How easy it is for the United States to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: It is both sticking to the road map and not committed to it; Washington seeks democracy but can also dismiss its results; it is opposed to settlements, not to speak of outposts, but has already accepted them as a fait accompli; it is in favor of a final accord, but before this is achieved, it has defined its prior conditions.
In short, solving this conflict is not essential, it's a luxury item - from Washington's point of view. The conflict that brings Condoleezza Rice to the region conforms to the "turkey principle," which stipulates that if you have wings, this does not mean you can fly, but you can feel free to make noise.
For example, that noise about the road map. There is no document that is more vague and more unfocused; it's almost impressionistic: Everyone can find what he wants in it. Resolutions 242 and 338, the Arab initiative, the Arab League decisions of 2002, an end to terror and a functioning democracy in the Palestinian Authority and even, believe it or not, an Israeli commitment to enable Palestinians to lead normal lives. This entire salad is spread over the map, which is like a lacy tablecloth and has the pretension of resembling a work document only because it includes stages and a timetable. A timetable, by the way, which already ended in 2005.
Even if Rice declares that she is committed to the road map, it would be good if someone asks her to which part of it she is committed? To the longed-for Palestinian democracy? The same democracy that brought Hamas to power? Or, perhaps, the section that requires Israel to enable the Palestinians to conduct normal lives? Or could it be the first section of the document, in which the Palestinian Authority commits to take effective steps to dismantle the infrastructure of terror? Ah, but the terror infrastructure of 2003 is the same Hamas that is now running the government after winning the democratic battle Washington so wished to see.
Many other sections in the initial stage of the road map need to be realized, the first of which is that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel's right to exist in peace, while declaring a complete cease-fire. But a cease-fire already exists between the PA and Israel and, in the meantime, the Mecca agreement was also signed. But this, as we know, is an odious agreement, one designed to deceive the world, only to bring about a lifting of the embargo on the Palestinian Authority.
For a long time now, the road map has not been a suitable mold in which to pour the contents of a diplomatic process. It was written and approved on the basis that Arafat would live forever; that Hamas would not want or be capable of participating in political life in Palestine; and that Fatah would always be Israel's contrarian interlocutor and thus eliminate the need to make concessions. Despite these assurances, Israel took the trouble of submitting countless reservations about this map, as if it really were about to become a work plan.
We have said nothing yet about the section in the map that requires Israel to demolish illegal outposts built since March 2001 and to freeze all settlement activity. Rice can say what she wants about the road map, but besides words, Washington has really done nothing to demonstrate this commitment.
This conflict needs a new working paper, one the current administration in Washington is incapable of producing. Primarily this is so because it does not think a strategic threat is involved, because the administration knows how to deal with real strategic threats, rather than imagined ones: When necessary, it conducts practical negotiations with the head of the axis of evil, North Korea; it conducts effective talks with Libya; it is ready to talk with Iran about Iraq and to conduct a dialogue in Iraq with terror gangs that are accorded the title of "rebels" or "insurgents." Because when there is a real threat, one does not get bogged down in the fine points. Instead, one talks with everyone and pays in legal tender. In Palestine, from Washington's perspective, it is possible to continue to market values, to aspire for a utopian state with a utopian regime, and to compose documents in its honor, because there is no immediate danger if they are not implemented.
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