The Rejection Front's Last Fig Leaf

As far as Ariel Sharon, Kadima's leader, and Ahmed Yassin, Hamas' former leader, are concerned, the road map was never more than a ball that one side had to roll into the rival's court.

Israel Radio reported on its morning news broadcast yesterday that Avi Dichter, one of the leaders of the Kadima party, had announced the death of the road map. Almost immediately in the same breath it reported that Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader, had announced that the map is also no longer on the Palestinian agenda.

Each of them says the other is no partner for negotiations, therefore the road map from the end of 2002 is no longer relevant.

Musa Abu Marzuk, Meshal's second in command, also agrees with Dichter. He said Hamas, like Israel, would continue to strive to achieve its goals unilaterally. One side wants to dictate its own convenient territorial facts with separation fences and reduced defense lines, and calls it "disengagement." The other side wants to delay the inevitable with terror attacks and take a breather, called a hudna, to renew its strength. They're both right.

As far as Ariel Sharon, Kadima's leader, and Ahmed Yassin, Hamas' former leader, are concerned, the road map was never more than a ball that one side had to roll into the rival's court. Both parties do not accept the borders of June 4, 1967, dividing Jerusalem and solving the refugee problem outside Israel as a basis for an agreement. There is no point, therefore, to cry over the death a document stipulating that "the agreement to be discussed between the sides will lead to the establishment of an independent, viable, democratic Palestinian state, existing in peace and security beside Israel ... will solve the conflict ... and end the occupation that began in 1967."

The term "viable" is the complete opposite of Kadima's plan to sever the West Bank into enclaves via "settlement blocs" and to maintain Israel's control over the Jordan Valley. On the other hand, a Hamas that agrees to let Israel live in peace beside Palestine and end the conflict, will have nothing in common with the Hamas that has refused to recognize Israel and the agreements the PLO has signed with it.

But even as Kadima and Hamas leaders renounce the road map, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), of all people, swears allegiance to it. In a comprehensive interview in the Al-Hayat newspaper, he did not make do with paying lip service to the wretched document, which expired more than two months ago. He denounced Iran's president and Hamas for refusing to recognize Israel. He urged them to adopt the Beirut summit resolution of March 2002. This resolution calls for establishing normal relations with Israel in exchange for its withdrawal to the '67 lines, and for a just and agreed solution to the refugee problem, on the basis of UN Resolution 194.

Abu Mazen knows, of course, that the solution to the refugee problem, like the fixed border line, must be considered just and agreeable by Israel as well. He calls on Israel to resume the negotiations over the final status accord, and believes most of the Palestinian public will support it, when brought to a referendum, with or without Hamas' agreement.

Kadima and Hamas are leading to the same place: putting off the solution of dividing the land between two states and paving the way for a one-state agreement. The problem is that time does not work symmetrically. Desperation works in Hamas' favor. It has proved that not only Israel knows how to "take its fate into its own hands" and build iron walls. Who takes his fate into his own hands more than a suicide bomber who blows himself up on an Israeli bus?

Demography is also working against the Jewish state. Evacuating all the settlements and army bases has not freed Israel of the burden of occupation in the Gaza Strip. This is even more true in the case of partial evacuation of settlements and the continued military presence in the West Bank - they will not free Israel of responsibility for that territory.

Like a dog returning to its vomit, Israel is drawn back to the broth it has been spoiling for more than five years. At first it annihilated the PA's infrastructure, and brought Hamas to power. Now it is renouncing even the road map - the last fig leaf of the Israeli-Palestinian rejection front.