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A new Mid-East peace plan

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted June 2, 2003

Mort Zuckerman, Editor-in-Chief of US News & World Report, has encapsulated the current state of Israeli/Palestinian negotiations quite nicely. In his editorial of June 2nd entitled "The Shadow on the Road", Zuckerman states, "Suicide bombings bloodied the first step along the ‘road map' toward a Palestinian state, the meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the newly designated Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas …The tests for stopping terrorism are clear. Abbas has to arrest, interrogate, and punish the terrorist killers; dismantle and disarm Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front; seize their illegal weapons and hand them over to the United States for destruction".

The conditions delineated in the "Road Map for Peace" are absolutely integral to the process, which cannot succeed unless the Palestinians are committed to eschewing all terrorism and punishing all perpetrators of terror. As President Bush states, this is the "starting point", and compliance with the plan will achieve an independent Palestinian state. Understandably, the US plan is tremendously ambitious, especially in light of the deep antipathy held by the Palestinian people toward Israel. Therefore, the salient question is whether the new Palestinian leadership has the will and tenacity to work with their people in the eradication of terrorism.

That said, there is significant opposition to this "two-state solution" among Israelis. According to a recent public opinion poll in Israel, 57 per cent of the populace is in favor of President Bush's "road map" plan, while 38 per cent oppose it. This polling reflects a significant minority, approximately 4 out of 10 Israelis, who are wary of the peace initiative. But as of May 25th, the plan was approved by the Israeli cabinet by a vote of 12 to 7 with 4 abstentions, and it's poised to move forward.

On a recent 700 Club program, Benny Elon, Israel's Minister of Tourism, stated that the peace plan is "not a road map, but a road trap", that would threaten the very survival of Israel. In essence, Elon believes that a Palestinian state contiguous with Israel would be used as a staging ground for terrorists to effectively assault the Jewish state. And, without secure borders and the ability to round up terrorists in Palestinian areas, Elon reasons that Israel would face its ultimate demise. Moreover, Elon maintains that the nation of Jordan is the true Palestinian state with approximately 70 per cent of its population self-identifying as Palestinian.

The program's host, Pat Robertson, was in absolute agreement regarding the prospect of an independent Palestinian state as he espoused, "This will be the beginning of the end for Israel as we know it". Obviously, Robertson believes that the "road map" situates Israel at overwhelming risk. Among critics of the "two-state solution", there are assertions that the "road map" is a "sham" and that the Palestinians are determined to wipe Israel from the face of the earth, sentiments that have been widely echoed by Israel's enemies throughout the Islamic world.

Sure, the Hamas terror group is currently talking about a one year cease fire, but many believe this is nothing more than a ploy, all smoke and mirrors. As noted by Mort Zuckerman in his aforementioned editorial, "Rather than uprooting the terrorist infrastructure, they (the Palestinians) seek a cease-fire by integrating opposition groups into the official security organization. This way lies disaster". To assuage all parties, the Palestinians and their terrorist cohorts may indeed say all the right things about peace – but, all things considered, it would be wise to closely monitor what they do, rather than what they say. It still remains to be seen whether the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is a true interlocutor for peace – or a puppet for the double-gaming Yassir Arafat, the terrormeister himself. I'm guessing it's the latter.

Let's face it -- President Bush is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't regarding attempts to forge a peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

As world leader and only superpower, the US arguably does have an obligation to address the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian tumult that could possibly envelop the entire region in a disastrous conflagration. In other words, it's certainly conceivable that the Middle East, entrenched in fanaticism, could spin out-of-control in the not-too-distant future. And helping to stabilize the Israeli situation, a focal point of incitement and violence, might well work for the greater good of the region. However, despite this administration's sincere intentions, many people have a profound distrust of the Palestinian Authority, which has generated a terrible legacy of terrorism.

That said, the Bush administration does not believe it has the luxury of sitting idly while the Israeli/Palestinian crisis continues on its downward spiral. Now, America is part of the "Quartet" that includes the European Union, Russia and the United Nations in attempts to properly oversee compliance with the "road map" peace plan. The timetable appears to call for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state by 2005. Furthermore, President Bush is prepared to shepherd this process with Israeli and Palestinian leadership, working in tandem with the Quartet. Quite frankly, I have faith in President Bush, but the other members of the Quartet are not fair brokers in this peace process since they are all flagrantly pro-Palestinian.

Despite the vexing circumstances at hand, the majority of both Israelis and Americans believe it's time to give the Palestinians a chance to prove their true intent and mettle. If the Palestinians foolishly squander this opportunity and continue to threaten the safety and security of Israel, then it's their own doing and no independent Palestinian state will be sanctioned – well, at least we hope not.

Terrorism has been the scourge of Israel, and represents a war of attrition that is taking a profound toll on that tiny nation. Moreover, Israel is on the horns of a very difficult dilemma. The Israelis really don't want to stand sentinel forever over the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip -- but by the same token many Israelis recognize the profound peril in granting the Palestinians their own state, which might be the next terror regime bent on the destruction of Israel. The Israelis are "betwixt and between" regarding the Palestinian issue. And they are so worn down by the terror attacks that they are willing to glom onto a purported peace plan that probably won't work. I certainly hope and pray that the "road map" is successful. However, I doubt it will be. Given the recent suicide bombings, the Palestinians still appear to be inexorably enmeshed with terrorism. And that's no way to start a peace initiative.

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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