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The ‘Road Map’

02 April 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

In the middle of the War in Iraq everyone is scrambling around looking for a spring vacation (Easter, Pesach, whatever) and are searching franticly for a ‘Road Map’.  The Europeans are pressuring British PM Tony Blair to take the Palestinian – Israel tour just as he is stuck in Iraq with his American allies.  So President Bush has now joined him in the parallel planning in steps to move forward on the Palestinian – Israeli front.

No doubt Bush owes a lot to Blair for his support.  Two days ago the American administration made it clear at the AIPAC conference that illegal (by Israeli law) hill top proto-settlements must be removed and no more development allowed in Jewish developments (legal by Israeli law) across the 1967 boundaries.  It appears most applauded.  Even ardent supporters of Israel are fed up with settlement activity.  So are most people in the Likud and much of the Israeli Right.

So what’s the deal?  The ‘Road Map’ demands an end to Palestinian terror and then a halt to Israeli settlement activity.  Afterwards there is an interim agreement for a borderless Palestinian state and negotiations for a permanent status agreement.  Sharon needs to bash down the right wing, but he cannot do it directly, so there is no better proxy than the US, especially a friendly administration under pressure from its British ally. 

The illegal proto-settlements are useless, only get in the way of any coherent demarcation line between Israel and the Palestinians, complicate security, demand more reserve soldiers to guard the limited number of inhabitants and allow for an ideological platform for the far right.  And all this threatens Israeli PM Sharon’s ability to keep up good relations with the US. 

The demand for a halt in development of existing settlements is the ‘pay off’ for newly elected Palestinian PM Abu Mazen should he have enough courage to crush terrorism.  It remains to be seen what Abu Mazen can do.

The bottom line question in Israel is why the Americans did not make the removal of the Palestinian demand of  “return of all refugees” the trade off for a Palestinian state?  Or is this to be added at the time permanent borders are decided?  No doubt it is a tricky question since if the question is raised at the beginning, there may never be an interim agreement and a separation between Israelis and Palestinians.

On the other hand, if it is not resolved in the permanent status agreement the temporary Palestinian borders may become ‘de facto’ permanent.  And that could explode with Israel forced to enter the Palestinian areas again and back to square one.

Or Sharon may have this figured out as the optimum solution between right wing pressures not to cede anything, moves for peace by the West and irreconcilable Palestinian demands for ‘full refugee return’ and the resulting destruction of the State of Israel.

In other words, an interim agreement may become ‘permanent’.