On April 30, 2003, following the swift collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad, the Bush administration released the latest plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, a document entitled "A Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to

On April 30, 2003, following the swift collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad, the Bush administration released the latest plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, a document entitled "A Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict."[1] It is the product of a lengthy genesis, and more particularly, of the interaction of four parties who form the so-called Quartet: the United States, the United Nations (U.N.), the European Union (EU), and the Russian Federation. The declared destination of the "roadmap" is "a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict by 2005."

The two-state solution has been the settlement envisioned by the parties who now form the Quartet ever since 1947 when the U.N. voted to partition British-mandated Palestine into two states, Jewish and Arab. In 1948, the Jewish state, Israel, came into being; the Arab state did not. The Arab state was not established as a result of the disorganization of the Palestinian Arabs; the ambitions of neighboring Arab states, especially Egypt and Jordan, which occupied respectively Gaza and the West Bank; and above all the Arab belief that creating an Arab state would effectively legitimize partition's other offspring, Israel.

For over half a century, final partition through the creation of an Arab state—now called a Palestinian state—has eluded diplomats and peacemakers. In the year 2000, the government of Israel and the Palestinian leadership seemed to be on the brink of consummating a final agreement for partition and peace. However, once again the Palestinian refusal to legitimize Israel led to an eleventh-hour rejection of partition and the launching of a new war, the so-called Al-Aqsa intifada.

The roadmap is yet one more effort to engineer a two-state solution. It is another attempt to achieve, by diplomacy, what has yet to be achieved by history: Palestinian acceptance of Israel. In this respect, it replicates the flaw of the Oslo process. But it has its own flaws, which stem from its genesis. The Oslo process, for all its shortcomings, had only two parties, Israeli and Palestinian, ultimately joined by a third, the United States. The roadmap is the work of a committee of four, who have just spent the better part of a year working at cross-purposes over Iraq. It has been floated into an objective situation that is not "ripe" and that might actually deteriorate as a result of its own launching. It is, in short, the wrong plan at the wrong time.

How it came to be the plan of the hour is a compelling story of politics, diplomacy, and above all the fickleness of U.S. policy. As it happened, the United States, after a succession of failed plans, had come up with the nucleus of a realistic one: the June 24, 2002 speech of George W. Bush. But in five months, its strong points had been diluted, and its weak points had been elaborated. The result was an entirely unrealistic alternative: the roadmap. The roadmap did achieve a modicum of peace—within the Quartet. What it cannot possibly achieve in the allotted time is peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

How did the United States allow a bad plan to drive out a good one?

Policy Odyssey

From the first, ambiguity and oscillation have marked U.S. policy towards the war known as the Al-Aqsa intifada.

The war's outbreak in September 2000 caught the outgoing Clinton administration still mediating between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) on the contours of a comprehensive peace settlement. Hoping that the eruption could be contained and a peace settlement snatched from the fire, the administration stuck with mediation. It deferred judgment as to which party was responsible for the violence and radiated evenhandedness and a forced optimism about reaching a peace settlement. Palestinian terrorism and Israeli counterterrorism were both condemned as equal parts of a "cycle of violence" and care was taken not to accuse Yasir Arafat of inciting terrorism.

The elusive peace was not reached; Bill Clinton departed office. The new Bush administration set a different course, moving from mediation aimed at a full peace to conflict management. To this end, it pursued an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire via the Mitchell plan (May 2001) and the Tenet schedule (June 2001). But a cease-fire eluded the Bush administration just as a peace settlement had eluded the Clinton administration.

For months, the United States continued to use the same ambiguous language. The Bush administration "regretted" the ongoing "cycle of violence," called for "mutual restraint," and criticized actions on both sides. It expressed no public pessimism as to Arafat's actions and intentions. In condemning Israeli targeting of specific terrorists, entry into Palestinian controlled territory, and even the institution of roadblocks and closures, Washington pressed Israel to jettison its traditional national security doctrine and forego its right of self-defense.

However, matters began to change after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Scarred by suicide terrorism and now embarked on a retaliatory war, the United States gave firmer backing to Israeli retaliatory measures and issued sterner criticisms of Arafat's conduct.[2] The United States continued to cite the Mitchell and Tenet plans, urge Israeli restraint, and categorize Palestinian terrorism as the aberrant activity of fringe groups.[3] But the tone of administration statements on the conflict changed perceptibly. "Peace will only come when all have sworn off, forever, incitement, violence, and terror," declared Bush on November 10, 2001 before the U.N. in a speech calling for a two-state solution.[4] Israeli military action remained "unhelpful"[5] at times, but also something the president could "fully understand."[6] And as U.S. mediation aimed at a cease-fire failed, Bush began to express "disappointment" with Arafat's conduct.[7]

The Bush Vision

Then, on June 24, 2002, in a short and dramatic speech in the White House Rose Garden, President Bush signaled a significant shift of policy by writing off the Palestinian leadership (without mentioning Arafat by name) as irredeemably tainted by corruption and terrorism. Bush called for a new Palestinian leadership to engage in a "sustained fight against the terrorists and [to] dismantle their infrastructure" and to institute democratic, market-oriented reform.[8]

Until that moment, Israel had been in a minority of one asserting that Arafat was part of the problem rather than the solution. Bush's speech opened a clear breach in the settled international consensus on the issue.

In addition, Bush's statement contained two programmatic elements of prime importance:

  • A vision of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (confirming what he had already outlined the previous year);[9] and
  • U.S. support for a provisional Palestinian state once the Palestinians produced new, democratic leadership and institutions and fought terrorism.

To these broad proposals, Bush added some specific ones:

  • The Palestinian legislature would assume the "full authority of a legislative body";
  • The United States, the European Union, and unspecified Arab states would work with "Palestinian leaders" to create a new "constitutional framework" and a "working democracy";
  • The United States and various parties in the international community would assist the Palestinians in organizing multiparty elections by the end of 2002, work on a major project of economic reform and development, and increase humanitarian aid;
  • Every "leader" and "nation" (with Syria earning a mention at one point) would be summoned to end incitement to violence; publicly denounce suicide bombings; stop the flow of funds, recruits, and weaponry to terrorist groups seeking the destruction of Israel, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah; and establish "closer ties of diplomacy and commerce with Israel";
  • "As we make progress towards security," Israel would withdraw forces to positions held on September 28, 2000, and release frozen Palestinian revenues; and
  • Israeli settlement activity "must stop."

In outlining the contours of future Palestinian statehood and the necessary conditions for its attainment, Bush also provided some significant clues as to his thinking. Bush believed that:

  • Palestinian hopes were being held hostage to "the hatred of a few";
  • Terrorists were "trained and determined killers" who wanted to stop the peace process;
  • Palestinians suffered from "deep anger and despair," born of being "for decades … treated as pawns in the Middle East conflict" and "held hostage to a comprehensive peace agreement that never seems to come."

These were the weak points in the Bush vision, for all three notions are flawed.

Palestinian hopes held hostage to a hateful few. Successive Palestinian polls during 2000-3, whether conducted by Israelis or Palestinians, underscore majority Palestinian rejection of the legitimacy and permanence of Israel. This is evidenced by support for terrorism and an insistence on the "right of return" to Israel of refugees of the 1948-9 war, which would effectively dissolve the Jewish state. Generally speaking, this majority is only marginally smaller in the context of the creation of a Palestinian state and Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza.[10] Palestinian hopes are, therefore, not held hostage by an extremist fringe. Palestinian opposition to Israel's existence and an irredentist claim to all its territory are popular and rooted in the mainstream ideologies of Palestinian nationalism, Arabism, and Islamism.

Terrorists aim to sabotage the peace process. In fact, the Palestinian leadership seems convinced that negotiations and terrorism can and should be pursued simultaneously. Indeed, it was this strategy that yielded recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which conducted diplomacy even as it planned terrorist acts. Arafat's own career has been a testimony to the effectiveness of this mix.

Of course, terrorism conducted by a negotiating party normally signals a rejection of the publicly stated aims of the negotiations—in this case, a Palestinian state at peace with a neighboring Israel. Bush assumes that alternative Palestinian leaders who proclaim an interest in negotiations are necessarily opposed to terrorism. That assumption is likely to be flawed.

Palestinian anger as the product of being pawns held hostage to an elusive peace settlement. By implying that others have stood in the way of Palestinian statehood and that statehood would diminish Palestinian hostility to Israel, Bush misses the lesson of the Oslo failure.[11] The lesson is that the Palestinians themselves still prefer "justice" to statehood, and it is the Palestinian idea of justice that prevents unambiguous acceptance of a two-state solution negotiated directly with Israel. In this sense, mainstream Palestinian opinion is not moderate, and terrorism draws not upon socioeconomic frustration but upon the wider aspirations of Palestinian nationalism. This is why the mainstream leadership is unwilling and unable to confront terrorism, which emerges from the center of Palestinian society, not from a violent fringe.

In sum, the June 24 speech had its weak points. Nonetheless, Bush set out important preconditions in the sphere of Palestinian political, economic, and social reform and specified that they must be fulfilled before Israel was called upon to reciprocate. His was truly a performance-based plan, which would have held the Palestinians to a high standard—a crucial shift, since holding them to a low standard had failed dismally.

Yet it is precisely these pre-conditions that were whittled away by the roadmap produced by the Quartet.

Quartet Stymied

Why the Quartet? One day, historians will weigh the evidence in search of the precise factors that led the Bush administration to involve the EU, the U.N., and the Russian Federation in its renewed peace initiative. Perhaps the administration thought this would help to contain Arab ferment arising from the newly declared "war on terror." Perhaps it was intended to spread the blame more widely for the continuing failure of mediation. Perhaps it was meant to counter widespread accusation of U.S. unilateralism. All these possibilities have been suggested to explain Washington's decision to subordinate peacemaking, at least in part, to the Quartet.[12] Certainly, the timing of the Quartet's emergence late in 2001 suggests that considerations such as these gave rise to it.

On November 19, 2001, the EU welcomed the fact that "the European Union and the United States are adopting a common approach to the Middle East peace process."[13] The term "roadmap" was then in fashion in European circles with reference to an action plan to combat international terrorism and caught on for Middle East peace-making as well.[14] The Quartet came into its own in the spring of 2002, in the aftermath of Israel's counter-offensive on the West Bank. The United States, stung by criticism that its own diplomacy had failed, decided to bring the critics into the tent. Powell, at a Quartet news conference on May 2, 2002, announced that it was "important … for me to have this unified body of opinion and thought behind me" in working for peace. [15]

The Quartet marked a dramatic departure from past U.S. peacemaking. Rarely has the United States sought the active involvement of additional parties in its efforts at mediating the Arab-Israeli conflict. In Washington's most determined peace initiatives—the successful Egyptian-Israeli process of 1977-9 and the unsuccessful Israeli-PLO process of 1993-2000—Washington kept the U.N. out. It regarded the international body as disruptive, partisan, and deeply hostile to Israel. In the American view, the Europeans never had more than a facilitating role, mostly economic. And the United States always went to lengths to exclude the Soviet Union, predecessor of the Russian Federation.

On April 10, 2002, the Quartet produced its first fruit, a joint communiqué read at a Madrid press conference by U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, in the presence of representatives of all four parties. The communiqué affirmed that "there is no military solution to the conflict" and called for a two-state solution based on the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for negotiations leading to Israeli withdrawals and Arab recognition of and peace with Israel (242, 338, 1397). It "warmly endorsed" Saudi crown prince Abdullah's peace initiative, in turn endorsed in Beirut by the Arab League (March 27-28, 2002) as a "significant contribution towards a comprehensive peace, including Syria and Lebanon."[16] (The Saudi plan calls for establishing "normal relations with Israel," but only within the context of complete Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 lines; Israeli withdrawal from "remaining occupied Lebanese territories"; confirmation of a Palestinian "right of return" to Israel proper; and rejection of "all forms of patriation [sic] which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries," thus foreclosing any alternative to a "right of return").[17]

In terms of immediate and concrete steps, the Quartet called on Israel to "halt immediately its military operations" and for an "immediate, meaningful cease-fire and an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities" to positions held on September 28, 2000. It required "an end to all [Israeli] settlement activity." It also called for the Palestinian Authority "to act decisively and take all possible steps within its capacity to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, including terrorist financing, and to stop incitement to violence." To this end, it also urged the parties to agree to a cease-fire as proposed by then-U.S. envoy, Anthony Zinni, who at that time was in the region for this purpose. Lastly, it called upon Arab states to assist in rebuilding the PA and for international donors to contribute to a humanitarian relief effort.[18]

To be sure, Bush retained many of these elements in his subsequent June 24, 2002 speech. These elements included a two-state solution, an end to Israeli settlement activity, the Palestinian obligation to fight terror and dismantle its infrastructure, and an international relief effort.

But Bush's speech effectively repudiated the rest of the Quartet's admonitions. He introduced two completely new elements by insisting on new Palestinian leadership and the creation of a provisional Palestinian state. And he altered two existing elements. Bush did not call on Arab states to bolster the PA, whose institutions had been complicit in the violence and incitement. Instead he called on Arab states to cooperate in suppressing terrorism and incitement. And he did not call on Israel to "halt immediately" its military operations and withdraw its forces. Bush expected Israel to do this only "as we make progress towards security."

In sum, the Quartet looked as though it had been bypassed, even superseded, and that it would be compelled to work within the new parameters set by Bush's speech. Instead, every subsequent elaboration of the Quartet's policy has overlooked, overturned, or finessed Bush's conditions, producing a program at odds with it.

Quartet Rebounds

The Quartet's response to the Bush speech arrived three weeks later. On July 16, in New York, the Quartet issued its second joint communiqué. It began by explicitly reaffirming its first statement of April 10. But although it also explicitly supported Bush's two-state vision, it repudiated it in detail. Specifically, it:

  • Reaffirmed Arafat as "the recognized, elected leader of the Palestinian people," thus ignoring Bush's call for new leadership;
  • Renewed its call for "immediate" Israeli withdrawal and progress in moving "towards security";
  • Affirmed a process of parallel Israeli and Palestinian steps that wholly discarded Bush's emphasis on Palestinian performance in fighting terror and ending incitement and violence;
  • Called for immediate Israeli release of frozen Palestinian funds, omitting Bush's caveat on first establishing new Palestinian institutions, accountability, and auditing; and
  • Commended its own "action plan," thereby sidestepping the requirement that Palestinian statehood emerge as the outcome of negotiations (although towards that end, it "reaffirmed" the need for a "negotiated settlement").[19]

The Quartet did pay tribute to the idea of Palestinian reform—by welcoming Arafat's announcement of a 100-day reform program. The Quartet thus remained committed to Arafat, this time as reformer. Similarly, the Quartet welcomed the supposed willingness of Arab states to contribute to peacemaking—not by fighting terror, but by "helping Palestinians build institutions of good government and democracy." Since these states did not themselves possess such institutions, this call had no meaning. Lastly, the Quartet simply ignored Bush's call for a provisional Palestinian state, with all the geographical, political, and military limitations this implied.

In essence, then, the Quartet's New York statement amounted to a repudiation of Bush's vision, ignoring each innovation in the president's speech as if it had never been spoken. It did not call for new Palestinian leadership; it did not envision a provisional Palestinian state; it did not call for Arab state action against terror and incitement; and it did not predicate Israeli easing of security measures on improved security and progress in Palestinian reform.

How did the United States react to the Quartet communiqué of July 16? The State Department, as a party to the very document that neutralized the Bush proposals, reacted inconsistently. This was most evident in the case of Arafat's standing. Powell, questioned immediately upon Annan's delivery of the joint communiqué, admitted the issue of Arafat's future had not even been discussed and, a little later, that each side had its own views on Arafat.[20] When Powell was queried about the idea of a new Palestinian prime minister, he confirmed that the United States would not deal with Arafat but anticipated working with "other Palestinian leaders who now seem to be coming to the fore and acting with some authority."[21] These were hardly unequivocal statements, especially when one recalls that the United States, while shunning Arafat, continued (like the Israelis at times) to deal with some of Arafat's old guard of senior officials. Thus, Powell publicly met Saeb Erekat[22] and Nabil Sha'ath,[23] and Bush spoke at a reception informally with Sha'ath.[24]

On September 17, 2002, the Quartet issued a third communiqué following a meeting of its principals, as well as representatives of five Arab states (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria), the Palestinians, and Israel. In announcing the Quartet's policy, or roadmap as it was now dubbed, Annan spoke of producing a "performance-driven and hope-driven" plan, a formula suggesting that the needs of Israelis and Palestinians were both being taken into account. The roadmap would aim for nothing less than the ambitious goal of achieving a "final and comprehensive settlement within three years."

Implementation of the roadmap would occur in three phases. The first phase (then scheduled to end in May 2003) would deal with Palestinian security reform, Israeli withdrawals, and support for Palestinian elections to be held the same year. There would also be an ad hoc liaison committee to "review the humanitarian situation and identify priority areas." The second phase (beginning in mid-2003) would deal with creating a Palestinian state in provisional borders and a new constitution as "way stations" on the road to a final settlement. The third phase (2004-mid-2005) would consist of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at a final settlement. During this final phase, Palestinian political and economic reform would be paralleled by Israeli measures to improve Palestinian lives, permitting resumption of economic activity, lifting curfews and closures, releasing Palestinian revenues, and ending all settlement activity. The Palestinians would work with both the United States and Arab states to reform their security services and combat terrorism.[25]

The September 17 communiqué arguably reduced two of the four discrepancies between the Quartet's position and the Bush vision. It implicitly endorsed the idea of a new Palestinian leadership produced by elections held in accord with a new constitution and international monitoring. It also called for an Israeli halt to settlement activity only in the third phase, following the establishment of the conditions and reforms first outlined in the Bush speech. And it acknowledged Bush's idea of a provisional Palestinian state (without, however, quite endorsing it) by proposing that the definition of the borders of that state be deferred to final status negotiations. But it also left one discrepancy in place. It required immediate Israeli withdrawals in parallel with Palestinian steps rather than as a result of them.

The Roadmap

This outline was finally fleshed out in a draft document circulated on October 15, 2002, entitled "Elements of a Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict." This is the text that would later be published as the official roadmap on April 30, 2003. It should have represented a further and final effort to end discrepancies with the Bush speech. After all, history has demonstrated that the success of any Arab-Israeli peace initiative lies in the extent to which the U.S. president is committed to it—and even that may not be sufficient. But with the roadmap, the Quartet went sharply into reverse. The roadmap actually discarded precisely the provisions of its own third communiqué (September 17) that were intended to align it more closely with the Bush speech.

The roadmap, as circulated in October and published in April, described the three phases as follows:

Phase One (October 2002-May 2003). According to this draft, the Quartet's plan was now to include a broad-based Palestinian cabinet, an empowered prime minister, an independent election commission, a committee to draft a constitution, and reopening of Palestinian institutions in east Jerusalem. Israel would facilitate travel of Palestinian officials, improve humanitarian conditions, end "actions undermining trust, including attacks in civilian areas, demolitions of terrorists' homes, and immediately resume monthly release of Palestinian revenues." Israeli withdrawals were to commence and be completed ahead of Palestinian elections, projected for the first half of 2003. A freeze on Israeli settlement activity, including the natural growth of existing settlements, was also a requirement. Arab states in turn were asked to "move decisively to cut off public/private funding of extremist groups." Palestinians were required to issue an unequivocal declaration of Israel's right to exist and call for an immediate end to all violence against Israelis.[26]

Phase Two (June-December 2003). Creating a Palestinian state with provisional borders would be the main project during this phase, which now included the establishment of a monitoring mechanism; convening an international conference; launching Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on provisional borders; restoring the multilateral talks of the Oslo period; approving a new Palestinian constitution; the collection of illegal weapons; disarming so-called "militant groups"; and "further action on settlements," presumably by dismantling some of them.

Phase Three (2004-2005). Negotiations aimed at a final settlement remained the goal of this phase, which was to include an international conference. The conference was to approve the Palestinian state with provisional borders established as a result of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. It would also launch negotiations between the parties of a final settlement to be concluded in 2005 and to address outstanding questions of borders, Jerusalem, refugees, and settlements. Arab states were then expected, in line with the Saudi plan approved at the Beirut summit, to accept "normal relations" with Israel.

It is instantly apparent that this draft roadmap subtly undoes those aspects of the Quartet's third communiqué (September 17) that had incorporated some of the innovative elements of Bush's program. As a result, the Bush vision and the roadmap are not at all in alignment, and the evidence for this conclusion is to be derived from the detail of the first two phases of the roadmap.

The first phase deviates from Bush's conditions in a fundamental way. Israeli steps on security, settlements, withdrawal, and resuming cooperation with the Palestinians are brought forward to occur in this first, tentative phase, rather than in the third phase and as a response to verified Palestinian steps. No explanation is offered in the roadmap for these major revisions. Furthermore, serious curbs are to be placed on Israeli retaliatory measures against terrorists, approximating an outright ban, regardless of how legal, proportionate, or necessary such operations might be.

The second phase has finessed Bush's original proposal of a provisional Palestinian state with a proposal for a Palestinian state with provisional borders. This is a crucial difference: the state thus created would enjoy full legitimacy, possibly as early as fourteen months from the start of the Quartet's schedule. Verification of Palestinian reform, compliance, dismantling of terrorist groups, and ending incitement are to be subject to the briefest of tests, with many proposed mechanisms but no clear standards of performance.

In the Quartet's formulation, the possibility of the reelection of Arafat or his cohorts, or appointment of his acolytes, is not excluded. In fact, so long as Arafat remains a factor, much of what the roadmap envisions can proceed only with Arafat's knowledge and consent. A renewed Palestinian declaration on Israel's right to exist, the explicit cessation of terror, and even the appointment of a prime minister, all depend upon him. As it stands, then, the roadmap could divert the process on a bypass road around Bush's vision of a post-Arafat era in Palestinian politics.

Cutting Losses?

From the time of the roadmap's unveiling, the U.S. government maintained the pious fiction that Bush's vision and the Quartet's roadmap were one and the same.[27] But the White House has not always been blind to the contradiction. In November 2002, Israeli elections were called for January 2003, and Iraq began to consume all of Washington's energies. The administration, therefore, opted to defer publication of an authoritative version of the roadmap. At first, the State Department would not confirm rumors that the United States and Israel were agreed on postponement.[28] Eventually, Powell indicated that the administration "thought it wiser" to await the outcome of Israeli elections.[29] A meeting of the Quartet principals in Washington, on December 20, 2002, indicated that a gap remained between Bush, who regarded the roadmap as subject to further revision, and other Quartet members who preferred to see it as fixed. Bush indicated that he was "strongly committed to the vision that I outlined on June the 24th … The roadmap is not complete yet, but the United States is committed to its completion." In contrast, the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, opined that "we have a good document, and the most important thing is to implement."[30]

Following Ariel Sharon's reelection on January 28, 2003, Powell made the barest of hints that the roadmap might not be the sole basis on which the United States hoped now to proceed, referring to "the roadmap and other tools that we have."[31] A few weeks later, he noted that Bush "remains committed to the vision of his June 24 speech."[32] On March 14, Bush himself outlined his vision in terms that amounted to a reiteration of that speech, even before he had referred to the roadmap by name. Rather than emphasizing discrepancies between the positions of Washington and other Quartet members, Bush chose to focus on goals, stating that "this roadmap will set forth a sequence of steps toward the goals I set out on June 24th, 2002, goals shared by all the parties" (emphasis added). He also indicated the roadmap as such was not final, since "we will expect and welcome contributions from Israel and the Palestinians to this document that will advance true peace." Presentation of the roadmap only awaited the appointment of a Palestinian "prime minister."[33]

On March 18, one day before hostilities commenced in Iraq, the Palestinian legislature approved the appointment of a prime minister, pending his selection by Arafat. Powell welcomed the appointment as "another positive step," although it amounted to less than the United States would have liked to see. "And the greatest disappointment," Powell added, "has been the area of security, ending the violence, and so there is a disappointment that that portfolio seems to remain wholly in the hands of Chairman Arafat."[34] The official subsequently confirmed by Arafat was Mahmud 'Abbas (nom de guerre, Abu Mazen), secretary-general of the PLO executive committee. Nevertheless, and as Powell observed, Palestinian decisions in the military and foreign policy realm remain subject to Arafat's approval. The most cautious reaction to Abu Mazen's appointment must be that, as a genuine reformer and a political moderate interested in a permanent two-state solution, he is unproven. The same applies for new ministers, such as Hani al-Hasan, now "interior minister," who regards murderous attacks on Israeli civilian settlers as legitimate military action;[35] or Muhammad Dahlan, the new "state security minister," whose personnel, when he was preventive security chief in Gaza, perpetrated attacks on Israeli civilians.[36]

The Road Ahead

On May 26, 2003, Israel acceded to international pressure for movement forward on the roadmap and announced its qualified acceptance of the plan, citing fourteen reservations. The roadmap is now the peace plan for Israelis and Palestinians. Where does this leave U.S. policy for advancing an Israeli-Palestinian peace?

Neither Bush's vision nor the Quartet's roadmap fully addresses the core problem, which is the Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as a permanent, Jewish state. Consequently, either initiative runs the risk of dealing, at best and imperfectly, with symptoms (terrorism) rather than causes (no Palestinian consensus for a permanent peace with Israel).

Any U.S. policy focused on improving the climate for peace must do a number of things simultaneously:

  • Announce that there is insufficient Palestinian commitment to the acceptance of Israel and that this cannot be rectified by (often ambiguous) declarations by leaders. The U.S. government should insist on fundamental changes in broadcasting, the education system, and religious instruction within the Palestinian Authority, sustained over a period of years rather than months, before any consideration of final status issues.
  • Cease to refer to terrorism as a fringe phenomenon or a form of socioeconomic protest and instead insist that PA leaders take responsibility for it as the consequence of their own actions, inactions, and words.
  • Make explicit that the Palestinian refugee issue, like every other refugee issue of the past century, will be resolved through resettlement, not repatriation. The U.S. position, by regarding the refugee question as an issue to be settled in direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, makes it that much more intractable. Accordingly, U.S. repudiation of a legally groundless and practically unfeasible Palestinian "right of return" should become explicit and open and not remain equivocal and tacit. In this regard, the United States should accelerate diplomatic efforts to dismantle refugee camps. It should promote refugee rehabilitation in the countries of their settlement, in other willing host countries, or in territory destined for certain inclusion in any future Palestinian state. Such action should not be dependent on progress in negotiations.
  • Uphold President Bush's requirements for genuinely new Palestinian leadership untainted by terror and corruption and for a period of provisional Palestinian statehood before a final agreement.
  • Uphold President Bush's requirement for Arab states to end incitement to violence, end the flow of funds, recruits, and weaponry to terrorist groups seeking Israel's destruction, and establish closer ties of diplomacy and commerce with Israel.
  • End the systematic cover-up of Palestinian violations of past agreements and the politicized decision not to report violations as such. For example, it is scandalous that the State Department's semiannual reports on PA and PLO compliance with commitments made under the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords (PLOCCA) simply elide the issue of responsibility for violations.[37]

If Washington takes these steps, it will have made more progress than all past administrations combined in identifying and establishing the minimal conditions for an eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.

Daniel Mandel is a fellow in history at Melbourne University and associate editor of the Melbourne-based magazine The Review.

[1] Text at http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/nea/summit/text2003/0430roadmap.htm.
[2] Ari Fleischer, news briefing, Dec. 3, 2001, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/12/20011203-3.html.
[3] "President Discusses Middle East with Reporters," Apr. 1, 2002, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/04/20020401-4.html; State Department news briefing, Apr. 1, 2002, at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2002/9093.htm.
[4] "President Bush Speaks to United Nations," Nov. 10, 2001, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011110-3.html.
[5] President Bush, news conference, Mar. 13, 2002, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/03/20020313-8.html.
[6] "President Calls on World Leaders to Condemn Terrorism," Mar. 30, 2002, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/03/20020330-1.html.
[7] "President Bush, Prime Minister Sharon Discuss Middle East," Feb. 7, 2002, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/02/20020207-15.html; "President Calls on World Leaders to Condemn Terrorism," Mar. 30, 2002, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/03/20020330-1.html.
[8] "President Bush Calls for New Palestinian Leadership," June 24, 2002, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/06/print/20020624-3.html.
[9] "President Bush Speaks to United Nations," Nov. 10, 2001, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011110-3.html.
[10] Six examples: polls carried out by the Birzeit University Development Studies Programme (Nov. 6-8, 2000), "The Palestinian Intifada and the Peace Process, Integrity and Objectivity, Survey no. 2," Nov. 13, 2000, at http://home.birzeit.edu/dsp/DSPNEW/polls/poll_2/index.html; "On Palestinian Attitudes towards Politics including the Current Intifada, Dec. 2000," Jerusalem Media and Communication Center (JMCC), no. 39, Dec. 21-4, 2000, at http://www.jmcc.org/polls/2000/no39.htm; "On Palestinian Attitudes towards Politics including the Current Intifada, Apr. 2001," JMCC, no. 40, Apr. 10-12, 2001, at http://www.jmcc.org/polls/2001/no40.htm; "Palestinians Give Less Support for Bombings inside Israel while Two Thirds Support the Saudi Plan," no. 4, May 15-18, 2002, Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), at http://www.pcpsr.org/survey/polls/2002/p4a.html; "While Indicating Important Shifts in Palestinian Public Attitudes toward the Intifada and the Peace Process, PSR Poll Shows Significant Support for the Appointment of a Prime Minister and Refusal to Give Confidence in the New Palestinian Government," no. 6, Nov. 14-22, 2002, PSR, at http://www.pcpsr.org/survey/polls/2002/p6a.html; Opinion Poll #11, Mar. 12, 2003, Development Studies Programme, Birzeit University, at http://home.birzeit.edu/dsp/DSPNEW/polls/poll_11/tables.htm.
[11] As Bush stated on July 31, 2002, "the voice of the Palestinians, those who desire peace, must be heard." "President Discusses Economy, Middle East Following Cabinet Meeting," July 31, 2002, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/07/20020731-1.html.
[12] Robert Satloff, "Subtle Backtracking: Assessing the Quartet's New York Statement," Policywatch, no. 636, July 17, 2002, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, at http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/watch/Policywatch/policywatch2002/636.htm
[13] "President Prodi and Prime Minister Verhofstadt Jointly Welcome the U.S. Position on the Middle East," Nov. 19, 2001, at http://europa.eu.int/rapid/start/cgi/guesten.ksh?p_action.gettxt=gt&doc=MEMO/01/385|0|AGED&lg=EN
[14] "European Action Plan Following the Attacks in the United States," Dec. 10, 2001, at http://europa.eu.int/rapid/start/cgi/guesten.ksh?p_action.gettxt=gt&doc=PRES/01/460|0|AGED&lg=EN
[15] "Remarks with Quartet partners," May 2, 2002, at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2002/9917.htm.
[16] State Department news briefing, Apr. 10, 2002, at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2002/9232.htm.
[17] "Arab Peace Initiative, 2002: Official translation of the full text of a Saudi-inspired peace plan adopted by the Arab summit in Beirut," at http://www.al-bab.com/arab/docs/league/peace02.htm.
[18] State Department news briefing, Apr. 10, 2002, at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2002/9232.htm.
[19] State Department news briefing, July 16, 2002, at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2002/11884.htm.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Diane Rehm Show, July 18, 2002, at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2002/11919.htm.
[22] Remarks with Saeb Erekat, Palestinian delegation member, Aug. 8, 2002, at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2002/12529.htm.
[23] State Department news briefing, Nov. 27, 2002, at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2002/15544.htm.
[24] State Department news briefing, U.N. headquarters, Sept. 13, 2002, at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2002/13474.htm.
[25] State Department news briefing, U.N. headquarters, Sept. 17, 2002, at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2002/13523.htm.
[26] "Elements of a Performance-Based Road Map to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," draft, Oct. 15, 2002, at http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/media/outside/roadmap.htm.
[27] White House news briefing, Nov. 13, 2002, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/11/20021113-8.html#4B; White House news briefing, Nov. 14, 2002, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/11/200211142.html#5B.
[28] White House news briefing, Nov. 13, 2002; White House news briefing, Nov. 14, 2002.
[29] State Department news briefing, Dec. 18, 2002, at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2002/16100.htm.
[30] White House news briefing, Dec. 20, 2002, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/12/20021220-6.html.
[31] Address at the National Conference of World Affairs Councils of America, Washington, D.C., Jan. 31, 2003, at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2003/17109.htm.
[32] Al-Ahram (Cairo), Feb. 10, 2003, at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2003/17626.htm.
[33] "President Discusses Roadmap for Peace in the Middle East," Mar. 14, 2003, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/03/20030314-4.html.
[34] International Wire Services, Mar. 18, 2003, at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2003/18810.htm.
[35] The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 3, 2002.
[36] Ibid., Apr. 30, 2003.
[37] For example, the department's Patterns of Global Terrorism report made only one, fleeting mention of the Karine-A arms shipment from Iran to the PA, and the previous PLOCCA report declined to mention it at all. Another example: the latest PLOCCA report refused to make a determination on PA-PLO compliance with its commitments, citing "national security interests.".Matthew Levitt, "PLOCCA Redux: The State Department's Subtle Swipe at the Concept of Demanding Palestinian Compliance," Policywatch, no. 640, July 24, 2002, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, at http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/watch/index.htm