The Mideast road map to peace is misguided

WBy Lana Barkawi While the Israeli military continues its daily incursions into civilian Palestinian homes, while Israel expands the Security “Apartheid” Wall east of Israel’s de facto border, the Green Line, and while relief from water shortages in the West Bank and Gaza are nowhere in sight, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recently accepted the idea of the latest Israeli/Palestinian peace plan – with 14 reservations. The raising of objections by the Israeli government to proposed peace plans is a familiar Israeli tactic. Israeli leaders obstruct the progress of peace talks by bogging them down in minutia while stepping up its systematic violence toward the Palestinian people. This effectively fuels responses that put Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives at risk and brings the whole peace show to a violent halt.

But, let’s be delirious for a moment and imagine Sharon promises to implement President George W. Bush’s “road map to peace” plan as is. Unfortunately, the plan seems designed to fail.

The road map does not acknowledge the inherent imbalance of power between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The road map puts the onus on the Palestinians to immediately end violence while being subjected to unrelenting and overwhelming violence at the hand of Israel. On the other hand, the road map only asks Israel to freeze settlement activity. Observers of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict have repeatedly cited settlements as the paramount obstacles to peace. Meanwhile, 30 settlements have been created in the past seven years.

The little that the Israeli government is asked to do by the road map is couched in vague language that leaves great room for interpretation. For example, the road map mandates Israel to take “all necessary steps to help normalize Palestinian life.” Does this mean resuming Palestinian access to safe water? Ending Israeli policies of assassination and of collective punishment, both illegal activities according to international law? Bettering the economic situation of the Palestinians, of which upwards of 40 percent are unemployed? Allowing Palestinians access to medical treatment? If history is a guide, normalization would mean none of these things.

Meanwhile, it is not difficult to interpret the long list of specific tasks demanded of the Palestinians in the road map, including cessation of violence, drafting a constitution, holding free and fair elections, and rebuilding and refocusing the security forces. As to how these tasks are to be carried out by the weakened and economically strapped Palestinian Authority, the road map does not say.

The issues vital to the creation of a viable Palestinian state, including how borders would be drawn, the fate of refugees who have been living in crowded, inhumane camps for as many as 54 years, the assignment of east Jerusalem as capital of the Palestinian people and the dismantling of Israeli settlements, are postponed until the final phase of the plan. Meanwhile, Israel’s occupation, violence and settlements will continue, all working in direct opposition to peace.

Lana Barkawi, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research associate at the University and a board member of Mizna, a forum for promoting Arab-American culture.

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