Avoiding Yesterday's Mistakes in Israel-Palestine Peace

The Road Map to Peace attempted to avoid the problems that the Oslo Accords had encountered.

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While the Oslo agreements had been vague on the question of the ultimate creation of a Palestinian state, the Road Map explicitly endorsed "a two-state solution" involving the creation of an "independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state." The qualifiers preceding the words "Palestinian state" are not arbitrary: "independent' signals a state with stable institutions, "democratic" implies a state very different from the autocratic Palestinian Authority, while "viable" is a hint that Israel was expected to grant the Palestinian state sufficient territorial contiguity and access to resources.

The framers of the Road Map also did not shrink from placing demands on both sides. From the Palestinians, the plan states that a solution to the conflict can only be attained "by an end to violence and terrorism, when the Palestinian people have a leadership acting decisively against terror and willing and able to build a practicing democracy." From the Israelis, it demands "Israel’s readiness to do what is necessary for a democratic Palestinian state to be established."

The Quartet-- the European Union, the U.N. Secretariat, Russia, and the United States, which together form the leading diplomatic grouping working toward a Mideast peace settlement--intended to open a new page in the peace process with the Road Map. However, the fundamental stumbling block, which no side has yet managed to overcome, remains the fact that without strong action to restrain militant terrorist groups, no stability leading to negotiations is possible.

The failure of the Palestinian Authority's leaders to achieve such restraint--indeed the general weakness of the "new Palestinian leadership" envisioned by the framers of the Road Map--has to date been a disappointment to American and Israeli officials.  The process faltered before it had barely begun.

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Ziv Hellman is a Jerusalem-based writer and mathematician. A former editor at the Jerusalem Post, Ziv was a founding member of Peace Watch--the watchdog group reporting on the implementation of the Oslo Agreements. He also led the Israeli elections observer team evaluating the Palestinian Authority elections.