October 10, 2007.
Next week Secretary of State Rice will travel again to the Middle East – her
eighth trip since last October, when she announced her “personal commitment”
to the goal of a Palestinian state since there “could be no greater legacy for
The announcement of Ms. Rice’s trip states that it is part of her ongoing efforts
to produce “serious negotiations” on the establishment of a Palestinian state
“as soon as possible,” with a “substantive and serious” November peace
conference addressing the “core issues.”
Over the last year, Ms. Rice has transformed U.S. policy from (a) support for a
Palestinian state conditioned on compliance with Phase I and II of the Roadmap,
to (b) support for Phase III final status negotiations to establish a Palestinian
state “as soon as possible,” even though the Palestinians have not complied
with either Phase I or II.
Under the Roadmap, final status negotiations were to occur only after a
sustained and effective effort by the Palestinian Authority to dismantle terrorist
capabilities and infrastructure, Phase I, and then only after the establishment of
a Palestinian state with provisional borders and limited sovereignty, Phase II.
With respect to Phase I, the PA has yet to dismantle a single terrorist
organization, or arrest a terrorist leader, in the four years since the Palestinians
accepted the Roadmap.
In the same period, Israel dismantled 25 settlements, withdrew from
Gaza, and released hundreds of prisoners. In 2006, the Palestinians elected
their premier terrorist organization to control their legislature. In 2007, half the
putative Palestinian state was taken over in a coup.
With respect to Phase II, in January Mahmoud Abbas rejected a provisional
state, and Ms. Rice then suggested that Phase II might be skipped, since it
could be easier “just to go to the end game.”
Thus despite the PA’s inability to execute Phase I and its unwillingness
to consider Phase II, the Bush administration is now devoting maximum effort
to negotiate a Palestinian state “as soon as possible.”
The abandonment of the sequential requirements of the Roadmap has been
accompanied by extraordinarily disingenuous euphemisms. The Roadmap has
not been disregarded; it has been “accelerated.” The “final status issues” are
now “core issues,” but there is no difference between the two terms. The
upcoming peace conference is a “meeting” rather than a Phase III “conference.”
Both Tony Snow and Condoleezza Rice have had trouble keeping the concepts
straight. The day after President Bush’s speech announcing the international
“meeting,” Mr. Snow told reporters that “even though I know I used the term
‘conference’ this morning, this is a meeting. lot of people are inclined to try
to treat this as a big peace conference. It’s not. This is a meeting.”
Ms. Rice, on the way back from the Middle East in August, had this exchange
with reporters, in which the word “conference” kept popping up like
Strangelove’s right arm:
Secretary Rice: Everybody wants this to be a meaningful, substantive
conference. I don’t think there’s a real difference about what we’d like to see
this meeting be.
Secretary Rice: It’s a meeting, but, you know, it’s a vstretch.
Secretary Rice: Vstretch. You know, vstretch is a meeting. Nyet
Question: I covered the run-up to Madrid, and as I recall there were
formal invitations. Do you plan to follow that model?
Secretary Rice: Well, I think we have to go back and think about the
best approach now to inviting people to come to the conference. See, there I
just did it again. To the meeting. (Laughter.) I maybe should speak in Russian.
Since 2000, the Palestinians rejected a state at Camp David, rejected it again in
2001 in the form of the Clinton Parameters, accepted the Roadmap in 2003 but
failed to carry out Phase I, received all of Gaza in 2005 and promptly used it to
send rockets into Israel and smuggle in massive new weaponry. Exactly how
many opportunities do they get to miss?
The current argument is that after a Palestinian state is negotiated, its
“implementation” will require dismantlement of the Palestinian terror structure.
So Phase I will supposedly come after Phase III.
But it is more likely that, once a state is negotiated, the Palestinians will claim
they cannot dismantle terrorist groups until they actually have a state. Once
they have a state, they will “dismantle” terrorist groups by integrating them into
the army. Once they integrate them into the army, the terrorists will either be
elected or stage a coup. It’s happened before.
The pass being given the Palestinians on Phase I and II is particularly
inappropriate given the formal promise to Israel, set forth in Mr. Bush’s April
14, 2004 letter, that America would prevent “any attempt by anyone to impose
any other plan” than the Roadmap.
Ariel Sharon made that reassurance an integral part of his disengagement plan.
He would undoubtedly be surprised, in light of what happened thereafter, to
learn of the secretary of state’s “personal commitment” to rush to Phase III.