Differences on "road map" leave potential U.S.-Israel rift after war.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
s soon as the dust settles in Baghdad,
President George Bush and his good
friend, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon, could be heading for a show-
Mahmoud Abbas, by making it clear that he would
present the road map only after a prime minister
"with real authority" was appointed.
Still, there could be trouble for Israel down the
road. Sharon first received a draft of the road map
during a visit to the United States last October.
Soon after that it underwent a process of amend-
ment and refinement by the Quartet.
Israel received the revised draft on Dec. 20, and
has been drafting amendments and reservations of
its own since then.
Israel's objections to the plan are numerous and pro-
found. As one pundit put it, on the Israeli copy of the
draft "there are more erasures, additions and amend-
The Israelis further argue that the notions of per-
formance-based benchmarks and strict timetables are
mutually exclusive. If the Palestinians know they will
achieve statehood in three years come what may,
what incentive do they have to carry out reforms that
ostensibly are conditions for receiving statehood?
The Israelis have many more reservations. For
example, they insist that before there can be real
progress, there must be "a new and different
Palestinian leadership," and that Abbas still has to
They also say:
• The section on security reforms should be
underpinned by inserting the very clear, verifiable
proposals made in March 2002 by American envoy
Gen. Anthony Zinni.
• It is absurd to demand a parallel Israeli renuncia-
tion of violence and incitement, as if Israel's war
against terror is on the same moral footing as the
• Mention of the "Saudi peace initiative" —
which Israel has never officially received — be
removed from the preamble.
• Israel have a say on whether the
Palestinians have completed security-
related steps such as the collection of
The looming bone of contention is the "road
map" toward Israeli-Palestinian peace prepared by
the diplomatic quartet of the United States, United
Nations, European Union and Russia. Bush wants
to use the road map to - break the current impasse
between Israel and the Palestinians, but
Sharon fears the plan may offer the
Palestinians rewards without ensuring
real change in their approach to Israel.
Israeli officials make light of the pos-
sible clash, giving many reasons why
they think it won't happen. But they
could be in for a surprise: After victory
in Iraq, Bush may want to show the
x The Americans are aware of the Israeli
international community that he's seri-
objections — but, in the main, reject
ous about imposing a Pax Americana on
=--" them. A senior American official
the Middle East as a whole.
made it clear that as things stand, the
Bush has underlined his commitment
United States does not see eye to eye
to the road map twice in recent weeks.
In a Feb. 26 speech to the American
"The road map is more of a simul-
Enterprise Institute in Washington, he
taneous thing," the official said. "I
declared that "it is the commitment of
know Sharon's vision is 'one after the
our government — and my personal
other' — first total reform, removal of
commitment — to implement the road
Arafat and, only then, being able to
talk about a Palestinian state. But
Then, in a brief White House appear-
that's not the road map as it stands.
ance on March 14, Bush insisted that
'And Bush says he supports the
"the time has come to move beyond
road map, not the road map as
entrenched positions and to take con-
revised by the Sharon government."
crete actions to achieve peace."
Still, Israeli officials say the breach
As soon as a Palestinian prime minis-
the United States and
With Secretary of State Cohn Powell by his side, President Bush speaks to the media
ter with real authority is confirmed in
Iraq might widen after
office, he said, the United States would about the Mideast "road map," in the White House Rose Garden on March
the war, perhaps making the
present the road map to both Israel and
Americans more inclined to see things
Israel's way. They hope a victorious
Israeli officials suggest Bush's comments were
ments than original text." Israel objects both to the
United States will squeeze out the other members of
designed to help embattled European allies and put
plan's end goal and the mechanism for achieving it.
the Quartet and deal with the Israeli-Palestinian
pressure on the Palestinian leadership, and in no way
conflict primarily on its own. •
signaled a coming clash with Israel. They argue that
If that happens, they say, the United States will be
Bush wanted primarily to help British Prime
less likely to pressure Israel, especially in the run-up
Minister Tony Blair deflect domestic criticism of his
The road map sets as its final goal an "independent
to a presidential election year in the United States.
support for war against Iraq.
Palestinian state" in three years. But Israel wants it
But some Israeli analysts dismiss this as wishful
According to this logic, presenting the road map
to be crystal cle-ar that the state will have limited
thinking. In fact, they say, it's more likely that after
would show Blair's opponents that the campaign
sovereignty: It will be demilitarized and barred from
the war in Iraq, America will do its best to mend
against Iraq is not directed against the Arabs per se,
fences with Europe.
making military alliances, and its border crossings
but was a first step in a wider plan to stabilize the
and air space will be controlled by Israel.
For one thing, the United States will want
Israel also insists that each step on the way to
European help in funding Iraq's postwar reconstruc-
Bush, the officials continue, also wanted to force
statehood. be completed to its satisfaction before the
tion — and pundits say this trans-Atlantic rap-
Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat to grant
next step starts. In other words, progress towards
prochement could very well come, at least partly, at
extensive powers to his prime minister-designate,
Israel's expense. ❑
statehood must be "performance-based."