Magazine article Tikkun

Replacing the Roadmap

Magazine article Tikkun

Replacing the Roadmap

Article excerpt

TO THE END OF HIS POLITICAL LIFE, Ariel Sharon sought to foster the idea that he was committed to the roadmap. In his last interview before being felled by a brain hemorrhage in January, Sharon told Japanese journalists that his policy toward the Palestinians was based on it.

I had heard him say this many times before. But it was only some two months before his stroke that I fully came to understand how disingenuous Sharon was being. Indeed, for two and a half years, Sharon, his aides, and his ministers had their own roadmap. They authored it. They were enthusiastically pursuing it. But it had nothing in common with the peace plan except the name.

On November 22, 2005, wearing a casual blue-and-white-striped sweater, Sharon's strategic adviser, Eyal Arad, showed up at a press conference to explain the prime minister's position on the roadmap in the run-up to the Israeli elections.

The night before, in announcing he was breaking with Likud and forming a new party, Sharon had seemingly placed the internationally endorsed plan for ending the Israel/Palestine conflict at the heart of his reelection campaign. Asked whether if reelected he would carry out further unilateral withdrawals such as the one from Gaza and northern Samaria completed in September, Sharon said: "There is no additional disengagement plan. There is the roadmap." A few days later, Sharon's newly-named Kadima party, the favorite to win the March 28 election, announced that the roadmap would be its diplomatic plan.

But Mr. Arad's remarks in elaborating on Sharon's views about the roadmap raised questions. He said startlingly that the roadmap breaks with the "territories for peace" formula that has underpinned Middle East peace efforts since 1967.

"Territories for peace," he explained, had proven "false philosophically and naive politically" because of Palestinian attacks after the Oslo Agreement and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's rejection of terms offered by Israel at the Camp David summit in 2000.

"What is essential in the roadmap is that it replaced the basic assumption of how to resolve the conflict," he said. The roadmap, he added, recognized the "falsehood of the territories-for-peace formula and replaced it with a much more realistic formula: security for independence."

Since land for peace is one of the roadmap's stated foundations (see its third paragraph) I at first thought this was an instance of campaign spin, perhaps to appeal to right-wingers who might vote for Likud. It was only when I reread the roadmap, and (very belatedly) compared it to the Sharon government's official reaction to it that I realized that Arad's remarks hinted at something highly significant.

Roadmap rewriting by Ariel Sharon began in earnest on May 25, 2003. That was when Israel, under the guise of making "comments" on the roadmap and having "reservations" about it, actually replaced the peace plan with its own competing vision of how to handle relations with the Palestinians. The international peace blueprint known as the roadmap was drafted by the United States, European Union, Russia, and United Nations and released on April 30, 2003.

Arad, almost as an aside, said that by "roadmap" what is meant is "the roadmap as approved by the [Israeli] cabinet, including the fourteen points, none of which touch on the essentials."

Actually the fourteen points that comprise the comments negate all the essentials.

The "Israeli Cabinet Statement on Road Map and Fourteen Reservations" is a document of historic significance. It should not be seen as a footnote to the roadmap. It was through these fourteen comments that Israel made the rejection of negotiations towards a permanent status settlement with the Palestinians its official policy. Before the cabinet voted on the "comments," Washington agreed to "fully and seriously" address them during implementation of the roadmap. The U.S. role in facilitating Sharon's replacement of the roadmap is something that will-or at least should-preoccupy scholars of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for years to come. …

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