Road Map Reflections

With the resumption of violence yesterday, it seems the right time for
reflection and thought about where we are and we should be. The Road Map
for Peace is as everyone knows, a very problematic document – it has
more questions than answers, and is full of contradictions and
ambiguities. Nevertheless, the Road Map does make some attempts to
learn some of the lessons for the failures of Oslo – for example the end
game of the two state solution is clear both in the words of the
document and in the words of President Bush. There is a mechanism for a
process of monitoring and verification of implementation, and some
element of coercion towards compliance. The process also has the full
backing, commitment, and support of the US President in a way that no US
administration since Carter has shown.

The implementation by the two parties – the Government of Israel and the
Palestinian Authority, has been far from satisfactory. Once again we
have entered into a new peace process with verbal commitments and
undertakings that are not being implemented. From the outset there has
been an open argument between the parties on whether or not the
implementation should be sequential or parallel. The Israeli side has
claimed that first the Palestinians must implement their commitments and
obligations, particularly in the area of dismantling terrorist groups
and confiscating and destroying illegal weapons, and only then, Israel
will begin to implement its obligations. The Palestinians have claimed
that the implementation must be parallel with Israel dismantling illegal
settlement outposts, freezing all construction in settlements, removing
roadblocks, transferring Palestinian towns and cities to the Palestinian
Authority, and returning Palestinian life back to normal as it was prior
to September 28, 2000. The Americans, while not making a clear
determination on which interpretation of implementation is correct, have
been pushing both sides to move ahead with implementation.

The internal Palestinian negotiations that brought about the Hudna – or
ceasefire, – with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad agreeing to cease its
attacks against Israel was violated with yesterday’s two suicide
bombings in Rosh Haayin and in Ariel. The bombings took place during US
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns visit to Jerusalem and shortly
before his visit to Ramallah. This is hours before Israel was to release
another group of Palestinian prisoners who were granted clemency by the
Israeli President. Now Israel has frozen the release of those prisoners,
the upcoming planned Abu Mazen – Sharon meeting is in question and the
fate of the Hudna lasting longer is in question. The Hamas and Jihad
claim that the attacks come in response to Israel’s continued attacks
against the Palestinians – in particular last weeks raid of a bomb
factory in Nablus in which three Hamas members were killed along with an
Israeli soldier. The Israelis claim that information about the Hamas
bomb factory was given to Palestinian Minister for Security, Mohammad
Dahlan, and that no action was taken by the Palestinians. One senior
Israeli officer yesterday morning said me: "Do they expect us to do
nothing when the Hamas are making plans for major suicide bombings
against us?" Should we not take action to protect ourselves?"

While it must be recognized that there has been significant progress
made so far by both sides in beginning to implement the Road Map, there
have also been serious elements of non-implementation as well. On the up
side, very significant political and economic reforms have taken place
on the Palestinian side. The appointment of a new government with a
Prime Minister and Parliamentary approval by the Palestinian Legislative
Council, the deep revisions and reforms in the Palestinian Ministry of
Finance – monetary, fiscal and budgetary controls that have been
implemented, the beginning of revisions in the Palestinian security
forces, a significant lessening of incitement against Israel in
Palestinian media – electronic and written – these are all extremely
important to the future success of Israeli-Palestinian peace making. On
the Israeli side, the acceptance of the Road Map along with continuous
public statements about the eventual establishment of a Palestinian
state, the beginning of removing illegal settlement outposts, and the
beginning of the release of Palestinian prisoners (although not part of
the Road Map – a welcome step).

On the down side the list is much longer: the Palestinian Authority has
done virtually nothing to dismantle the illegal militia heavily armed
throughout Palestine, the Palestinian security forces are still not
under a single unified command controlled by the Palestinian government,
the Palestinian Security forces have done much too little with
intelligence information regarding continued attempts by suicide bombers
to penetrate Israel, and incitement against Israel is still too wide
spread in the Palestinian media.

On the Israeli side, the actions taken against the illegal settlement
outposts continue to raise questions about the lack of the rule of law
in Israel. New tenders have been issued for the construction of new
housing in settlements even in the Gaza strip. The continued
construction of the fence and wall on Palestinian land, creating
enclaves and cantons of Palestinians separated from the lands and
enclosed in cities and villages that will impact very negatively on
their daily lives. The continued closures and blockades that hamper
Palestinians’ ability to move even within their own territories creates
growing anger amongst common Palestinians. Closed Jerusalem institutions
have not been reopened. Normal Palestinian life is far from what should
be and most Palestinians are still living in situations of extreme
limitations of movement and freedom.

The two terrorist bombings should provide a reminder to everyone in
Israel of the great price we will continue to pay if the two Governments
fail to implement their obligations. This is also the message that the
Palestinian public should have understood last week went the Israeli
army attacked the suspected Hamas bomb factory in Al Askar refugee camp
in Nablus. The publics of both sides will pay heavily if our governments
do not implement their commitments under the Road Map. If Israel now
responds militarily against Palestinian targets, including against
Arafat himself, we will be witness to a new cycle of violence and
revenge that will plunge the region into new depths of death and
suffering. If the Palestinians do not now implement their primary
commitments of creating one unified security force and they do not begin
to dismantle the terrorist organizations in Palestine, they too will be
responsible directly for the new wave of violence and revenge.

What must be done?

The sides must carefully and meticulously implement their commitments as
stated in the Road Map. The Palestinians must comply with: "Rebuilt and
refocused Palestinian Authority security apparatus begins sustained,
targeted and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged
in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and
infrastructure. This includes commencing confiscation of illegal
weapons and consolidation of security authority, free of association
with terror and corruption." "Palestinians undertake visible efforts on
the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups
conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis everywhere." This is
quite clear and explicit. Under the Tenet Report a comprehensive book of
standard operating procedures for the Palestinian security forces was
prepared detailing every step that must be taken. There will be no
progress on any other issues unless the Palestinians begin seriously to
undertake these tasks.

It is clear that the Palestinian leadership of Abu Mazen fears opening a
civil war within Palestine. It is clear that the Hudna was meant to
give time to Abu Mazen and his government to base itself within the
society and to gain strength in the eyes of the public. Public support
for Abu Mazen and the Road Map has been on the rise. Abu Mazen and his
government had been hopeful that Arik Sharon and the Israeli government
would be more understanding of the difficult situation on the ground in
Palestine and the need for Abu Mazen to show the Palestinian public that
there is a new and real chance to achieve peace. This has not occurred.
Life has not returned to normal for most Palestinians. They continue to
feel threatened each day, they continue to see expanded settlement
activities, they continue to see the wall/fence strangle them and their
communities, they continue to see Israeli forces in their towns, cities,
villages and refugee camps, the continue to see more and more
Palestinians arrested in Israeli prisons.

The Palestinian and Israeli publics do not see reality through the eye
glasses of the other side. The Israelis claim that they have not seen
any real moves on the Palestinian side to change the security situation.
They perceive the Hudna as a tactical time-out during which time the
Hamas is heavily engaged in rearming itself, preparing new bombs and
improving old ones. The Palestinian public does not hear the same
reports on this that the Israeli public hears each day in the news and
from Israeli politicians and military personnel.

According the Road Map Israel’s obligations are equally clear: "GOI
[Government of Israel] takes no actions undermining trust, including
deportations, attacks on civilians, confiscation and/or demolition of
Palestinian homes and property, as a punitive measure or to facilitate
Israeli construction; destruction of Palestinian institutions and
infrastructure and other measures specified in the Tenet Work Plan."
"GOI immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March
2001. Consistent with the Mitchell Report, GOI freezes all settlement
activity (including natural growth of settlements)." "As comprehensive
security performance moves forward, IDF [Israeli Army] withdraws
progressively from areas occupied since September 28, 2000 and the two
sides restore the status quo that existed prior to September 28, 2000."

We have always known and stated that without a forceful international
presence led by the United States the chances of advancing any new peace
process will be very small. We believe that relying on the two parties
to implement their obligations and setting up an Israeli-Palestinian
bi-lateral peacemaking process is not possible or advisable at this time
– this must be one of the lessons learned from the failed Oslo process.
There is a strong rationale backed by research for tri-lateral
engagement (Israel, PA, international led by the USA) at all levels of
the Road Map process. The model that best demonstrates this was
formerly called the Joint Water Committee. Over all of the months of
violence, terror and fighting since September 2000, the Israelis and
Palestinian continued the work of the joint water committee because the
United States took upon itself the convening, facilitation, and
management of the work of this committee. It became a trilateral water
committee with the US leading the process. Even two political
declarations were issued by the Israeli and Palestinian water
authorities during this period.

We are aware that the common wisdom of the two parties and of the US is
that if the two sides can move ahead themselves, then this should be
preferred. We beg to differ. The process will be ensured a much higher
possibility of success and progress if the international community led
by the US takes charge of the process with the same and higher level of
commitment shown by President Bush until now. Even meetings of the two
Prime Ministers should be facilitated, convened and managed under the
auspices of the special Ambassador for monitoring (or someone else
selected by the President). All working groups and other similar
meetings between Israeli and Palestinian officials, including Ministers
dealing with security issues, should be convened and facilitated by
senior US appointed personnel. The logic behind this is that the still
high level of distrust and lack of positive views on what is possible to
achieve on the ground must be mitigated through the strong US commitment
and role in guiding the sides through the process, at least until they
reach more stable and safer ground. There are still too many
possibilities for complete breakdown and resumption of violence. We can
not afford such setbacks today.

The differences of opinion on every aspect of the implementation of the
Road Map still requires that the sides engage primarily in small steps
to move forward. The sides are just beginning to fulfill their
obligations under the Road Map. The issues of prisoner release and
settlement outpost removal are the kind of politically sensitive issues
that can still derail the entire process. The cancellation and then the
subsequent rescheduling of meetings between the Prime Ministers is the
kind of back-and-forth steps that bring about a weakening of the
publics’ faith in the process and the ability of their leaders to
maneuver a course out of the flames. The process itself needs stability
that can only be ensured through the US engagement as a trilateral
process. And of course the new round of violence is a warning light
flashing brightly of the dangers of collapse of the entire process.

There is a myth left over from the Oslo Process that the Joint Security
Patrols and the general model of joint committees created between the
sides (some 26 joint committees under Oslo) was a successful model. The
truth is that this model completely failed. At every point of crisis in
the Oslo Process, when the joint work should have resolved conflicts or
mitigated them, the joint bodies ceased to function. When violence
erupted and the joint patrols were most needed, the joint patrols were
abandoned by the sides themselves. The only joint body that continued to
work was the joint water committee – which continued only because of the
decision of the United States to run this body as a trilateral body. We
urge the members of the Quartet and mainly the US Government and the
Governments of Israel and Palestine to look at the tri-lateral model and
to see how it can be applied to all levels of Road Map implementation
now! We strongly believe that this is one of the only ways to save the
Road Map process from the same fate of the Oslo agreements.

It would also be extremely valuable if the US and the Quartet placed
down specific benchmarks for implementation with reciprocal steps to be
undertaken upon completion of each step. The process should be filled
with "carrots" while a big stick is also held above the two sides. For
example, if the Palestinians fulfill "a", Israel will release 500
prisoners, if the Palestinians undertake "b" successfully, Israel will
withdraw from "x" city. This should be well thought out and put down in
writing so there are specific tasks to be undertaken and specific
"rewards" to be received – from both sides.

Lastly, like Oslo, the Road Map process lacks transparency and public
involvement and understanding of what is going on and what should be
happening. One of the failures of Oslo lies in the overly secret nature
of the process and the lack of public involvement, debate and scrutiny.
The Road Map is following the same path and this is very dangerous.
IPCRI has proposed the establishment of a public Road Map Watch group
that will be engaged fulltime in monitoring the process and engaging the
publics in open debates and dialogue on the implementation of the peace
process. We are searching for funding and hoping that support will be
forthcoming in the near future.