June 15, 2003

The Roadmap Is Alive If

The Roadmap Is Alive

If barely. Yes, it's already on the ropes. But Haaretz has some positive news.

"Director of Military Intelligence, Major General Aharon Ze'evi told the cabinet that Israel now had a green light from the U.S. to take informed decisions against Hamas "without harming innocent bystanders and without causing irreparable damage."

Translation: Keep the helicopter rocketship attacks in crowded Gaza streets to a minimum.

"Ze'evi added that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) still does not have full control on the ground, but would at a later stage succeed in taking hold of the reins. He warned against expelling Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, saying that it would only return him to center stage."

Very smart advice from the head of Israeli military intelligence. Expulsion of Arafat would provoke renewed mass enthusiasm for the increasingly sidelined leader and further imperil Abu Mazen's and Muhammed Dahlan's efforts to rein in the Jihad Islami, Hamas and al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades.

"The Israeli defense establishment is making preparations to withdraw from the northern Gaza Strip, Army Radio reported Sunday. Israel is also set to hand over security control to the Palestinians following high-level security talks on Sunday night."

An important and welcome development and a key opportunity for Mazen/Dahlan to showcase truly full-fledged efforts to crack down on terror. Be sure, however, that Hamas will be doing their evil best to blow up as many Israeli civilians as they can during the coming days. But this should only scuttle the peace efforts if such terror attacks are taking place with the connivance of Mazen or Dahlan or in the absence of maximal efforts by these men to quash said terror groups' operational capability.

"The discussions between IDF Major General Amos Gilad, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and Mohammed Dahlan, Palestinian Authority minister responsible for security affairs were the first such talks since U.S. President George W. Bush launched the Middle East "road map" at the Aqaba summit two weeks ago, political sources said. Palestinian sources told Israel Radio that the meeting took place at the Herzliya home of U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer, thus giving U.S. patronage to the meeting. Israeli sources however said that the meeting took place in a Jerusalem hotel."

An interesting nugget. I would think this meeting may well have occurred at Dan Kurtzer's. If so, why are Israeli sources reticent to point that fact out? Perhaps, and this is sheerly speculative, Sharon is a bit too bent on showing his public that he is not, in any way, responding to U.S. pressure on the roadmap. Therefore better that such concessions regarding IDF withdrawal from certain parts of Gaza are easier to portray, for Sharon, as a result of direct bilateral discussions between the Israelis and Palestinians. He can then say, I'm not bowing to any outside pressure, merely pursuing actions that I am comfortable won't compromise Israeli security. At the same time, he turns up the rhetoric with a reference at this Sunday's cabinet meeting that all "ticking bombs" will be confronted without reprieve for domestic consumption.

Elsewhere on this story, David Adesnik over at Oxblog appears to be getting some heat for not supporting Sharon 100% on the latter's decision to try to kill Hamas leader Rantisi. David writes that his stance isn't winning him any "friends in the blogosphere." But he should be comforted that many of those truly interested in peace and the efficacious furtherance of a negotiated settlement (who haven't yet become thoroughly disillusioned with the "peace process") are with him on this one.

Take this correspondence, for instance, in today's WaPo--between an Arab and Jewish Israeli who recently made a joint pilgrimmage to Auschwitz. The Jewish man opens up the E-mail exchange thus:

"What is it with our two peoples? On Monday, I was enraged at [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat for sending Fatah gunmen to kill our soldiers -- and be killed themselves -- in order to undermine a political rival. Yesterday, I was cursing [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon for killing two innocent bystanders in a high-tech attempt to assassinate Hamas leader [Abdel Aziz] Rantisi. Why now? And now, without further ado, the violence has returned to my backyard. A suicide bomb has exploded the No. 14 bus, the same Jerusalem bus my 9-year-old daughter took the day before yesterday to go to the mall to buy a birthday present for a classmate. Are we simply trapped by our leaders' power plays and their Byzantine struggles for honor and revenge? Are we doomed to act out roles assigned to us by others, as frontline soldiers in the clash between civilizations? Or is there a way out, a different path?"

Well, some of us (rather the minority in the blogosphere, I suspect) remain, in the face of seemingly daily horrors, hopeful that the roadmap might just help nudge the parties back from the brink. The further down that road they go--the more extremists are sidelined. True, there was not a total cessation of violence during rosy Oslo days post Rabin-Arafat handshake. But there were periods when a major dimunition in killings occurred and Israelis could savor relative lulls that allowed a sense of "normalcy" (if fleeting) to emerge on the streets of Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. Likewise, Palestinians were less often under curfew and checkpoint scrutiny--and often able to earn a living wage within Israel proper. All this to say, when the majority of both societies, Israeli and Palestinian, smell real progress on the negotiating track, when a little optimism and hope finds root (however fragile), the influence of extremists wanes. Contra the fears of some, neither society is constitutively predisposed to eradicating the other. That's why this roadmap needs to be pushed along until it develops its own momentum.

Nor do I find the comments of Dan Simon on this score (helping the road map along) particularly helpful:

"If the world can be (at least partially) persuaded that Yasser Arafat ought to be frozen out of the "road map", then why not Abdel Aziz Rantisi as well?"

Interesting choice of verbiage, isn't it? Is being "frozen out" an assassination attempt? Was it smart to attempt to 'freeze-out' Rantisi at this juncture? An attempted assassination of someone who could have been killed on many prior occasions, an operation timed on the heels of a major Presidential initiative to resuscitate the Middle East peace process?

Let me be very clear. Suicide bombing is a scourge both for the Israelis felled by these horrific attacks and for the implications it has for a society that sends its young to kill themselves in such fashion. Israel should and must have a right to defend itself against these attacks.

But this doesn't mean that Israel must respond to every attack, or that Israel can't better time its defense operations taking into account the timing and scope of U.S. diplomatic initiatives. Remember, the whole goal of the Middle East peace process is to provide the Palestinians with a viable, contiguous state in return for providing Israelis with security. Land for peace. 9/11 has changed the dynamic so that many ask: Why should any state have to put up with such random carnage by terror groups? Why can't Israel "do what it takes" and go and clean up the whole Hamas and Jihad Islami infrastructure alley by bloody alley? If the U.S. did it in Kandahar and Spin Boldak why can't the IDF do it in Gaza City?

Well, leaving aside the moral complexities given that the Palestinians were displaced from land they were living in in 1948 and some aspects of their struggle that are more national liberationist in vein than terrorist--there is a rather more simple answer that Tom Friedman writes about today.

Put simply, the Palestinians and Israelis are and always will be neighbors unless Israel ethnically cleanses Palestinians out of the Occupied Territories (a morally impossible solution) or Israel is destroyed through some apocaplytic scenario involving WMD or the like. And given the reality of this geographical proximity--huge amounts of "collateral damage" in dense cities like Gaza City, Hebron or Jenin are pretty much non-starters in terms of ensuring a long term peaceful situation between the parties.

Note too, that there appears to be an increasing drumbeat in certain quarters to send U.S. troops into the area to administer the Occupied Territories as an international trusteeship. This idea has many problems, and I don't think many people in the Administration are taking it seriously (at least at this stage) but Martin Indyk is peddling the idea with increasing alacrity and Friedman alludes to it as well at the end of his piece today. Developing.

UPDATE: Dick Lugar weighs in on the send in the troops angle.

Posted by Gregory at June 15, 2003 10:50 AM

Inkjet Cartridges - Inkjet Cartridge

Posted by: Inkjet Cartridges at October 15, 2004 03:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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