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    August 3, 2009 Edition 30                      Palestinian-Israeli crossfire
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  Roadmap phase I revisited
  . Still relevant        by Yossi Alpher
The contrast between PA and Israeli fulfillment of phase I obligations, however tardily they did so, is striking.
. Hostage to Israeli intransigence        by Ghassan Khatib
The US faces serious difficulties in convincing Israel to comply with its obligations.
  . The Palestinians burned the roadmap        by Yisrael Harel
Had they really wanted a state, in 2003 the Palestinians were very close.
. A crucial test        by Mkhaimar Abusada
The credibility and determination of the United States and President Barack Obama are being tested by Israel.

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Still relevant
by Yossi Alpher

As we begin a review of the roadmap's three phases, it is fascinating to contemplate the enduring relevancy of this document. Back in 2003 when it was introduced, the clear impression of many observers, myself among them, was that the roadmap was stillborn. Palestinian President Yasser Arafat would interfere with the efforts of newly-appointed PM Mahmoud Abbas to restrain Palestinian violence. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon would insist on Palestinian compliance on ceasing violence before he froze settlement construction and removed outposts. US President George W. Bush's newfound commitment to a proactive role in the peace process seemed largely rhetorical.

And indeed, all the villains in this scenario lived up to worst-case expectations. Nevertheless, something happened. Sharon responded to the roadmap by withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. Arafat passed from the scene and Abbas remains committed to non-violence. Bush responded to the Hamas takeover of Gaza by investing heavily and successfully in helping the Palestinian Authority, now restricted to the West Bank, deliver on its phase I obligations of ending violence and building institutions.

Now along comes a new American president, Barack Obama, and demands that Israel finally seriously fulfill its own phase I obligations regarding settlements. Thus the roadmap is still with us. And phase I in particular is relevant. It presents a logical checklist of the positive developments that have to take place on both sides in order for any lasting progress toward a two-state solution to be contemplated:

Palestinians immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence. . . accompanied by supportive measures undertaken by Israel. Palestinians and Israelis resume security cooperation. . . to end violence, terrorism, and incitement through restructured and effective Palestinian security services. Palestinians undertake comprehensive political reform in preparation for statehood, including drafting a Palestinian constitution, and free, fair and open elections upon the basis of those measures. Israel takes all necessary steps to help normalize Palestinian life. Israel withdraws from Palestinian areas occupied from September 28, 2000 and the two sides restore the status quo that existed at that time, as security performance and cooperation progress. Israel also freezes all settlement activity, consistent with the Mitchell report.

True, the timetables have long since expired and the Palestinian elections produced an unwanted and destructive result. But the contrast between PA and Israeli fulfillment of phase I obligations--or at least serious attempts to fulfill them, however tardily--is striking. In the last two years, the PA has begun solidly delivering on security in the West Bank and building institutions of governance. Israel has done little to stop settlement growth or remove outposts. Nor has a succession of Israeli governments made any move to withdraw to the September 2000 lines or restore the Palestinian institutional status quo in East Jerusalem as phase I demands.

This contrast is all the more striking if we factor in Israel's insistence, framed in PM Sharon's 14 point response to the roadmap, that phase I obligations be sequential and not parallel: Israel would fulfill its obligations only after the Palestinians fulfilled theirs. The US and the rest of the Quartet never recognized this Israeli demand, which pointedly contradicts the language of phase I. But even if they were to accept it, Israel still hasn't complied with regard to settlements and Jerusalem in response to Palestinian security achievements. Only the persistent prodding of the Obama administration has brought a grudging government of Israel to begin dismantling West Bank checkpoints and to contemplate a serious effort to remove outposts.

In its final year in office, the Bush administration orchestrated one major structural adjustment to the roadmap. Under the Annapolis process, Israel and the Palestinians agreed to enter phase III--final status talks--in parallel with phase I undertakings, with the stipulation that implementation of a negotiated peace would await fulfillment of phase I institution-building obligations. Because Israel and the PLO never reached an agreed final status agreement, this arrangement could not be put to the test. But it certainly does not appear to have reduced Palestinian motivation in the West Bank to carry out the institution-building and security tasks outlined in phase I.

Interestingly, Obama's demands regarding settlements are not presented publicly as a call for Israeli compliance with the roadmap. As we see when we look at phases II and III, the Obama team is fairly closely following the roadmap rulebook even as it officially ignores that document and embraces a regional, comprehensive approach. Presumably, it wants to avoid being tainted by what appears to be its predecessor's failure in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

Yet it's all there in the roadmap.- Published 3/8/2008 © 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.

Hostage to Israeli intransigence
by Ghassan Khatib

The roadmap has recently attracted renewed and growing attention from politicians in the region and mediators exerting efforts to renew a political process between Palestinians and Israelis.

The document took on special importance after the appointment of George Mitchell as US envoy to the region with the brief to pursue peace-making efforts between the Israelis and Arabs. Indeed the roadmap, which became a document of consensus and a United Nations Security Council resolution, was originally based on a report that Mitchell himself drafted after his mission here in 2001.

A second reason for its renewed importance is the current tension between the US and Israel over the need to stop Israel's settlement expansion in occupied territory. This requirement is based on the unequivocal obligations placed on Israel under the first phase of the roadmap.

The roadmap consists of three phases. The first phase consists of preliminary requirements aimed at creating a conducive atmosphere for actual peace negotiations. The second phase is optional and concerns establishing a Palestinian state with provisional borders. The third phase is about ending the conflict and establishing peace on the basis of a two-state solution.

The first phase has been the most controversial. This is not because it wasn't drafted carefully and in detail but rather because of the lack of seriousness on the part of a third party, whether the Quartet or the US, to ensure implementation. Indeed, the previous US administration showed the most bias toward Israel in the history of the conflict.

Phase one sets out specific obligations on both parties to the conflict. The Palestinians are required to end violent activities against Israel and dismantle any infrastructure related to such activities while developing and reforming institutions necessary for state-building.

Phase one obliges Israel to end all kinds of settlement construction and expansion, including construction for so-called natural growth, as well dismantling all settlement outposts established after March 2001. In addition, Israel is supposed to facilitate the movement of persons and goods by removing restrictions to such movement, i.e., lifting checkpoints, between the different parts of the Palestinian territories, including between the West Bank and Gaza, as well as between the Palestinian areas and the outside world.

Finally, the roadmap obliges Israel to reopen Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, that were closed by military orders after the Aqsa intifada started. This pertains especially to Orient House, which was the center of activity for the Palestinian political movement in Jerusalem as well as for the Palestinian negotiating team.

None of that happened. Israel instead, under the stewardship of Ariel Sharon and the most right-wing and anti-peace government since the Oslo process, hesitated in accepting the roadmap. After a long delay, the country finally signed the document but burdened the roadmap with 14 reservations that were communicated to the Quartet and made public.

The roadmap never gained traction. Israel's insistence that it would only fulfill its obligations under phase one after Palestinians fulfilled theirs ensured its abortion. The debate became one of whether the fulfillment of obligations should be sequential or simultaneous.

Now the current US administration seems to have a more reasonable understanding of the first phase and expects the two parties to make simultaneous efforts to fulfill their obligations. However, while both American and Israeli security officials have repeatedly commended the Palestinian side for its efforts to fulfill its phase one obligations, the US faces serious difficulties in convincing Israel to comply with its obligations regarding freezing settlement construction and dismantling outposts.

Until the US succeeds in thus convincing Israel, the three phases of the roadmap will remain hostage to Israeli intransigence as, consequently, will peace-making efforts.- Published 3/8/2009 © bitterlemons.org

Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is vice-president for community outreach at Birzeit University and a former Palestinian Authority minister of planning.

The Palestinians burned the roadmap

by Yisrael Harel

The forces in the world trying to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians--and the Arabs in general--take as their point of departure a bipolar axiom. The Palestinians are fighting Israel in order to achieve independence and sovereignty. Only when they achieve this objective will they be prepared to live in peace alongside Israel, and will President George W. Bush's vision of two states for two peoples be realized. And the Israelis, if they could only gain Arab recognition of their state and a total end to violence, would agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Toward that end, they will be prepared to forego territory. With the right pressure, they'll even withdraw to the 1967 lines. Again: two states for two peoples.

This was the axiom that guided Bush and his Quartet colleagues when they inflicted the roadmap on the Israelis and Palestinians on April 30, 2003. Most residents of Israel, worn down by three years of brutal suicide warfare that caused hundreds of deaths, were indeed prepared to make far-reaching concessions including the establishment of a Palestinian state.

For Palestinians, too, the timing was not bad: the terror war had boosted their self-respect and generated global awareness of their demands. Rather than the Palestinians seeming repugnant as a consequence of the brutal acts of terrorism they perpetrated, including the deliberate murder of women, children and the elderly, it was Israel that was perceived as responsible for the absence of regional peace and the underlying causes of terror.

The roadmap determined that in the course of May 2003 phase I would be implemented: an end to violence. "Palestinians", states the opening paragraph, "immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence". And "all official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel." The response, especially in phases II and III (until end 2005), will be an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Yet in the very month of May 2003 when violence was supposed to cease "unconditionally", terrorism--which had been reduced in intensity by Operation Defensive Shield (following the massacre in Netanya in April 2002 of defenseless elderly Jews at a Pesach Seder)--not only failed to decline but returned in force. May 18 witnessed a suicide attack at French Hill in Jerusalem in which seven Israelis were killed and 21 wounded. It was followed on June 11 by the murder of 17 Israelis in a suicide bus-bombing in Jerusalem and a few days later the murder of another 23 and wounding of 116 in a Jerusalem bus attack.

Had they really wanted a state, in 2003 the Palestinians were very close. After all, the roadmap was accepted (albeit with reservations, mainly for domestic consumption) by none other than the government of Israel headed by Ariel Sharon--the Palestinians' greatest enemy and a man most Israelis trusted to lead them, whether through concessions or war, to security and peace. Had the Palestinians then ceased the violence, Sharon--and only Sharon--could have persuaded his fellow countrymen and women to opt for the course of far-reaching concessions, including agreement to a Palestinian state and dismantling of settlements. Yet instead of implementing the demands of the first clause of the roadmap, the Palestinians opted to burn the roadmap--meaning Bush's vision of two states for two peoples--in the fires of terrorism.

Every time the Palestinians got a whiff of peace with the Jews, they drowned it in rivers of blood. So it was in 1947, when they attacked Jewish communities and roads barely hours after the United Nations partition decision to establish two states for two peoples in the territory of the British mandate. And so it was after the Oslo accords: they gained unimaginable achievements when an Israeli government blinded by the "New Middle East" allowed Yasser Arafat to return to Jericho and Gaza leading 40,000 Trojan horses who were ostensibly designated to prevent all varieties of violence.

They did not let him down. Instead of stones and Molotov cocktails, the ultimate weapons of the first intifada, buses began exploding in Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Afula and Jerusalem, while travelers were ambushed on the roads of Judea and Samaria. Arafat, rather than moving the Oslo agreements toward their inevitable outcome of an independent Palestinian state, sabotaged its establishment by sending suicide bombers to explode, kill and be killed. Thus, a year before his own death, Arafat destroyed the roadmap.

The Israeli withdrawal from the Qatif bloc in Gaza and the destruction of 25 flourishing settlements was supposed to bring the Palestinians to make parallel gestures to the Israelis that would speed up the process of establishing a state. But those gestures, we recall, included firing hundreds of Qassam rockets at the communities of the western Negev. Why? We cannot escape the conclusion that these missiles too were launched in keeping with the objective of thwarting the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Now the Obama administration is trying to formulate another plan based on the axiom that the Arabs want peace in the form of two states for two peoples, a plan that will apparently look like the roadmap. Apparently no one, including the Americans, is drawing lessons from the singular failure of previous plans; no one is telling the truth to themselves. Had the Americans, the Russians, the Europeans--even the Israelis--dared to judge realities in a manner devoid of the conception that the Palestinians are interested in their own state alongside Israel, they would reach a single conclusion: the only state the Palestinians might want is one created on the remains of Israel rather than alongside it.- Published 3/8/2009 © bitterlemons.org

Yisrael Harel heads the Institute for Zionist Strategy in Jerusalem and writes a weekly political column in Haaretz. He founded the Yesha Council (Council of Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District) and headed it for 15 years.

A crucial test

by Mkhaimar Abusada

Although it has been more than six years since the Quartet (the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations) publicly proposed the roadmap plan to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, little progress has been achieved.

The roadmap is meant to realize the vision of two states, a secure state of Israel and a viable, contiguous, peaceful and democratic Palestine. The document constitutes a framework for progress toward lasting peace and security in the Middle East.

The roadmap comprises three goal-driven phases. However, as a performance-based plan, progress requires and depends upon the good faith and efforts of both sides, the Palestinians and Israelis, and their compliance with each of their obligations in the three phases.

In exchange for statehood, the roadmap obliges the Palestinian Authority to make democratic reforms and abandon the use of violence. Israel, for its part, must support and accept the emergence of a reformed Palestinian government and end settlement activity in the Palestinian territories.

While the Israeli Cabinet and former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "approved" the roadmap, they attached 14 reservations to the plan. The move was regarded as a political tactic to defeat ratification. The Israeli reservations were coupled with Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, which was aimed at strangling the roadmap and diverting international attention from Israeli compliance to a total freeze on settlement expansion, one of the main pillars of phase one of the roadmap.

Sharon had rejected freezing all settlement activity including natural growth of settlements as "impossible" due to the "need" for settlers to build new houses and start families. Sharon asked then US Secretary of State Colin Powell, "What do you want, for a pregnant woman to have an abortion just because she is a settler?"

In addition to freezing all settlement expansion, there are a number of Israeli obligations under phase one of the roadmap: dismantling all unauthorized outposts erected since March 2001, reopening the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce and other Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem and withdrawing from Palestinian areas Israel took military control of after September 28, 2000. Israel should also take all necessary steps to help normalize Palestinian life.

In the meantime, the Palestinians should immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence, dismantle the infrastructure of any violent activities, consolidate the security forces under the political echelon, undertake comprehensive political reform in preparation for statehood, including drafting a Palestinian constitution, and hold free, fair and open elections upon the basis of those measures.

At the time of its signing, neither Israel nor the PA were interested in or--due to their respective internal politics--capable of complying with their commitments under the roadmap. It was not until the death of Yasser Arafat in November 2004, the incapacitation of Sharon in January 2006, Hamas' landslide victory in Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006 and the subsequent Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip from Fatah-led forces in mid-June 2007, that the international community was once again persuaded to expend its efforts on the conflict, launching the Annapolis process in November 2007 and thus restarting efforts to implement the roadmap.

Israeli settlement expansion, however, accelerated during the Annapolis process, particularly in East Jerusalem. Now, the insistence of current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to continue so-called "natural growth" of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of the roadmap, has increased the number of Palestinian and international voices warning that such a practice would render the two-state solution an impossibility.

Even US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that Israel is in breach of the roadmap with its plans to continue settlement expansion. But in spite of this, there is little sign of change.

In his much-awaited June speech, Netanyahu announced Israel's acceptance of the roadmap while simultaneously rejecting a settlement freeze. In rejecting President Barack Obama's call for a freeze Netanyahu claimed that settlement expansion, so called "natural growth", was necessary. Israel has also not performed well on its other obligations under the roadmap, particularly regarding dismantling all unauthorized outposts in the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority, by contrast, having lost the Gaza Strip to Hamas, knew that without complying with the roadmap no progress toward a two-state solution could occur. Therefore, the PA and its security apparatuses increased their efforts against Palestinian armed activities and consolidated the security apparatuses under the Ministry of Interior. The political reforms pursued by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have also impressed the United States and the international community.

International pressure is now on Israel to comply with its commitments under phase one of the roadmap, particularly by enacting a complete freeze on settlement expansion and dismantling all unauthorized outposts in the West Bank. The credibility and determination of the United States and Obama are being tested.

Whether the United States and the Quartet will be able to enforce the roadmap on Netanyahu, or Netanyahu and the pro-Israel lobby will succeed in pressuring Obama to retreat, remains to be seen, but not for much longer. And it is a crucial test.- Published 3/8/2008 © bitterlemons.org

Mkhaimar Abusada is a professor of political science at al-Azhar University in Gaza.

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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.