Road map: Israel’s right to exist but Palestine’s right not to (The Palestine Papers, Part II)

Read part one here.

According to Chief Palestinian Authority (PA) negotiator Saeb Erekat, the recently-released Palestine Papers have put his life in apparent danger. But did he ever consider that his complicit negotiations and deceptive concessions put hundreds of thousands of Palestinian lives in danger too?

I’d like to draw your attention to a status chart published 1 May 2009. It lists a number of Palestinian and Israeli obligations under Phase 1 of the alleged road map to peace and denotes whether or not their respective governments fulfilled the promises. It only takes a precursory glance to notice the lopsided nature of the report. Whereas the PA has either completely fulfilled or is working to fulfill its obligations, the Government of Israel has yet to complete any. The lopsidedness, however, extends further than the status of fulfillment. The obligations themselves are a clear sign of a backwards and decrepit attempt to stabilize the entire region and normalize the occupation.

The chart can be found here, but rather than reading it in the layout provided on the website, I encourage you to read the two tables side by side and compare the individual obligations.

The first Palestinian obligation reads: “Unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security; calling for end of armed activity” and, according to the report, the obligation has been completely fulfilled. The Israeli obligation reads slightly differently: “Statement affirming commitment to the two-state vision; calling for an immediate end to violence against Palestinians”. Status: “Failed”.

In comparing this pair of commitments alone, it is easy to notice the extent to which the road map leans towards the pro-Israel contingency. Not only must the PA recognize Israel’s right to exist in the Occupied Territories, it must reiterate this position. In other words, the PA is forced to actively push back all claims to any occupied Palestinian territories. In return, Israel’s government must issue a single statement recognizing the presence of a second state lying adjacent to its borders.

The Israeli obligation doesn’t consider Palestinians’ right to exist in peace and security nor does it even identify the state by the name of Palestine. At face value, this might be relatively easy to overlook or consider it a result of poor wording. However, this merits two immediate responses:

1. Explicitly failing to name the territory as Palestine plays in the favor of those who seek to normalize the historical context of the occupation. The territories might as well be considered two separate nations: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. A development as egregious as this one not only divides the Palestinian diaspora but also makes Nakba-deniers happy. “There never existed a Palestine, and now there definitely doesn’t exist a country by that name.”

2. Poor wording is not an option. Documented road maps are considered on an international level. Every detail, every word, every concession is considered at great length. After all, the purpose of this process is to establish a viable and mutually exclusive coexistence between two people.

Unfortunately, the inherent asymmetry in the commitments as expressed by this particular phase in the process casts doubt upon the true effectiveness of the road map. The PA took the bait nonetheless and the Government of Israel has yet to face criticism for failing to commit to its own obligation.

If there’s one thing to credit the PA with, it’s for not failing to implement any of its set of commitments. According to the report, the PA has undergone plans to end incitement against Israel, has committed to arresting individuals conspiring to violently resist the Israeli army settlers, and has implemented the early stages of a reform campaign to bring those who approve of this road map to the head of the government.

To the contrary, the Israeli government has failed to end incitement, cease its destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, and improve the humanitarian situation of those under its occupation, among many other obligations. Released in the middle of May 2009, one might argue that this document is outdated. However, the demands have yet to be met. In reality, nothing can be outdated about Israel’s failure to uphold its end of peace process.

While the occupation of Palestine continues unhindered, this status report indicates just how low the PA can stoop. As advantageously strategic as it might be for the PA to implement each commitment, it did so at the expense of the people whom it claims to represent. It formally recognized the occupation and, for the sake of its already-questionable agenda, implemented a series of plans to further segregate the West Bank from the Gaza Strip. This is the very suspicious essence of the road map for peace.

Frankly, I don’t know what to more disappointed by: the fact that the obligations serve to safeguard, or at least ignore, the occupation or the fact that the PA conceded to each and every one of them.

Sami Kishawi

There are 3 comments

  1. C

    Sami,

    The road map does not require the PA to “recognize Israel’s right to exist in the Occupied Territories.” To quote from the original document:

    “The settlement will resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and end the occupation that began in 1967, based on the foundations of the Madrid Conference, the principle of land for peace, UNSCRs 242, 338 and 1397, agreements previously reached by the parties, and the initiative of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah – endorsed by the Beirut Arab League Summit – calling for acceptance of Israel as a neighbour living in peace and security, in the context of a comprehensive settlement.” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2989783.stm)

    Calling for the recognition of Israel in its pre-June 1967 borders is very different from calling for the recognition of Israel in its current borders. This is a major oversight, since most of your argument here is based on the false notion that the roadmap legitimizes the occupation – despite explicitly endorsing UN resolutions that condemn it.

    Moreover, your contention that the document does not mention Palestine by name is false. Again, quoting from the original text:

    “Parties reach final and comprehensive permanent status agreement that ends the Israel-Palestinian conflict in 2005, through a settlement negotiated between the parties based on UNSCR 242, 338, and 1397, that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and . . . fulfills the vision of two states, Israel and sovereign, independent, democratic and viable PALESTINE [caps my own], living side-by-side in peace and security.” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2989783.stm)

    So my question to you is: How would you have worded the document differently, if you were charged with writing it?

    Thanks for taking the time to read my comment

  2. c

    PS The point isn’t that the PA is arresting Palestinians who “violently resist Israeli army settlers,” the point is that they arrest Palestinian operatives who intend to attack Israeli civilians in violation of international law.

  3. Sami Kishawi

    C, thank you for your comment. You make a point to cite the Road Map’s full text. However, this article is a critique not of this particular text but of the leaked status report of 2009, to which this article directly references throughout the entire piece. The initial Road Map text as published in 2003, however, is much too significant to discuss in a short and informal blog post.

    Nevertheless, I do hope we can all agree on the failure of the Road Map. Now, stepping away from the status report and focusing on the quote you’ve provided, it is clear that the PA has worked towards full acceptance of Israel as a neighbor. [Preemptive note: Any discussion of Hamas or any of its associates or affiliates has no role in this discourse, primarily due to the fact that they play no formal role in the Road Map process.] But regardless of the PA’s success at achieving most if not all of the first phase of the Road Map, as per the leaked 2009 document, there can be no denying Israel’s general failure at maintain its end of the agreements. Again, this only affirms the conclusion that the Road Map failed.

    As per one of your last points, I was not charged with writing the documents but, regardless of whether or not you classify this particular document as “doctored” or “inauthentic” (to which there is no credible basis), it is important to focus on the reality rather that what is presented to us on paper or on a computer screen. And the reality tells us that Israel did in fact fail to fulfill its agreements.

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