US Secretary of State Colin Powell says that the next two weeks will tell if the road map is going anywhere.
As the diplomats work furiously to save the plan, and the possibility of a cease-fire seems to rise and fall, there will be plenty of blame to go around if the whole process collapses in a heap.
Part of the blame will go to the US itself, for its dogged opposition to Israel targeting the very people it says are violently opposed to the entire process. After the reported agreement that the US would only oppose targeted killings in areas where the Palestinian Authority is fighting terror, Powell repeatedly expressed his "regret" for the killing of Abdullah Kawasmeh, the chief Hamas terrorist in the West Bank.
It was one thing for the US to oppose the killing of Abdel Aziz Rantisi, presumably because he was a "political" leader of Hamas rather than someone who put bomb belts together. This is an obvious double standard compared to al-Qaida, but at least has some superficial logic. But what possible reason could there be to grant immunity to Kawasmeh, who is deep in the operational side of Hamas?
Some say that the American expressions of displeasure following Israeli operations against Hamas are pro forma, a sort of scolding with a wink and a nod. Perhaps there is even a tacit understanding between the US and Israel on targeted killings, regardless of the public statements that indicate the contrary.
Even so, public scolding by the US imposes a diplomatic price on Israel and implies that the US is demanding an unilateral cease-fire from it.
Yesterday there were reportedly about 60 warnings of terror attacks in the works, about half of them from Hamas. If Israel is not supposed to attack Hamas while Hamas is attacking it, that is a unilateral cease-fire.
But the fundamental blame for the collapse of the road map will not lie with the US or with Israel but with the Palestinian Authority. Listening to Mahmoud Abbas and Muhammad Dahlan, it seems like there is an endless circle: They won't act against terror unless there is a cease-fire, and there will be no cease-fire unless Israel meets a host of PA demands.
What Abbas and Dahlan do not seem to understand is that Israel is not going to stand back and absorb terror attacks as they plead with Hamas.
There will be no unilateral cease-fire, and even if there were, why would that induce Hamas to stop its attacks? The road map is essentially an effort to give the Palestinians a state.
Hamas does not want this state, which it sees as a betrayal of its dream of eliminating Israel entirely. Regardless of whether they are sincere about living peacefully with Israel or not, Abbas and Dahlan presumably do want the state that the road map is designed to give them.
The PA can continue to throw up its hands and wail about its helplessness, but in the end the choice is its. It can use its thousands of armed men, financial assets, and control of the media to end the jihad against Israel, or it can wave good-bye as the train leaves the station.
The road map is an elaborate asterisk in the Bush doctrine, which holds that the punishment for supporting terror is regime change. If the road map does not work, the alternative is the removal of the Palestinian Authority.
If the PA is replaced by Hamas (or by chaos), Israel will be arguably less restricted and will be able to fight terror more effectively than today. If the PA is replaced by a new indigenous leadership that wants to accept the world's offer of a state, it would end the jihad and the road map would be revived.
A recalcitrant, ineffective, illegitimate, indecisive PA is perhaps the worst of all worlds. The road map and the new PA prime minister are often seen to be joined at the hip. The way things look now, though, the linkage is a very different one: The road map may not have a chance so long as the Arafat-Abbas hybrid stands.
©2003 - Jerusalem Post