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Thema: Roadmap



by Ghassan Khatib
* Ghassan Khatib is minister of labor in the Palestinian Authority cabinet. He has served for many years as a political analyst and media contact.

This new-old American roadmap begins with a roadblock of the kind that Palestinians are now very familiar with. Not even two lines into the document, there is the attempt to subordinate a meaningful political process to alterations in the structure of the Palestinian leadership. Stage one of phase one of the roadmap does its best to dictate internal Palestinian politics, dabbling in constitutional change, the appointment of a prime minister and other aspects of political "reform." The document also calls for Legislative Council elections without a presidential vote--an imposed limit on our democratic rights and a violation of the current Palestinian constitution or what we call the Basic Law.

Given the historic Palestinian sensitivity towards any interference in their internal political makeup (and by inference, their political positions) it is not likely that we will get very far past this first roadblock onto the important aspects of the plan. That Palestinian sensitivity is born of the understanding that Israel is not happy with the negotiating positions of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and is therefore trying to use "constitutional reforms" to marginalize him. (Never mind that the negotiating positions of President Arafat enjoy wide support from the Palestinian people.)

There are some other omissions in the plan, for example, its complete lack of reference to the Palestine Liberation Organization, despite that the PLO was signatory to all official agreements between Palestinians and Israelis, and despite that the PLO is the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Palestinians would be right to suspect that the omission of the PLO, with the Palestinian Authority addressed in its place, is meant to exploit the difference between the two: that the Palestinian Authority administers only half of the Palestinian people, those present inside the Palestinian territories, and is restricted to the role assigned it by the Oslo accords. (Then again, not even that important benchmark between Palestinians and Israelis is referenced in the US roadmap.)

Examining the three phases of the document, they include some significant principles, such as the need to end the occupation, stop settlement expansion, and establish a Palestinian state. On the other hand, there are a great number of other inclusions that will hinder the implementation of those principles.

In the first phase, any political progress and any progress towards ending the Israeli occupation is conditioned on ending Palestinian "violence" and conducting Palestinian "reforms" including "constitutional change." This repeats the long-standing American mistake present in both Tenet and Zinni's attempts, and tries to mix the cause with the effect by adopting the Israeli understanding that the Israeli occupation and its atrocities are a response to Palestinian violence, while Palestinians understand their resistance to be an effect of the Israeli occupation and reoccupation, the killing of Palestinian civilians, collective punishment and other violations of Palestinian human rights.

At least the document could have been more balanced by asking for mutual concessions in the first phase, such as Palestinian security cooperation hand-in-hand with an end to Israeli violence, settlement expansion and ongoing reoccupation.

It is not so easily forgotten that the last Quartet statement required Israel to stop settlement expansion during the first phase, while in "the roadmap," this important part has been moved to later on. It is as if the United States is telling Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to hurry up and finish his unprecedented settlement expansion and the "apartheid wall" between Israel and the West Bank, before it is too late.

The second phase is dominated by the idea of declaring a Palestinian state that has temporary borders. First of all, the areas under Palestinian Authority control according to past agreements do not a feasible state make. Second and more importantly, since the permanent borders will then be subject to negotiations and since we tried and failed to reach agreement over borders with a less hard-line government than this one, it isn't difficult to extrapolate that those temporary borders may very well wind up being final.

As to phase three, the roadmap rightly refers to the need to establish a Palestinian state after ending Israel's 35-year occupation. This is unfortunately qualified by the closing paragraph, which refers to an Israeli withdrawal to secure and "agreed-upon" borders. Therefore, written into this document is Israel's veto power over United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which declares the inadmissibility of the acquisition of land by force and calls to end that illegal occupation in return for peace.

All in all, this roadmap depicts a path filled with nearly as many roadblocks, obstacles and checkpoints as the occupied Palestinian territories themselves.

Published 28/10/02 (c) bitterlemons.org
hagalil.com 13-04-2003



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