August 20, 2010


Bush’s Gift to Obama: The United States may succeed in sitting the Israelis and Palestinians down for direct talks, but it’s unlikely the negotiations will go far. It’s time for a more creative approach -- one that picks up where George W. Bush left off. (STEVEN J. ROSEN, AUGUST 18, 2010, Foreign Policy)

Abbas accepted the Quartet's Middle East Roadmap in 2003 knowing that it called very clearly and explicitly for an interim arrangement with a Palestinian state having "provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty ... as a way station to a permanent status settlement." The Roadmap made this interim Palestinian state Phase II of the process, after Phase I ("Ending Terror and Violence, Normalizing Palestinian Life, and Building Palestinian Institutions") and before Phase III ("Permanent Status Agreement and the End of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.") During Phase II, the Quartet members are to "promote international recognition" of the provisional state, "including possible U.N. membership." And during this period of the Palestinian state with provisional borders, the Arab states are to "restore pre-intifada links to Israel (trade offices, etc.)" and "revive multilateral engagement" with Israel "on issues including regional water resources, environment, economic development, refugees, and arms-control issues." In other words, the Palestinians have already accepted the idea of "interim arrangements." (Palestinian objections to interim agreements have been a continuing feature of Middle East diplomacy, but the record is replete with past examples where they did in fact agree to the step-by-step approach.)

Will Obama build on this recorded agreement to pass through an interim stage, or will he throw it away in a headlong rush to the dream of a millennial rearrangement?

The Roadmap that the Palestinians accepted is the only document providing a pathway to a Palestinian state ever accepted by all the parties involved in Middle East peace negotiations. It was issued by the Quartet, consisting of the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the secretary-general of the United Nations on April 30, 2003. Then it was endorsed unanimously by the U.N. Security Council (including Syria!) in Resolution 1515 on Nov. 20, 2003. It was endorsed again by the Quartet on March 19, 2010. It was accepted "without any reservations" by Abbas at the Middle East peace summit in Aqaba, Jordan on June 4, 2003. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon accepted it on May 23, 2003, and Sharon's government, by a majority vote, accepted it on May 25, 2003. Both sides are bound by the Roadmap, and it does not require a fresh endorsement by either. It is one of the signed written commitments of the Palestinian government on which the peace process is based today.

Obama could construct an interim agreement on the "bottom up" approach of Salim Fayyad, who is building the institutions of Palestinian statehood in the West Bank in his capacity as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. Israel is already cooperating importantly with this process, by lifting most of the Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks even where there is an element of risk in trusting Palestinian security forces instead of the Israeli army. Netanyahu is prepared to go further in this direction. Here is a concrete foundation on which Obama could stand, instead of chasing an illusion beyond anyone's reach. [...]

Does the Roadmap's provenance in the hated Bush administration make it so repulsive to this administration that miss the opportunity Bush left him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 20, 2010 5:27 AM
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