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Road Map Trade Off

25 May 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

US President George Bush is under pressure on the Palestinian – Israeli front.  The ‘Road Map’ is out and everyone is expected to accept it.  Formally only Israel has not yet decided to adopt it as a working formula.  Israel’s foremost objection is over the Palestinian ‘right of return’ for refugees, a formulated death blow to the Jewish state.  This issue is only to be discussed in the last stage of talks, after the Palestinians have a state and temporary boundaries.  The issue should have been among the first, but it appears little can be done now.  The Saudi initiative is also mentioned, meaning Israel must return to the 1967 borders, a totally unacceptable condition.

Washington, in an attempted compromise, is suggesting Israel’s objections will receive American support and be dealt with as the ‘Map’ is implemented.  With acceptance by the Arabs, including the Quartet (US, EU, Russia and the UN), Israel is in a diplomatic bind.  The Palestinians look like ‘moderates’ as they continue their suicide bombings and other wanton terror.

America wants to see an Israeli gesture in return for Palestinian Authority (led by Abu Mazen) moves to halt terror.  International demands begin with settlements and here PM Ariel Sharon can begin a trade-off.  There are plenty of illegal proto-settlements (by Israeli law) of several caravans on scattered hilltops that can be removed.  A good 80 – 90% of the Israeli populace supports such a move which would not touch any serious part of the settlement movement.  The Right would not leave the government over such an issue for fear the Labor Party would take their place.  And if they did Sharon would not shed too many tears with a coalition more amenable to negotiations.

Furthermore these proto-settlements are illegal and it is about time the law was upheld.  It would also send a message to the Right and the world that Israel is actively seeking an agreement.  Finally the proto-settlements do no one any good, especially the army, who is responsible for the security of their residents no matter what illegal activities their residents are involved in.  Too much manpower is drained off in dealing with such right wing ‘in your face’ political issues.

The Palestinians, covered with terrorism from head to foot should not be allowed to dictate and win the diplomatic game, but rather their bluff should be called.  Take down the proto- settlements and in return the Palestinians will stop terrorism.  Should such a deal succeed it would be worthwhile.

And if it does not, the Palestinians will be exposed for the terrorist driven society they have decided to become and Abu Mazen will not be able to cover for Arafat.