July 17, 2003 - There has been a lot of opposition to President Bush's Roadmap from within the Jewish community. This opposition is understandable.
We have been burned before. The prevailing fear is that the Roadmap will become a rerun of Oslo. During the Oslo years, the phased Israeli withdrawals were followed by the creation of a terrorist infrastructure in the territories that to this day wages war against Israel.
The problem with Oslo is that compliance with its provisions was not carefully monitored. We must not make that mistake with the Roadmap. The very first phase of the Roadmap calls for "an unconditional cessation of violence." If the Palestinians do not comply, then Israel is under no further obligation. The cessation of Palestinian violence must be "unconditional": a ceasefire set to last only three months is in defiance, not compliance, with the Roadmap.
In return for Palestinian nonviolence, Israel must withdraw from Palestinian areas occupied since September 28, 2000, and freeze new settlement activity. Is this unreasonable?
It is in Israel's interest to reduce its presence in the territories. The aggressive settlements program undertaken during the Begin and Shamir administrations was Israel's most tragic mistake. Had Israel pursued the "Jordanian option" (making a deal with King Hussein when it had the chance) and found a way to return the territories to Jordanian rule, we would not now be facing the prospect of a Palestinian state. No one, not even the Palestinians, was calling for a separate Palestinian state while those lands were still under Jordanian sovereignty. The early Likud governments had hopes of annexing the territories, and so opposed making a deal with Jordan at a time when it might have worked.
Since then Jordan has given up its claim to the West Bank, and now it is too late. We are faced with two disagreeable alternatives: a Palestinian state, or no Palestinian state.
The Palestinian state option is disagreeable because we know from recent history that it would likely become a base for terrorism. That is why the provisions of the Roadmap are so important, and why we must support them and insist on compliance. We need to encourage the more moderate elements within the Palestinian community while there is still time, and get a formal commitment to stop the violence in return for tangible concessions. The Roadmap provides that these concessions be made in phases, contingent upon Palestinian progress in eliminating terrorism.
The no-Palestinian-state option is even more disagreeable, because it threatens Israel's destruction. The shifting demographics are working against Israel. According to most projections, within a decade or two there will be an Arab majority in the area now comprising Israel and the territories. That land cannot remain in limbo forever. If the Eastern part does not become a Palestinian state, the pressure to make the entire area one binational state will become overwhelming. (Incredibly, even some Roadmap opponents within Israel are calling for a binational state - apparently the settlements are more important to them than the security of the entire country.) If Israel remains a dominant presence in the territories, it cannot reasonably resist Arab demands for one person, one vote. Refusing such a demand puts Israel, which claims to be a democracy, in the unsustainable position of a minority population ruling over a disenfranchised majority. But complying with such a demand would mean the end of Israel.
We must never forget that the true Arab agenda has always been the elimination of all of Israel. Sentiment in the Arab world against a two-state solution is already growing because of the Arabs' hope that if they wait long enough, demographic, political, and military pressures will force Israel to give in to a one-state solution that will mean the end of the Jewish state. If the area ever does become one state, then the Jews of Israel will once again find themselves a disadvantaged minority in yet another Arab country.
The Roadmap gives Israel an opportunity to reduce its disastrous investment in the territories from a position of strength, in contrast to the quick withdrawal from Lebanon that sent a message of weakness. The Roadmap withdrawal would not be a precipitous flight; it would be carefully phased in accordance with an American plan. By complying with the Roadmap Israel would be able to strengthen its alliance with the United States and isolate the Palestinians diplomatically. Israel therefore has everything to gain from the Roadmap, and what it has to lose is its untenable diplomatic and demographic position.
And so if Israel opposes the Roadmap, if it insists on holding on to every single settlement, then it is playing right into the hands of the Arab extremists. Those who oppose the Roadmap have an obligation to present a realistic alternative for determining the status of the Arab population in the territories. Transfer of the Arabs out of the territories is not an option. World opinion would not stand for it, and neither would Israel's own conscience. Let Israel put a challenge to world opinion by embracing the Roadmap and seeing whether those who advocate it are serious about clamping down on terrorism.
Israel has a far greater stake in the Roadmap than do the Palestinians. We must support it, both for a just and lasting solution to the conflict and for Israel's survival.
(For further details see this Important Update.)
Peace with Realism