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Thema: Roadmap

A road map to the house next door


by Yossi Beilin
Yossi Beilin was Justice Minister in the government of Ehud Barak, 1999-2001, and an architect of the Oslo peace process.

My support for the new road map presented by the United States on behalf of the Quartet to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is being given to one of the less creative, more problematic and clumsier documents that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has known.

I would support any proposal that returns the two parties to the negotiating table in anticipation of a permanent status agreement and that puts an end to the nightmare that the two peoples have been enduring for the past 25 months. But one might have anticipated that the combined efforts of the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations would produce a more intelligent document than this patchwork paper with an ambitious title.

Take, for example, the determination that the two sides are asked to undertake 13 highly important activities between October and December 2002--while American emissary William Burns asks them to present their comments on the document only in December 2002! People who show no respect for the document they are presenting can hardly expect the recipients to respect them. Thus the process must be postponed for two months, and anyone who recalls what happened to the Mitchell Report and the Tenet ideas can rest assured that Bush's road map has an even better chance of receiving the same treatment.

The road map proposes three phases, some of which are divided into sub-phases, in order to reach a permanent settlement that includes a Palestinian state in 2005. In the interim the parties implement confidence-building measures, cease the violence, and cooperate between them, while the Palestinians carry out reforms, hold elections, appoint a prime minister and even take official possession for the first time of the brainchild that has been offered them: a state with provisional borders that will exist for two years. During this period two international conferences will be held to encourage the sides in their difficult tasks.

Anyone reading this plan can justifiably ask themselves why we need a road map to reach the house next door. All we need to do is return to the negotiating table, continue the effort made at the Taba talks that were stopped in January 2001, reach a permanent agreement based on the Clinton Plan (or the Bush vision) and implement it.

The road map comprises no original proposal that could help us more easily overcome the bloody cycle of terrorism and retribution. The notion of prolonging the interim period through 2005 contradicts the perception of many on the left and the right that the interim period in effect provided an opportunity to the extremists who sought to torpedo the process, and that it would be preferable to forego it completely and move straight into negotiations on a peace agreement. An additional extension will only enable the opponents of peace to redeploy their forces.

The proposal to establish temporary borders for the Palestinian state is particularly problematic: here we have a double negotiation--once for an interim settlement, and again immediately thereafter. I would assess that the first negotiation will not be any easier than the second, nor will it facilitate agreement in the second round. We are liable to face a situation in which, once the temporary borders are fixed, some in Israel will feel that they have solved the demographic problem, and will have no incentive to enter negotiations over permanent borders. Meanwhile, on the Palestinian side frustration and disquiet will grow, thereby producing renewed violence as a consequence of the loss of trust between the two parties. For those who seek peace on both sides, the temporary borders are the biggest landmine buried in this road map.

An international conference is likely to be a festive event that binds the two parties and enables them to justify breaking the cycle of violence that they have been swept into. But such a conference is also liable to be an impediment, due to the disagreements that will inevitably arise over its composition, its authority and decisions regarding its content. Two such conferences during three years look good on paper, but are liable to delay realization of the political process rather than facilitating it.

Worst of all--both sides have received the new document and have been asked to present their comments. They are undoubtedly engaged at this very moment in preparing them. Within two months the Americans will receive dossiers of reservations, thicker than the plan itself. Each party will like in the plan what the other party rejects, and at the end of December we are liable to be in a situation similar to December 2000, when both sides accepted the Clinton Plan, but through their reservations transformed their support into negation.

My support for the road map reflects solely the fact that it is preferable--if accepted--to the existing situation. But whoever wants to get to the house next door, and believes in their objective, can simply leave it at home.

bitterlemons.org 2002

hagalil.com 13-04-2003



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