image of jerusalem 2013

Does the Map Show a Road?
The Roadmap peace plan may be the last chance to achieve a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict for a very long time, since ongoing Palestinian terror radicalises both communities while Israeli settlement expansion makes the creation of a viable Palestinian state even more difficult.

29 May   |   2003   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

These words were delivered by Terje Roed-Larsen, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Plan, at a briefing earlier this month to an open session of the UNSC. Larsen stressed that the latest suicide bombings against Israel were ‘senseless acts that are unjustified on any moral or political grounds’ whilst Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints were ‘the single largest impediment to the Palestinian economy’ and contributed to a huge increase in poverty and unemployment.

According to Larsen, the first phase of the roadmap requires from the Palestinian Authority to ‘undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere.’ Conversely, and according to Larsen’s briefing. ‘Israel is required to take no actions undermining trust, including attacks on civilians and confiscation and / or demolition of Palestinian homes and property as a punitive measure. Yet the killings of Palestinian civilians and destruction of their property continues.’

In his assessment, Larsen stated that closures and curfews continued to dominate the reality of most people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Quoting conservative UN estimates, he indicated that poverty rates had increased from about25 % in 1998 to60 % in 2002, and unemployment over the last two years had risen from20 % to53 %. Since the current crisis started in2002 , the closure had led to Palestinian losses of US$5. 4billion - one year’s worth of national income.

Indeed, everyone seems to be talking about the roadmap! From the USA to the EU to the UN, passing by many Arab countries and other organisations, political pundits or journalists, the dissection of the roadmap continues unabated! Will it succeed where all else has failed? Is it a hoax or a credible re-launch into the unshapely territory of peace between Israelis and Palestinians? Will the summit meeting in Aqaba, Jordan, next week bringing together the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers, along with President George Bush and King Abdullah, thrash out any of those issues?

For all its finer points, and despite the ongoing political sophistry associated with the roadmap, three prerequisites remain fundamental constants for any possible success. The first requires that Israelis and Palestinians implement the concrete terms of the roadmap in tandem or in parallel with each other. It is no longer a matter of Palestinians unilaterally coming down hard on suicidal terror and violence while Israel sits back and gauges their efforts! This notion of parallel measures leads to the second prerequisite for a total and immediate freeze on the building of Israeli settlements and outposts on occupied or confiscated Palestinian lands. They must cease, and it does not matter whether those settlements qualify as hityashvut (earlier ones) or hitnakhlut (biblical ones) or even he’akhzut (military ones). And the third prerequisite is an acknowledgement by Israel and the international community that the right of return for Palestinian refugees cannot be summarily abnegated without any adequate measures that address this right. This does not necessarily mean at all that all Palestinian refugees ought to be re-admitted into what has now become Israel Proper, but rather the need to enshrine this right into the negotiations as an item that would be negotiated between the two parties.

Dr Bernard Sabella, who heads the Department on Service to Palestine Refugees at the Middle East Council of Churches, recently wrote an impassioned reflection on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He referred to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and enquired about the whereabouts of Godot ‘who represents the last hope to find an exit for all.’ Sabella argued for a concerted international effort to find a new set-up that would also have a real solution attached to it.

The analogy with ‘Waiting for Godot’ was truly propitious and ingenuous! Estragon and Vladimir are homeless, old and weary, and might even be right in thinking that they would be better off dead. Certainly Godot can be looked at as death itself - which is the change that Vladimir and Estragon wish for. And Godot, no matter what / who he is, remains the one who can give them this change that they desperately need. Those two tramps typify Everyman and his conscience, and represent almost the medieval debate between the body and the soul, between the intellectual and the non-rational in man. To my mind, it does not truly matter whether Godot exists - or not! The belief in him keeps two peoples from killing themselves as they continue living in a ditch. It keeps them away from the places where they want to go and at the same time, it keeps them together. This belief serves the most important function of giving purpose to their lives.

A recent BBC 2Correspondent documentary Behind the Fence examined the security fence being constructed by Israel around Palestinian territories in the West Bank. This fence straddles Palestinian villages such as Rummaneh and Qaffin, as well as Israeli settlements like Ginnot Shomron or Metzer. Talking to the Palestinian villagers who had lost their lands and olive groves, or to the Israeli settlers who had lost members of their own families, one comes out wondering whether the roadmap is a ‘map’ that shows the peaceful ‘road’ ahead for two peoples. Again, I suppose time alone will tell!

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2003   |   29 May


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