This week Israelis got to look at the "Road Map to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli Palestinian Conflict" that was formulated by the diplomatic Quartet (US, EU, UN and Russia). Even a cursory reading of this road map shows that the only place to which it will lead is straight back to Oslo.
When I heard President Bush's speech on June 24, I thought that Oslo's flawed approach to peacemaking would be buried once and for all and that a genuine hope for peace was kindled. The president spoke then about the inextricable link between democracy and peace. He told the Palestinian people that America would support an independent Palestinian state if the Palestinians reformed their society and chose a new leadership not compromised by terror.
But unfortunately, the "road map" unveiled this week is a far cry from the vision of peace Bush articulated four months ago. For what he did is place the hope for peace squarely on the shoulders of the Palestinian people. The Quartet's road map, in other words, has returned to the illusion of peace with dictators.
The primary mistake of the Oslo peace process was that it implicitly assumed that a Palestinian dictatorship would advance the cause of peace. Arafat, the logic went, was to be strengthened as much as possible so that he would fight terror and provide security for the people of Israel.
Any measure that was deemed to weaken Arafat was to be conspicuously avoided for fear of undermining our "peace partner." This logic created a climate in which the pressure to preserve the "momentum" of the peace process and to adhere to fixed timetables had a far more powerful hold on world public opinion than did the need for Arafat and the PA to fulfill their commitments.
Arafat and the PA quickly realized that merely by paying lip service to peace in the outside world, they could build a terrorist autonomy inside Palestinian-controlled territory with nary a protest.
For nearly a decade, the international community failed to force Arafat and the PA to confront terror. The Palestinian regime was free to mobilize all the means at its disposal to incite the Palestinians against Israel in order to divert attention from their own corrupt and repressive rule. Even though some tried to point out the dangers, the momentum of peacemaking proved too difficult to overcome. By the time the Oslo illusion collapsed, Arafat and the PA had succeeded in creating a climate in which Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and Tanzim could all compete with each other to see who could kill more Israelis.
DESPITE ITS good intentions, the road map unveiled this week is bound to yield the same results. Its call for a game of musical chairs among the current Palestinian leadership, the appointment of an "empowered" Palestinian prime minister, the enactment of a Palestinian constitution, and statements reiterating Israel's right to exist misses the point. These measures will not truly reform Palestinian society because they are being implemented from the top down, not from the bottom up.
Instead, this road map will only result in a new illusion whereby a new Palestinian dictatorship will be called upon to protect Israel's security and advance the cause of peace. Judging from this map, the Quartet believes that a Palestinian society poisoned for the last decade to hate Israel and Jews will be ready to freely choose a new leadership in a matter of months and be ready to peaceably join the community of nations in less than a year.
Once again, we are told, all that is needed to make peace a reality is resumed security cooperation, some money, and a little good will.
Rather than strengthening the Palestinian people and investing in their freedom, the Quartet document returns to the Oslo formula by placing its faith in a "reformed" Palestinian dictatorship. Such a dictatorship will be no more interested in the welfare of its people than any other.
Six months ago, I sent a plan to Prime Minister Sharon that I believe outlines the broad steps that must be taken to ensure that Israelis and Palestinians embark on a genuine path to peace.
It calls for a temporary administration to be established for the next two to three years so that Palestinian society can be "detoxified" and democratic institutions can be developed. Rather than call for elections at the beginning of the process of reform, elections must come only after that process is well under way.
After all, only when Palestinians are not afraid to speak freely will they have a real opportunity to freely choose a leadership that is not compromised by terror. And only with such a leadership can Israel hope to engage in constructive negotiations for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
Last summer, Bush crossed a peacemaking Rubicon in his historic speech. But alas, the Quartet's road map takes us back to the other side. Rigid timetables, confidence building measures, and new Palestinian strongmen will bring us no closer to peace today than they did for the last decade.
The only hope for an Israeli-Palestinian peace remains investing in a free Palestinian society that will want to join Israel in building a common future.The writer is Deputy Prime Minister of Israel.
©2002 - Jerusalem Post