The Road Map and Beyond

Gershon Baskin*

Monday, May 05, 2003

The Road Map for Peace has been officially presented to Israel and the Palestinians and a new (albeit very small) window of opportunity has been opened. This new embodiment of the so-called “Bush vision” for Middle East Peace contains many more questions than answers. The Road Map is so void of important details that even the most experienced navigators will have to locate or even create their own trail markers in order not to get lost on the way. The Road Map is far from anyone’s idea of a good plan. Everyone has mostly only bad things to comment on it – the Israelis, the Palestinians, the Europeans, the UN and more. The plan falls far short of where the sides were 33 months ago prior to the outbreak of the intifada in the end of September 2000. But all agree that despite all its many faults, it is the “only game in town”.

Before going more into depth on what’s ahead, let’s look at the main characteristics of the Road Map. Learning from some of the lessons of Oslo, the authors of the Road Map (who seem to be many – in fact, to me it looks like a document created with “cut & paste” from many other documents), attempted to circumvent some of the pitfalls of the failed Oslo peace process.  Thus the Road Map stresses that it is “performance based” – in other words, even though there is a time-line for implementation within the plan, the document emphasizes that the sides must fulfill their responsibilities and commitments before it is determined that they can progress to the next phase. The Road Map is organized into three distinct phases. Phase I focuses on stabilization and return to the situation as it was prior to the outbreak of violence in September 2000.  Phase II focuses on the establishment of a Palestinian state with provisional borders, further Israeli withdrawals and democratization within Palestine. Phase III aims at bringing the sides to permanent status agreements to end the conflict and claims. The Road Map also provides for international involvement, at least in the format of monitoring the implementation of the plan.

The Road Map is severely lacking in detail.  It mentions that the sides will have to negotiate the permanent status issues such as borders, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, etc. but makes almost no mention of these issues throughout the process in the earlier phases. For instance, when is Jerusalem supposed to become part of the process? In Phase II there are supposed to be elections for the Government and the Parliament of the Palestinian state. Are East Jerusalem residents going to participate in those elections? Is Jerusalem as envisaged by the authors and sponsors of the document going to be the shared capital of the State of Israel and Palestine as thought towards the end of the prior rounds of negotiations? If Jerusalem is left out of the process, does anyone really believe that there is a chance for peace?

The document lacks details on the issue of the international involvement.  Who will monitor the implementation and who will decide if the sides are fulfilling the commitments?  Who will determine if the Palestinians are making 100% effort to combat terrorism?  Who will determine if Israel is really freezing the building of and in settlements as will be required? Several arguments between the sides have already emerged. Israel claims that the Palestinians have already breached the Road Map by dividing the Palestinian security forces into those groups under the authority of newly appointed Minister for State in charge of Security Mohammad Dahlan (working together with Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas – Abu Mazen) and those groups under the authority of National Security Advisor Hani al Hassan (working alongside of President Arafat).  Who will decide if this is in fact a breach?  And if it is in fact a breach, what will that someone do?

The Palestinians stress that the implementation of the Road Map is supposed to be in parallel on both sides – in other words while the Palestinians begin their reforms, begin to fight against terrorism, etc. the Israelis are supposed to freeze building in settlements and immediately begin the withdrawal from Palestinian cities.  The Israelis claim, on the other hand, that first the Palestinians must complete their security related responsibilities and only then the Israelis will begin to implement what they are supposed to fulfill.  Who will decide? And who will carry the stick to force compliance with the Road Map?  I have heard leaders on both sides express significant reservations about the role of third parties in the process, but at the same time, both parties would like the third parties to carry a “stick” and to threaten the other side with it.

In my humble opinion, there is no chance of success of this process without a very clear and very determined role for third parties.  Obviously in most of the political and security related third party-roles, the US will lead the way.  But there are other civilian and economic related roles for third parties in which others, such as the EU, can and should play a very significant role.  There are many roles and tasks to be undertaken by third parties throughout the process – most of them focus on verifying the implementation of the agreement, supervising and inspecting security related issues on the ground, providing possible buffers between Israelis and Palestinians in certain “hot spots”, helping and facilitating movement of people and goods through checkpoints, supervising the delivery of humanitarian assistance, supervising and facilitating reconstruction and development – particularly of infrastructures, providing assistance in capacity building particularly with an emphasis on transparency in government, and more. The third party involvement will have to be quite strong and carry significant weight and even force when it comes to compliance with agreements undertaken by the parties themselves.  And in addition to this, the third parties will have to help provide for efficient and reliable dispute resolution at all levels.  Conflicts need to be resolved quickly and efficiently and at the lowest level possible.  Every small conflict does not have to reach the desks of the Prime Ministers, as was the case throughout the Oslo process.

In order to enhance chances for success of the process, the sides – Israel, the Palestinians and the members of the Quartet, must each take serious steps from the outset – now, without further delay. The Palestinians and the Israelis must each issue their unequivocal statements regarding their commitments to peace and coexistence, the opposition to violence and terrorism and their mutual recognition – this is part of the Road Map and should be undertaken immediately.  Furthermore, the Palestinians must begin, in public as well as behind the scenes, their serious and intensive work to prevent further acts of terrorism.  It would seem to make sense to begin this work first within the ranks of Fatah.  It would also make sense to focus geographically, selecting a few areas to concentrate on. In this way, the work of the Palestinian security forces could be combined with the work on the political, economic and social level with community leaders in the selected areas.

Israel must enable the Palestinians to go about the work of fighting terrorism by stepping aside.  Israel does not have to compromise its security during this period, but has to provide the Palestinians with enough “space” – physically and politically so that the Palestinians can succeed. Israel must also cease immediately all home demolitions and all new settlement activity.  Israel should also commence with its withdrawal from Palestinian cities. This is the minimum that is required. 

The members of the Quartet should appoint permanent representatives at the highest level possible and establish a permanent office of the Quartet in Jerusalem. The representatives of the Quartet selected should be those that have the ability to report directly to the highest levels in real time.

The working levels of the Quartet have been devoting their time over the past months to two documents.  One document attempts to establish “benchmarks” for implementation as an aide for the Quartet in being able to determine if the sides have fulfilled their commitments thus allowing for progressing to the next phase.  The second document relates to the issues of the roles of the third parties. 

IPCRI too has been working on additional documents aimed at enhancing the chances for success of the process.  IPCRI has developed Phase I of an Economic Road Map – developed by IPCRI’s Economic Working Group, this document aims at creating stabilization through economic development, putting people back to work, facilitating freer movement of people goods and capital and jump starting the economies. IPCRI has also developed through its Jerusalem Working Group a Road Map for Jerusalem aiming at including Jerusalem in the Road Map process with gradual phasing in of issues concerning Jerusalem with the implementation of the political and security aspects of the Road Map.  IPCRI’s Verification Working Group is working on the creation of a “tool box” for third parties with a wide variety and range of tools and ideas that will assist them in their work.

Even at this early time there are few things that seem quite clear. There is no chance of success of the Road Map if the two parties do not want it to succeed. If the Israelis and Palestinians are committed to continue the violence, the Road Map will become another of many failed peace attempts in the region. This may sound obvious and clear but it is important to note that both Israeli and Palestinian public opinion polls point to the very same trends and contradictions.  Overwhelming majorities of Israelis and Palestinians support peace and a return to negotiations at the same time that they continue to support violent responses towards each other.  The desire for revenge that keeps the wheels of the cycle of violence in motion have not yet given way for desires for peace and reconciliation – or perhaps for the belief that peace and reconciliation are possible.  Both sides continue to believe that there is no credible partner on the other side. 

The international community, the Quartet, or the United States of Bush alone cannot force the sides to make peace.  They cannot force the sides to implement agreements that they do not wish to implement.  The International community cannot compensate for the lack of leadership in the region. The current leaders of Israel and Palestine are capable of beginning the process.  In my view, there will have to be new elections in both Israel and Palestine when the sides get closer to Phase III - which is supposed to be after one year. By that time, perhaps the people of Israel and the people of Palestine will hopefully have greater confidence and belief that peace is a real option and that there are partners on the other side.

From our experience in IPCRI over the past 33 months, we know that there are significant and legitimate partners on both sides.  We have held tens of conferences, seminars, working meetings with political, social, educational and economic leaders from both sides. The Road Map provides the sides with a new opportunity to move from a path of mutual destruction to a path of mutual benefit. We cannot afford losing this opportunity. This is perhaps the last chance that will be available to build peace on the basis of a two-State solution.  If we miss this opportunity, I fear, we will be on the road to tens of years of mutual annihilation.


* Dr. Gershon Baskin is the Israeli Co-Director of IPCRI, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information  (