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‘Road Map’ a good start, but some problems remain

On April 30, the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia presented a comprehensive settlement plan to broker peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The plan seems hopeful and optimistic, proposing the creation of a peaceful Palestinian homeland existing side by side with a compliant Israel by the year 2005.

According to the U.S State Department, “The settlement will resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and end the occupation [by Israel] that began in 1967.”

The Road Map for Peace also contains specifically detailed criteria that must be met by several Arab nations before the finalization of the peace process. This may be where the severest obstacles lie in wait. While the Road Map for Peace has a good foundation and strong backing by the United States, it is seeking to salve half-a-century-long tensions, and at a time when anti U.S. sentiment has been flamed by the Iraqi conflict.

The Road Map states the Palestinians must draft a fair constitution and hold democratic and free elections. They must also “declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism.” It is with rhetoric such as this that the Road Map may fail. Many Palestinians living under harsh Israeli occupation vehemently disagree with the idea that their actions are terrorism and that those of the Israeli army are “self-defense.”

Furthermore, Palestinians must renounce the right of refugee return to the occupied territories. This could well be another stumbling block for the success of the Road Map.

On the Israeli side, the concessions demanded are also significant. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) must withdraw from areas occupied since September 28, 2000 and allow Palestinian security forces to re-deploy into these vacated areas. In the short-term, Israel must improve living conditions for Palestinians , including the lifting of curfews, easing of travel restrictions, and providing safe access for international and humanitarian personnel.

The Road Map also acknowledges that Israel’s presence in the Middle East is not just an issue for Palestinians. As such, it stresses the importance of good relations between Israel and its neighbors, such as Lebanon and Syria. While Hezbollah continues its violent resistance against Israeli forces from southern Lebanon, and water shortages continue in Syria from disagreements about the rights of the Golan Heights river supply, there seems little chance for peace, love and understanding flowing unabated across the respective borders.

There are many kinks in the Road Map that must be ironed out before a peaceful existence between Israel and its neighbors, including the newly defined Palestinian state, can transpire. There will also have to be huge concessions made on both the Israeli and Palestinian side.

Israel will have to stop building illegal settlements, dismantle illegal settlements built since March 2001, restore a homeland for Palestinians and end aggressive repression on Palestinian human rights. Palestinians will have to accept Israel’s right to exist, end all means of terrorism, create a democratic government, and live peacefully with Israel. Arab nations who have not accepted Israel’s right to exist will also have to do so and end all funding of Palestinian resistance organizations for the benefit of the peace process.

The Road Map’s carefully paved and defined path could lead to genuine peace. It will be up to the newly elected Palestinian Prime Minister, Abu Mazen, and Israel’s Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, to shake hands and accept the conditions of the Road Map. It will also be up to the United States to be the fair and undiscriminating force leading the two sides down the road to peace. To imagine Israelis, Palestinians, and the Arab world living in peace as soon as 2005 is a direction all involved have been waiting to travel.

Aya Batrawy is majoring in mass communication.