Thursday, August 21, 2003

Target: Road Map
The assassination of top Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab by Israel today has dashed hopes that Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas was ready to crack down on militant groups using PA security forces. Abbas called the assassination "an ugly crime against peace." While it is difficult to mourn for a man like Shanab, it seems relevant to ask if Israel has ever accomplished anything with targeted assassinations. Remember, it was the killing of a top Islamic Jihad official which led to Tuesday's Jerusalem bombing. 19-for-1 doesn't seem like much of a trade-off to me.

Today's violence, part of the worst week for the peace process in months, points to the structural weaknesses of the Road Map. To begin with, it demands something from Abbas (a frontal assault on Hamas and Islamic Jihad) which he is simply incapable of delivering, especially after three years of the IDF's military destruction of the PA's security forces. The document had nothing at all to say about the one thing Abbas has accomplished -- the now-defunct truce. And it demands nothing permanent from the Israelis in phase one. Settlement freezes can be (and have been) unfrozen, and illegal outposts can be rebuilt. Martin Indyk, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, offers a solution in today's New York Times:

To break this cycle, the Bush administration should negotiate a package deal: the Palestinians would agree to act against Fatah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The Israelis would agree to dismantle the outposts, freeze settlement activity and withdraw the Israeli Defense Forces from Palestinian territory. The United States would then act as guarantor, developing a detailed monitoring and reporting plan to ensure that each side carries out its commitments fully and promptly.

This deal, however, would need to be tailored to existing Palestinian security capacities. Instead of insisting on a general and currently impossible effort to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, the United States should work with Mr. Dahlan to define feasible security tasks. These should include the arrests of the people in Hebron and Nablus who dispatched the most recent suicide bombers, the closing of Hamas's rocket factories in southern Gaza and action against the gangs in Rafah responsible for smuggling weapons from Egypt to Gaza. The United States should also identify the appropriate Israeli responses, like the withdrawal of its forces from West Bank cities where the Palestinian Authority is about to assume control.

Indyk also recommends sending U.S. troops to fight alongside Palestinian security forces (!) against Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Indyk's article is more fair-minded than most, but still suffers from a failure to realize that the terrorists cannot be defeated or permanently marginalized absent an end to the occupation and a comprehensive, just peace. American troops would not be very popular if they're seen rounding up members of the resistance while Israel's occupation continues with no end in sight. All the "confidence-building measures" in the world will not hide the fact that the Israel is an occupying power.

How about this: Begin final-status negotiations based on the Taba map. Come to an agreement which includes a symbolic acknowledgement of the Palestinians' right of return, allows a small number of refugees to return to Israel, provides the remainder with homes in the new Palestine and a just compensation, and sets up Jerusalem as the joint capital of two sovereign states. The catch -- as the Israelis are the doing the unpleasant work of evacuating tens of thousands of colonists from the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinians must be simultaneously disarming militant groups and establishing the PA as the sole authority in Palestine, perhaps with the assistance of NATO troops. They must establish Weber's "monopoly on the legitimate use of force."

There. Easy, right? If only...


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