Middle East


'Road Map' Unveiled, Assailed

Click here for the full text of the “road map” peace plan.

An Israeli man looks at a poster reading 'stop the road map to Auschwitz'
Jerusalem, April 29, 2003: A man looks at a poster that reads, “Stop the Road to Auschwitz,” an apparent reference to the late Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban's assertion that the 1967 borders of Israel were “Auschwitz borders” (Photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP).

Jerusalem The Jerusalem Post (Israeli, English-language, conservative), May 6: [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon hasn’t fundamentally changed but has opted for clever tactics to buy us all time. Why appear as the bad guy striving to stymie [U.S. President George] Bush’s attempts to please the Europeans and appease seething Arabs?…Sharon can afford to play along and talk of a provisional Palestinian state, preferably one unrecognized by the United Nations and demilitarized. The problem is that this may be as realistic as expecting snarling dogs to sing, and as dangerous as hoping they’ll just disappear. The success or failure of [Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, also known as] Abu Mazen, may be immaterial. No matter how he fares, he will give a tremendous boost to the Palestinian Authority’s tarnished image and even indirectly rehabilitate [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat. Since Sharon chose to leave Arafat in Ramallah, he could well soon find himself dealing with him by proxy, via Abu Mazen.
—Sarah Honig

London Al-Quds al-Arabi (Arabic-language, Palestinian expatriate), April 30: Yes, we in Palestine want democracy, just as the Iraqi people do. But sadly we do not see the U.S. tanks rolling into Tel Aviv to topple the brutal occupation forces and liberate the Palestinian people, despite the fact that the Israeli occupation is more cruel than Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.…We were hoping to congratulate Abu Mazen and his government for the confidence of the Palestinian Legislative Council if it came after the end of the occupation and the establishment of the Palestinian state. Instead, we find that Abu Mazen’s government came to put an end to the Intifada, the armed resistance, and the struggle against occupation. What does Abu Mazen mean when he says that he will not allow “incitement?” Does he want the Palestinian people to write poems praising the Israeli occupation, compose songs praising the humanity of Sharon, and dance happily in the streets of the West Bank and Gaza Strip?
—Abdel Bari Atwan

Tel Aviv Ma’ariv (Hebrew-language, centrist), April 28: Sharon’s policy is not without achievements....The pressure that brought about Abu Mazen’s appointment as prime minister, as well as major points in the road map, are some of the most prominent fruits of the Israeli policy. On the other hand, Israel has also had time to learn a lesson or two. In its present declared willingness to let the new Palestinian Cabinet handle terrorism on its own, Israel is admitting the final failure of the unilateral use of force. In fact—and it cannot be said too loudly—the basic premise of the architects of the despised Oslo accords is now making a comeback, with perfect circularity, as even a bonafide right-wing government headed by Sharon admits that only the Palestinians themselves, with the encouragement of political concessions, can do the job....This is a complex and intricate process, in which Sharon will insist—as he has rightfully said he will—on the fulfillment of every iota of the commitments that the Palestinians undertake. On the other hand, any progress is fated in advance to fail if the expectation is for an immediate and absolute cessation of terror. In order to give this a chance, Sharon will have to take away the veto that he granted the avowed terrorists upon coming to power, and explain to the public, despite the difficulty, that there is no other way.
—Hemmi Shalev

Cairo Al-Akhbar (Arabic-language, government-owned), April 30: The U.S. administration has done all that it possibly can to prove its animosity toward the Arabs and their rights. This animosity is manifest in the administration’s attitude about the continuous aggression against the Palestinian people and the occupation of Arab land. It is manifest in the U.S. government’s encouragement of the siege in place around the elected Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat. It is manifest in the destruction of Palestinian towns and villages by Israeli forces. It is manifest in the killing and displacement of innocent Palestinians. This animosity reached its climax with the invasion of Iraq on the pretext of overthrowing the hireling regime of Saddam Hussein. This has led to the destruction of Iraq and the killing of thousands of its citizens….The whole world is now watching the United States’ next step to judge the credibility of its promises linking the creation of a Palestinian state to a new Palestinian government under Abu Mazen. We hope it will be a just peace, a peace predicated on Israel’s recognition of the Palestinian people’s right to their land and to an independent state….We hope that Washington will stand up to Israeli pressure and will not make further excuses that could impede the implementation of the road map plan for a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
—Jalal Duwaydar

Tel Aviv Bitterlemons.org (Israeli, English-language, liberal, online), March 5: The Bush administration should continue to tell Sharon to stop quibbling and to dismantle all 70 outposts established on his watch over the past two years in accordance with phase I—if only for Israel’s own good, to avoid the slippery slope of “South Africanization” of the conflict. The best way it can deal with Israel’s very understandable demand that the Palestinians renounce the right of return if they want Israel to recognize Palestinian statehood is to amend the roadmap by eliminating phase II with its highly problematic “provisional” Palestinian state. This would relegate all final status issues to what is currently phase III, which in any case will be hard to complete under the current leaders. To sacrifice the entire process before it begins due to Israel’s insistence on a final status issue—legitimate and vital on its own merits—is folly.

Ramallah Al-Ayyam (Palestinian, Arabic-language, pro-Palestinian Authority), April 30: We have declared our unconditional acceptance of the road map and President Arafat has called for its immediate implementation. The first point in the road map, for those who have not read it or who do not want to read it, calls for the unconditional suspension of violence in tandem with concession from Israel. The Palestinian leadership has long called for an end to the violence. But this requires decisiveness and quick action. Otherwise, we will find ourselves back at square one. Our criticism of [Arafat’s] hesitation and indecisiveness would be rendered meaningless and we would be giving Sharon and the more extremist right-wing forces in his government all the excuses they need to continue constructing new settlements in occupied Palestinian land and to keep Israeli forces in area A [areas designated as under full Palestinian Authority control according to the Oslo Accords—WPR]….Abu Mazen’s government therefore has an opportunity to save the country and the people. Will it seize this opportunity and hold on to it till the end?
—Tawfiq Abu-Bakr

Tel Aviv Ha’aretz (Israeli, English and Hebrew-language editions, liberal), May 2: The road map has been unfurled at last, its destination an independent Palestine by 2005. So why are so many Israeli government hawks walking around with smiles on their faces? The war in Iraq may be one big reason, the newfound sense among rightists that the Middle East can be made over by force of will, force of arms, and force of example. Another possibility is rooted in the gambling instincts of George Bush and Ariel Sharon, who may well be betting heavily on new Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen—to lose.

London Al-Sharq al-Awsat (Arabic-language, pan-Arab, Saudi-owned), May 1: If you wanted to know why the United States took the risk of waging war against Iraq, sacrificed 100 men, and spent nearly $7 billion, you have to start by calculating the immediate consequences….Look at the peaceful Arab and Iranian positions. Look at the speed with which the Palestinian Authority restructured itself and passed authority from Abu Ammar [Arafat] to Abu Mazen. Do not forget how little time it took Ariel Sharon to announce that he was willing to abandon Israeli settlements—for the first time in his life. Listen to those who used to support the overthrown president [Arafat]: They have now changed their rhetoric from praise to criticism. Look also at how relations among the stronger countries in the region have changed. The strategic gains achieved by the U.S. administration in 21 days of war are nothing to scoff at.…But if the Americans do not present the evidence of their good face that the Arabs are challenging them to present—namely, to end the Israeli occupation of Arab land—then the Americans may win over a few Arab regimes, but will lose all the Arabs. The presentation of the road map is the best indication that Washington’s new approach to the region—expelling dictators like Saddam Hussein to pave the way for a just and peaceful resolution of old conficts—is sound.
—Abd-al-Rahman al-Rashid

Jerusalem Al-Quds (Palestinian, Arabic-language, pro-Palestinian Authority), April 30: If—and I underline the word “if”—Israel wants the government of Mahmoud Abbas to succeed in moving the Palestinian people toward peace, it must stop its incursions into the Palestinian territories and must take effective steps to rebuild trust between the two sides. First among these steps should be an Israeli military withdrawal from Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps. Second, Israel must lift the restrictions imposed on the movement of citizens between urban centers. Israel must also remove the military checkpoints at the entrances to Palestinian towns and villages where the citizens are subjected to the harshest forms of humiliation and mistreatment.…This will prove the Israeli government’s seriousness and credibility vis-à-vis the peace process. These steps are the least that the world expects from the Israeli government after the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation has been allowed to reach this level of reciprocal violence. The success of Mahmoud Abbas’ government will be measured by its ability to deal with an intransigent Israeli negotiator who will not hesitate to maneuver, play for time, and circumvent international initiatives, including the U.S. road map. If this government succeeds in normalizing the Palestinian crisis, benefiting from international pressures and developments in the regional arena, it might achieve a breakthrough in the current political stalemate. There is no doubt that the wisdom and acumen of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas suggests this breakthrough is possible, although it will require persistence and perseverance.

Tel Aviv Ha’aretz (Israeli, English and Hebrew-language editions, liberal), April 29: Don’t be fooled by the inauguration of the Abu Mazen government. Relevant or not, as long as Arafat lives, Abu Mazen won’t be able to move a pinky without his say-so....Like Arafat, Sharon is a national symbol, although under his stewardship Israel has never been worse off. In mentality, Sharon is closer to Arafat than to [Israel’s first Likud Prime Minister] Menachem Begin, who had the courage to give up all of Sinai and evacuate the settlements. The two old foes are still fighting yesterday’s war. Arafat is still chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization, battling the Jews, and Sharon is still living in the era of reprisal attacks. There is no chance that the man who built most of the settlements will dismantle them, and there is no chance that Arafat will affix his signature to any clause that surrenders the Palestinian right of return. What does seem likely is that the window of opportunity will have to wait until these two are no longer running the show.
—Yoel Marcus

Tehran Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Radio 1 (government-owned, Farsi-language broadcaster), May 1: The road map plan takes everything back to the beginning of the talks held [by the Israelis and Palestinians] in Oslo and Madrid. In other words, we can say that the talks are supposed to begin from point zero again. Such talks would again provide the Zionist regime with the opportunity to criticize and raise objections. That is, by delaying progress in the talks once again, the Zionist regime will create conditions to make certain that the demands of the Palestinians are forgotten. In another words, by killing time, Israel will be able to continue its acts of aggression.
—U.S. Dept. of State transcription

London The Times (conservative), May 2: President Bush is fond of defining a “moment of truth” for those who stand in his way. Those on the receiving end, like Saddam Hussein and the United Nations, often fail to measure up to the presidential mark. Now, Bush is facing his own moment of truth. Will he, at the height of his powers, take risks to deliver his high-minded vision of an independent Palestinian state? Or will base electoral concerns prompt him to play safe and consign the Middle East “road map” to the pile of other failed peace attempts? There are justified reasons for skepticism, though some of them are misunderstood. Blaming the clout of America’s Jewish lobby fails to grasp the pressures on Bush. Certainly, Republican strategists have assiduously courted Jewish donors, whose money plays a huge role in presidential campaigns. Jewish voters could also decide which way the crucial state of Florida goes in 2004. Congress is also a potential stumbling block. Many on Capitol Hill are already quibbling with the road map. Eighty senators and 278 members of the House of Representatives on both sides have signed motions saying that the Palestinians must make the first move, a demand that ignores the road map’s careful synchronicity.
—Roland Watson

Karachi The News (left-wing, English-language), May 2: If the United States really is committed to peace and democracy in the Middle East, it must ensure Israel and Palestinians make the required concessions at the same time, not in strict sequence. At the same time, Bush, who has so far taken a softer line toward Israel, will have to show even-handedness in dealing with the issue. But a balanced approach may itself be politically difficult for Bush since the neo-conservatives around him advocate that the Palestinians need to do more before Israel should consider concessions. In such a logjam, the peace plan does not stand much hope of producing a long-term peace, though it reaffirms the importance of diplomacy in resolving lingering conflicts.

Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung (German-language, centrist), May 2: The credibility of the United States now depends on the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The war in Iraq is over; now is the time to clear up things on a large scale. Spokespeople in Washington now announce news from the Middle East on a daily basis. Baghdad is but one construction site in the political zoning plan prepared by the U.S. administration….It remains to be seen, however, whether [the Bush Administration] has sufficient strength and determination to enforce the plan. Resistance will not only be put up by the enemy, the radical Palestinian groups that immediately responded with a suicide attack in Tel Aviv, but also by Bush’s best friend in the region, Sharon. Since the Bush administration has come to power, the Americans have managed to make themselves thoroughly hated by the Palestinians and their Arab brothers. If the U.S. president now suddenly wants to play the part of honest broker, it will not suffice for the White House to flatter Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.
—Peter Muench

Copenhagen Politiken (Danish-language, moderate), May 1: If the Israelis and the Palestinians are to have peace, they must divide the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river into two states. This idea is nothing new, and for this reason the new road map for peace—drafted by the United States, Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union—is not really anything out of the ordinary in its aims. But the road map, which was put into the hands of Israel and the Palestinians yesterday [April 30], could be historic if it is accompanied by a real determination on the part of its authors to ensure its implementation. There has never been any shortage of international plans for peace. But there has been an insurmountable shortage of both local and international determination to implement these peace plans, of a willingness to accept responsibility, and of the courage to dare to take a risk.

Melbourne The Age (English-language, centrist), May 2: The road map is vulnerable to many of the problems that plagued earlier efforts, say former officials and mediators. For starters, it is being imposed rather than coming out of negotiations between the parties….The process also relies heavily on one man: Mahmoud Abbas. The new Palestinian leader faces the challenge of dealing with a spectrum of interests, from a right-wing Israeli Government to Islamic extremists determined not only to scuttle peace but to destroy Israel. Sharon’s Likud Party has voted against the peace process, while Arafat has already indicated he is unwilling to cede all major power to Abbas. Meanwhile, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not prepared to end armed struggle….In terms of domestic politics, political strategists say, Bush has more to lose from pushing too hard for a Middle East peace deal than he does from failing to win an agreement. His closest political allies, religious conservatives, are fiercely protective of Israel and would resist any signal he was pressuring Sharon’s government.
—Robin Wright