‘Road map’ still faces obstacles; no implementation in sight

The plan hopes to create a Palestinian state by 2005 and end violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

The chance for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians remains slim as long as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon remain at the helm of power, University political science professor Martin Sampson said.

“There is momentum on both sides to go forward,” Sampson said. “But there are also no shortages of excuses either to not move forward.”

Sampson said neither side has implemented the first part of the framework known as the “road map for peace.”

The road map is a plan proposed earlier this year by the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union that is expected to culminate in 2005 with the creation of a Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel.

The plan hopes to bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

Sampson said part one of the plan -which states that Israel should freeze settlements and begin removing those recently built, while Palestinians should stop terrorism – was expected to build confidence on both sides.

At a recent lecture in honor of Israel Awareness Month, the executive director of Minneapolis-based Jewish Community Relations Council, a lobbyist group, said the road map is “dead.”

Executive director Stephen Silberfarb said the confidence-building measures the road map required were not reciprocated by the Palestinians after Sharon began to release political prisoners, withdraw from Palestinian areas and dismantle outposts.

Silberfarb said the main obstacle to peace in the region is Arafat. He said Arafat’s unwillingness to relinquish control of the security forces to former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and current Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei indicate that Arafat is not ready to relinquish power or negotiate peace with the Israelis.

“Any alternative to Arafat is good hope for peace,” he said.

But Firas Khamis, a Palestinian student, said the road map lacks any specifics and any fixed goals.

Khamis, a biomedical engineering student, said the road map will not work because the United States intends to deal with people such as Mahmoud Abbas, who was willing to make huge concessions to the Israelis. He said Abbas was willing to accept limited self-control, something Arafat and most Palestinians are not willing to do.