The roadmap confronts two obstacles

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 11-Sep-03 | Author: Khalil Shikaki

Dr. Khalil Shikaki is an Associate Professor of Political Science, and Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (Ramallah).
The Middle East roadmap faces many tricky detours.

Security remains the critical component in the first phase of the roadmap for both parties. The roadmap calls upon the Palestinians to take steps that would bring the violence to an end. One of the very early Palestinian achievements has been a ceasefire agreement among all factions, including Hamas and Islam Jihad. But the roadmap stipulates additional measures to be taken by Palestinian authorities, including arresting individuals planning or carrying out violent attacks and the “dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure” including the confiscation of illegal weapons from armed groups. The Palestinian security services are discovering that they lack the capacity to do so without risking civil war.

But even if they could disarm the radicals, Palestinians are divided about how far they are willing to go to attain security for Israel. While the ceasefire remains popular, few Palestinians wish to see the Palestinian Authority permanently break the back of the forces of resistance. Many Palestinians view violence as a useful tool in the struggle for independence and do not want to destroy Palestinian ability to resort to arms in the future if Israel reneges on its roadmap commitment to end the occupation. Palestinian opinion offers a different option for restraining Hamas and dismantling the “infrastructure of violence”: incorporating Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and other factions, into the political process.

For a younger generation of Palestinian political activists, the best hope for independence lies in the emergence of an empowered young guard, incorporating both nationalists and Islamists. These younger leaders guided the Intifadeh, gaining stature within Palestinian society, as well as a feeling that they might soon supplant the traditional old guard of the PLO. Young guard nationalists believe they will gain outright leadership in among Palestinians when they convince many of the moderate young guard Islamists to abandon Hamas and Islamic Jihad and join forces with them in an effort to oust the old guard.

However, the Israelis do not accept this logic of political succession among Palestinians. For them, such developments look like a trap which would only consolidate the “infrastructure of terror.” This is where Israel’s wall of separation between themselves and the Palestinians comes in. They do not want to deal with the Palestinians, and so are erecting this barrier through areas now nominally under Palestinian control.

While the roadmap speaks volumes about security, it makes no mention whatsoever of the Israeli wall. Yet, the wall and the second phase of the roadmap, calling for a Palestinian state with provisional borders, cannot co-exist. The Israeli work on the wall started about a year ago. Initially aiming at creating a security fence along the green line, the 1967 borders of Israel, it has gradually stretched across that would-be border, confiscating Palestinian land and creating a de facto annexation of a large part of the West Bank. For example, that planned portion of the wall that reaches the settlement of Ariel, deep into the West Bank, extends 15 kilometers inside Palestinian territories. By encircling large parts of the West Bank from the east, covering as much as 50 percent of Palestinian territory, the wall deprives the Palestinians of access to Jordan, their eastern neighbor.

In Palestinian eyes, the wall is a unilateral measure that creates facts on the ground and short-circuits permanent status negotiations, as called for in the third phase of the roadmap. The second phase, still to be achieved, calls for a Palestinian state with contiguous but provisional borders. The projected path of the wall eliminates Palestinian contiguity altogether. Continuation of work on the wall will kill any Palestinian enthusiasm for the second phase of the roadmap, leading them to demand an immediate implementation of the third phase, in other words to go directly to permanent status negotiations.

Permanent status negotiations, dealing with all the major issues of the conflict including refugees, Jerusalem, settlement, security, water, and of course the permanent borders of the Palestinian state, are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2005, while Ariel Sharon is still slated to be Prime Minister. Immediate resumption of these talks will only lead to great Palestinian despair, much worse than the disillusionment that followed the collapse of the Camp David summit in July 2000. The roadmap, with its promise of fast achievements in the shape of Israeli settlement freeze and Palestinian early statehood provides the incentive for the Palestinian Authority to deliver security for the Israelis at a sustained basis. If Israel must have its wall, then it must also restrain itself to the 1967 Green Line. If not, it will never be enough to contain Palestinian rage.