“The Road Map is the only game in town” is a popular phrase at the moment, and although both Palestinians and Israelis are saying it, only the Palestinians are playing it. Because it is the only plan on the table both Palestinians and Israelis with a genuine commitment to the peace process must be prepared to go along with the Road Map, regardless of their reservations about it.
The PLO accepted the Road Map when it was presented, casting aside its reservations, and have subsequently begun to implement their obligations under the first of the three phases. The appointment of Mahmoud Abbas as the Palestinian prime minister, the re-organization of the Cabinet and measures to effect financial and other reforms are all measures undertaken by the Palestinians to implement the Road Map. The newly appointed head of security affairs, Mohammed Dahlan, has been in talks with many of the Palestinian factions to obtain an agreement to stop all violence against Israelis, including soldiers and a three month ceasefire has been obtained with all of the major factions bar one.
PM Abbas has condemned violence and has announced his intention to take action to ensure that Israelis, including soldiers, are not attacked. But, his security services have been largely destroyed. The Road Map calls for a ï¿½refocused and rebuiltï¿½ Palestinian security service and with Dahlan at the helm the focus is there, now the Palestinian security service must be allowed the chance to rebuild and get on with their work unimpeded by provocative Israeli assassinations, incursions and house demolitions.
Israel has still not officially accepted the Road Map as a whole, but rather, pursuant to an Israeli cabinet vote on 25 May 2003, has accepted only the ï¿½stepsï¿½ outlined in the Road Map. In addition, Israel only accepted the steps of the Road Map after unilaterally appending to the Road Map a list of 14 reservations and conditions aimed at obviating the substantive provisions of the Road Map. In other words, Israel agrees to the implementation of some of the steps outlined in the document, but not the end result of the Road Map: an end to Israelï¿½s 36-year military occupation and the creation of an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state. In this peace process it seems that Sharon is keener on negotiating the process than the peace. Each of the reservations entitles the Israeli government to selectively fulfill the aspects of the Road Map it likes, when and if it chooses to.
The messages coming from this Israeli government are in no way positive about the peace process. ï¿½Outpostsï¿½ of settlements are being extremely slowly evacuated (and for every outpost evacuated, more are being erected), although the outposts are not the issue, the settlements are the issue. Outposts are nothing more than a caravan or two placed on top of a hilltop with the eventual aim of becoming permanent structures. The real issue is the 140 ï¿½ 205 settlements, depending on how you count them, housing 400,000 settlers across the West Bank and Gaza and completely circling East Jerusalem, not a few hundred extremists on hilltops.
No sooner than the microphones were turned off at the Aqaba summit than the Israeli government gave the order for the assassination of one of the leading figures in the political arm of Hamas ï¿½ Abdul Aziz Rantisi. This clear provocation is not only in breach of the terms of the Road Map but must have been designed to torpedo the whole process. This, coupled with Israelï¿½s killing of more than 90 Palestinian civilians, resulted in an inevitable response by Hamas that claimed17 Israelis. Israelï¿½s subsequent attacks claimed the lives of more than 23 Palestinians in more than six different attacks by helicopter gunships firing missiles into civilian areas in Gaza.
Now that Phase I of the Road Map is technically over, it ended in May, we see substantial Palestinian implementation of their obligations and accompanying goodwill. We have still not seen official acceptance of the Road Map from Israel and in the meantime the creation of facts on the ground goes on. The continued construction of settlements, ï¿½build, but build quietlyï¿½ Sharon was quoted as saying since the Aqaba summit, and the construction of the ï¿½security wallï¿½ both point to the absence of any genuine commitment to the Road Map and the peace process.
Israelï¿½s actions under the Road Map are reminiscent of its actions under Oslo: Israel doubled the number of settlers in the West Bank since Oslo under the guise of a ï¿½peace processï¿½. Now it seems that peace is within such close reach, these facts on the ground seem designed to forestall any two state solution. The time has never been better for the peace process, there is a new reformed Palestinian Authority and an engaged US President sending high level envoys, Secretary of State Powell, National Security Advisor Rice and Ambassador John Wolf - circumstances are auspicious.
This time, the peace process must be about ï¿½peaceï¿½ and not about ï¿½process.ï¿½ The Israeli government cannot be allowed to unilaterally prolong the occupation in order to construct more settlements and further intertwine the West Bank with Israel thereby preventing a two state solution, all the while claiming that it is engaged in a ï¿½processï¿½. In addition to envoys, the time is now right for the United States to start sending monitors to the region to watch and help with the implementation of the whole of the Road Map up to 2005 and the creation of a viable, sovereign, independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with Israel. Then perhaps, just perhaps, we will see the end of the longest occupation in history.
Anwar Darkazally is a legal advisor of the Negotiations Support Unit of the Negotiations Affairs Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization.