In April 1973 Nixon press spokesman Ron Ziegler famously declared all of the administration’s previous statements on the Watergate scandal “inoperative.” It became clear last week that something similar has happened with respect to the Bush administration’s commitments to Israel in connection with the “road map” to Palestinian statehood that President Bush first announced in June 2002.
The United States has abandoned the road map and related commitments in favor of accommodating Palestinian terrorism. As Secretary Rice explained to reporters on Air Force One:
The “road map” for peace, conceived in 2002 by Mr. Bush, had become a hindrance to the peace process, because the first requirement was that the Palestinians stop terrorist attacks.
As a result, every time there was a terrorist bombing, the peace process fell apart and went back to square one. Neither side ever began discussing the “core issues”: the freezing of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the rights of Palestinian refugees to return, the outline of Israel’s border and the future of Jerusalem.
“The reason that we haven’t really been able to move forward on the peace process for a number of years is that we were stuck in the sequentiality of the road map. So you had to do the first phase of the road map before you moved on to the third phase of the road map, which was the actual negotiations of final status,” Miss Rice said.
Miss Rice said that what the U.S.-hosted November peace summit in Annapolis did was “break that tight sequentiality … to say, you can do these in parallel, you can do road-map obligations and negotiation for the final status in parallel.”
“You don’t want people to get hung up on settlement activity or the fact that the Palestinians haven’t fully been able to deal with the terrorist infrastructure and prevent that from moving forward on the negotiations,” she said.
Let’s take a look at the commitments Secretary Rice has rendered inoperative in her efforts to accommodate Palestinian terrorism to statehood. In his original statement of June 2002 supporting a road map to statehood, Bush laid down conditions:
I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty. If the Palestinian people actively pursue these goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts. If the Palestinian people meet these goals, they will be able to reach agreement with Israel and Egypt and Jordan on security and other arrangements for independence.
And when the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbors, the United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state whose borders and certain aspects of its sovereignty will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle East.
President Bush made additional commitments to Prime Minister Sharon in connection with Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. In his April 2004 letter to Sharon, Bush wrote:
First, the United States remains committed to my vision and to its implementation as described in the roadmap. The United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan. Under the roadmap, Palestinians must undertake an immediate cessation of armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere, and all official Palestinian institutions must end incitement against Israel. The Palestinian leadership must act decisively against terror, including sustained, targeted, and effective operations to stop terrorism and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. Palestinians must undertake a comprehensive and fundamental political reform that includes a strong parliamentary democracy and an empowered prime minister.
President Bush called the Annapolis peace conference only this past July. In his statement announcing the conference, Bush provided that attendance was to to be limited to representatives of nations that support a two-state solution, reject violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and commit to all previous agreements between the parties.
In the interest of securing the attendance of states that oppose Israel’s existence, the administration silently abandoned the criteria it had set for attendance only four months earlier. Although no one noticed, President Bush’s July statement had been rendered inoperative.
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