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A 'Road Map' for Israeli-Palestinian Amity

February 13, 2003
Wall Street Journal



WASHINGTON -- In a speech last June, President Bush put forward for the first time an American commitment to the emergence of a "viable, credible, Palestinian state." A quartet, comprised of the U.S., the U.N., the European Union and Russia, is now working on a road map to implement the president's vision. Key to its success are those measures that will not only assure Israel's security but also define the kind of state Palestinians can look toward.

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As the president declared, the Palestinian people deserve leadership and institutions not tainted by terrorism and corruption. It is a goal the U.S. should continue to encourage vigorously, yet without conditioning a resumption of the peace process on the replacement of a particular individual. To do so is to invite resistance from those in the Palestinian population who desire change in their leadership and accountable governance, but do not wish to be seen as doing a foreign country's bidding. It is also unnecessary: If reforms bring about political changes, specific outcomes (i.e., the leadership produced by the reformed system) will be of decidedly lesser importance.

Nothing is better calculated to encourage change within Palestinian society, and to induce Palestinians to demand an end to terror bombings and other forms of violence, than a peace process that holds out a credible promise of a truly viable Palestinian state.

The U.S. should take the lead in articulating that vision. Specifically, we urge the administration to spell out that the agreement envisioned by the U.S. should result in:

  • Two independent states with boundaries approximating the pre-June 1967 borders with territorial adjustments that are the result of negotiation and not unilateral annexation. In effect, the Palestinian "right of return" to Israel would be exchanged for Israel's relinquishing of the settlements, except on those territories exchanged by mutual agreement.
  • Arrangements for Jerusalem that accommodate two separate sovereignties while -- insofar as possible -- keeping the city physically undivided.
  • Relief and justice for Palestinian refugees in ways that do not threaten Israel's demographic balance (e.g., a "right of return" applied to the new Palestinian state and generous international funding for repatriation, resettlement and compensation.
  • A protection regime for sites deemed holy by Jews, Christians and Moslems.
  • Agreement on arrangements for internal and external security.

All previous efforts to end the violence and turn to a political process have failed because each side has maintained that the first step must be taken by the other. If the road map is not to encounter the same fate, the U.S. and its partners must insist on a 100% Palestinian Authority effort to end violence that is unconditional and independent of actions demanded of Israel. They must similarly insist on an unconditional cessation of Israeli settlement expansion (including so-called natural growth) that is independent of actions required of Palestinians.

This parallelism is not to suggest moral equivalence. It is to recognize that no peace talks are possible if Palestinians fail to exert 100% effort to halt terrorism or if Israel continues to encroach on Palestinian lives and property.

The road map should present specific standards of compliance for the Palestinians with regard to their efforts to stop terror and for the Israelis with respect to ending settlements. It should spell out clearly what each side must do in order to be deemed in compliance, and there must be an independent mechanism to monitor implementation.

There is no national security reason for the U.S. to delay such a proposal. Indeed, there are important security reasons to spell out, without further delay, the broad shape of the peace agreement for which the U.S. intends to work. Arab countries and much of the Muslim world, as well as most European countries, see a direct link between their ability to be more forthcoming in supporting U.S. goals in Iraq and our commitment to working for a fair settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Phase II of the proposed road map, designed to create a Palestinian state with "provisional borders," may well be one phase too many, for it is more likely to prevent the parties from ever getting to Phase III, in which permanent status issues are to be resolved. The time, energy, and political capital spent on "provisional borders" are far better invested in negotiations for permanent borders. The resumption of effective security cooperation in Phase I, facilitated by internationally appointed monitors, should enable the parties to turn directly to permanent status issues. And the more detailed parameters of the president's two-state vision would help give the parties a workable framework within which to come to closure. Provisional boundaries are a dangerous distraction.

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In sum, we believe that by more clearly defining the road map's destination, the U.S. and its partners can frame eventual permanent status negotiations in a manner that promotes a sustainable two-state outcome consistent with both sides' interests, that associates them with the moderate majorities in both camps, and that encourages Palestinians to undertake fundamental changes in their institutions. It would also facilitate international cooperation with the U.S. in its war on terrorism and in its efforts to encourage democracy world-wide.

Mr. Brzezinski was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. Mr. Scowcroft was national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George Bush Sr. This essay is based on recommendations that emerged from a Council on Foreign Relations roundtable.