Symposium

Article excerpt

Q: Should the president's road map to peace include an independent Palestinian state?

YES: Statehood will force militant groups to halt violence and behave as political parties.

BY EDWARD WALKER

Walker was U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. He is president of the Middle East Institute, a public-research organization in Washington.

President George W. Bush has committed himself to the "road map" drafted by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia. The road map is to some extent a replay of the Oslo process. The key difference is the incorporation of a Palestinian state into the peace process. This is a critical component that could lead to progress on the road to peace and can contribute to stability and the rise of democracy in the entire region.

According to the terms of the road map, we are looking at a three-phase process. The first phase will re-establish security and build confidence and commitment to peace. The second phase will establish a provisional Palestinian state and lead to the third phase of negotiations for a final settlement and establishing a sovereign Palestinian state. The process is to be completed by 2005. That is a very ambitious program and timetable. And as everyone has learned, the Israelis and the Palestinians have never seen a target date that they could not miss. Certainly, each party will have enormous domestic political problems to deal with in order for the road map to have any chance at all. And both parties will have important constituencies that object strenuously to the rise of a Palestinian state.

The Israelis have to come to grips with the right wing of their settler movement. These settlers have never accepted the concept of Israel's divestiture of the West Bank and Gaza and consequent dismantlement of some settlements. In this regard, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's statement the other day about dismantling settlements is a very encouraging sign.

The Palestinians, for their part, have to come to grips with their rejectionist elements who continue to advocate the elimination of Israel, whether directly or through the mechanism of drowning the Jewish state through the "right of return." In this regard, the appointment of Abu Mazen as Palestinian prime minister is an encouraging sign. I have known him for some time now as a moderate who is committed to the two-state solution and who rejects the leverage of terrorism.

Whether these two parties can deal with their own domestic political demons will depend to some extent on how they see the two-state solution evolving and whether it will add to the security of Israel and stability in the region. I can paint a nightmare scenario for Israel as easily as the most committed critic of a Palestinian state. And I am not so foolish as to ignore the dangers. I have lived in Israel and have seen up close and personal the risks Israelis take if they permit the establishment of a Palestinian state that becomes a source of terrorism and the steppingstone for the next stage in the elimination of the state of Israel. But a Palestinian state, either in its provisional or final form, need not be and is not likely to be such a threat. And, in fact, it can become a major steppingstone to greater stability in the region and to victory in the war on terrorism.

Moshe Dayan, for whom I had a great deal of respect, was inalterably opposed to Israel's complete withdrawal from the Sinai. He felt that Israel's security depended on the depth that one-third of the Sinai could provide. But Dayan was wrong. Israel's complete withdrawal from the Sinai to the 1967 lines has been the glue that has held the treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel together despite the enormous tensions that have rocked their relationship from time to time. Had Dayan prevailed, Israel today still would be facing a threat on its southern front and be spending wealth and forces in protecting its flank. …