Quartet ``Roadmap" Represents a Detour
Whether the current showdown between the United States and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein ends with an American military attack on Iraq or an intensified inspections regime under UN auspices, Israel’s interest is in a quick climax to the confrontation. So long as matters are pending, America is forced will continue to curry favor with a wide variety of nations to ensure backing, open or tacit, for any military action and to secure passage of U.S.-backed Security Council resolutions.
Erstwhile European allies have conditioned their support on a greater role for the European Union in Middle East peacemaking. And so-called ``moderate" Arab regimes have likewise demanded that the U.S. push forward the Middle East peace process -- i.e., return to Oslo. As long as there is no end to the Iraqi crisis, Israel can therefore count on a good deal of diplomatic pressure from the United States.
Iraq-generated pressures on American diplomacy have resulted in a partial retreat from President Bush’s dramatic break with a decade of failed American peacemaking in the Middle East in his June 24 Rose Garden address. Under the Clinton-sponsored Oslo process, America diplomacy was based on a series of mistaken premises. The first was an almost fetishistic belief in the value of written agreements regardless of the credibility of signatories. A corollary to the faith in written agreements was the measurement of ``progress" in terms of the number of agreements signed, with scant attention paid to the parties’ adherence to their previous undertakings.
Thus, writes Charles Krauthamer, President Clinton spent the seven years after Oslo ``brokering one new agreement after another while declaring the peace irreversible. He knew it was so because Yasser Arafat had promised – in writing – an end to violence and terrorism."
Americans received a good taste of the folly of paper diplomacy last week with the announcement that North Korea has produced nuclear weapons in clear violation of a 1994 treaty brokered by former president and soon to be Nobel Laureate Jimmy Carter. After his return from Pyongyang in 1994, Carter not only declared that he had successfully removed the North Korean nuclear threat but testified to the ``incredible reverence" of the North Korean people for their brutal dictator Kim II Sung. (That was perhaps the most naïve such statement since New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting from the Soviet Union in the ‘20s that there was no famine among the kulaks.) Meanwhile, North Korea received 500,000 tons of free oil every year and two nuclear power plants costing $2 billion, while carrying on with nuclear weapons development just as before.
A second premise of Clintonian Middle East diplomacy was that it is incumbent on Israesl, as the military stronger power, to make all tangible concessions while receiving in return a litany of Palestinian promises – promises, which as it turned out, could be recycled repeatedly without ever growing stale.
All that was dramatically reversed by President Bush’s June 24 speech. Finally, the president of the United States acknowledged in a concrete manner that the sole goal of the Oslo process was not the creation of a Palestinian state. Israel too sought something, namely peace and security.
From now on, the President made clear, actions, not words, count – even words enshrined in written agreements. Agreements have no meaning where the parties lack credibility, and the President stressed that Arafat lacked any credibility. No longer would American diplomacy focus on producing new symbols of life for the ``peace process" – e.g., written agreements, international consequences – but on substance.
For the first time, an American President placed the onus for moving forward squarely on the Palestinians. The President’s message was: A Palestinian state is not inevitable; it must be earned. Thus Bush pointedly refrained from enunciating any timetable for the creation of a Palestinian state. Not only would the Palestinians have to end terror against Israelis, they would have to create a viable democracy to replace the thugocracy under Arafat, and thereby make an enduring peace possible. That democracy would entail the sharing of power between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and with local authorities; freedom of speech and religion, and financial accountability for government revenues and spending.
The Bush speech was universally perceived as a triumph for the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz axis within the administration and a defeat for Secretary State Colin Powell and those at the State Department still determined to carry forward the Clinton administration’s Middle East diplomacy. The current focus on Iraq has, however, been skillfully exploited by Powell to once again interject himself into Middle East peacemaking and to revive the Oslo process.
The tentative ``roadmap" drafted by the Quartet of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the U.N. and presented to Prime Minister Sharon in his recent meetings in Washington constitutes at least a partial return to past nostrums abandoned by President Bush on June 24. Once again, Israel is being required to undertake concrete concessions and confidence building measures in return for the oft-repeated Palestinian calls for ``an immediate end to the armed intifada and all acts of violence against all Israelis everywhere."
Meanwhile Israel has already released hundreds of millions of frozen tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority prior to the creation of any credible oversight body to ensure that the money is not funneled to terrorists, as in the past, as a goodwill gesture prior to Prime Minister Sharon’s Washington visit.
Prior to the Palestinians taking a single step to uproot the terrorist infrastructure, Israel required to begin easing restrictions on Palestinian movements, refrain from attacks on civilian areas, and remove all construction of settlement outposts since the inception of the current government. Twice in the past week Israel has been rewarded for easing restrictions on Palestinian towns – specifically Jenin and Nablus – with homicide bombers. In a speech last week to an ADL delegation, Prime Minister Sharon rightly declared, ``It is not credible that Israel takes irreversible steps while the other side makes only statements."
Not only does the Quartet Roadmap lack any specific guidelines for determining compliance, but it also makes members of the Quartet the referees of when sufficient progress has been achieved to proceed to the next stage. The avoidance of international monitors has been the consistent aim of Israeli diplomacy for years. To put it bluntly, the EU and UN lack any credibility with Israel due to their consistent condemnations of all Israeli efforts to defend her citizens. And even with the best of intentions, international monitors would only serve as a restraint on Israel’s actions to uproot terrorism, which are highly visible, while remaining oblivious to terrorist bomb factories and other underground activities.
Though the Roadmap doesn’t force Israel to confront in the initial stages the most difficult issues of final borders, Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem, the favorable reference to the Saudi peace plan, which contemplates a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 armistice lines, and the repeated references to the Israeli occupation would seem to prejudge these issues.
The best that Israel can hope for is that the Roadmap has been primarily dictated by the United States’ other diplomatic needs, and thus President Bush has not bothered to focus too closely on its tensions with the vision laid out on June 24. But unless those pressures on the President are soon removed by some concrete action one way or the other with respect to Iraq, Israel could find herself entering uncharted and dangerous new territory.