Don't Panic

Your war questions Answered

Why hasn't President Bush's "road map" to Middle East peace worked so far?

The so-called "road map" to Middle East peace has failed.

The "road map" calls for a comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace treaty and an independent Palestine by the end of 2005. Considering the progress so far, in 2005 your odds of seeing the headline "ISRAEL, ARABS SIGN COMPREHENSIVE PEACE TREATY" are about as good as your odds of seeing "PRESIDENT SHARPTON ADDRESSES CONGRESS."

Road maps, real and metaphorical, can't work if you won't use them. Israeli, Palestinian and American leaders have for all in tents and porpoises, ignored the map.

The Israeli government of Ariel Sharon refused, as the "road map" called on it to do, to dismantle Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip erected since March 2001.

"Uhhh-huh-huh. He said erected."

The road map also required that Israeli forces pull out of the territories it has occupied since September 2000. Now, go ahead and guess if Israel pulled out. Are you done guessing yet? The answer is no, they didn't pull out. Sharon won't stop pandering to Israeli religious fanatics who think that all of the West Bank is theirs.

The "road map" didn't actually say anything about Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian leaders. It shouldn't have needed to; after all, it's a clear violation of international law. Even if law, international or otherwise, didn't exist, Israel still had a clear motive to stop assassinations. Refraining from doing so was the only way the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen) could get Muslim radical groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad to quit bombing Israeli civilians for a while.

So do you think Sharon quit ordering assassinations? The answer is no. Israel whacked some Palestinian militants, killed and wounded Palestinians in the process, and next thing you know the cease-fire is over and Palestinians are blowing up Israeli buses again.

Israelis say that Palestinian leaders haven't taken sufficient measures to clamp down on terrorists. They're right. Palestinians are politically divided. The leader who we like, Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, doesn't have the support of enough Palestinians to crack a walnut, much less crack down on terrorism. A Palestinian Authority crackdown on Hamas and others militants would likely provoke a civil war, or even worse, an uncivil one. Abbas is seen, even by Palestinian moderates, as nothing more than an Israeli and American stooge. A recent poll showed that just 1.8 percent of Palestinians support Abbas. Klansmen get more black and Jewish support in this country than Abbas has among Palestinians.

In reality, Palestinians don't have the means to crack down on their militants completely. Even if they did their best, which they didn't, some religious nut is gonna try to derail peace plans by provoking Israel with a suicide bomb. If force could completely stop Palestinian terrorists, Sharon and the well-equipped and well-trained Israeli military would have done so by now.

The most surprising contribution to the failure of the "road map" is President Bush's. He made a big whoop-dee-freakin' doo about it when he announced it. Since then though, he's ignored it. He never pressured Sharon into truly accepting the "road map." Sharon feigned acceptance, but in fact, the list of 14 "reservations" that he added as conditions to acceptance defeated the map's very purpose. The U.S. just approved another bunch o' billions in loan guarantees to Israel without making any effort to use the loans as leverage to get Israel pay heed to the map.

Critics have noted that the American team sent to Israel to monitor compliance on both sides has never once issued a public statement about the progress of "road map" implementation. After all, why would a team of Bush-appointed hacks issue public statements that only serve to emphasize how little the White House is doing?Andisheh Nouraee can be reached at [email protected].

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