Several days after posting my analysis of one aspect of the Road Map, I'm not surprised that it's running into more problems.



The Palestinians demand that Israel show good faith by releasing all or most of the 5000 to 7000 Palestinians it has arrested since the beginning of the intifada. Israel wants to release no more than 300 to 400.

On rereading the Road Map, I was shocked to realize it contains no mention of the prisoner-release issue--which must figure in any peace process. Israel is always snatching up Palestinians, sometimes for nothing more than distributing leaflets or writing political graffiti. I've read that during a (failed) peace process in 1998, President Arafat was severely criticized by his own people for having accepted a formula whereby Israel merely promised to release a given number of prisoners, without specifying what kind. Almost half of those it released were common criminals rather than political prisoners.

Here's what's required of Israel in Phase I of the Road Map:

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PHASE I: ENDING TERROR AND VIOLENCE, NORMALIZING PALESTINIAN LIFE, AND BUILDING PALESTINIAN INSTITUTIONS...

In Phase I. the Palestinians immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence according to the steps outlined below; such action should be accompanied by supportive measures undertaken by Israel.... Israel takes all necessary steps to help normalize Palestinian life. Israel withdraws from Palestinian areas occupied from September 28, 2000....

Israeli leadership issues unequivocal statement affirming its commitments to the...vision of an independent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state...and calling for an immediate end to violence against Palestinian[s] everywhere. All official Israeli institutions end incitement against Palestinians....

GOI [Government of Israel] takes no actions undermining trust, including deportations, attacks on civilians; confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes and property, as a punitive measure or to facilitate Israeli construction; destruction of Palestinian institutions and infrastructure; and other measures specified in the Tenet Work Plan....

Israel takes measures to improve the humanitarian situation. Israel and Palestinians implement in full all recommendations of the Bertini report to improve humanitarian conditions, lifting curfews, and easing restrictions on movement of persons and goods, and allowing full, safe, and unfettered access of international and humanitarian personnel....

GOI immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001....

Consistent with the Mitchell Report, GOI freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).

~~~

Unless the prisoner-release issue is mentioned in the Tenet Work Plan or the Bertini Report, it's not addressed specifically either here or later in the Road Map. But freeing those thousands of political prisoners certainly is a "necessary step to help normalize Palestinian life."

Hamas spokesman Abdul Aziz Rantisi said recently that prisoner release was a condition (though not a precondition) associated with the cease-fire. I think the Palestinians would be on firmer legal ground if they described it as a condition for acceptance not of the cease-fire (an obligation imposed on them by the Road Map), but of the Road Map itself.



On another front, Israel is still harping on the need to dismantle militant groups. According to the Associated Press, "an Israeli security official warned Monday [July 7] that Israel might have to take action if Palestinian police don't stop militants from exploiting the truce to recruit new activists, re-establish a command structure and rearm."

As I said previously, the wording of the Road Map doesn't authorize Palestinian leaders to "disrupt" any group not actively engaged in terrorism. But there's another point I decided not to make originally, and will make now...with a caveat.

The caveat: Considering its source, the Road Map was presumably drafted in English. But then, as a matter of courtesy, it was doubtless translated into Arabic and Hebrew. The text I found online was released by the Palestinians. Therefore, I'm not sure whether it's the original English, or an English translation of the Arabic version. In the latter case, small discrepancies in wording may have crept in.

Here's why exact wording is important. If the text I'm reading is accurate, it requires the Palestinians to crack down on groups that are "conducting and planning" violent attacks on Israelis. And, not or. It's not possible to conduct an attack without having planned it. But it is possible to "plan" without "conducting"--to make contingency plans and preparations for actions to be taken if the peace process breaks down. As I read the Road Map, such planning isn't banned.



In the news I'm hearing and reading, nothing is being said about another key issue: the Separation Fence/Apartheid Wall Israel is constructing in the West Bank. This "Fence" is a solid, heavily fortified wall, over 26 feet in height, designed to be electrified or equipped with electronic intrusion detectors. A description of it from the Palestinian side: barbed wire, then a deep ditch, a dirt road, the Fence proper, another dirt road, an asphalt road described by the Israelis as "wide enough for a tank," and finally more barbed wire.

And it's not being built along the Green Line, the 1967 border. This Fence on the western side of the West Bank is intended to cut deep into it, putting 10 to 15 percent of it on the Israeli side--including 40 percent of the farmland, and all the best farmland. The Fence is zig-zagging to embrace Israeli settlements; meanwhile, whole Arab villages are being trapped on the Israeli side, their people isolated from West Bank social services. Many farmers on the Palestinian side are unable to reach their fields, which are on the Israeli side. Promises of (monitored) gates are vague. The intent seems to be to drive away as many Palestinian locals as possible, and ultimately, to claim all this land for Israel. In the meantime, we learn of such horrors as a doctor who lives 9 miles from his workplace being forced to drive for 5 hours every morning to get to work, because of the circuitous route he has to take.

Israel's plan is for the Fence ultimately to curve around, slice off the eastern border region as well--the actual bank of the Jordan and the Jordan Valley--and leave the Palestinians with little more than 45 percent of the West Bank, in several noncontiguous sections. This idea has been circulating in Israel for years, and has had the backing of Ariel Sharon. Now the Israeli government is working feverishly to create facts on the ground that will influence a final determination of borders.

This is a clear violation of Israel's obligation during Phase I to "take no actions undermining trust, including... confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes and property, as a punitive measure or to facilitate Israeli construction; destruction of Palestinian institutions and infrastructure...." Quite aside from the consequences of the Fence, the mere building of it requires confiscation of property. The severe disruption of travel--with some Palestinians no longer served by roads suitable for motor vehicles--amounts to a destruction of infrastructure.

Israel is required by the Road Map to "[ease] restrictions on movement of persons and goods." It's doing the opposite.

Finally, this Fence-building is inconsistent with Israel's commitment--also required by the Road Map--to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.

Let's hear less about "terrorists," more about Israel's obligation to stop work on the Fence and demolish the part already completed.