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Thema: Roadmap

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, yet important.

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 end.

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.
hagalil.com 13-04-2003



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