Remember when George W. Bush said:
“All sides have made important commitments, and the United States will strive to see these commitments fulfilled.
My government will provide training and support for a new, restructured Palestinian security service. And we’ll place a mission on the ground, led by Ambassador John Wolf. This mission will be charged with helping the parties to move toward peace, monitoring their progress and stating clearly who is fulfilling their responsibilities.
And we expect both parties to keep their promises.
I’ve also asked Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to make this cause a matter of the highest priority. Secretary Powell and Dr. Rice, as my personal representative, will work closely with the parties, helping them move toward true peace as quickly as possible.
The journey we’re taking is difficult, but there is no other choice. No leader of conscience can accept more months and years of humiliation, killing and mourning. And these leaders of conscience have made their declarations today in the cause of peace. The United States is committed to that cause. If all sides fulfill their obligation, I know that peace can finally come.
Thank you very much and may God bless our work.”
That was only six months ago in Aqaba on June 4, 2003. Shortly after that, George W. Bush sent Ambassador John Wolf to begin setting up his monitoring team and to work with the parties in beginning to implement their obligations and commitments undertaken within the Road Map. In October 2003, Special Ambassador John Wolf, left for holiday and still has not returned, nor has any other US envoy come in his place. So much for the Road Map!
The Road Map process, designed by the European Union, worked on within the so-called Quartet including the US, the UN, Russia and the US, was completely overtaken by the US, leaving the other three almost entirely outside of the process. The Quartet working levels designed a robust and detailed plan for third-party involvement –” monitoring, supervising, facilitating and aiding in enforcement. Those plans were quickly dissolved by a US veto, supported strongly by Israel, and a decision that the US would take on the third party roles and those roles would be designed and determined by the US alone. So much for the Quartet!
So John Wolf came and went –” just like Abu Mazen. The US announced that it would wait for a new Palestinian administration to come in until determining how to continue monitoring the process. But since the appointment of Abu Ala by Arafat, there has been no process to monitor. The great hopes for a new beginning with Abu Ala in the driving seat after the complete collapse of the Road Map dissipated extremely rapidly. It appears quite clear that even though Abu Ala is in the driving seat, Yasser Arafat is definitely holding the steering wheel. Since the appointment of Abu Ala, there have been numerous attempts to arrange a summit meeting between Sharon and Abu Ala, yet all of these attempts have yielded no results. It is not quite clear who is preventing the meeting of the two Prime Ministers, both sides claim that they are interested in holding the meeting, but both sides have also indicated that there doesn’t seem to be any real purpose for holding the meeting.
The Road Process design aimed at addressing the problems of lack of trust and confidence between the parties. It set definite benchmarks for measuring performance. It is task oriented and explicit in what the obligations of each party are. It also includes a third-party mechanism to enhance enforcement and to monitor the results. The United States took over the process, pushing the other members of the Quartet out and then in the dark of the night exited through a back door with no signs in sight that they are returning. The other members of the Quartet have completely failed in taking any responsibility for the disarray of peace making affairs and the US, already embroiled in election fever, has left the parties to stew in their own spoiled broth reneging on any direct responsibility for the mess they left behind.
There is no doubt or question that the parties themselves bear the primary responsibility for the death of the Road Map. Both sides have done remarkably little of what they promised President Bush directly that they would do. There are no good guys here. But where are the Americans? Where are Bush’s promises? Where is the cavalry?
Israel is moving forward with its new “golden calf” –” unilateralism. Sharon’s plan for separation and detachment is now assigned to the planners in the government and in Israel’s National Security Council. The Palestinians are focused on international efforts in the Hague, the UN and elsewhere to bring down international pressure on Israel. The ground seems relatively calm lately, but I cannot help but to think that this is the quiet before the next storm. I have always believed that in the Middle East when there is no progress there is regression. There are no vacuums and there is no holding pattern. There is no status quo, either the situation is getting better or it is getting worse. And as I see it, the situation is not getting better.
The separation fence is moving ahead rapidly –” this is the crown on the head of the golden calf. I have already heard that some 150 meters of the fence in north Jerusalem have been cut and violated by Palestinian children. In the area of the wall around Qalqilya, Palestinian children put bubble gum on the sophisticated cameras on the wall while a wench was brought in at night to carry Palestinians over the wall for 5 shekels a head. The separation barrier around Jerusalem is already creating a population explosion in East Jerusalem with thousands of Palestinians moving back into the city in sub-standard housing, with no infrastructure to support the old-new population, no schools, clinics, employment, services, etc. This is not the only place where human tragedies can be expected as a result of the separation barriers.
There is no effective Palestinian government at this time. There is no rule of law in Palestine, other than traffic cops in Bethlehem, Palestine is basically a lawless society. Crime rates have increased dramatically with Nablus taking the lead in gang wars and murders. The Palestinian Authority has basically ceased the reform process. The budget is being held back by the President’s office. The Minister of Finance is threatening to resign.
It seems so clear to me that both sides have sunk their heads deep into the sand and refuse to see the reality that they have created. This situation has not been imposed on the parties. What is happening is happening by choice. Even the act of not making decision is a form of making decisions. The people of Palestine and Israel have been abandoned by their own leaders and they have also been abandoned by the Quartet with the United States leading the desertion.
It is time for a wake-up call –” Sharon, Abu Ala (Arafat), Bush……….. WAKE UP BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.