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Road Map to Trouble RULE
by Abraham H. Foxman
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League

This op-ed originally appeared in the New York Sun on April 14, 2003.

During these difficult two and a half years of Palestinian terrorism against the people of Israel and one-sided condemnation of Israel in the international community, the most heartening development has been the steadfast American support for Israel in its time of need. The support has manifested itself on many levels. Public opinion polls throughout the more than two years have consistently revealed public sympathy with Israel. The Congress has strongly stood with Israel, most noticeably in two resolutions, passed overwhelmingly, declaring Israelís right to self-defense in the face of suicide attacks on its citizens. And the administration has been with Israel in many ways, one of the most important being the speech by President Bush on June 24, 2002, in which he presented his understanding of the conflict and his vision for its resolution.

In recent months, however, a new element has entered into the mix: the group known as the "Quartet," consisting of the European Union, the Secretariat of the United Nations, Russia, and America. The group has developed a plan for the region that has come to be known as the "Road Map. "While the plan has never been released officially, there have been leaks from all sides, and it has gone through several drafts that have been floated around the Internet. What is clear from those drafts is that the Road Map is a long way from the impressive vision laid out by Mr. Bush on June 24.

Letís be clear. The White House continues to say that what the president laid out in June is American policy. And considering the steadfast and consistent support of Israel at a time when the rest of the world has come down hard on Israel, there is reason to give the administration the benefit of the doubt that it will remain this way.

Still, there are real concerns about the contents and concepts of the Road Map. Most significant is the difference in the underlying framework of the presidentís speech and the Quartetís policy document. The president early on expressed recognition that Palestinian suffering, which needs amelioration, is not the product of Israeli occupation but of the betrayal of the Palestinian people by their leadership. This places the problem of Israel and the Palestinians where it belongs. The Palestinians could have had a state in 1948 when there were no refugees; they could have had a state in 1967 when there were no settlements; they could have had a state in 2000 when there was no intifada. In all these critical instances, Palestinian leadership has been more interested in destroying the Jewish state than in building a Palestinian state.

Out of this assumption flows a series of appropriate understandings. Palestinian violence is not rationalized by the accusation that it is the result of "occupation." There is no credibility for the current leadership and, therefore, any declaration about ceasing terrorism must be tested by proof on the ground. And Israelís responsibility to respond to a peace initiative, which is necessary and real, can only come after the Palestinians demonstrate they have finally changed, through new leaders and reformed institutions and through the cessation of terrorism. In other words, the presidentís vision makes sense.

The Quartetís Road Map, on the other hand, starts from a completely different conceptual approach. Here it is clear that the core of the problem is Israelís "occupation" of the territories. Time and again, the main goal stated is to end the occupation. Considering that all the parties to the Quartet, with the exception of America, have long articulated this perspective, it shouldnít be a surprise that such an assumption prevails. But it takes on great importance because the impression exists that this is now the dominant diplomatic agent and that America, a member of the Quartet, is on board.

Once Israelís occupation is seen as the heart of the problem, what follows in the Road Map flows inevitably, though disturbingly. Instead of demanding that the Palestinians confiscate illegal weapons and consolidate their security forces in order to achieve a state, the Road Map merely calls on the Palestinians to commence such a process. On the need to change Palestinian leaders, which was a hallmark of the presidentís speech, there is only a reference to Palestinian leaders who will fight terrorism, leaving open the possibility that the same corrupt leadership could remain. Unlike the Bush vision, the Road Map sees the Quartet, not the parties themselves, as the ultimate decision-makers, something that Israel has long rejected and that the Palestinians have long desired. And, the document focuses on the Palestinian strategic goal of a "sovereign, independent, democratic and viable Palestine," without speaking to Israelís aim for an unambiguous renunciation of violence by the Palestinians.

In other words, the Road Map demonstrates the long-recognized danger of the international community becoming the focal point of Middle East diplomacy. Israel is the problem, according to the Road Mapís logic. There is looseness in ensuring that the Palestinians truly give up on terror and violence. And invariably, if the plan were implemented, Israel would find itself under pressure to make concessions without significant evidence that the Palestinians had changed, that violence and rejectionism had finally and permanently come to an end.

In the final analysis, the president must know that the Road Map subverts his understanding of the problem and therefore must be adjusted to reflect his vision.

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