It did not escape the attention of Palestinian analysts and politicians that in her recent visit to Palestine and Israel, new US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not refer to the roadmap in any of her public statements and comments.
To many, this confirms suspicions about the seriousness of the US in pursuing the roadmap as a viable plan to help the two parties replace the continuing violent confrontations with peaceful negotiations on the basis of international legality. These suspicions originate with the 14 amendments with which the Israeli leadership, never enthusiastic or excited about the roadmap, conditioned its acceptance of the plan. Israel wants to avoid certain obligations stipulated in the roadmap, including some in its first phase.
But the roadmap is still the most workable plan to deal with the conflict for three reasons: It’s the only plan accepted in principle by both sides, it enjoys international consensus, and it has become part of international legality.
The first phase of the roadmap is able to meet almost all the legitimate needs of the two parties. It addresses all immediate Israeli concerns including ending Palestinian violence, disarming Palestinian armed groups and dismantling organizations involved in the violent confrontations. It also addresses all immediate Palestinian concerns including ending Israeli attacks on Palestinians, ending the Israeli military presence in Palestinian Authority areas, ending Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement and ending illegal settlement expansions.
Phase I of the roadmap is essentially a stabilizing package to help us cross the critical path between violence and negotiations. The main danger to this package, however, is repeated Israeli efforts to try to deal with the different components of this phase in a selective way.
Currently, these efforts are in evidence in the attempt to restrict the forthcoming summit in Sharm Al Sheikh to security issues. If successful, Palestinian efforts at returning to negotiations and solidifying the current calm as well as the heavy diplomatic traffic to the Middle East, reflecting a genuine international concern about the necessity of seizing the present opportunity, will be in vain. The ceasefire cannot be sustained unless it is consolidated by also applying the non-security components of phase I.
This point is critical, because if the security issue is dealt with in isolation, the causes of the lack of security, i.e., the belligerent military occupation and practices resulting from that occupation, will not be addressed. The international community, particularly the US, is called upon to try to avoid that scenario. It is a prescription for failure that will result in a great deal of disappointment among the peoples of the region and might take us back into a deeper and wider vicious cycle of violence as the anti-peace process factions in Palestine turn around and say, "you got another chance and it didn’t work."
Although the first phase of the roadmap is critical because its function is to end the confrontations and restart negotiations, it cannot be separated from the rest of the plan. Here is another pitfall. Looking carefully at certain recent statements and practices of Israeli politicians leads one to expect an ambush of the roadmap’s phase II. This phase calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state within temporary borders. If the Israeli right is to be believed, it is a stage that Israel would try to extend into a final arrangement to avoid the third and final phase of the roadmap, which stipulates the necessity of ending the occupation that started in 1967 to allow the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
This final phase, particularly ending the occupation, is of course the most critical aspect of the roadmap, and will make or break a final, comprehensive and lasting peace between the two sides. The roadmap is an integral plan, and it needs the continuous and active attention of the international community to guarantee adherence to all of its three phases and their different components by the two parties.