Israeli government is the last obstacle to Phase III

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The three phases of the roadmap are strongly interrelated. It is the role of the members of the Quartet not only to support the two sides in fulfilling their obligations under the roadmap but also to judge the readiness of each of the two parties to move from one phase to another.

The roadmap stipulates for example that progress into Phase III should be "based on the consensus judgment of the Quartet… taking into account the actions of both parties and Quartet monitoring". In addition, the Quartet is supposed to organize two international conferences to support the outcome of the parties’ negotiations, one in the second phase and one in Phase III. The latter provides an opportunity for the international community to endorse what should be a newly established Palestinian state, the main intended outcome of the third phase from which another outcome is meant to be "Arab state acceptance of full normalization with Israel and security for all the states of the region in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace".

In other words, while movement into every new phase of the roadmap is conditional on monitoring of the previous phases and the judgment and support of the Quartet, the end result of the plan is defined. Indeed, the roadmap stipulates that the "parties reach final and comprehensive permanent status agreement that ends the Israel-Palestinian conflict in 2005, through settlement negotiated between the parties based on UNSCR 242, 338 and 1397, that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and includes an agreed just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee issue and a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem."

One of the main reasons for the failure of the roadmap to lead us to such a peaceful destination by the agreed date of 2005, however, was the sometimes absent and sometimes biased attitude and behavior of the Quartet, particularly as a result of the negative influence of the previous US administration. The Palestinians, during the years in which the roadmap plan was supposed to be implemented, were left alone to face Israeli brutality while their land was rendered prone to Israeli bulldozers and fanatic, rightwing settlers. That situation was responsible, among other things, for the dramatic radicalization process in Palestinian society, since the Palestinian peace camp proved unable to deliver the peaceful end to occupation that it promised.

Currently we seem to be witnessing a different approach from the international community that, above all, has slightly empowered the peace camp in Palestine. There is no doubt that renewed American diplomacy and American and international efforts to convince Israel to stop the expansion of settlements were among the factors that laid the necessary groundwork for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to convene the Fateh conference. That, in turn, will be important to reverse the shift in the balance of power back in favor of the peace camp.

The fact that Israelis have elected a right-wing government under Binyamin Netanyahu that is not committed to the roadmap, including the end result of two states, complicates the mission of the Quartet. This is spurring all kinds of debates among Palestinians and Arabs over the most efficient way to achieve the legitimate Palestinian objective of ending the occupation, especially after the success of the Palestinian side in fulfilling its obligations under Phase I of the roadmap in terms of security and institutional reform.

The current contacts between the US, as represented by Senator George Mitchell and the Israeli government, which will culminate in the Mitchell-Netanyahu meeting in London, will in this context be a crucial indicator of the future of the roadmap.

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