Israel Resource Review 7th April, 2003


'Road Map' to Peace . . . or Undue Pressure . . . ?
David Forman
Chairman, Rabbis for Human Rights

I am a confirmed Israeli liberal. I believe there should be a Palestinian state on virtually all the land occupied by Israel since 1967. I feel strongly that the vast majority of the settlements should be dismantled. Doubtful that the Palestinians and us are capable, on our own accord, of reaching a peace agreement, I accept the necessity for outside intervention. My views are unshakable. Practically, historically and morally, I am committed to the Israeli "peace camp."

So why was I so irked when, just a few days prior to the outbreak of the war in Iraq, President Bush made his statement in the White House Rose Garden about the "road map" for the Middle East? After all, there is little of what I know of the map with which I disagree. Why did I hear myself saying, "After months of silence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, why now?"

We all know the answer: As Bush pursues his war against Iraq, he needs to placate the Arab nations. And what better way than to hint that he will "offer up" Israel after the war is concluded? Now, I know that not to be true, but there is this gnawing feeling that just does not sit well with me. It was the timing of Bush's statement that I found offensive. It strikes one as terribly disingenuous. At least British Prime Minister Tony Blair was more direct when he said: "It is precisely at this time, when we are engaged in disarming Saddam of his weapons of mass destruction, that we need to say to our Arab and Muslim friends that we are even-handed."

Even-handedness is the code word that makes us Israelis jump. As does the word "linkage," as in the linkage between the Arab world's anti-Americanism and American support for Israel. Bush was right in demanding that we stop some of our more aggressive policies in the territories, including the continued building of settlements. And the president did call for an end to terrorism.

But there was something else that was terribly troubling about the timing of this hastily called presidential announcement. It came on the heels of Virginia Rep. Jim Moran's statement that it is the "Jews who are pushing America toward war, and it is the Jews who can put a stop to it." It seems that Bush, albeit unwittingly and uncharacteristically, seized on this antisemitic canard to raise the issue of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Now, it is one thing for a second-rate congressman to blame the war with Iraq on the Jews, but for the president of the United States to draw Israel into the Iraq equation, on the eve of a war that he was determined to wage from the moment he entered office, is too much for Jews to swallow. How can we in the Israeli peace camp possibly justify an activist stance when antisemitism is lurking around the corner?

As it is, the Israeli peace camp has virtually gone underground since the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000. Simply put, the murderous rampage of suicide bombers has neutralized us. It was not only distasteful to the general public to see Israelis advocate for moderation by the government in response to Palestinian terrorism, but it was often emotionally impossible for us to demonstrate on behalf of Palestinian human rights.

The Israeli peace camp has also been neutralized by the one-dimensional attitude on the part of American Jewry. Liberal American Jewish voices have been all but silent, without a single word of protest against some of the draconian measures that Israel has pursued to contain terrorism: Administrative detention, extended curfews, house demolitions, confiscation of Palestinian land, indiscriminate killings.

Since the outbreak of the intifada, American Jewry has carved out a political position to the right of Attila the Hun. Should the younger Bush, at the war's conclusion, do as his father did - tying loan guarantees to a freeze on settlements in the West Bank and Gaza - then American Jews just might punish him at the polls, despite the fact that he has been Israel's most ardent supporter and Ariel Sharon's most fervent cheerleader.

In light of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that the road map is not up for negotiations, American Jews are fearful that a refusal on the part of Israel to accept an American dictate will bring with it a wave of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment. Additionally, American Jews are concerned that an Israeli rebuff of the road map might be construed as Israel not being grateful to the United States for deposing Saddam Hussein - in short, not buying into Bush's linkage. Given the constellation of Israel's present government, a rejection of the plan is very possible.

Linking the war in Iraq with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has made Bush not only suspect in the eyes of American Jews, but it has also put them on the defensive. Therefore, American Jews will continue to tilt to the right, hoping to soften the administration's line, primarily to protect their own self-interest - all the while believing that they are acting in Israel's self-interest. Mainstream American Jewish leaders who have spoken out in favor of the road map or for an imposed settlement from the outside are few and far between.

Where does this all leave the Israeli peace camp, which realizes that the road map could be Israel's final saving grace? We are stymied. We agree with the content of the map, but Bush has buried content with form, which includes timing. His "linkage" has undermined the peace forces in Israel.

But since the diplomatic cat is out of the proverbial bag, we in the Israeli peace camp must put aside the matter of form and instead concentrate on the content of the road map. We will continue to champion outside intervention. We may even quietly delight in any "linkage" that would stop settlement building, which we see as the Israeli stumbling block to achieving peace.

Nevertheless, we will do so with the full realization that the timing of Bush's pronouncement gave force to all those who see some merit in Moran's blatantly antisemitic statement, and to those anti-war demonstrators who equate the Star of David with the Nazi swastika.

Surely that cannot be the kind of linkage that Bush had intended. Unfortunately, that seems to be the message that has come through.

David Forman is chair of Israeli Rabbis for Human Rights and author of "Jewish Schizophrenia in the Land of Israel" (Gefen Publishing House, 2000)

This guest oped ran in the Forward on April 4, 2003

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A Road Map to Natural Disaster
Dr Uzi Landau
Israel minister responsible for the secret services and strategic relations with the U.S.

If the Quartet's road map is accepted, Yasser Arafat will win the greatest victory of his life. Despite the blatant violation of all his commitments in the Oslo agreements and his responsibility for the murder of more than 1,000 Israelis - nearly 800 of them during the last two years of terror - he has not been punished. On the contrary, he is holding on to the far-reaching concessions granted him at Oslo and in addition will get what even Yossi Beilin and Shimon Peres refused to give him: the establishment of a state, "independent, viable, sovereign with maximum territorial contiguity," in principle, and without negotiation. That state is the main goal of the map, resulting from a childish belief on the part of the Quartet that the mere creation of the state will guarantee peace.

At the same time there's no mention in the map of any of the conditions noted by the government as essential for our existential security: demilitarization; our complete control of the air space; a ban on the authority to sign international agreements, for example.

As far as we are concerned, there are two inviolate conditions: public recognition of Israel's right to exist, including an end to the incitement educating toward our destruction in the Palestinian school system and inculcating peace as a value from an early age, and Palestinian relinquishment of their demand for the refugees to return to Israel.

These demands, without which there is no chance for peace, do not appear as a condition. Moreover, the Saudi Arabian initiative, which the map says has "ongoing importance," speaks of solving the refugee problem through UN Resolution 194, which includes the "right of return," as its centerpiece.

Borders: Those who believed Israel would be able to maintain control over areas of decisive strategic importance for our defense, find the map speaks about "ending the occupation that began in 1967," in other words, a return to what Abba Eban called "the Auschwitz borders."

Internationalization of the conflict: In the first year of the previous, unity government, Israel was careful not to use all that was necessary to defeat the terrorist organizations in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, it did not topple the Palestinian Authority and did not expel Arafat. The price: hundreds of killed, thousands of wounded, and a rapid deterioration to a deep and unprecedented economic depression that we are now desperately trying to end. We did so to prevent the internationalization of the conflict by the entry of foreign observers and international conferences, that would, in effect, take out of our hands the sovereignty over management of the conflict and harm our ability to defend ourselves effectively.

That's exactly what the road map does. Internationalization under Quartet orchestration: It convenes two international conferences meant to establish the Palestinian state and lead to a permanent agreement, accompany the process, establish a supervisory mechanism for the implementation, judge the disputes between the PA and Israel, set a "realistic timetable" for progress and become involved in the negotiations "when necessary."

Jerusalem: The road map gives the Palestinians a political status equal to ours and determines that the decisions in the negotiations over the city's status will be with regard to "the political and religious interest of both sides." In other words, the division of Jerusalem. To remove any doubt about the Quartet's intentions, the road map emphasizes, "the government of Israel will reopen Palestinian institutions closed in East Jerusalem." And of course that includes the notorious Orient House.

A prize for terror: Without any condition for an end to terror first, Israel is ordered to immediately dismantle all the outposts and freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth - another bonus the Palestinians didn't even get at Oslo.

The road map is a huge prize for terror. In its wake the Palestinians will not only achieve their strategic goals, but will reach a clear conclusion: terror pays. They will get all the concessions we shower on them, organize themselves with money they get from the world and us, rebuild their terror units and attack us at the moment convenient for them. Our experience from the Oslo agreement teaches us that for us, the map bodes a future in which terror is much, much worse.

It's possible to understand why the European members of the Quartet initiated the road map. They are the ones who cynically attack President Bush, who is fighting the free world's war against Saddam Hussein; and during the years, with the same cynicism, they turned a blind eye to terrible Palestinian terror and held us responsible for it. They support the Palestinians and Arafat, Saddam's ally, and demand we concede unceasingly to terror.

Will the Americans accept the European positions? Is it possible the U.S. - which regards terror as the greatest danger to Western civilization, and is led by Bush, who declared war on terror without concessions of negotiations until it is totally eradicated like in Afghanistan and Iraq - will adopt a map saturated with far-reaching concessions that will only encourage terror?

The road map does not express the "Bush vision" as expressed last June. It is not a recipe for peace, but for national disaster. Accepting it will lead to terror and war under far more difficult conditions that we've ever known. If Israel wants to live, it must make as clear as possible and as early as possible that without basic preconditions, the map is totally unacceptable.

This piece appeared in HaAretz of April 8, 2003

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