Marcus Clark, 31 May, 2003

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's cabinet approved the Road Map on 25 May. Intended to be a three-phase plan that calls for a settlement freeze and an end to terror attacks in the first stage, a Palestinian state with temporary borders in the second, and a final-status agreement by 2005. The vote was 12-7 with four abstentions at the end of a stormy six-hour debate.

Israel demands that a Palestinian declaration of end of conflict and renunciation of the right of return must be given as a precondition at the beginning of any process, and not at the end. Israel makes a great deal of abandoning the right of return, ignoring that it is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 13 of the UDHR states: 'Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.'

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the treaty which gives legal force to many of the rights proclaimed in the UDHR, codifies the right to return, stating in Article 12.4: 'No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.'

Yet this is not a serious problem in that Arafat has said that they are not seeking large numbers of Palestinians to settle in Israel. Many Palestinians would prefer to settle in Palestine, and some sort of compensation could be paid to those who lost houses and land, by the US or EU. The Right of Return is an international covenant that cannot be signed away by either side.

The Road Map is clearly aimed at creating a Palestinian "state", but with Israeli definitions. That is a series of Palestinian ghettoes, surrounded by the new security wall. Israeli will control all borders, water supply, air space, radio waves, communications, electricity, who can enter and who can leave, importation and exportation of all goods, and there will be no armed forces or foreign policy.

In return the Palestinians will police themselves to the point where they will guarantee not to cause Israel any difficulties. This will be a great relief for the Israeli army, wonderful to have the Palestinian police force carry out arrests, interrogation, destruction of homes, and imprisonment. The exiled Palestinians will also give up the right to returning to their homes, give up their farms which have already been bulldozed by the Israelis, they will give up the fledgling country which will be legalized into Israel proper. Yes, a state, but with less rights that a local council, and should there ever be rebellion the Israeli army will be right there on hand, and the US will say to the Palestinians "you got a wonderful agreement, you should honour it".

As for the settlements, they already control 41 percent of the West Bank, not counting what the new wall will add, swallowing another 10 percent into Israel, no questions asked. The Palestinians will live in ghettoes, with the only option of a real life to leave the "state" never to return. Five years after the final agreement no one is going to question if Israel is building new settlements or extending the old ones.

Yet there is ample room for Israel to do nothing, even after the Palestinian police have crushed all opposition, and new authorities have been chosen — with Israel's help. If someone shoots a pistol or throws a stone, then the Israelis are absolved from making any concessions at all.

So why are they signing this? Because they want to keep on the good side of President Bush, and the billions of dollars flowing in from the US. To reject the Road Map outright would be an affront to the Americans. Much better to set the bar so high that the Palestinians fail to clear it. Then Israel can always say they tried but Arafat returned to his terrorists ways. Incidently, you can see in the wording of the Israel objections that they have managed to write in the phrase: "the war against terror" putting them onside with the US.

Israel has attached 14 reservations to the road map, which the U.S. has promised to "fully and seriously address," but this promise was not an assurance that all of Israel's demands would be met, but it is unlikely that Bush, Wolfowitz, or Cheney will see any need to rule them out. Israel has proclaimed that they were a red line on which they will not compromise.

The following is the text of the reservations:

1. Both at the commencement of, and during the process, and as a condition to its continuance, calm will be maintained. The Palestinians will dismantle the existing security organizations and implement security reforms during the course of which new organizations will be formed and act to combat terror, violence and incitement (incitement must cease immediately and the Palestinian Authority must educate for peace).

These organizations will engage in genuine prevention of terror and violence through arrests, interrogations, prevention and the enforcement of the legal groundwork for investigations, prosecution and punishment. In the first phase of the plan and as a condition for progress to the second phase, the Palestinians will complete the dismantling of terrorist organizations (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front, Al-Aqsa Brigades and other apparatuses) and their infrastructure; collection of all illegal weapons and their transfer to a third party for the sake of being removed from the area and destroyed; cessation of weapons smuggling and weapons production inside the Palestinian Authority; activation of the full prevention apparatus and cessation of incitement.

There will be no progress to the second phase without the fulfilment of all above-mentioned conditions relating to the war against terror. The security plans to be implemented are the Tenet and Zinni plans. [As in the other mutual frameworks, the road map will not state that Israel must cease violence and incitement against the Palestinians].

2. Full performance will be a condition for progress between phases and for progress within phases. The first condition for progress will be the complete cessation of terror, violence and incitement. Progress between phases will come only following the full implementation of the preceding phase. Attention will be paid not to time lines, but to performance benchmarks (time lines will serve only as reference points).

3. The emergence of a new and different leadership in the Palestinian Authority within the framework of governmental reform. The formation of a new leadership constitutes a condition for progress to the second phase of the plan. In this framework, elections will be conducted for the Palestinian Legislative Council following coordination with Israel.

4. The Monitoring mechanism will be under American management. The chief verification activity will concentrate upon the creation of another Palestinian entity and progress in the civil reform process within the Palestinian Authority. Verification will be performed exclusively on a professional basis and per issue (economic, legal, financial) without the existence of a combined or unified mechanism. Substantive decisions will remain in the hands of both parties.

5. The character of the provisional Palestinian state will be determined through negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The provisional state will have provisional borders and certain aspects of sovereignty, be fully demilitarized with no military forces, but only with police and internal security forces of limited scope and armaments, be without the authority to undertake defense alliances or military cooperation, and Israeli control over the entry and exit of all persons and cargo, as well as of its air space and electromagnetic spectrum.

6. In connection to both the introductory statements and the final settlement, declared references must be made to Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and to the waiver of any right of return for Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel.

7. End of the process will lead to the end of all claims and not only the end of the conflict.

8. The future settlement will be reached through agreement and direct negotiations between the two parties, in accordance with the vision outlined by President Bush in his 24 June address.

9. There will be no involvement with issues pertaining to the final settlement. Among issues not to be discussed: settlement in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (excluding a settlement freeze and illegal outposts); the status of the Palestinian Authority and its institutions in Jerusalem; and all other matters whose substance relates to the final settlement.

10. The removal of references other than 242 and 338 (1397, the Saudi Initiative and the Arab Initiative adopted in Beirut). A settlement based upon the road map will be an autonomous settlement that derives its validity therefrom. The only possible reference should be to Resolutions 242 and 338, and then only as an outline for the conduct of future negotiations on a permanent settlement.

11. Promotion of the reform process in the Palestinian Authority: a transitional Palestinian constitution will be composed, a Palestinian legal infrastructure will be constructed and cooperation with Israel in this field will be renewed. In the economic sphere: international efforts to rehabilitate the Palestinian economy will continue. In the financial sphere: the American-Israeli-Palestinian agreement will be implemented in full as a condition for the continued transfer of tax revenues.

12. The deployment of IDF forces along the September 2000 lines will be subject to the stipulation of Article 4 (absolute quiet) and will be carried out in keeping with changes to be required by the nature of the new circumstances and needs created thereby. Emphasis will be placed on the division of responsibilities and civilian authority as in September 2000, and not on the position of forces on the ground at that time.

13. Subject to security conditions, Israel will work to restore Palestinian life to normal: promote the economic situation, cultivation of commercial connections, encouragement and assistance for the activities of recognized humanitarian agencies. No reference will be made to the Bertini Report as a binding source document within the framework of the humanitarian issue.

14. Arab states will assist the process through the condemnation of terrorist activity. No link will be established between the Palestinian track and other tracks (Syrian-Lebanese).