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Dec 9, 2002, 02:41
As the American administration maintained feverish and intensified moves at international platforms to prepare for striking Iraq, American diplomacy accorded certain importance to the Palestine cause or the Arab-Zionist conflict. The American administration declared the “Road-Map” plan as a political card reflecting vision of president George Bush Jr. on settlement of that conflict as included in his speech on 24th June this year, which was met with support on the part of the European Union, the quartet committee and the UN.
Road-map comprised three stages to be implemented on the ground and completed at a date not exceeding 2005:
In the first stage (October 2002 to May 2003): The Palestinian Authority is called upon to immediately halt intifada and resistance in all areas of Palestine and to end so-called enticement against occupation then return to Palestinian-Zionist security coordination. Furthermore, it called for elections and new constitution to appoint a new government with a premier other than Arafat who would serve as the honorary president of the state. On the other side, the Zionist entity would be asked to improve the Palestinians’ humanitarian conditions and to stop targeting civilians and their property in addition to freezing settlements and withdrawing troops from areas occupied since 28th September 2000 in
stages that would be linked to progress of security cooperation between the PA and the Zionist entity.
The second stage (June 2003 to December 2003): This stage would witness the convening of an international conference to initiate negotiations on the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state within temporary borders until end of 2003 in addition to return and resumption of relations between Arab countries and the Zionist entity to what they used to be before the Aqsa intifada.
The third stage (2004 to 2005): This stage envisages the convening of a third international conference for negotiations between the PA and Zionist occupation on a lasting and final settlement that should be completed before 2005 dealing with borders, Al-Quds and settlements after which normal relations would be established between the Arabs and Zionists.
Motives and reasons for the American administration’s declaration of the Road-map:
The American road-map plan was announced at a time when the world was witnessing political tensions as a result of acute differences over striking Iraq and its legitimacy. Hence, declaring that plan at this timing was rather reflecting certain intentions and goals that the USA was trying to achieve including:
-An attempt to win Arab countries’ support to the strike against Iraq. The American administration realizes the extent of embarrassment caused by the Palestinian question and continuation of resistance to numerous parties and countries in the region and the world. Consequently, its declaration of the road-map to settle the Arab-Zionist conflict was meant to lift this embarrassment and to look balanced in dealing with regional issues in the Arab region in a bid to convince a number of Arab countries take part in its campaign against Iraq under various pretexts and justifications including application of international legitimacy!
-No doubt the image of the USA before the world public opinion, especially the Western one, was distorted after invading Afghanistan and the resultant colossal damage, massacres and violation of simplest human rights in addition to its biased stand in favor of the Zionist entity, which commits the most savage pogroms against the Palestinian people exploiting American weapons and support. This led the international public opinion to oppose American foreign policy and reject the invasion of Iraq. The road-map plan also attempted to display American balance in dealing with international questions and to ease the western sharp rejection of the American administration’s policy especially regarding the
-Examining the road-map stages and articles clearly demonstrates the basic status and priority awarded to security in this plan, which reflects the American administration and its Zionist allies’ concern in quelling the intifada and halting resistance to prepare the atmosphere for striking Iraq and calming the region so as not to pose as an additional incentive to activate Arab peoples against striking Iraq. Hence, the plan would attempt to deprive the Palestinian people from their simplest self-defense tool. This reflected seriousness of the issue on unity of the Palestinian street in a way that would waste all sacrifices offered over the past two years of intifada and would return the Palestine
cause to square one and to the zero point not before the Aqsa intifada only but even before Oslo. Such a situation would mean returning to the whirlpool of negotiations after discarding the winning card that the Palestinian people owned and ridding the Zionists from the nightmare of resistance and martyrdom operations that destroyed foundations of the Zionist entity, which started to lose elements of steadfastness.
Stands of concerned parties:
The Palestinian position:
The Palestinian Authority welcomed the American plan while expressing certain reservations over certain articles topped by the one introducing the new post of premier in the supposed Palestinian government because it would weaken the role of Yasser Arafat who would give up most of his jurisdictions in this case and turn into a symbolic president. The PA’s options were limited in reacting to the plan. Despite its obvious negative articles such as ending resistance and not binding the enemy’s government with implementing the plan in accordance with a stable and fixed program, yet it accepted it as the only available opportunity to resume the settlement process.
The PA and the Fatah Movement have tried to pave the way for implementing the road-map plan through dialogue with the Hamas Movement in Cairo (November 2002). The PA and other parties realize that it is not possible to halt resistance without the Hamas Movement in its capacity as the backbone of resistance. But the Hamas Movement stance, which already expressed positive readiness for dialogue, would not go in harmony with a program aimed at halting the intifada nor accept a plan that puts the Palestinian people’s rights at the negotiating table. Moreover, the plan was rejected by majority of Palestinian people’s forces.
The Zionist entity:
At the beginning several Zionist figures were inclined to reject the American road-map plan but Sharon’s estimated that such a position would embarrass the Americans especially when Washington was in need of elevating its credibility, even though temporarily, to pave the way for winning support of Arab and non-Arab parties to the strike against Iraq. This made Sharon refuse to officially and publicly reject the plan but he opted to declaring conditional acceptance. Zionists set the condition that the Palestinians should start by dismantling all military formations of resistance and immediately halt resistance claiming that security in the road-map was not enough. Furthermore, the Zionists objected
to the time limits set for application of the plan’s various stages, they rather wished the absence of any time limit linking the implementation to both parties’ progress in carrying out commitments.
Moreover, Zionists expressed reservations over mentioning the Saudi peace initiative, which they considered harmful to them in addition to their objection to the article that representatives of the quartet committee should determine whether conditions for moving from one stage to another had been carried out. To add to the previous conditions the Zionists believed, as they have told the Americans, that it was difficult to start implementing the road-map plan or hold any discussions about it during the elections campaign in the Zionist entity. The information was leaked after visit of the Zionist minister Sharansky to the USA and meeting vice president Dick Cheney and deputy secretary of state
The road-map, which the American administration had said was a proposal that could be amended, witnessed a number of alterations that took into consideration the Zionist demands especially removing the Saudi initiative and making the quartet committee’s resolutions concerning the plan passed in consensus, which neutralized Zionist fears from the European stand, which they consider leaning more towards the Palestinians. The American administration was apparently more inclined to accept the Sharon government’s request to postpone any reply to the plan until conclusion of the Knesset elections scheduled for 28/1/2003 so that the stand towards that plan would not be liable to election propaganda.
The Arab position was not united in dealing with the road-map with variations arising between the Egyptian and Syrian stands. However, the Syrian stand did not absolutely reject the plan while the Arab follow-up committee that met in Damascus late last November did not adopt a specific stand towards it while affirming insistence on the Arab peace plan that was endorsed by the Beirut summit last March.
The Egyptians tried to interact with the American plan after ensuring that certain amendments were introduced through the PA, which in its turn had tried in vain to end resistance operations hoping to embarrass Sharon and his government before the international public opinion in the event he refused to abide by articles of the road-map!
The Syrians criticized the plan without rejecting it. Foreign minister Farouk Al-Sharaa said, “In our opinion there is no road-map, it is another illusion that preoccupied minds of some Arab countries”. He then added, “There is no map except in the media means but in fact there is an attempt to fill the vacuum, that is all”.
No Saudi stand was so far crystallized publicly while Jordan expressed support to the plan.
Future of the American road-map:
Negotiations on the road-map started with many difficulties and faced numerous obstacles that threatened its success chances similar to what happened to the previous plans of Tenet, Mitchell and the Gaza-Bethlehem first agreement.
There were several factors pointing to failure of the American road-map including the following:
1-This plan has accorded Zionist security demands the biggest possible concern at the expense of Palestinian security and safety in face of Sharon and his extremist government’s attacks aimed at breaking and defeating Palestinian determination as voiced by many Zionist officials. This situation spreads doubts and suspicion over this plan and its targets, which might be taming resistance and getting rid of the intifada without attaining any political solution especially when the gap was ever widening between the Palestinian and Arab party on the one hand and the Zionist party on the other.
2-The road-map reiterates the same problems included in the Oslo agreement where it advocates a temporary Palestinian state without a fixed area or sovereignty. Furthermore, it postpones negotiations and settlement of the most complicated questions such as Al-Quds, refugees and settlements to the final stage, which means bypassing all Palestinian sacrifices and returning to zero point and an endless circle of negotiations.
3-The Zionist-Sharonic stand rejects political negotiations in the first place as means to realize a settlement and insists on depending on its war machine. Sharon’s new defense minister “Mofaz” opined that the plan raised problems for the Zionist entity and that it was full of security lapses threatening the Zionist entity and its security. The conditional Sharonic approval of the road-map is only meant to avoid any embarrassment for the American administration that is seeking to prepare the atmosphere for striking Iraq. This points to the negative and bad American-Zionist intentions of tabling
the road-map and indicates that it is only tabled to spread illusions with the aim of gaining more time in the region that is awaiting eruption of war.
The stumbling start of the plan is evident in the fact that its supposed date of implementation (October 2002) has elapsed without any practical steps on the ground and it is not expected in the foreseen future to be politically activated especially when the quartet committee will meet next 20th December to discuss details of the plan prior to the Zionist entity’s general elections in January 2003. This fact points to the possibility of freezing the final shape of that plan until that date and linking its implementation to new developments in the region particularly the war on Iraq.