Why road map was left behind

The US-backed peace plan for the Middle East was in jeopardy even before Palestinian Authority Prime Minster Mahmoud Abbas resigned on Saturday.

Problems began months ago. Palestinian President Yassir Arafat fought the political and security reform central to the road map, while Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government didn't formally accept the plan. Israel instead accepted the "steps" outlined in the road map and then appended 14 reservations.

As the months went by, analysts say, neither side fully complied with the plan, meant to establish a Palestinian state by 2005: Both sides predicated progress on actions the other refused to take.

Israel wanted Palestinians to use force to crush militant groups before it met any of its own obligations. Abbas wanted Israel to ease conditions so that he could win support away from groups such as Hamas and then, perhaps, directly confront militants.

"The level of compliance was minimal from the start. So was the level of American monitoring and determination to oblige the sides to comply," says Joseph Alpher, an independent Israeli strategic analyst. "Given the American sponsorship of the road map, I think that's the more cardinal sin."

Now, with the plan collapsing and the fingerpointing set to start, here is a look at some road-map obligations and how the parties performed.

PHASE 1: PALESTINIANS

Palestinian leadership is to declare Israel's right to exist, and call for cease-fire and end to violence. Official Palestinian institutions are to end incitement against Israel.

At the road map's launch on June 4, Abbas said, "our goal is two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side." He added, "we repeat our denunciation and renunciation of terrorism against Israelis." He also said, "we will also act vigorously against incitement and violence and hatred." The PA issued directives to the media meant to curb incitement. In mid-August, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom acknowledged a decrease in anti-Israel incitement.

Security

The PA security apparatus is to undertake visible efforts to stop violent attacks against Israelis. It is to confront and disarm militant organizations and rid itself of ties to "terror and corruption." Palestinian security services should be consolidated into three services reporting to an Interior Minister. Security cooperation between the PA and the Israeli army should be renewed.

Little of this has happened; security has been the road map's biggest problem. Israel has insisted that Palestinian progress on security precede any Israeli action, while Abbas preferred a cease-fire rather than a confrontation. Israelis said a ceasefire gave militant groups time to regain their strength.

The Israeli army has continued killing militants. The cease-fire disintegrated after a Hamas suicide bombing in Jerusalem on Aug. 19 and an Israeli strike against a Hamas leader two days later.

Under pressure, the PA plugged tunnels used for smuggling weapons from Egypt to Gaza and arrested a few militants.

Abbas faced other internal challenges that contributed to his resignation. From the start, he and Mr. Arafat and their proxies struggled for control of the security services.

While Abbas was also named Minister of the Interior, he effectively delegated the job to Mohammed Dahlan. Arafat recently appointed Mr. Dahlan's rival, Jibril Rajoub, to "reform" the security services, thereby undermining Dahlan. There are still about a dozen security forces, most under Arafat's control.

Institution-building

Palestinians are to appoint an interim, empowered prime minister or cabinet. They are to take steps to appoint ministers able to implement reform; achieve separation of powers, including legal measures.

The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) confirmed Abbas as prime minister on Apr. 29 after Arafat appointed him to the post and then resisted the arrangement.

Abbas created a new cabinet and outlined a reform program for the Legislative Council, yet he had to struggle with Arafat for authority. Arafat successfully fought many of Abbas's Cabinet nominees and, while most of the Cabinet were loyal to Abbas, prominent members were Arafat loyalists. Prior to Abbas's resignation, many members of the PLC were showing greater allegiance to Arafat, Palestinian analysts say.

PHASE 1: ISRAEL

Israel is to issue an unequivocal statement affirming its commitment to the two-state vision of an independent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state. It should call for an end to violence against Palestinians; Israeli institutions end incitement against Palestinians.

At the road map's debut, Sharon said, "Israel has lent its strong support for President Bush's vision ... of two states, Israel and the Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security." Palestinian critics say this statement of support for Bush does not amount to an unequivocal commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state. Sharon's Likud Party officially rejects the creation of a Palestinian state, as do other parties in his coalition government.

Security

Israel is to avoid any action undermining trust, including deportations,attacks on civilians, and confiscation or demolition of property as a punitive measure or to facilitate Israeli construction. It should avoid destruction of Palestinian institutions or infrastructure.

Land confiscation has continued, some of it for Israel's security barrier, the rest for road construction to settlements and possible settlement expansion. In July alone, Israel seized at least 725 acres of West Bank land, according to a Monitor review of confiscation orders.

Home demolitions have continued. Since the road map's debut, Israel has torn down some 20 houses in Jerusalem alone, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. "Targeted killings" continued from the day after the road map debuted, with the Israeli army's June 5th killing of two Palestinians in the West Bank. Assassinations of militant leaders during the cease-fire contributed to its failure.

As Palestinian security performance improves, Israel's army is to withdraw progressively from areas occupied since the conflict began on Sept 28. 2000, and Palestinian security forces are to take over. Israel handed Bethlehem and some parts of the Gaza Strip over to Palestinian control. This is still the case.

Institution-building

Israel to support Palestinian elections by facilitating voter registration, movement of voting officials and candidates, the visits of international groups to support the process, among other measures.

Palestinians say restrictions on Arafat's movement are a violation of this requirement as Arafat was democratically elected, even though his mandate expired in 2000.

Israel to reopen the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce and other closed Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem based on a commitment that they operate according to prior agreements.

These institutions remain closed.

Humanitarian issues

Israel improves Palestinian humanitarian situation, lifting curfews, easing restrictions on movement of people and goods, allowing full and safe access to international and humanitarian personnel.

Restrictions on movement were eased temporarily in a few places. Some checkpoints were removed but reinstated, and movement was still tightly controlled. The transport of goods continues to be impeded by a system that requires Palestinians to move goods from one truck or donkey to another at town entrances.

The PA and Israel continue revenue-clearance process and the transfer of funds and arrears.

Israel has resumed transfers of Palestinian tax monies and has released some of the reported $600 million it was withholding. It has frozen some $182 million until court cases against the PA are settled.

Settlements

Israel to immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001.

At the road map's debut, Sharon said Israel "will immediately begin to remove unauthorized outposts." Of the 60 or so that the Israeli group Peace Now says were built since March 2001, eight were dismantled, and five new ones erected. While the total number has fallen by three, the infrastructure of the others has become more entrenched, says Peace Now's Dror Etkes.

Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth.

West Bank settlement expansion is ongoing. That looks set to continue with recent Cabinet approval of financial incentives for Israelis to buy houses in the West Bank.

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