b i t t e r l e m o n s. o r g
    August 17, 2009 Edition 32                      Palestinian-Israeli crossfire
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  Roadmap phase II revisited
  . Obama is deep into phase II        by Yossi Alpher
Because these elements are multilateral in nature, they are emerging as key concepts of Obama's approach to the conflict.
. Optional and problematic        by Ghassan Khatib
The border issue ought to be the first that is negotiated.
  . Just talk peace        by Yossi Beilin
This idea looks even more bizarre today than it did when the decade began.
. The second stage should be bypassed        by Walid Salem
It is time to face down and overcome Israeli intransigence and rejectionism.

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Obama is deep into phase II
by Yossi Alpher

The roadmap seemed to have been stillborn in 2003 when it was introduced by the Quartet after extensive negotiations with Israel and the PLO. The principal obstacle to implementing it back then was leadership on all sides: US, Israel and the PLO.

Today, the leadership situation is somewhat more encouraging: US President Barack Obama is spearheading renewed and reinvigorated American involvement in the peace process and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas emerged from the Sixth Fateh General Conference with a stronger leadership profile. Still, Abbas does not control the Gaza Strip and his rejection of the peace terms offered by Ehud Olmert in 2008 is deeply disappointing. As for Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu, he is a doubtful candidate for a serious peace process.

This is where roadmap phase II may become useful. Until now, phase II has been the forgotten phase of the roadmap because it is best known for "the option of creating an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty". Both Yasser Arafat in his day and Abbas today have made it clear that they reject this option. Hence phase II tends to be neglected whenever anyone brings up the roadmap. The George W. Bush administration even tried at Annapolis in late 2008 to merge phases I and III and ignore phase II.

This is to be regretted. What really is unique about phase II of the roadmap is not only a state with provisional borders but also provisions for an international conference and a series of Arab confidence-building gestures toward Israel. And precisely because these elements of the roadmap are multilateral in nature, they are emerging as key concepts of US President Barack Obama's approach to the conflict, which seeks to integrate an Israeli-Palestinian solution with other crucial developments in US-Arab-Israel relations.

Roadmap phase II was originally championed by then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. Today, as president of Israel, Peres continues to pursue these ideas in his contacts with the Arab world. For their part, Obama administration officials do not openly link their emerging ideas to any phase of the roadmap, evidently in order to avoid being identified with what is seen as a failed initiative of the Bush administration. Nevertheless, the administration is quietly following the roadmap formula. It is demanding Netanyahu government compliance with roadmap phase I requirements regarding settlements precisely in order to address the Palestinians--who have by and large carried out their phase I obligations--and other Arabs and try to bring all of us into phase II, which in turn will usher in phase III final-status negotiations.

When the Obama administration asks Qatar, Oman, Morocco and Tunisia to undertake to again exchange diplomatic or commercial interest sections with Israel--all on condition that Netanyahu undertake a settlement freeze--this is phase II: "Arab states restore pre-intifada links to Israel". When Moscow talks about holding a Madrid-style international conference to kick off a renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace process, this is phase II: "International conference convened by the Quartet. . . to launch a process". When Israeli officials and others suggest renewing the Madrid multilateral talks, this is also phase II: "Revival of multilateral engagement on issues including regional water resources, environment, economic development, refugees and arms control issues". If Netanyahu can be brought to accept a settlement freeze, then these phase II gestures on the part of the Arab world could constitute an important incentive for his government to work with Obama's plan for a peace process.

There remains the phase II "option" of a Palestinian state with provisional borders. Despite understandable Palestinian objections, we're not as far away as it may seem from some variation on this option. One possibility is that US peace emissary George Mitchell will succeed in persuading Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas to limit their negotiations for now to a discussion only of borders. This reverses the "option" and gives us a provisional state with permanent borders.

Another possibility is that, as Abbas suggested in his Fateh congress speech two weeks ago, the PLO might opt to declare a state unilaterally. While it would seek international recognition of that state within the 1967 borders, in practical terms its borders would at least temporarily be defined by Oslo areas A and B and be provisional.

To sum up, if you're interested in what hopefully might soon transpire in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, go back and reread roadmap phase II.- Published 17/8/2009 © bitterlemons.org

Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the bitterlemons.org family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Optional and problematic
by Ghassan Khatib

The second phase of the roadmap was always the most problematic part of that document, particularly to the Palestinian side.

Phase II calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state with provisional borders for a transitional period. From a Palestinian perspective, this has serious problems, but the Palestinian side was able to live with the document because it stipulates that the clause about "provisional borders" was optional and would be implemented only if the parties agreed. In other words, the second phase does not have the same level of binding commitment that the first and last phases embody.

Palestinians at all levels were very clear in rejecting this part of the roadmap. No contradiction was seen, however, in accepting the roadmap in general and committing to implement the obligations on the Palestinian side while maintaining reservations over this optional phase.

The reason for rejecting phase II was the fear that the "provisional" borders might become permanent, especially in light of the Palestinian experience with the "transitional" phase of the Oslo agreement. The Oslo process was supposed to last four years, but has continued until now. This was one of the major causes for the eruption of violence and confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians.

Secondly, any provisional border arrangement will imply tolerance for Israel's illegal settlement expansion at least in parts of the occupied territories. This, in other words, would only accommodate Israeli settlement policy.

The motivation behind the idea of a state on provisional borders was the fact that the issue of borders is one of the thorniest issues in negotiations. Yet Palestinian objections to the idea stem from the fact that Israeli settlement expansion is partly motivated by an attempt at shifting the demarcation of possible borders in Israel's favor in any two-state agreement. Consequently, delaying negotiations and the determination of borders will only allow Israel to get away with its attempt to maintain its illegal occupation on at least some of the occupied territories that are supposed to form part of the future Palestinian state.

In fact, the border issue ought to be the first that is negotiated. Fixing the borders at the outset will pacify some of the tension, especially that created unilaterally and by force created by Israel's "facts on the ground" in order to preempt negotiations for two states.

The parties must either adhere to international legality and the agreed terms of reference for the peace process, including the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council such as 242, which consider Israeli control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal, or to the roadmap, which calls for "ending the occupation that started in 1967".

Without either, there can be neither peace nor progress toward peace. With the problems inherent in phase II of the roadmap, it would make sense for the parties to skip that phase and go straight to phase III and final status negotiations.- Published 17/8/2009 © bitterlemons.org

Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications and director of the Government Media Centre.

Just talk peace

by Yossi Beilin

Aaron Miller, formerly a member of the American peace team, writes in his book "The Much Too Promised Land" that when the roadmap was proposed to the Israelis and Palestinians in April 2003 the Americans were mired deep in the war in Iraq, the Palestinians accepted the map without comment and with no intention of implementing it, and the Israelis added 14 comments that would have neutralized it had anybody taken them seriously.

Phase II of the roadmap was the most important. Indeed, this is the only "invention" in the roadmap: without it, there is a first phase of confidence-building measures and a final phase of permanent status negotiations. The Quartet (the US, EU, UN and Russia) took the greatest weakness of the Oslo accords, phasing, and amplified it into a multi-phased proposal fully four years after a permanent status agreement should have been signed. Roadmap phase II proposes something we never dreamed of suggesting in the preceding years: establishing a Palestinian state with provisional borders.

At the close of the first decade of the third millennium, this idea looks even more bizarre than it did when the decade began. Yet there was method to this madness. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refused to talk to PLO leader Yasser Arafat. Occasionally he sent his son to Arafat until this idea too, borrowed from very different regimes, was discarded. Sharon did not for one moment believe in peace with the Arabs; from his standpoint there was no difference between Fateh and Hamas. Sharon considered the Oslo process anathema. He never even bothered to inform the Palestinians that the outgoing Barak government's commitment to renew the Taba talks after Israel's elections had been tossed into the garbage pile of history.

Arafat, who did not initiate the second intifada but rode its wave of violence and convinced himself it would advance his cause in the political process, understood by this time that he was at a dead end. He agreed to a plan he never wanted only when his advisers explained to him that phase II could be interpreted as a non-binding option: "In the second phase, efforts are focused on the option of creating a Palestinian state with provisional borders". Ostensibly Arafat could agree to the roadmap but, when the time came, reject phase II, which was only an "option".

If the Americans wanted to build a rhetorical bridge between Sharon and Arafat, then this was a work of art. But if they wanted to find a solution, then they caused heavy damage. They halted the process of agreements (the Oslo Declaration of Principles of 1993, the interim agreement of 1995, the Wye River agreement of 1998, the Sharm al-Sheikh agreement of 1999), released the parties from their Oslo commitments and replaced them with a document of their own that was never signed by the two sides and that allowed them to wait for one another and not advance toward peace to this day.

Paradoxically, it is the Israelis who have fulfilled none of their obligations under roadmap phase I, while the Palestinians have appointed a prime minister, organized their security forces and built Palestinian Authority governing institutions. Were an American leader to appear today, in the name of the Quartet or in the name of the world's only superpower, and propose that Israelis and Palestinians implement phase II of the roadmap--a phase that, according to the original plan, should have been carried out between June and December 2003 (!)--one would have to ask why it doesn't make more sense to hold final status negotiations now and implement an agreement in phases based on Palestinian security capabilities, rather than creating a state in phases.

On the Palestinian side, there is a president who emerged from the recent Fateh conference much stronger. He is undoubtedly interested in peace based on the two-state principle and understands that agreement means historic compromise. On the Israeli side is a leader with a large Knesset majority and a public that supports the two-state solution, and who can implement an agreement if he puts his mind to it. In the United States there is a president who is prepared to devote considerable effort in generating Middle East peace because, unlike his predecessor, he understands that this is an American strategic interest. If this is the situation, why do the three have to postpone the moment of truth until eventually such a leadership triangle no longer exists? Why again fear and flee a decision and again grant the extremists on both sides time to sabotage a final status agreement as it grows ever distant.

The Palestinians, who have constantly feared lest an interim agreement become a final agreement, will under no circumstances accept a state with provisional borders unless there is prior agreement to final status terms. That means that Israel will have to reveal in advance its readiness to compromise but will get in return only a partial agreement. In parallel the Palestinians, even if they get from us the outline of final status, will constantly fear that it won't come to pass. The Arab Peace Initiative will not be implemented because this will not be real peace. And with all due respect to flights through Saudi airspace, this is really not a viable alternative to peaceful relations with the Muslim world.

There is no reason to agree in 2009 to a plan that was cut to the dimensions of Ariel Sharon more than five years ago. Instead of shaking the mothballs off a plan that no one ever took seriously, we should simply talk peace.- Published 17/8/2009 © bitterlemons.org

Yossi Beilin, a former minister of justice, currently chairs the Geneva initiative and is president of Beilink.

The second stage should be bypassed

by Walid Salem

The second stage of the "Performance-based Road Map" for Israeli-Palestinian peace is the most ambiguous and problematic among the three stages of the plan. Partly this is because of the contradiction between the original American proposal from 2002 and the final agreed-upon document released by the Quartet in 2003, as a compromise among all its members.

The George W. Bush administration's draft of 2002 included a phrase about a Palestinian state with provisional borders as the plan for the second stage of the roadmap. The roadmap of 2003 stated that the state with provisional border would be only an option, which means that it can be bypassed and the two sides can move directly to the third stage of negotiations on permanent status. Somewhat contradictorily, however, the roadmap of 2003 also included a call for a second international conference at the beginning of the third stage to endorse the state on provisional borders while at the same time launching negotiations for permanent status issues.

Regardless of that contradiction, the main question remains how to update the roadmap in order to catch up with developments since its signing.

Given the fact that the Palestinians have been able to fulfill their obligations according to the first stage of the roadmap--including the appointment of a prime minister in 2003, 2005 and after the 2006 elections, the approval of the constitution by Yasser Arafat in 2003, the development successes and the building of transparent institutions, in addition to all the successes in the field of security in the West Bank, including during the last war against Gaza--and given that Israel did not reciprocate by fulfilling its obligations under the roadmap, it might be proposed that the main modification required to the roadmap should be forgetting phase II and moving directly to the third stage. This could then start with an international conference that will launch negotiations on permanent status to be concluded in a timeframe of no longer than a year, parallel to which a peace process with Syria and Lebanon can be finalized.

First, Israel must fulfill its obligations under the first stage of the roadmap, including freezing settlement expansion, dismantling settlement outposts, opening Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem and allowing free passage between the West Bank and Gaza. This would be the opposite of what happened during the Annapolis process, where the move to the third stage was made conditional upon the implementation of first stage obligations mainly by the Palestinian side. Now what is required is to get Israel to fulfill its obligations under the first stage as a starting point for launching the third stage, while the ambiguous second stage should be deleted.

Proposals such as establishing a state with provisional borders, with an international presence on the ground in addition to international guarantees to move to a two-state solution within a certain timeframe, are not very helpful since they put Palestinians in a situation that some will consider an international occupation. In addition, Palestinians will set very little store in promises of statehood with their experience of similar promises since the peace process began.

Indeed, there must be no more gradualism and conflict management. It is time to face down and overcome Israeli intransigence and rejectionism after 18 years of bitter negotiations starting in Madrid in 1991. Only then can we begin to embark upon a comprehensive regional process to secure peace between Israel and Syria, Lebanon as well as the Palestinians.- Published 17/8/2009 © bitterlemons.org

Walid Salem is director of the Center for Democracy and Community Development and a member of the PLO's Palestinian National Council.

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Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at ghassan@bitterlemons.org and yossi@bitterlemons.org, respectively.

Bitterlemons.org is an internet newsletter that presents Palestinian and Israeli viewpoints on prominent issues of concern. Each edition addresses a specific issue of controversy. Bitterlemons.org maintains complete organizational and institutional symmetry between its Palestinian and Israeli sides.