement.
The only thing that is missing is the kitchen sink. None of these additional guidelines give Israel anything. They are all there for the benefit of the Arab’s and greatly impact Israel’s position. The Saudi Peace Plan demands a fair solution for the Palestinian refugees. The Map also requires “an agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue”

Israel is demanding that the Palestinians forego the right of return at the outset of the process, but the Palestinians will have none of it. First of all by referring to the “right of return” such right is given legitimacy where in reality, no right exists. That’s unfortunate. By just having the refugee issue on the table, it implies that Israel has a role and a responsibility to provide a solution. Why? Israel should be denying any such responsibility but its too late. So Israel is the loser by the Map because they are forced to be responsible for a solution to the refugee problem and Jewish refugees are omitted.

Settlements

Next, the settlements. Res 242 made no mention of the settlements but did authorize Israel to remain in occupation until an agreement was reached. There is nothing in international law that prohibits the establishment of settlements. Oslo also does not prohibit settlements. Yet without Israel’s agreement, the Map has much to say about settlements. It requires Israel “freeze all settlement activity, including the "natural growth" of existing settlements.” and to “immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001”. So not all issues are to be negotiated. The Arabs can still insist on the “right of return” but Israel can not insist that settlements are to continue until an agreement is reached. One more condition imposed on Israel without their consent. By what right?

Palestine

Finally, the Palestinian state. Not even Oslo promised a state. Israel has never agreed to this before. This is one more issue that is decided and imposed before negotiations start. Not only is there to be a state, but also it must be “sovereign, independent, democratic and viable” and Israel is responsible to make it so. This rules out restrictions on the military activities of the new state.

In effect then Bush has forced four (including Jerusalem) major outcomes on Israel. Do not get overly concerned with sequence or parralellism. Do not take comfort in his pronouncements that all issues are to be negotiated. Focus on the fact that the key issues have been imposed. Only the details are left to negotiate.

The “Why”

The US has obviously decided to force a settlement of the conflict along the ’67 lines. This has always been their position. It is saying to Israel you can’t have more and it saying to the Arabs, that in exchange for the US pushing Israel that far, you have to make peace with it. Effectively it is endorsing the Saudi Peace Plan. There is very little left to negotiate. The big things have been decided and only the details are left to negotiate. The US will not let anything stand in its way on its quest to end the conflict. The guiding principle is what will bring peace to the ME. No historical fact, no rights, no law, no claim to justice and nothing else matters but achieving a peaceful ME. Both Israel and the Arabs are not permitted to fight for more.

Bush is even prepared to pursue the Roadmap while terror and incitement continue notwithstanding that the Roadmap says otherwise. Nothing will deter him. He is committed.. He accepts the fact that some Arabs will continue in their quest to defeat Israel. But this is the real world and many countries are subject to terror. What matters is that the other Arab countries make peace with Israel thereby settling a 100-year-old conflict with the exception of a little terror here and there.

They know that they have to fight terror and its supporters both in the territories and in Iran and Syria and are prepared to do so. Sooner or later, as needs be.

As for Sharon, “What must he be thinking?”

As for Arafat and certain Arab countries, they don’t want to accept Israel and so are resisting the Roadmap. As for the Congressmen and Senators, their famous letter is just demanding an end to terror first but they accept the two state solution. Only the Christian Coalition and the ZOA and Benny Alon and his supporters are against the two state solution.

Bush will no doubt focus on ending terror in the next two years rather than on forcing Israel to move while terror exists. This is so as to not hurt his political support. But he will continue to work toward the two state solution and the ’67 lines and a shared Jerusalem.