Walid Salem

The second stage of the "Performance-based Road Map" for Israeli-Palestinian peace is the most ambiguous and problematic among the three stages of the plan. Partly this is because of the contradiction between the original American proposal from 2002 and the final agreed-upon document released by the Quartet in 2003, as a compromise among all its members.

The George W. Bush administration’s draft of 2002 included a phrase about a Palestinian state with provisional borders as the plan for the second stage of the roadmap. The roadmap of 2003 stated that the state with provisional border would be only an option, which means that it can be bypassed and the two sides can move directly to the third stage of negotiations on permanent status. Somewhat contradictorily, however, the roadmap of 2003 also included a call for a second international conference at the beginning of the third stage to endorse the state on provisional borders while at the same time launching negotiations for permanent status issues.

Regardless of that contradiction, the main question remains how to update the roadmap in order to catch up with developments since its signing.

Given the fact that the Palestinians have been able to fulfill their obligations according to the first stage of the roadmap–including the appointment of a prime minister in 2003, 2005 and after the 2006 elections, the approval of the constitution by Yasser Arafat in 2003, the development successes and the building of transparent institutions, in addition to all the successes in the field of security in the West Bank, including during the last war against Gaza–and given that Israel did not reciprocate by fulfilling its obligations under the roadmap, it might be proposed that the main modification required to the roadmap should be forgetting phase II and moving directly to the third stage. This could then start with an international conference that will launch negotiations on permanent status to be concluded in a timeframe of no longer than a year, parallel to which a peace process with Syria and Lebanon can be finalized.

First, Israel must fulfill its obligations under the first stage of the roadmap, including freezing settlement expansion, dismantling settlement outposts, opening Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem and allowing free passage between the West Bank and Gaza. This would be the opposite of what happened during the Annapolis process, where the move to the third stage was made conditional upon the implementation of first stage obligations mainly by the Palestinian side. Now what is required is to get Israel to fulfill its obligations under the first stage as a starting point for launching the third stage, while the ambiguous second stage should be deleted.

Proposals such as establishing a state with provisional borders, with an international presence on the ground in addition to international guarantees to move to a two-state solution within a certain timeframe, are not very helpful since they put Palestinians in a situation that some will consider an international occupation. In addition, Palestinians will set very little store in promises of statehood with their experience of similar promises since the peace process began.

Indeed, there must be no more gradualism and conflict management. It is time to face down and overcome Israeli intransigence and rejectionism after 18 years of bitter negotiations starting in Madrid in 1991. Only then can we begin to embark upon a comprehensive regional process to secure peace between Israel and Syria, Lebanon as well as the Palestinians.


Walid Salem is director of the Center for Democracy and Community Development and a member of the PLO’s Palestinian National Council.

Published 17/8/2009 © bitterlemons.org

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 28 Aug 2009.

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