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Roadmap to Solution of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Can it Work?
Publication date: 2003-05-06

On April 30, 2003, The U.S. State Department released the text of the "roadmap" to a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The roadmap specifies the steps for the two parties to take to reach a settlement, and a timeline for doing so, under the auspices of the Quartet - the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia.

In the table below we consider how the roadmap proposes to resolve the issues behind the conflict.

Analysis of the Roadmap to Solution of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
IssueSignificanceRoad Map SolutionComments
Palestinian RefugeesAt the time of the creation of the State of Israel some million Palestinians were expelled from the coastal Palestine, which became the State of Israel. These refugees, having been unable to find redress against this injustice by any peaceful means began an armed struggle for the return to their land. This struggle became known as the Palestinian Terrorism.

The issue of the Palestinian refugees is the primary cause of the "Middle East Crisis". Without resolution of this issue it will be impossible to establish permanent peace in the Middle East.

The international community largely ignores this issue. This is because as per UN Resolution 194, and the demands of some of the Palestinian Organizations, the Palestinians should be allowed to return to their places of origin in the present day Israel. Such solution is seen as threatening the existence of the State of Israel as an ethnic Jewish State.

It is possible, however, to achieve justice for the Palestinian refugees by compensating them monetarily for the loss of their properties and the loss and suffering caused by their expulsion. Such solution will not threaten the existence of the State of Israel and will redress the injustice which is the primary cause of the conflict.

Such solution is not financially unfeasable. One could see from the news clips of Gaza and Jenine, that substantial amounts of American and international money had been invested in steel and concrete during the past 30 years. In the early 1970's there were mud huts, not multistory concrete buildings.

Had this money been given to the Palestinians as compensation for the expulsion, rather than as charitable aid, it would have had the effect of redressing the injustice, which charitable aid does not.

Parties reach final and comprehensive permanent status agreement that ends the Israel-Palestinian conflict in 2005 ... and includes an agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue ... .The main root issue of the conflict is left to the very last steps of the roadmap.

While the practical implementation of this issue would indeed require cessation of the hostilities and of the occupation, as well as some preparatory steps, the resolution of this issue in principle is essential for establishing the conditions of trust between the parties which is necessary for the cessation of the hostilities.

"Agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution" does not provide a clear indication of how this issue will be resolved in principle.

If the solution is "just", then it depends on the facts and the principles of justice, and would be imposed on the parties, whether they agree to it or not.

If it is "agreed", then it depends on the willingness of the parties to come to an agreement, and, if such willingness is not present, then the issue will remain unresolved.

The words "fair and realistic" do not help to clarify the issue either.

And, if the issue is not clarified, then it will be difficult to establish the trust between the parties on the existence of which the success of the roadmap depends.

There is no reason why the issue of the refugees cannot be resolved in principle at the very start, while the practical implementation would be left to the time when the material conditions for such implementation have been established.
Israeli SettlementsIn 1967 the Israelis occupied the Gaza strip and the West Bank and established military control of these areas. They also began building settlements in these areas. These settlements also involved seizures of Palestinian private and communal lands.

This settlement activity is seen by the international community as illegal, but is continuing at the present time.

This is the secondary cause of the conflict, which was subject to negotiations and was intended to be resolved by the creation of the Palestinian state and agreeing its borders. Resolving this issue alone would still have left the issue of the Palestinian Refugees unresolved.
Israel also freezes all settlement activity, consistent with the Mitchell report.

GOI immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001.

Consistent with the Mitchell Report, GOI freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).

... implementation of prior agreements ... including further action on settlements in conjunction with establishment of a Palestinian state with provisional borders.

SECOND INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE: Convened by Quartet, in consultation with the parties, at beginning of 2004 to endorse agreement reached on an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and formally to launch a process with the active, sustained, and operational support of the Quartet, leading to a final, permanent status resolution in 2005, including ... settlements ....
The issue of the Israeli settlements on the pre-1967 Palestinian areas is mentioned at all the stages of the roadmap. While it is possible to interpret the roadmap as leading to the total removal of all the Israeli post-1967 settlements, there is no clear statement that this is the case. This opens the way to arguments between the parties, which will prevent resolution of the conflict.
Destruction of Palestinian Property by the IsraelisFollowing the proclamation of the American War on Terror, the Israelis have intensified destruction of Palestinian property and killing of Palestinians. This in itself became an issue and a cause of the continuation of the hostilities. The current state of the Palestinian territories is such that a major reconstruction effort will be required to bring the area to a habitable state. -- GOI takes no actions undermining trust, including deportations, attacks on civilians; confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes and property, as a punitive measure or to facilitate Israeli construction; destruction of Palestinian institutions and infrastructure; and other measures specified in the Tenet work plan.

-- Israel takes measures to improve the humanitarian situation. Israel and Palestinians implement in full all recommendations of the Bertini report to improve humanitarian conditions, lifting curfews and easing restrictions on movement of persons and goods, and allowing full, safe, and unfettered access of international and humanitarian personnel.

-- AHLC reviews the humanitarian situation and prospects for economic development in the West Bank and Gaza and launches a major donor assistance effort, including to the reform effort.

Although the roadmap acknowledges that the Israelis have been indulging in "deportations, attacks on civilians; confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes and property, as a punitive measure or to facilitate Israeli construction; destruction of Palestinian institutions and infrastructure" and calls on them to stop these activities, it does not call for dealing with the consequences of these actions, except by an unspecified degree of international humanitarian relief. This amounts to condonement of such actions by the Israelis, and will leave the Palestinians with a sense of justified grievance and mistrust towards the Israelis and those who have prepared the roadmap and will be overseeing its implementation.
Release of Palestinian Prisoners by the IsraelisFollowing the proclamation of the American War on Terror, the Israelis have been conducting a campaign of mass arrests of Palestinians. This in itself has become a major issues fueling the hostilities.This issue is ignored by the roadmap.Ignoring this issue will leave the Palestinians with a sense of justified grievance and mistrust towards the Israelis and those who have prepared the roadmap and will be overseeing its implementation.
East JerusalemAlthough withdrawal of the Israelis to the pre-1967 lines would have meant that East Jerusalem would have reverted to the Palestinians, the Wailing Wall, which is believed to be a remnant of an old Israeli Temple is situated in East Jerusalem under the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

This Wailing Wall has an important religious significance for the Jews, and the Israelis want to have access to that wall. Some Israelis also advocate annexation of the whole of East Jerusalem to Israel, and some plan demolition of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which has special religious significance for the Muslims, and building on its place a replica of an ancient Jewish Temple. For these reasons the access to the Wailing Wall and the ownership of East Jerusalem have become an issue in its own right.

SECOND INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE: Convened by Quartet, in consultation with the parties, at beginning of 2004 to endorse agreement reached on an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and formally to launch a process with the active, sustained, and operational support of the Quartet, leading to a final, permanent status resolution in 2005, including ... Jerusalem ....

-- Parties reach final and comprehensive permanent status agreement that ends the Israel-Palestinian conflict in 2005, through a settlement negotiated between the parties based on UNSCR 242, 338, and 1397, that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and includes ... negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide ... .

The roadmap mentions the issue and the intention to resolve it, but it leaves the resolution of this issue to future negotiations between the parties at the very end of the route outlined by the roadmap. This effectively leaves the issue unresolved, and as this issue was one of the sources of the hostilities and mistrust between the parties, failure to resolve it will be an obstacle to the resolution of the conflict as a whole.
Creation of a Palestinian State in the East Bank and GazaCreation of a Palestinian state is not an issue in itself. It is a possible way of resolving the conflict.

Originally the Palestinians had no aspiration for a separate state. They lived in Palestine which was part of the Ottoman Empire and the issue of a Palestinian state did not arise.

When the British took over and were about to leave, then the Palestinians were agreeable to a Palestinian state shared by all its residents, Arabs and Jews, and where the communities would be represented in the government in proportion to the population.

After establishment of the State of Israel and expulsion of the Palestinians from the coastal Palestine some Arab refugees settled in the West Bank which was part of Jordan and was later donated to the Palestinian refugees by the then Jordanian king.

It was only when the Israelis occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, that Yasser Arafat agreed to abandon claims of the refugees to the coastal Palestine in exchange of the Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, which were to become a Palestinian state existing alongside with Israel.

This agreement proved to be unstable, because it failed to resolve the issue of the Palestinian refugees, and some Israelis had ambitions to annex all of East Jerusalem and not to leave the settlements. Some Israelis claimed the right of Israel to all of Palestine.
The roadmap is based on the goal of a "an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors". Such definition, however, does not define the borders of that state, nor does it state how the causes of the conflict will be resolved by the creation of that state.While creation of a Palestinian state can be part of the solution of the conflict, the conflict will be resolved only, if the creation of such state will result in or will be accompanied by measures that will resolve the root causes of the conflict. As the roadmap does not contain clear statements how the root cause of the conflict (the issue of the refugees) will be resolved, nor does it explicitly define the frontiers of the proposed state, leaving these issues to be negotiated by the parties at the final stage of the roadmap, the creation of a state with undefined frontiers and not accompanied by a solution of the problem of the Palestinian refugees will not resolve the conflict.
Reform of the Palestinian AuthorityThis issue was introduced by the Israelis as part of their use of the War on Terror ideology to shift the blame on the present hostilities on Yasser Arafat and to allow them to continue with their war against the Palestinians until they "reform the Palestinian Authority".The roadmap concentrates most of its attention to a reform of the Palestinian Authority. The rest of the issues are vaguely defined and left to negotiations between the parties. This is due to the fact that the new American ideology of "the War on Terror" is based on the books and speeches of the Benjamin Netanyahu, whose main aim is expansion of the State of Israel to the rest of Palestine and beyond. The American administration accepted this doctrine, as it justifies their dominance of the rest of the world. As applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the current American version of that doctrine lays the blame for the hostilities on the Palestinians, and the solution is seen in physical elimination of the "Palestinian terrorists", and creation of a Palestinian state, the main function of which would be to suppress and prevent anti-Israeli violence. Once this is done, the parties will be able to resolve the rest of the issues by negotiations and agreements.The belief that the cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "Palestinian terrorism", the elimination of which will make it possible to resolve the rest of the issues by negotiations and agreements, ignores the fact that "Palestinian terrorism" is not the cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but is a consequence of that conflict and its external symptom.

The causes of the conflict are the expulsion of the Palestinians from the present State of Israel in 1947-1949, and the occupation of further Palestinian territories after 1967. It is these factors that are the main causes of the Palestinian hostility towards Israel.

To have any degree of popular support a Palestinian Authority would have to show that it can resolve the issue of the Palestinian refugees, and of the withdrawal of the Israelis to the pre-1967 borders, including Jerusalem. Without that the Palestinian Authority will be seen as an agent of Israel, seeking to suppress the fight of the Palestinians for their lawful rights. And this means continuation of the conflict, and failure of the roadmap.
NegotiationsNegotiations are not a suitable way of resolving disputes involving issues of right and wrong. Such disputes require imposition of judicial decisions.

It is like a thief stealing $1,000 and when caught red-handed saying: "Ok, let us negotiate! I give you back $500, and you don't call the police."

But politicians do not want to submit themselves to the rule of law - they prefer either wars, or negotiations leading to nowhere.
The roadmap leaves the main issues of the conflict - that of the Palestinian refugees, and of the frontiers of the Palestinian State to negotiations between the parties. This make the success of the roadmap dependent on the willingness of the parties to reach agreement on these issues.As it is known that the present Israeli government is opposed to resolution of the issues of the Palestinian refugees and is against the Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 frontiers, and that the Palestinians see the resolution of these issues as crucial to a settlement, it is difficult to see how any negotiations between the parties on these issues can be successful. And if they cannot be successful, then the conflict will not be resolved.
Making the Roadmap Work As can be seen from the above, the current roadmap does not lead to a resolution of the dispute. To make the roadmap workable it is necessary to amend it as follows:
  1. To provide a clearly defined solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees.
  2. To define the final frontiers of the proposed Palestinian State.
  3. To state clearly that the "deportations, attacks on civilians; confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes and property, as a punitive measure or to facilitate Israeli construction; destruction of Palestinian institutions and infrastructure" by the Israelis not only be stopped, but that the consequences of these acts carried out up to the time of their cessation be rectified.
  4. To add a provision for release of all the Palestinian prisoners held by the Israelis.
  5. To provide a clearly defined solution to the problem of East Jerusalem, and of the religious sites.
  6. To define the practical concrete steps to be taken by the parties to implement the above solutions.
  7. To set realistic time scales for the implementation of the above steps.
  8. To establish, or appoint, a body responsible for implementation of the steps of the roadmap. This body should have sufficient means to be able to force the parties to comply with the provisions of the roadmap.
Had such roadmap been presented, the Palestinian Authority (reformed or not) would have been in a position to persuade all the Paelstinians to stop all acts of hostility against the Israelis, because they would have been no longer justified. Without such roadmap this task will prove impossible.

The current roadmap can be interpreted as presuming implementation of the above, but failure to state clearly (a) the concrete practical goals to be achieved, (b) the steps required to achieve these goals, (c) the time limits for these steps, and (d) the means by which the parties will be compelled to comply with the requirements of the roadmap makes this roadmap little more than a set of slogans, and vague declarations of intent.

Are these defects in the current roadmap the results of incompetence or of dishonesty?

If those who prepared the roadmap sincerely hoped to provide a workable solution to the Middle East Conflict, then they were simply incompetent.

But, if they prepared the roadmap with an intention of it being unworkable, and their aim was merely to pose as "doing something about the peace process", then they were dishonest.

But whatever the reasons for the defects in the current roadmap, the conflict still needs to be resolved, and the roadmap can still be useful, even if only for drawing the public attention to the issues, and demonstrating the need for preparing a workable map for resolving the conflict.

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