AN ISRAELI VIEW
Futile - but important
by Yossi Alpher
Yossi Alpher is an Israeli strategic analyst. He is former Director of the
Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University.
The road map presented by the Bush administration and the
Quartet to Israel and the Palestinians is at one and the same time futile,
It is futile because it is sponsored by an American president
who is not interested right now in advancing an Israeli-Palestinian peace
process. It was presented to the emissaries of a Palestinian leader who has
no realistic strategy for peace (or war), who is relegated by the document
to a ceremonial role, but who is not likely to step aside. And it was
delivered to an Israeli prime minister who also has no realistic strategy
for peace or war and who, like his Palestinian counterpart, has no intention
of following this or any other internationally sanctioned road map.
The government of Israel is justified in pointing out that the road map does
not require of the Palestinians a serious enough effort to suppress
terrorism. And its concerns about the ramifications of an international
monitoring mechanism are understandable. On the other hand the document
comprises measures, such as the appointment and empowerment of a Palestinian
prime minister and the introduction of performance-based criteria rather
than hard and fast deadlines for moving from one phase to the next, that
reflect Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's own policy line.
But all this is not terribly relevant. Since President Bush will not provide
the muscle to enforce this plan upon the reluctant Sharon and Arafat, the
detailed press accounts of high level discussions of its strong and weak
points appear to be of marginal importance, except insofar as they
constitute part of a diplomatic ritual apparently required by the
administration during the countdown to a US invasion of Iraq. Nor does it
appear likely that, after Iraq, the Bush administration will commit itself
to the necessary total involvement in an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
But if it does, circumstances are likely to have changed to such an extent
that new thinking, and a new document, will be called for.
Still, the draft road map of October 15, 2002 is an important document,
because its contents clearly reflect a number of positive developments in
overall thinking about a future Israeli-Palestinian peace process that have
accrued in the course of two years of violence and in the aftermath of the
collapse of the Oslo process.
First of all, the road map recognizes that United Nations Security Council
Resolution 242 of 1967 is not a sufficient basis for Israeli-Palestinian
peace. Oslo final status talks, we recall, were based solely on 242, which
does not offer guidelines for resolving key issues like Palestinian
statehood, Jerusalem and the refugee question. UNSC 242 was intended by its
drafters for peacemaking between Israel and the neighboring states it fought
in 1967; it did not provide a framework for solving "1948" issues like the
right of return. This is one of the reasons the Oslo process ultimately
failed. The road map takes a step toward righting this lacuna by basing a
final settlement not only on 242/338, but also on UNSC 1397 (affirming the
goal of a Palestinian state) and on the so-called Saudi initiative, noting
specifically its revolutionary provision for "Arab state acceptance of
normal relations with Israel and security for all the states of the region."
These are good building bl!
ocks for future peace efforts.
The road map also calls for a single interim step--a Palestinian "state with
provisional borders" by the end of 2003, i.e., within about a year. Phases
and interim steps were one of the great failures of the Oslo process. They
were supposed to serve as a vehicle for building trust and confidence
between the two sides; instead, they provided opportunities for extremists
on both sides to undermine the entire process. Still, if some sort of phased
process is deemed inevitable in view of the current collapse, then the
notion of a provisional state, broached originally by Ariel Sharon himself,
may be the least problematic--but only if Palestinians receive adequate
assurances that such a truncated temporary entity does not become a dead
Finally, despite Israeli objections, the Quartet's "permanent monitoring
mechanism" is potentially a good idea, for the simple reason that Israelis
and Palestinians have proven incapable of monitoring their agreements on
their own. The absence of such mechanisms in the Oslo agreements was yet
another fatal drawback of the peace process that ended two years ago.
Indeed, an eventual Israeli-Palestinian final status peace treaty will have
to comprise some sort of compulsory arbitration agreement (like in the
Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty) if it is to survive the inevitable
disagreements over interpretation.
The monitoring mechanism for Israeli-Palestinian stabilization measures
envisioned by the road map--if properly constituted so as to provide
solutions for Israel's well-founded concerns about violent Palestinian
violations (along with Palestinian concerns over settlement expansion)--is
yet another of the long term positive contributions of this new initiative,
however futile and frustrating it may be in the near term.
Published 28/10/2002 (c) bitterlemons.org.