Not surprisingly, Israel and the Palestinian leadership will arrive in Annapolis without having reached any sort of preliminary Israeli-Palestinian agreement on final status issues and timetables. The Annapolis "event" (no longer a conference or even a meeting) now boils down to a reaffirmation of the roadmap, which many in the region and beyond had long considered a dead letter. The only significant difference between the old roadmap and the new is the adoption of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's proposal to negotiate phase III, final status, simultaneously with implementation of phase I. This innovation is intended to provide the necessary "political horizon" for the Palestinians to comply with phase I even as actual implementation of a final status agreement is postponed until phase I is completed.
Phase III is about borders, Jerusalem and refugees--issues that will prove extremely difficult to negotiate. Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over the past few months have reaffirmed that the years of intifada that followed the failure at Camp David in July 2000 have only deepened the chasm of disagreement over these issues. That leaves phase I, which is about security, confidence-building, settlements and generally returning to the pre-intifada territorial status quo of September 2000.
Is phase I "doable"? Can something good still emerge from Annapolis? To answer these questions in practical terms we must ask, first, who will monitor compliance with roadmap phase I, and how; and second, whether PM Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas are capable under current circumstances of delivering on their roadmap phase I commitments.
Washington, Jerusalem and Ramallah have agreed tentatively that the US will monitor compliance with phase I. The roadmap, however, specifies monitoring by the Quartet, whose other three members (the UN, EU and Russia) have largely been left out of the Annapolis preparations by Washington. If the rest of the Quartet invokes the letter of the roadmap to insist on a role here this could complicate matters for Israel, which would undoubtedly prefer an exclusively American monitor.
Further, the monitoring issue could become critical for American-Israeli relations if, for example, the Olmert government is singled out for allowing further settlement expansion or not dismantling outposts. Then too, Israel has already tried to argue--in accordance with the controversial "14 points" that the Sharon government delivered to the US as its condition for accepting the roadmap--that the two sides' phase I obligations are sequential rather than parallel and that Israel's obligations begin only after the Palestinians deliver on theirs. The US is likely to insist, in accordance with the original roadmap that it recognizes (and not the 14 points) that Israeli and Palestinian obligations are indeed parallel and simultaneous, thereby risking a confrontation with Jerusalem.
This brings us to the issue of the capabilities of the two parties, Israel and Palestine, to fulfill their roadmap phase I conditions, even as they are presumably negotiating the more substantive final status issues in the aftermath of Annapolis.
Beginning with the Palestinians, a lot has changed since the roadmap was agreed and published on April 30, 2003. For example, the Palestinians long ago drafted a constitution as phase I demands and held "free, open and fair elections"--albeit elections that did not turn out the way the roadmap drafters expected. So some aspects of phase I that deal with Palestinian governance may be set aside. But this cannot be the case with regard to institution-building and security.
This points to the major potential drawback in any Palestinian attempt to conform with phase I: the Palestinian leadership cannot deliver on its commitments regarding Gaza. The controversy over this issue has already begun: Palestinian chief negotiator Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) claims that the PA has already fulfilled all its phase I security requirements. True, it has consolidated Yasser Arafat's 12 security organizations into three, disarmed some militants and taken steps against incitement, as demanded. But only in parts of the West Bank. Even if we assume that the Palestinian Authority is now fully in charge of security in the West Bank--and this is far from the reality--it is inconceivable that the Palestinians really want to negotiate a peace deal for the West Bank only and leave Gaza out of it. As long as Gaza is in Hamas' hands and remains hostile, Israel and the US can argue that the PLO/PA has not fulfilled its roadmap phase I obligations.
Turning to Israeli compliance, fulfilling roadmap phase I demands will almost certainly require PM Ehud Olmert or his successor to form a different coalition than the current one or to opt for new elections. It is hard to imagine Shas and Yisrael Beitenu, and even parts of Kadima, agreeing to the reopening of Orient House in East Jerusalem and the removal of dozens of outposts. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine anything resembling the current coalition dismantling the outposts and not collapsing.
To sum up, implanting roadmap phase I at the heart of the Annapolis process could conceivably give Olmert "cover" to proceed after Annapolis with genuine, substantive final status negotiations. He would reassure his doubtful coalition partners that in any case nothing would be implemented until Ramallah could deliver not only security in the West Bank but in Gaza as well. But those same doubtful coalition partners are liable to balk when confronted with the detailed demands of phase I, to say nothing of the concessions on issues of substance required by phase III and destined to be negotiated simultaneously.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the roadmap was thrown into the Annapolis pot at the last minute so that, in the anticipated absence of a serious new declaration of principles, Israel and the Palestinians would have something to agree on at their meeting in Maryland. But that does not mean they are anywhere near agreement on the modalities of its implementation.- Published 19/11/2007 © bitterlemons.org
The sudden reference by Palestinian and Israeli negotiators to the roadmap, drafted years ago in an attempt to rescue the parties from the quicksand of violence and recriminations, was a bit confusing for analysts on both sides. The shift seemed inconsistent with the major political issues that require sorting out through negotiations, particularly the final status issues. In addition, Palestinians and Israelis have already tried the roadmap--and failed to navigate it.
The political investments that are approaching fruition at the end of this month in Annapolis began when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with the encouragement of US Secretary of State Rice, tried to narrow the existing political gaps between the two sides. No doubt, these talks sparked a unique political discussion on issues such as Jerusalem, settlements and borders. Over time, however, everyone involved came to realize that it would not be easy to make progress on these issues. Hence we are now returning to implementing the roadmap.
And so it is appropriate to ask, why was it that the parties failed to make progress on the basis of the roadmap when it was presented in 2003? It was the first phase, in particular, where progress stalled. According to that phase (which the two parties are now re-committing themselves to implement) Palestinians are required to make convincing security efforts to combat violence against Israelis, including collecting arms and dismantling the "infrastructure of terrorism", as well as taking practical steps towards reforming the Palestinian Authority and improving its performance. Israelis, on the other hand, are required by the first stage of the roadmap to stop all settlement activities, including settlement growth related to natural population increase, and dismantle outposts. (These "outposts" are settlements built without official license and considered illegal by the Israeli government itself.)
Israel is also supposed to remove checkpoints in the West Bank and withdraw from areas A (regions placed under sole Palestinian Authority control under the Oslo accords), thereby returning conditions to those prevalent before September 28, 2000, the Palestinian uprising and Israel's crackdown. Finally, Israel is to allow the reopening of Palestinian institutions that have been closed by Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem, in particular Orient House and the Arab Studies Society (previously headed by the late Faisal Husseini).
But these steps never got underway. Israel argued that these actions were to take place one after the other, so that in fact Israel's compliance depended on its satisfaction with Palestinians' fulfillment of their obligations. The Palestinian understanding, on the other hand, was that the two sides should proceed simultaneously with their obligations. And because US officials were not clear in mediating these understandings, the result was mutual finger-pointing by Palestinians and Israelis that the other side was not in compliance.
It's interesting (and ominous), then, that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in a statement after meeting with Secretary Rice that attaining security for Israel is a prerequisite to any progress in the current political effort. Observing the parallel Palestinian rhetoric, we see many statements by Palestinian politicians promising the public that there will be no political progress without an Israeli halt to settlement activities and release of Palestinian prisoners.
These recent statements reflect obvious Palestinian frustration and pessimism. At the same time, there is little American effort to bridge the gaps, which puts this political process in dire straits. Reaching agreement seems to be difficult, and Palestinians are being pressured--as usual--to offer concessions in order to create progress. But even the granting of concessions is not easy now; the current Palestinian leadership is relatively weak and much less able to deliver its public than the leadership that went to Camp David in 2000, for example.
But a failure to agree is no less dangerous. It will strengthen the Palestinian opposition, backfiring on attempts to build a constituency for negotiations.
The only way out is to seek realistic targets from this meeting of the kind that will prevent outright failure, promising continuity and keeping alive a small flame of hope for political progress. These targets should include: an agreement for both sides to start serious negotiations on final political issues (which means a renewal of the commitment to negotiate these issues instead of deciding them unilaterally) including solutions for Jerusalem, refugees, borders, etc. Second, the parties should agree on specific terms of reference, including the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, the roadmap and the Arab initiative that promises peace with the Arab states in exchange for Israel's full territorial withdrawal from occupied lands and a solution for the refugee problem. Finally, the two parties should agree to stop practices prejudicial to these negotiations, essentially committing to their respective security and settlement-related obligations.- Published 19/11/2007 © bitterlemons.org
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is vice-president of Birzeit University and a former Palestinian Authority minister of planning.
AN ISRAELI VIEW
Olmert's roadmap policy shift
by Shlomo Gazit
The roadmap was one of the most central and important diplomatic achievements of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. It was intended to delineate the stages of entering into a peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, up to and including a permanent status peace agreement between them.
At the time, some optimists undoubtedly hoped to see the roadmap usher in a process that would lead us to peace. Ariel Sharon, on the other hand, saw in the roadmap and the international imprimatur that rendered it official the ultimate diplomatic maneuver. It would free him and Israel from pressures to offer concessions and to enter into a dangerous peace process that contradicted his determined strategy of anchoring Israel's grip on Judea and Samaria.
Sharon's great achievement was phase I of the roadmap: as a precondition to initiating final status negotiations between the two sides, the Palestinian Authority was required to condemn all violent activity and dismantle and eliminate the terrorist infrastructure. True, Israel too was required to take action in phase I as a precondition for negotiations: to cease all new construction in the territories and remove all illegal outposts. But Sharon was confident the Palestinian side would not deliver on its obligations. Since there was in any case no Israeli intention to negotiate, Israel too ignored its obligations under the roadmap.
Several years have passed since then. Now, in the course of the past year, the Olmert government has engineered an 180-degree about-face in Sharon's policy. Determined to exploit the remainder of the term of an involved and friendly president in the White House, Israel initiated talks and negotiations. Without saying so explicitly, Jerusalem transformed phase I of the roadmap from a precondition for beginning final status negotiations to a precondition for beginning to implement the negotiated final status agreement. Amazingly, this policy shift was accepted by public opinion and the political system in Israel without opposition.
The Six-Day War produced the Khartoum Arab summit known for its three "nos": no to recognition, no to negotiations and no to peace with Israel. Forty years elapsed before the leaders of the same Arab states again convened in Saudi Arabia and produced three "yeses": yes to recognition, yes to negotiations and yes to peace with Israel. They did not reverse themselves out of love for Israel. What motivated them was the urgent need to focus on domestic and external problems that weigh heavily on them but cannot be dealt with until they are relieved of the burden of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Annapolis conference will apparently be the last opportunity to energize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the coming two years. If a breakthrough is not achieved now, another attempt is doubtful so close to the end of President George W. Bush's tenure in the White House, while the next administration will require a period of learning and organization before it can be expected to produce new initiatives.
We are currently in the midst of negotiations. The media carry the two sides' positions on the core issues: permanent borders, the future of Jerusalem and of course a solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees. The course of the Annapolis conference will be influenced by the views and status of Israel's three leading ministers (PM Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni) who make up its delegation, while the political right--both those parties inside the coalition and those in the parliamentary opposition--seeks to tie their hands before they even arrive in Annapolis. In the Knesset, the opposition is trying to pass a law that would prevent territorial concessions in Jerusalem without an 80 member of Knesset majority, while inside the government Minister Avigdor Lieberman wants to pose a precondition for the Palestinians: recognizing Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
Meanwhile, on the Palestinian side President Mahmoud Abbas recognizes that his Hamas rivals are waiting to ambush him and portray him as a collaborator with Israel. Hence he is bound to adhere to tough Palestinian demands.
At the head of the pyramid of leaders at Annapolis is President Bush. Under the circumstances, all eyes are focused on him. The chances of success at Annapolis will to a large degree be determined by the degree of involvement, initiative and creativity displayed by the American hosts during the discussions and their involvement in implementing the agreement. The American positions and the president's personal involvement and dedication will determine whether the conference ends up with yet another lukewarm diplomatic declaration that cannot be translated into political progress--or produces a launching pad for real, energetic and promising negotiations.
It would be a pity to miss this opportunity.- Published 19/11/2007 © bitterlemons.org
Major General (ret.) Shlomo Gazit was head of IDF Intelligence Analysis and Assessment in June 1967. He was the first coordinator of Israeli government operations in the occupied territories.
A PALESTINIAN VIEW
The roadmap includes the Arabs
an interview with Naji Shurab
bitterlemons: Why do you think the public statements of the negotiators in the lead-up to Annapolis have changed to focus on the roadmap?
Shurab: I believe that this concentration on the roadmap may not be useful for the Palestinian side because the roadmap provides pretence for Israel not to continue the political negotiations process.
In its first phase, [the roadmap] calls on Palestinians to put an end to various types of resistance, what is called "weapons-collection" from the militias, and to "destroy the infrastructure" of the Palestinian organizations. In any case, this is a basic need for Palestinians at this time. Simultaneously, it calls on the Israelis to stop the construction of settlements.
The current concentration on the roadmap seems to stem from the Arab initiative that was adopted at the two Arab summits, Beirut and Riyad. The roadmap is also a focus because it represents the international initiative of the Quartet, and reflects the most general and broad outlines of the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and ongoing positions. It was announced four years ago, and I think it now incorporates many transformations and developments.
bitterlemons: Is it possible then, to build new negotiations on the roadmap?
Shurab: It is not difficult to negotiate on the basis of the roadmap if the basic elements are present. The question is, are the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations now and in Annapolis at the end of this month occurring in an environment suitable and appropriate to push them forward? The point is that the negotiations environment includes Israel's political requirements, those of the United States, and in the Palestinian sphere--Palestinian-Palestinian negotiations--and of course, the Arab environment.
In general, the environment is not in favor of the Palestinian party, and is not even in favor of a fair negotiations process. Are the Americans going to play a fair role in the coming negotiations? I believe that American political agendas regarding nuclear weapons in Iran and the situation in Iraq will take precedence.
It has been difficult in recent years for the American administration to truly play a role in a complicated peace process such as the Arab-Israel conflict. The negotiations require strong international political will as well as desire on the part of both of the negotiating partners themselves--the Israelis and Palestinians.
bitterlemons: And Israeli and Palestinian capabilities?
Shurab: I think that both sides, the Palestinians and Israelis, do not have the ability to push the political process forward. Especially the Israeli side, because it is being asked in this stage of the negotiations to progress to the next stage, and to take a clearer political stand concerning the Palestinian state, the issue of Jerusalem, the settlements and other main issues. The current Israeli government incorporates the settlers and the right-wing, and [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak and [former prime minister] Netanyahu are gearing up for the position of prime minister. Thus, Olmert is in a weak position to take decisive decisions relating to the negotiations process.
On the Palestinian side, I can't imagine the success of the negotiations process when there is this state of fragmentation between Gaza's de facto government and the government in the West Bank. In addition to this, Abu Mazen has only one year remaining in his presidency. The question is: is this enough--for Abu Mazen, for George Bush, for Olmert himself?
I believe that this next year might witness dangerous developments that do not advance the negotiations process. There are the American presidential elections, which the Zionist lobby is concentrating on. And there should also be Palestinian presidential elections next year. There are also problems in Israel, where Olmert is being investigated on several charges of corruption. This is the negative perspective.
bitterlemons: And the positive perspective?
Shurab: There are things cooking that make the success of the process more likely. First, there is the Arab initiative, which extends relations once Israel has withdrawn from Arab land. President Bush, according to US law, can use his powers and pressure Israel. Olmert, for his part, needs to bring his public a declaration--not Palestinian, but Arab.
The importance of the presence of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at Annapolis is crucial. This is a first. I imagine it has great meaning for the Israeli citizen. This is a trump card that the Palestinian president can use to advance the negotiations.
bitterlemons: There is the opinion that Annapolis is a great risk for those who are seeking to broaden the Palestinian receptiveness to peace negotiations, and in fact could damage these interests. Your view?
Shurab: I think that the Palestinian side, the half a million people that gathered in Gaza on the day of the third memorial for Yasser Arafat, sent a clear message in support of President Mahmoud Abbas' position.
But extremism is blocking the opportunities that the Annapolis conference is meant to capitalize on. Successive Israeli governments have posed obstacles to the trust needed for establishing a serious peace conference. We have to differentiate between the Palestinian position concerning the peace process and the [objective] possibilities for developing the process.- Published 19/11/2007 © bitterlemons.org
Naji Shurab is a political science professor at al-Azhar University in the Gaza Strip.
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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.