(Notes on the Roadmap)
by Boris Shusteff
I. On April 29, speaking at the Palestinian Legislative Council, the new Palestinian Prime-Minister-elect Abu Mazen stated, “the Roadmap must be implemented, not negotiated.” His call to the Quartet “to announce the Roadmap as we know it, …and to guarantee and verify the implementation of each phase with an effective and guaranteed enforcement and monitoring mechanisms” should have brought a chill to supporters of Israel. His unequivocal “we will not negotiate the Roadmap” should have been more than sufficient warning about the content of the document that would finally be published on April 30.
And behold, it was! Since Britain’s infamous White Paper, with the exception of the UN’s “Zionism is racism” resolution, it is hard to find any other international document that is so palpably anti-Israel (i.e. anti-Jewish). The Quartet – the USA, the EU, the UN and Russia – has done a “superb” job of creating a document that, in its essence, is nothing but a death warrant for the Jewish state
II. In order to understand why the Roadmap is so dangerous for Israel we must look at what was lacking in the Oslo Accords (OA) that prevented the Palestinian Arabs from moving full speed towards their ultimate goal, proclaimed originally in the PLO Charter, and never repealed or amended since – namely “the liberation of Palestine,” and the destruction of the Jewish state. The Arabs have always tried to use so-called vise tactics in dealing with Israel, squeezing her from two directions. On one side, the aim is to gain maximal tangible substantial assets such as obtaining land, freezing construction of Jewish settlements, evicting Jews from disputed lands, bringing more Arabs into Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha), etc. On the other side, in order to keep the fire of Arab hatred against the Jewish state inextinguishable, they have worked to give as few verbal promises as possible of the sort that could be interpreted by the general Arab public as concessions to Israel.
From this perspective, the Oslo agreement gave the PLO leadership a certain foothold in Yesha in exchange for the empty declaration that the PLO “commits itself… to the peaceful resolution of the conflict” and “renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence.” However, it had no self-implementing provision that would allow the Arabs to gain control over the land. The OA technically gave them only administrative authority over the people and not over the land. Whatever they obtained from Israel was only because of Israel’s good will, and was technically not enforceable through the OA.
Moreover, the OA forced the Arabs to agree to Israel’s demand for direct negotiations. This was an issue to which they had consistently objected, since from their standpoint it meant that, by accepting Israel as a negotiating partner, they were accepting Israel’s existence as a legitimate state, which contradicted their stated goal of its destruction. Therefore, the Arabs have always wanted to have a third party present at the negotiations, to be able to blame on it any concessions they would be forced to make, while at the same time hoping to use it as additional leverage to pressure Israel.
Briefly summarizing, for the Arabs to continue on the road toward Israel’s destruction, the OA was lacking several very important provisions. It did not have a clause that guaranteed the Arabs sovereign control over the land that they needed to advance their Plan of Stages. It did not have a mechanism directed against Jewish settlement activity. It forced the parties to conduct direct negotiations with each other, and, as will become clear later, it was reversible, meaning that Israel could stop her retreat if she felt that it endangered her existence.
III. The freshly released Roadmap completely changes the whole Oslo equation. It gives the Arabs absolutely everything that they dreamed of, and gives Israel nothing that hasn’t been “given” before. The Roadmap allows the PA to continue its policy of squeezing out Israel while demanding from the Arabs only intangible promises in return. (Especially worrisome in this context is the fact that the Arabs have thus far achieved almost all of their aims not through good will and honest negotiation with Israel, but through continuous murderous terrorism).
To begin with, the Roadmap brings a third party into the negotiations. The Roadmap officially gives the Arabs the mechanism that they sought from the very beginning. The third party will be constantly present in sorting out relations between the two sides. And this will not be just any third party. This third party is the Quartet. The Roadmap constantly stresses its role: “The Quartet will meet regularly at senior levels to evaluate the parties' performance on the implementation of the plan.” “Progress into Phase II will be based upon the consensus judgment of the Quartet.” “Progress into Phase III, based on consensus judgment of Quartet…” One can easily predict the nature of the Quartet’s “consensus judgment,” since it consists of the consistently anti-Israel UN, the mostly anti-Semitic European Union and Russia, and the openly pro-Arab US State Department. The two International Conferences envisioned by the Roadmap will only enlist several more anti-Semitic players, such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, etc. into pressuring Israel into more concessions.
The second provision needed by the Arabs, which was absent in the OA is now the essence of the Roadmap itself. Its loudly proclaims as its goal “the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state.” Oslo did not even mention any “Palestinian state.” While some argued that it implied the creation of such a state, in reality it spoke only of establishing a “Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority… in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, for a transitional period not exceeding five years leading to a Permanent Settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.” Anyone who has read these resolutions at least once obviously knows that they do not mention any Palestinian state whatsoever.
Thus, instead of a vague document speaking about some “Palestinian Authority,” the Roadmap stresses as its central goal the creation of a Palestinian state. Anybody who follows the semantics of documents related to the Israeli-Arab confrontation will notice that with every new document the pro-Arab language becomes more pronounced. For instance, while the Mitchell Report referenced in the Roadmap was the first document to mention a “Palestinian state,” the Roadmap already speaks about a “VIABLE Palestinian state”.
The third provision of the Roadmap that is disastrous for the Jews and priceless for the Arabs pertains to the so-called “settlements.” The OA did not prevent the settlement of Jews in Yesha. There was nothing in the document that dealt with construction in Jewish settlements. The Jews were under no restrictions to continue building settlements on ancient Jewish land. It is because of this reason that the Arabs have directed the brunt of their terrorist attacks against Jews living in Yesha. They tried to frighten the Jews and force them to leave by means of a murderous terror campaign. But they did not succeed. On the contrary, the Jews stayed put, demonstrated courage and resilience, and the number of so-called “Jewish settlers” in over nine years since the signing of the Oslo agreement has substantially increased.
Now, like a reward for their incessant terror, the Roadmap comes to the Arabs’ rescue. It is aggressively anti-Jewish on the issue of Jewish settlements, while not even mentioning the Arab settlements that have mushroomed exponentially on the same disputed land. According to the Roadmap, in Phase 1, “GOI [the Government Of Israel] immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001. Consistent with the Mitchell Report, GOI freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).” This unequivocal demand is an unprecedented interference with the matters of a sovereign state. The wording “including natural growth” is simply shocking. What is meant by this absolutely outrageous and shameless demand? Perhaps the Quartet wants Israel to relocate a Jewish man or woman out of a particular settlement every time that a little Jewish boy or girl is born there?
VI. The fourth provision that plays into Arab hands is that the Roadmap is irreversible, unlike the OA, as was mentioned before. Paragraph 4 of Article 5 of the Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles (“Oslo-1”) stated, “The two parties agree that the outcome of the permanent status negotiations should not be prejudiced or preempted by agreements reached for the interim period.” This clause protected Israel from the disastrous consequences of the Agreement allowing her at any moment to reverse the course of events. The Roadmap eliminates this option and does not allow for any reversals. As soon as the new Arab state is created there is no way for Israel to bring the situation back.
These four substantial provisions that differentiate the Roadmap from the OA are more than enough for the Arabs not to want to negotiate the Roadmap and demand its immediate imposition. Even more so because the document lacks an extremely important clause for the Jews. One might remember that Ehud Barak was ready to make a lot of concessions, hoping in return to gain assurance of the end of the conflict. “The end of the conflict” for Israel means not only the conflict with the Palestinians, but the conflict with the whole Arab world. Professor Yehoshafat Harkabi brilliantly explained this point in a series of excellent articles in the early 1970s.
And this is exactly the key element that is lacking in the Roadmap. Even the subtitle for Phase III reads, “Permanent Status Agreement and End of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” meaning that the End of the Israeli-Arab conflict is not envisioned by the authors of the Roadmap.
The argument may arise that this is inaccurate, since the last sentence of the Roadmap speaks of “Arab state acceptance of full normal relations with Israel and security for all states of the region in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli Peace.” However, this declaration is nothing but a fig leaf of verbal even-handedness. It is a mere slogan, equivalent to declaring that “All people in the world must live in peace.” This becomes especially clear after reading the preamble, which lays out “a roadmap with clear phases, timelines, target dates and benchmarks aiming at progress through reciprocal steps.” The number of specific phases, timelines, target dates and steps assigned in the Roadmap to the Arab states in the “context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace” is precisely zero!
This is the main reason why Yasser Arafat, Abu Mazen, Saeb Erekat and other Palestinian Arab leaders embrace the Roadmap so eagerly. It allows them to move towards their ultimate goal – the destruction of Israel – without denouncing any of their claims. Previously, under the auspices of Oslo, it was impossible for the Arabs to move toward the creation of an Arab state based on the OA without proclaiming an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, because otherwise the Jews would not have agreed to their statehood. Now the Arabs do not have to bother with this at all. The only real requirement that the Palestinian Arabs have to fulfill to be rewarded with a state is to “DECLARE an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake VISIBLE efforts on the ground.” In other words, the requirement for democratization is a mere hoax that can be easily satisfied. Of course it does not mean that the terror will really cease. “Declarations” and “efforts” might be insufficient to stop terror, but they will be good enough for the Quartet to make a “consensus judgment” and allow the Arabs to establish their state.
Even in the best-case scenario for Israel, if the terror really stops it will be a temporary respite. The Arabs, well aware that all the “improvements” to the original OA became the part of the Roadmap only as a result of their continuing terror will undoubtedly employ it again, once they’ve had time to restore the terrorist infrastructure. This time it will take place in an “independent and viable state,” in which Israel will be unable to prevent it from happening. Since after the Arab state is created, any hypothetical Israeli anti-terror incursion would be conducted not into disputed land but into “sovereign Arab territory,” it will be immediately classified by the international community as outright “unprovoked” aggression.
V. These quick notes do not even uncover the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Roadmap’s anti-Israel nature. It is replete with anti-Israel clauses, statements and paragraph, hypocritical statements and anti-Israel bias. And if today the Oslo Agreements are recognized to have turned out disastrously for Israel, very soon the Roadmap will prove to be an even greater disaster. Significantly, the Arabs are very well aware of this. MEMRI recently quoted Abu Mazen, speaking in July 2002 to Fatah Commanders and leaders in the Gaza Strip, saying, “Israel… made the biggest mistake of its life when it supported the Oslo Accords.” He also stated, “In the Oslo agreement, we took land without giving anything in exchange, while the issues of the permanent status are still [pending].”
If Israel travels along the road predicated by the Roadmap, she will only accelerate her own demise. At the end of the Roadmap, Abu Mazen or some other Palestinian Arab will honestly tell the Arabs, “With the help of the Roadmap, we took more land and created our state without giving anything in exchange, while the issues of the permanent status are still [pending].” And he will be absolutely right, since the Roadmap gives not a single hint as to how these permanent status issues can be resolved, knowing well that the gap between Israel and the Arabs on these issues is unbridgeable.
The Oslo years have clearly demonstrated that these “permanent status” issues – Jerusalem, refugees, and permanent borders, coupled with the main issue of the Arabs’ refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state in the Middle East – are the real crux of the problem. Any attempts to approach them have shown the complete incompatibility of any solutions acceptable to both parties. By not even tackling them, the Roadmap tacitly admits that it is useless to speak about any realistic peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Israeli Jews were naïve and ignorant when Israel was forced by her leaders into the Oslo agreements. After almost ten years of the Oslo experience there are no excuses for saying that we cannot know what to expect from the Roadmap. It’s only necessary to read it in order to understand all the disastrous consequences for Israel that will follow if it is implemented. Luckily one clause in it gives the Jews an escape route.
The Roadmap declares in its preamble that “the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only be achieved… through Israel’s readiness to do what is necessary for a democratic Palestinian state to be established.” Therefore it is Israel’s right and duty to take this opportunity to loudly and clearly say “NO” to a Palestinian state casting the Roadmap into the dustbin of history, where it belongs.
Boris Shusteff is an engineer. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.