Smiling: But since the "road map" talks
in Aqaba the going has been all downhill
Absent also were the Oslo euphoria and the hasty declarations of victory for American diplomacy after 36 years of crippling impasse.  

Ten years later, the deadlock has deteriorated into open war against defenseless civilians, denied international protection by their oppressor in collusion with the sole conciliator and self-labelled "honest broker."

 

Having conquered Iraq and positioned itself to reshape the strategic landscape of the Middle East, Israel's chief diplomatic backer, arms supplier, and bankroller has released another "peace" plan that was waiting in the drawer.

 

The "road map" was handed to an "empowered"

Palestinian prime minister on 30 April 2003 by one of the sponsors, the EU, while the US ambassador released the text to Israel, as if to signal the global hierarchical order.

 

Unlike the DOP, which was drawn up by Israel's Foreign Office lawyers but sponsored by the United States, this "peace" plan originates in a seemingly international document sponsored by the US, EU, Russia and the UN, first surfacing in August, 2002 and revised the following December. 

 

Some of the forbidden terms left out of the DOP lexicon are included in the "road map" - terms such as endgame, occupation, independent viable state, timetable and reciprocal duties.

 

Given all these "improvements" why would Prime Minister Sharon, who has already introduced fourteen amendments to render the plan superfluous, even entertain a document, which is presumed to entail a "more generous" offer to the Palestinians? 

 

One answer to this question has to do with the linguistic structure and the built-in gridlock, which invite conflicting interpretations meant to benefit the stronger party, Israel.

 

Additionally, facts on the grounds such as suffocating settlements, bypass roads, a devastated Palestinian economy, PA institutions lying in ruin, and the so-called "Separation Wall" have all made the imbalance of power even greater.

 

Content and language  

 

This is described as "a performance-based and goal-driven road map, with phases, duties, timelines, target dates, and benchmarks aiming at progress through reciprocal steps by the two parties...[whose] destination is a final and comprehensive settlement...by 2005, as presented in President Bush's speech of 24 June, 2002".

 

A major flaw in the "road map" is the absence of mutuality, reciprocity and sequencing, in favour of conditionality. 

 

The language is so vague and non-constraining on Israel that its duties will not even begin until the Palestinians declare and establish a unilateral "cease-fire" and bring about the cessation of all Palestinian resistance.

 

Israel will be the effective judge and Sharon can sit still indefinitely waiting for the Palestinians to fulfill their obligations. 

 

In the absence of international monitors, he will plead his case to US Under-Secretary John Wolfe. Even though the Palestinian cease-fire is expected from the opposition, Israel's decision is governmental.

 

Three phases

 

The "road map" delineates three phases with dates and duties as well as a connection between goals and results.

 

Phase One, which was supposed to end in May 2003, would have seen the end of the Intifada, and the resumption of security cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis based on the "Tenet work plan to end violence, terrorism, and incitement through restructured and effective Palestinian security services."  

 

The premise of the latest plan is that the 36-year old impasse is not caused by an abnormal, illegal and severely repressive occupation, but by the Palestinian resistance to that occupation. 

 

Thus, in exchange for ending the resistance, Israel would be expected to normalise life for the Palestinians, as if the occupation is normal while resistance is abnormal.

 

The Israeli occupation army
regularly demolishes homes
of Palestinians

 One might expect that normalcy would come about as a result of the termination of the occupation, a far more crucial task than ending the conflict, yet terminating the occupation is not called for until the end game when the Palestinians have met all the performance criteria.

           

Indeed, the threshold of requirements for the Palestinian Authority has been raised so high that not only the newly designated Palestinian Prime Minister who lacks domestic legitimacy is bound not to reach it, but even Arafat himself, a symbol of Palestinian nationalism, would flunk the test too.  

 

This is a rather asymmetrical plan, whose calculus of reciprocity is so lopsided as to render it unworkable.

 

If Israel, the regional superpower, has been unable to suppress the Intifada for two and a half years, how can the decimated PA forces, led by a distrusted cabinet minister and an untested prime minister regarded widely as an American/Israeli choice, accomplish that task?

 

Their role at best would only earn them the status of a quisling and potential promoters of a civil war.

 

Moreover, in Phase One, the Palestinians are expected to "immediately undertake comprehensive political reform in preparation for statehood, including drafting a Palestinian constitution [which has been done already], and free, fair and open elections upon the basis of those measures."

 

In exchange, "Israel withdraws from Palestinian areas occupied from September 28, 2000 and the two sides restore the status quo that existed at that time, as security performance and cooperation progress. Israel also freezes all settlement activity, consistent with the Mitchell report."

 

One wonders how such reforms and elections can be promulgated and conducted in numerous enclaves separated from each other by checkpoints and roads rendered unsuitable for automobile travel by the Israeli authorities.

 

During Phase One, the Israeli leadership is expected to issue an "unequivocal statement affirming its commitment to the two-state vision of an independent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel, as expressed by President Bush, and calling for an immediate end to violence against Palestinians everywhere."

 

All official Israeli institutions must end incitement against Palestinians.

 

Israel's "duties" would also encompass ending home demolitions and attacks on Palestinian civilians, improving the humanitarian situation for Palestinians, allowing freedom of movement for Palestinian officials, releasing tax payments owed to the PA, and dismantling new settlements or "outposts" constructed since March 2001, when Sharon became prime minister.

 

One might ask what the definition of terror is, and whether it includes, in addition to Palestinian resistance, acts of terror by settlers and soldiers against Palestinians, including US support, private and public. 

 

Would the "terror" category include such attacks as when about 50 religious settlers, led by Rabbi Benyamin Elon, the transfer-supporting Minister of Tourism raided an Arab home in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah quarters on 3 May and threw a child out of the broken window through which they had entered?

 

The Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition and Ha'aretz (4 May 2003) reported on the gruesome attack in which a "two-year-old flying baby, falling from the 2nd storey window, five metres high, ended up in hospital traumatised."

 

One must also ask about the definition of incitement and its relationship to self-defence, provocation and criticism. Would the Palestinian curricula have to be scrutinised to ensure that the Palestinian narrative is excluded?  Many of these "duties" recall similar attempts to modify Palestinian political culture by Benjamin Netanyahu at the US sponsored Wye River agreement in 1998.  

 

Would the rhetoric of Gush Emonim and the "transferists," inside Sharon’s cabinet (Effy Eytam, Avigdor Leiberman, Tommy Lapid, Ehud Olmert, Trachy Hanegbi, Uzi Landau, Benyamin Netanyahu) qualify as incitement by the Quartet?  Indeed, the National Union Alliance parties (Moledet, Tekuma, and Israel Beitenu) ran in the elections on a platform of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Is that not incitement on the Israeli side?  Indeed, would the historical/biblical rights narrative by Israel be considered incitement?

 

Bush: a strong supporter of
Israel

Moreover, the frame of reference for the "vision" of a Palestinian state is not the numerous resolutions of the United Nations, itself a member of the Quartet which sponsored this "road map", but President Bush's 24 June 2002, speech, which was mocked repeatedly by Israeli and European journalists as one that could have been written by Sharon.

 

Phase Two

 

Phase Two is supposed to begin in June 2003 and end in December of the same year, during which "efforts are focused on the option of creating an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty."

 

The Palestinian leadership is obligated to act "decisively against terror," and demonstrate willingness and ability to "build a practising democracy." This phase starts after Palestinian elections and ends with the possible creation of an independent Palestinian state with “provisional” borders in 2003.

 

The most important question to be raised here is where and how will this state be established? How can it be viable if it is not contiguous? The West Bank is already fractured into three Bantustans and each one of those Bantustans has been fragmented into some 60-70 enclaves separated by Jewish settlements, physical infrastructure and checkpoints.  

 

Moreover, the Apartheid-inspired wall currently under construction in the northwestern and eastern West Bank will separate Palestinian farmers from their agricultural land and further facilitate the creeping ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and ensure non-contiguity.  

 

Additionally, the phrase “provisional borders” is not a known concept in international law. Either the state has borders, which it controls, in which case it is independent, or it does not have them or control them, in which case it is a controlled dependency. Oslo’s concept of “external security,” which was assigned to Israel, came to mean that Israel has control over the so-called self-rule areas’ space, borders, air and water.

 

Post-Oslo Israel will not settle for anything less. At best then, this envisioned Palestinian "state" with "attributes of sovereignty" will not be independent, nor will it exceed 42 per cent of the West Bank, exactly what Sharon envisaged during the 1980s.

 

The new phrase, "attributes of sovereignty" is but the latest diplomatic fiction, which extends earlier ploys such as "sub-sovereignty," "super-sovereignty," "custodianship," "shared sovereignty," "sort of sovereignty," "dual sovereignty," and "external security."

 

Phase Three

 

In the third phase, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are to commence with the assistance of an international conference aiming towards a "permanent status agreement, including borders, Jerusalem, refugees, and settlements," thus ending the Israel-Palestinian conflict in 2005.  

 

Ending the occupation instead of the conflict might have been a more urgent endeavour, particularly if the Security Council adopted a new resolution to that effect, instead of holding an innocuous international conference without mechanisms of enforcement, due to US obstructionism.

 

That would have been more congruent with the phrase which reads: "The settlement would be negotiated between the parties based on UNSCR 242, 338, and 1397, that ends the occupation that began in 1967."

 

No where do we read in the "road map" that the illegal settlements must be dismantled and rolled back. Unlike the so-called "outposts" built since the second Intifada, settlements would only be frozen if the process ever begins.

 

Status of Jerusalem is not
resolved in "road map"

Phase Three also includes an "agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue, and a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide, and fulfills the vision of two states, Israel and sovereign, independent, democratic and viable Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security."

 

The conference would also "support progress toward a comprehensive Middle East settlement between Israel and Lebanon and Israel and Syria."

 

It is noteworthy that the Arab states are expected to recognise Israel before the commencement of the third phase and prior to a settlement of the final status issues, which represent the very essence of the Palestine question.

 

Endgame

 

Again, like Oslo, the "final status" issues will be negotiated outside the international consensus and without an international framework. Resolutions 242, 338 and 1397 are not adequate, since Israel has already declared the inapplicability of 242 to the West Bank.

 

Additionally, none of these include Palestinian fundamental rights enshrined in countless UN resolutions and other international instruments (resolutions 2535, 2649, 2672, 2787, 2792 recognising the Palestinians as colonised people entitled to independence and possessing inalienable rights, or 3236 reaffirming their rights to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty).

 

The "realistic solution to the refugee issue" does not rest on resolution 194, article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or the Covenant on Civil and Political rights.

 

In fact Sharon told Army Radio on the 55th anniversary of Israel's establishment that Palestinian renunciation of the right of return "is something Israel insists on and sees it as a condition for continuing the process." That means that the process itself is being held hostage to PA renunciation.

 

Nor does the "negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem" include resolution 194 (internationalisation) or resolution 2253 of July 4, 1967, calling upon Israel to "rescind all measures taken [and] to desist forthwith from taking any action which would alter the status of Jerusalem." Given that these final status issues are the core of the Palestine question, their resolution outside the international framework is likely to be at least as intractable and contentious as previous attempts at Camp David and Taba.

 

Now that the US and Israel have shifted the international consensus in the aftermath of the conquest and occupation of Iraq the Camp David and Taba deals might not even make it to the table. The "road" to peace seems to have been effectively re-mapped.