|Praying for the Road Map
© June 2003 by Asher Intrater
A few hours ago, President George W. Bush landed at Sharm E Shekh. The next
few days will include some talks that could determine the outcome of life
in the Middle East for the next decade.
Because of Ariel Sharon's long record of military security, support for the settlements and political conservatism, he is perhaps the only one that could lead Israel to a peace treaty with the Palestinians in this generation. Interestingly enough, one of the Israeli journalists dragged up a quote by Abu Mazen from 1989, stating just that - that the only Israeli leader who could sign a peace treaty would be Ariel Sharon.
From the Israeli side the Road Map could have three outcomes: First, it could serve simply as a cover-up for a period of rebuilding the terrorist infrastructure among the Palestinians, which would end up in much greater blood shed in a few years. Second, it could be a nice piece of paper that could not be worked out on a practical basis, and that the continuing terrorists attacks would force Israel to stay in the territories, and basically leave everything in the state of frustrating and self-destructive stalemate that it is now.
The third possibility is that it might provide a framework that could allow the two peoples to stop killing each other and rebuild their economies and societies, at least for the time being.
As an Israeli, any kind of agreement seems to me to be patently unfair. We will give up land and settlements, pull back security forces, offer employment to the Palestinians, release many hundreds of terrorists from jail... and what will we get in return? - A promise; a promise that the Palestinians will do their best to curtail as much of the terrorism as possible; and perhaps a promise from some of the more moderate Arab nations that they will relinquish their dream to annihilate totally the nation of Israel.
On the other hand, what are the alternatives?
Although the current Road Map seems to all probabilities to be a bad deal for us, in many ways it is a "bet" or "risk" that cannot be not taken.
Right now there is a U. S. President who has demonstrated his ability to keep his promises, and who has made a commitment to stand by the security interests of Israel. There is a new prime minister in the Palestinian Authority who for the first time ever has clearly and forthrightly espoused a policy of ending terrorism.
How could we not take the agreement if it is offered? Yes, the practical probabilities are that it won't work. But the possibility that it might work is something that cannot be refused. It's kind of like a cancer patient agreeing to a new kind of surgical procedure. It might not work. But then, we've got cancer anyway.
A positive element in my view is the cautiousness of both Sharon and Abu Mazen. They are avoiding rhetoric of a utopian solution. They are trying to keep their goals limited and realistic. They are trying to be honest about the difficulties and shortfalls of the plan.
Two footnotes: George W. Bush's visit to Auschwitz received very good coverage here in Israel. An emphasis was made, not only that he is an American President, but also that he is a devout Christian. That point was seen as particularly significant to many.
Secondly: Earlier this week, Abu Mazen and his comrades were invited for dinner to Ariel Sharon's farm. Sharon is known for being a gracious and whimsical host, particularly when it comes to a sumptuous meal. The Palestinians were wined and dined, and talked in a relaxed way about the upcoming peace summit. The atmosphere was warm and friendly. The "chemistry" seemed to flow between the two sides. The personal commitments between them seemed to be sincere, from all reports.
Well, God only knows what is in the hearts of men, and what is best for the future. Let us pray for His will to be done, for dangerous and deadly traps to be avoided, and for potential opportunities not to be missed. May God give Bush, Sharon and Abu Mazen wisdom, sobriety and integrity. And may these two shell-shocked, tormented peoples find some respite.