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Gush Shalom - Requiem For The Roadmap?


Gush Shalom

Requiem For The Roadmap?

[In the end of this, links are given to Avnery column (Hebrew + English) "The Children's Teeth" and see also: Correction from Huwaida.]

The murderous suicide bombing in Jerusalem this morning, in which seven people were killed, sent a chilly personal reminder to us of the Gush Shalom Infoteam; on visits to Jerusalem, we often happen to take the no.6 bus, though at a later part of the route then where the explosion took place today.

Personal considerations aside, the timing of the blast could hardly have been better from the point of view of Ariel Sharon: a few hours after a futile meeting between the Israeli PM and his recently-appointed Palestinian counterpart Abu Mazen, in which Sharon had nothing to offer but which provided a cheap and easy way to appear a peacemaker; a few hours before Sharon was due to embark on a flight to Washington and a meeting with George. W., at which some commentators hesitantly expected the US president to apply some pressure on the long-festering issue of the illegal settlement outposts. (Now, Sharon has gotten the perfect pretext to put off that meeting.)

Indeed, so perfectly does today's blast fit in with Sharon's program that one is tempted to indulge in conspiracy theories. But a sober examination would get to the conclusion that Sharon has no need to do anything complicated and risky like infiltrating agents into the Hamas command. In the past month he had simply done again what he has done with extreme success again and again over the past two years: provoke and manipulate the radical Palestinian groups into doing his work for him, while sincerely believing themselves to be patriotic Palestinians and devout Muslims.

In his time as Prime Minister, Sharon had already neatly disposed of numerous international diplomatic proposals: the Mitchell Report, the Tenet Paper and the Zinni Paper, the Saudi Initiative - to name only the best known. Still, "The Roadmap" initially seemed to tax his considerable talents: a paper bearing the combined imprimatur of the US, EU, Russia and the UN, which had been at the top of the diplomatic agenda for nearly a year, which was formally launched with the personal sponsorship of US President fresh from victory in Iraq and which was immediately accepted in its entirety and without reservations by the Palestinian side. Yet none of this seemed to deter Sharon from industriously - and, as seems at the moment, successfully - subverting and overturning that initiative, too.

The Roadmap is a carefully crafted document, based on the assumption that Israelis and Palestinians would perform an intricate dance of calculated mutual gestures, Palestinian efforts to restrain terrorism and suicide bombings matched by tangible Israeli moves of easing the terrible burden of the occupation, particularly ending the construction and extension of settlements. Abu Mazen - the man chosen by the Americans and the Europeans more than by the Palestinians to lead this implementation - entered upon his job with low credibility and mounting suspicions among his own people. The only way he could have succeeded was through an abundance of goodwill from the Israeli side, a speedy and conspicuous implementation of the Israeli part of the equation.

That, however, was the very last thing Sharon wanted. From the very moment of Abu- Mazen's appointment, the army embarked on a series of assassinations of prominent Palestinian activists and deep invasions into the few still-unconquered enclaves in the Gaza Strip, such as the attack on the Sajaiya Neighbourhood in which 13 Palestinians, most of them unarmed civilians, perished in a single night. Meanwhile, on the political and diplomatic front Sharon failed to take the basic step of adopting the roadmap, as the Palestinians had done. Rather, he insisted on the Palestinian Authority starting a full-scale civil war aimed at "total dismantling of the terrorist infrastucture" before the Israeli side would deign to consider any concessions of its own. The visiting Secretary of State Powell was treated with open contempt, with hardline ministers encouraged to make to him tough declarations against the roadmap, and Sharon himself declaring his support for maintenance of the settlements and continuation of their "natural growth".

To cap it all, Sharon's Police Minister Tzahi Hanegbi declared on the Knesset floor that "soon the police will enforce Jewish presence and Jewish personal prayers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem", knowing full well that no other issue could so strongly inflame both Palestinian national and Muslim religious feeling. And at the same time, the police launched a spectacular midnight raid, arresting the leadership of the Israeli Muslim Movement - the one group which in the past two years, with West Bank and Gazan Muslims completely excluded from Jerusalem, took up the task of mainataining a daily presence at that holy site...

Altogether, today's lethal attack in Jerusalem could be considered a plant well watered and nurtured. And the retaliation which the cabinet will probably decide upon in its emergency meeting tonight might launch still another cycle of bloodshed, as happened so many times before.

Is it then curtains for the roadmap, into which so much efforts went and to which quite a few hopes - however cautious - were attached? It certainly looks like that. The only person who can revive that initiative's declining fortunes sits in the White House. A vigorous action by the US President when he finally gets to meet Sharon - with, say, a tenth of the energy and persistence Bush had shown in forcing through his war in Iraq and riding roughshod over the worldwide opposition - might suffice to give the roadmap a new lease of life and effect a thorough change on the ground. Not that we are likely to see anything of the kind.

Adam Keller Tel-Aviv, May 18, 2003

-- Avnery column (Hebrew + English) "The Children's Teeth" deals with the campaign against the Islamic Movement and can be read in Hebrew at: http://www.gush-shalom.org/archives/article250_heb.html and in English at: http://www.gush-shalom.org/archives/article250.html

-- Correction from Huwaida

On 16 May 2003, Huwaida Arraf wrote:

Hi Adam, Beate, friends at Gush Shalom:

Thank you for forwarding this very important article, but the journalist was wrong to identify Laura as an ISM spokeswoman and we find this potentially negative. Laura is one of the many wonderful volunteers that come to work with the ISM, but she does not speak on behalf of the movement as a whole. In the article Laura was quoted as saying that the ISM is changing its direction: From Haaretz: "clearly, it has become dangerous to do direct actions, so we're refocusing our efforts on community development - such as writing papers on the water situation in the region."

This is an incorrect statement and not the stated position of the ISM.

I would greatly appreciate if you could include a small correction in a future Gush Shalom update.

Thank you so much, Huwaida -- A map of the separation wall:

http://www.gush-shalom.org/thewall/hebrew.html http://www.gush-shalom.org/thewall/index.html (English)

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