On Sunday, the Sharon cabinet accepted in principle the road map — the first-ever Israeli governmental acceptance of a proposed Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. The Israelis and Palestinians now begin the first effort to reach a settlement since the collapse of the Oslo process nearly three years ago.
The “Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” is an ambitious three-stage plan that calls for an end to terror attacks and a settlement freeze in the first stage, a Palestinian state with temporary borders in the second, and a final-status agreement by 2005.
We’ve been down a similar road before. And as we commence this new process, it is vital to recall the most recent, failed effort to achieve a two-state solution, the Oslo Accords.
What went wrong with Oslo?
This question is precisely the subject of the new HonestReporting film, Relentless, which documents Oslo’s four main principles, and how each failed:
1) Oslo called for a Palestinian leadership that denounced violence and showed fiscal and diplomatic responsibility. However, Arafat expanded the terror, extorted funding, and continued to deny Israel’s legitimacy.
2) Oslo called for dismantling of all terror organizations, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and the confiscation of illegal weapons. In fact, the leaders of these groups were actually empowered by release from Palestinian prisons, entry to official office, smuggling of illegal weapons (Karine A), and the funneling of arms to terror factions.
3) Oslo called for ending incitement to violence, and education of the Palestinian population for peace. In fact, the P.A. used their media and textbooks to deny Israel’s legitimacy, incite for the killing of Jews, and call for “holy war.”
4) Oslo presumed that violations would trigger the cessation of the process. Despite explicit Palestinian violations, Israel continued to pursue the Oslo vision, ceding additional land at Wye in 1998, and presenting a deal at Camp David in July 2000 that far exceeded previous offers.
To understand the current road map, one must understand its testing ground, Oslo.
— ISRAEL’S CONCERNS —
Given the painful Oslo backdrop, Israel has raised 14 objections to the wording of the road map, objections Bush has pledged to address “fully and seriously”; the Israeli cabinet’s endorsement of the road map on Sunday was contingent upon the full implementation of these concerns. This time around, the Israelis say, it must be different.
The 14 objections (aside from the Palestinian refugee issue) may be grouped into four main sections, remarkably similar to those that caused Oslo’s downfall:
1) The emerging of a new and reformed Palestinian government. Indeed, President Bush called on the Palestinian people to elect leaders “not compromised by terror” as a precondition for the road map. The inference was clear to all — Yasser Arafat must go.
Enter Prime Minister Abu Mazen last month, and the road map was launched.
Yet just last week, Abu Mazen himself stated to an Egyptian weekly: “Arafat is at the top of the [Palestinian] Authority. He’s the man to whom we refer, regardless of the American or Israeli view of him… We do not do anything without his approval.”
2) The full dismantling of terror organizations. Yet no arrests have been made, and no illegal weapons have been confiscated. Meanwile, homicide bombings and missile attacks on Israeli cities continue apace, and just last week the Israeli Navy captured a Gaza-bound fishing boat carrying explosives, instructions for assembly, and a Hizbullah terror expert.
As recently as March, Abu Mazen legitimized the use of violence and terror: “The Intifada must continue. And it is the right of the Palestinian people to rise and to use all means at their disposal… all means even guns…” (A-Sharq Al Awsat, March 3, 2003)
3) The cessation of incitement against Israelis from official Palestinian sources. Yet lately, the PA has broadcast these “music videos”: a) Actors portraying a fictitious torture of a Palestinian prisoner by an Israeli soldier; b) Actors portraying Israelis in Nazi-like activities, like IDF soldiers murdering an elderly Palestinian man by shooting him in the head, and a Palestinian mother and infant blown up by soldiers; c) Encouraging young children to throw stones at Israelis, while smashing Jewish symbols.
4) Full performance of each stage — monitored objectively — to serve as a condition for continuation. Is the road map’s preconceived timeline realistic? According to the road map, May 2003 is the deadline for implementation of “Phase One”: Ending terror and violence, normalizing Palestinian life, and building Palestinian institutions. Yet none of this has even begun. Does anyone seriously expect it all to be accomplished in the next three days?
The endorsement of the road map on Sunday indicated that Ariel Sharon — long vilified as a “hard-liner” — is now leading his country toward concessions for peace. Yet Sharon insists that this be predicated on a pragmatic, intelligent approach that avoids the four main problems that doomed Oslo.
Remarkably, many media outlets nonetheless found room for censuring Israel’s endorsement of the road map. The Washington Post reported that “the deeply divided cabinet attached key conditions to the initiative that could make implementation problematic and ultimately doom it.”
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HonestReporting encourages members to monitor your local media to see how they report the road map and Israel’s insistence on pragmatic conditions.
And for essential analysis of Oslo and the current peace process, encourage your friends and family to attend an upcoming screening of the film Relentless:
May 29 – Hollywood, FL
May 29 – Park Slope, NY
June 2 – New York, NY
June 3 – Richmond, VA
June 8 – San Diego, CA
June 9 – Milwaukee, WI
June 10 – Toronto, Canada
June 16 – Chicago, IL
June 18 – Houston, TX
June 18 – Toronto, Canada
June 22 – Charleston, WV
June 22 – Brighton Beach, NY
June 25 – Sylvania, OH
June 25 – Detroit, MI
For more info, see Relentless online: www.honestreporting.com/relentless