No one has yet solved the proverbial dilemma of what comes first: the egg or the chicken. Perhaps much of it depends on taste: if one prefers eggs to chicken, then the egg came first and vice versa.
When I hear the renewed hubbub about the proposed ‘roadmap’ for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the US government’s determination to forge ahead with it, I wonder: what should come first – the map or the road?
Engineers would say that the map must come first to show how the roads will be built. Only after the design is finalized can the implementation of the map begin on the ground.
In the Middle East conflict, the engineers’ opinion may be irrelevant for the political road must be built first in order to have a map. And in order to build the road, both sides must create foundations by building confidence measures.
Paving the road will require the withdrawal of Israeli military from the Palestinian occupied territories. Otherwise tanks patrolling Palestinian cities will damage the newly laid tarmac or Israeli bulldozers will cut off the road by digging trenches or erecting mud and cement barriers in the middle of the road. The road could even be damaged by a burning car hit by an Israeli missile.
The road also cannot simply bring the Palestinians to a dead end of Israeli checkpoints that the Israelis claims are aimed at preventing attacks inside Israel but the Palestinians see as a collective punishment. On the other hand, to ensure continued movement on the road, the Palestinians have to immediately halt all sorts of attacks against Israelis and not give an excuse for Israel to go on with its assassination of Palestinian activists. To ensure this, Israel must also stop all kinds of military activities in the Palestinian territories including the assassination policy and give the chance for the newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister to succeed in his new role.
The purpose of a road is to take a person from one place to another. That one place could be home. But with the Israeli policy of house demolitions, a Palestinian might find that, even with a road, he is homeless. A road should also mean that patients and sick people have access to hospitals without delays that may cost them their lives. Children should be able to use make a road to get to school while university students, staff and teachers should be able to get to their universities. The list goes on. And, once you have a road, it should be controlled and ruled lawfully. This requires the re-establishment of the Palestinian police so that they should resume their work implementing the rule of law must be implemented.
Building a road seems to be much harder than drawing a map and therefore a ‘roadmap’ requires real efforts and full determination to achieve peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. And thus the ‘roadmap’ for this conflict has to deal with the many existing problems that are far harder to deal with and only then simply dig the foundations for a prolonged peace.