ROAD MAP ON THE TABLE
Just days after landing on an American aircraft carrier to declare that the short war in Iraq was basically over, US President George Bush formally presented the Road Map peace plan to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The presentation, via the US ambassador to Israel, occurred on April 29—which just happened to be Israel’s annual Holocaust Memorial Day. Some Israel commentators wondered if that “coincidence” did not signal that the Road Map, if fully implemented as presented, would lead to yet another catastrophe for the beleaguered Jewish people who have been gathering in their ancient biblical homeland since the late 1800’s.
In announcing that the Road Map was now officially on the table, President Bush repeated earlier statements that he is “personally committed” to seeing that it is fully implemented. He said the three other sponsors—the European Union, the United Nations and Russia—were equally insistent that both Israel and the Palestinians “follow its path to lasting peace.”
Fresh off of his lightning victory over Saddam, the US leader made clear that no significant alterations would be allowed in the four-page peace plan. This was later reiterated by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who said during a visit to Jerusalem that the Road Map was basically a “take it or leave it” document. He added that the four international co-sponsors, the so-called “Quartet,” would “listen to some suggestions” from the opposing sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but would not “engage in endless negotiations” over the plan.
Israeli leaders have decidedly mixed feelings about the internationally inspired plan to resolve the long and bitter Arab-Israeli conflict, even though it was officially approved by Sharon after specific American security guarantees were issued to him in late May. While welcoming its emphasis on a complete end to Palestinian violence and “free elections” for an “independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state,” they are less than enthused by its implied call for a total Israeli withdrawal from “territory occupied in 1967.” They are also not thrilled by the suggested “return” of at least some Palestinian refugees and their offspring to family homes inside of Israel’s pre-1967 borders (most of the pre-1948 single dwelling homes have long ago been replaced by apartment buildings). Almost every Israeli political party, including the far left Meretz party, agrees that such a move would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-led state—which could be precisely what Arafat and company are aiming for in making their “right of return” demand.
The Palestinian leadership had fewer objections to the internationally imposed final solution. Israeli pundits said this was mainly because the Road Map basically repeats the failed 1993 Oslo peace formula of demanding tangible and risky land transfers by Israel in exchange for mere promises of a permanent end to Palestinian violence. Therefore, the Palestinians can gain control over most, if not all of the land they demand (over 40% was already transferred to Arafat’s Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo “land for peace” process), even if their weapons are only temporarily put away for the duration of the withdrawal process.
PM Sharon stated in April that he and his government were ready to make “painful concessions” for the sake of lasting peace. He made clear that this meant the evacuation of many Jewish communities built inside Judaism’s biblical heartland since 1967. However, critics of the Road Map, including some cabinet ministers from his own Likud party, pointed out that the Quartet plan seems to demand a complete Israeli withdrawal from every inch of land captured during the Arab-initiated Six Day war, including the eastern half of Jerusalem with its sacred Temple Mount. Sharon has repeatedly pledged to hold on to the Jewish people’s most hallowed ground, along with the rest of Israel’s “eternal and undivided capital city.”
THE ROAD MAP
The formal name of the new peace proposal is “A Performance-Based Road Map to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” The title highlights the two main features of the internationally devised plan: 1) Its full implementation is supposed to be based on Palestinian and Israeli “performance” or compliance with the various elements and stages spelled in the document. 2) The Road Map’s overriding goal is the creation of a sovereign “State of Palestine” living side by side with Israel—the vaunted “two state solution” of the protracted conflict.
While the Oslo accords did call upon the Palestinians to take various concrete steps as the Israeli land handover was underway, the mechanisms to insure that Arafat fulfilled his treaty obligations were weak, to say the least. Therefore, international pressure, especially from the Clinton White House, continued upon Israel to complete promised territorial transfers despite an unprecedented wave of Palestinian terrorist violence in 1995 and 1996. The new plan promises that such pressure will be proportionate to Palestinian performance in ending all terror attacks.
The text of the Quartet peace proposal begins with the statement that the plan contains “clear phases, timelines, target dates and benchmarks aiming at progress through reciprocal steps by the two parties in the political, security, economic, humanitarian, and institution-building fields, under the auspices of the Quartet. It then summarizes its lofty, if not fanciful, overall goal: “The destination is a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict by 2005.” Therefore, what Oslo could not achieve in seven years, the Road Map is somehow supposed to accomplish in just two years!
The next paragraph focuses on Bush’s insistence that all Palestinian violence end before a fully sovereign Palestinian state can appear on the world’s stage: “A two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only be achieved through an end to violence and terrorism, when the Palestinian people have a leadership acting decisively against terror and willing and able to build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty, and through Israel’s readiness to do what is necessary for a democratic Palestinian state to be established.”
Israeli critics recall that Arafat pledged in writing to see to it that all Palestinian violence was completely halted against Israelis, only to break that 1993 commitment almost immediately. Indeed, he went on to verbally instigate further bloodshed in 1994 by calling in South Africa for a worldwide Muslim “jihad” to “liberate holy Jerusalem” from Israeli control. He barely acted when Palestinian Islamic extremists took up that call by stepping up armed attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers in the months that followed.
The Road Map’s final opening paragraph calls for the first real Arab participatory democracy in the entire Middle East to arise in the newly created country of “Palestine.” This will supposedly follow the implied total Israeli withdrawal by 2005 from all land captured from Jordan and Egypt during the Six Day war: “A negotiated settlement between the parties will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors. The settlement will resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and end the occupation that began in 1967.” The historic, nay messianic, accord will supposedly inspire “a comprehensive peace on all tracks, including the Syrian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli tracks.”
The Road Map peace plan unfolds in three stages. Some Israeli commentators noted that the PLO’s 1974 Phased Plan outlined ten stages towards Israel’s destruction, authorizing “all means” to achieve that goal, including negotiations to get back part of the land to use as a staging ground for the “final liberation” of the land from hated Zionist control.
Phase One of the new plan was supposed to be launched during May. Its goals are summarized in its title, “Ending Terror and Violence, Normalizing Palestinian Life and Building Palestinian Institutions.” The first point calls for the Palestinian leadership to “immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence.” This is to be quickly followed by “fair and open elections.” As the Palestinians “declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism,” Israel is to “take no actions undermining trust, including deportations, attacks on civilians, or confiscation or demolition of Palestinians homes and property.” Israel must also “withdraw from Palestinian areas occupied from September 28, 2000 (as if Israel’s goal in re-entering Arafat’s terror infested cities was to “attack civilians” and “occupy” his towns), and to “freeze all settlement activity.” The document later clarifies this freeze to include an “immediate halt to natural growth of settlements.”
Israeli analysts pointed out that stopping “all natural growth” would mean the expulsion of all pregnant women from over 200 Israeli communities in the disputed territories, since natural growth is defined in the Mitchell report as both movement into the settlements and internal family growth. They said the demand for an rapid halt to such “illegal expansion” is just one of several “Alice in Wonderland” aspects of the Road Map peace plan. Another is the plan’s call for Israel to follow up its pledge to allow a sovereign Palestinian state to arise on its doorsteps with “an immediate end to violence against Palestinians everywhere.” This statement is clearly meant to equate Israeli military measures to quell terrorist attacks with the deadly atrocities deliberately carried out upon Israeli civilians by Arab terrorists. Such “moral equivalency” is one of the hallmarks of the new peace plan, said some Israeli analysts, who mostly predict that the Road Map will end in utter failure, like its Oslo predecessor.
Additional Phase One highlights include the shrinking of Palestinian security forces from the current eight outfits to just three, resumed security cooperation with Israeli forces, and Palestinian economic reforms. Along with the Israeli withdrawal to pre-September 2000 positions, all this is to be monitored and supervised by the European Union.
Phase Two goes on to detail the “transitional” period from June 2003 through the end of the year. It includes the “option of creating an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty” based on the “consensus judgment of the Quartet” of Palestinian efforts to halt terrorism. The provisional state is to be headed by an “empowered Palestinian prime minister” who will draft a formal constitution. This will be followed by an international peace conference, probably in Madrid. Meanwhile Arab states are to “restore pre-intifada links” to Israel.
Phase Three focuses on the “Permanent Status Agreement and End of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” A final overall accord is to be arrived at by the end of 2005. It will include a “just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee issue” and a “negotiated resolution of the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides.” The treaty will be ratified at a second international conference. It will supposedly “fulfill the vision of two states, Israel and sovereign, independent, democratic and viable Palestine living side by side in peace and security.”
NOTHING HAS CHANGED
It was only a matter of hours after the Road Map was formally presented that Islamic contempt for the latest peace proposal was violently displayed. As Israeli restaurants reopened after a 24 hour pause to mark Holocaust Day, two suicide bombers attacked a popular jazz bar near the American embassy in Tel Aviv. Three Israeli civilians were dismembered by the powerful explosions, and scores injured. The American-Israeli owner noted that he had opened up the coastal establishment after terrorism forced the closure in 2001 of his once equally popular live music club in the heart of Jerusalem. Israeli officials and the general public were subsequently shocked to learn that the Muslim attackers hailed from England, demonstrating afresh that Islamic militants everywhere support the “jihad war” against reborn Israel.
Secretary of State Powell visited the Lord’s land two weeks later to promote the new international plan. Afterwards he visited Saudi Arabia, where he had an unexpected surprise awaiting him—the worst terror attack on American citizens since September 11, 2001. The bombings, which left eight Americans dead and many others injured, were pinned on revitalized Al Qaida agents. This came just weeks after President Bush boasted that the notorious Arab Islamic organization had been gutted by American military action. Adding grave evidence that Al Qaida is back, a similar well-planned assault was launched on May 16th in Morocco. Among targets hit was a Jewish center that was closed at the time.
One day later, Palestinians launched a barrage of atrocities on Israeli civilians and soldiers. Gunmen shot dead an Israeli couple driving in Samaria. This came as PM Sharon was holding his first official meeting with his new Palestinian counterpart, Abu Mazen. The next morning, a Palestinian terrorist dressed as an Orthodox Jew blew up a Jerusalem city bus near the northern French Hill neighborhood, killing seven civilians and wounding dozens of others. One day later, a homicide bomber riding a bicycle set off his explosive belt near an army jeep in the Gaza Strip, wounding three soldiers.
Later that afternoon, a female Palestinian attacker completed the violent binge by blowing herself up at a crowded shopping mall entrance in the Jezreel Valley town of Afula. An additional three Israeli civilians were slaughtered in the attack, and 48 others wounded, bringing the two day Israeli death toll to 12. The attacker was wearing stylish high heals and modern dress to hide her evil intentions. The Fatah-linked Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades said it carried out the attack, signaling that Arafat’s own movement does not fully support the Road Map peace plan.
Why international leaders believe that Abu Mazen—a bland bureaucrat who hid in Arafat’s ugly shadow for many decades—can deliver “peace now” is anyone’s guess. All the evidence suggests that the holy war will go on, as openly stated in May by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah leaders, along with several Fatah officials.
While welcomed in Israel as in most of the world, the swift removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq hardly tips the regional scales toward “lasting peace and safety” featuring a “democratic Palestinian state.” There is precious little reason to believe that the Palestinians are any nearer to true participatory democracy today than they were when Arafat ran virtually unopposed for the post of PA “president” in 1996. Nor it there any evidence to suggest that most Palestinians are ready to shelve the violent jihad struggle to “liberate every portion of sacred Palestine,” as the PLO Charter puts it. In fact, this month’s spate of terror attacks scream otherwise.
Is it just coincidence that America suffered its worst cycle of tornadic activity in over four decades in May, beginning just two days after the Road Map was presented on Holocaust Day? Is it just chance that the vicious Al Qaida genii reared its ugly head again just one week after the Israeli government was formally told that the nations are planning to yank most of Judaism’s holiest ground from Jewish control, implicitly including Jerusalem’s sacred Old City? May international leaders keep in mind that, as recorded in Jeremiah 31:10, the same Lord who “scattered Israel” to the four corners of the earth is the one who is now “gathering him” to the Promised Land. He will eventually judge the nations that have arrogantly “divided up My land” (Joel 3:2).