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

June 01, 2003

The road less traveled?

Writing in Jewsweek, Bradford R.Pilcher notes that just about everything in the Road Map has been gone over in past attempts at peace but that the Road differs in having a few more concrete details--they please or displease many on both sides:
The new road map, on the other hand, features such concrete elements as a guarantee of Palestinian statehood and a full settlement freeze. When the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, the U.S. had to include a letter to the Israelis saying they weren't necessarily going to support a Palestinian state. This time around, they're explicitly saying that's the end game.[...]At the end of the day, however, the road map is just that -- a road map. It needs both sides to actually follow it, go through the process of exceedingly difficult negotiations, and stay the course long enough to see a final settlement develop. The climate in the region and the political considerations, including next year's presidential elections in the U.S., could stall the car before the road map has a chance to produce fruits.

Thus far, nobody has come up with a solution to how to bridge the final status issues that derailed the Oslo process. The road map doesn't address how Jerusalem will be divided, or if it will be divided at all. Nor does it figure out a formula for handling the Palestinian refugees, whether or not they'll be allowed to return to Israel, and if so, in how many numbers? Settlements are supposed to be frozen, but nothing is said about uprooting the ones already there, or how many Israel will get to keep in a final deal.

And Palestinian statehood remains a touchy subject. The road map calls for a provisional state, but as of yet, nobody has figured out what a provisional state actually is. What will its borders be? Who will control entry into its territory? Can it make treaties? Can it raise an army? Can Israel enter its territory to hunt down terrorists?

In short, the road map may be promising, or it may be another dud in a long line of duds. It certainly has enough uncertainty to keep the drama up over the coming weeks and months, assuming it lasts that long. Remember the Tenet Plan? The Mitchell Plan? Those were being circulated less than a year ago, but they've already been replaced by this new proposal.

It makes for riveting news watching, though it may not make for much peacemaking. In the meantime, it's certainly not providing much to alleviate the tensions of the Israelis and Palestinians in desperate need of that peace.