Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - It is time for Washington to abandon the "road map" peace plan intended to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and move on to a plan that will first allow Israel to win the war against terrorism, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich said.
But Israeli and Palestinian representatives voiced objections to Gingrich's plan.
The road map is the centerpiece of President Bush's Israeli-Palestinian Middle East policy. It was penned by members of the Quartet -- the U.S., the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- and published two years ago based on a policy address given by Bush in June 2002.
The plan calls for an end to violence, with an eventual comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the end of this year, including the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Accepted by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2003, the plan never really got off the ground because Palestinian terrorism continued, which Palestinians argued was the result of continued expansion of Israeli communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
During the past two years, there have been many attempts to put the road map on track.
Currently, Washington and the international community are hoping that Israel's unilateral move to dismantle 21 Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip and four in the northern West Bank starting in August -- known as the disengagement plan -- will do the trick, leading to a return to the road map and paving the way for Israel and the P.A. to return to the negotiating table.
But Gingrich said that now is not the time for negotiations. Israel must first be allowed to win the war against terrorism and eliminate the terrorists. Following the ousting of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the death of P.A. Chairman Yasser Arafat, he said, the road map is outdated.
"The road map ... makes clear that all sides must make tangible steps towards a two-state vision. But it was a product of a period of failure now past," Gingrich wrote in a recently published article in the Middle East Quarterly
The quarterly is a publication of the Middle East Forum, which describes itself as a think tank that "works to define and promote American interests in the Middle East."
Gingrich's "new strategy" is based on the premise that Western governments and their Arab allies must first recognize that Israel is fighting a war against a minority of Palestinians that want to destroy it. Israel must be allowed to establish security for its people.
The majority of Palestinians would like to live in "safety, health, prosperity and freedom," Gingrich said, and they don't want to live under a "corrupt, brutal and incompetent dictatorship."
Washington should develop a plan that both helps Israel to defend itself and enables the Palestinian people to "develop a better future." At the same time, the U.S. should force Israel to end "expansionism," he said.
"In effect, Washington would offer the Palestinian people a straight proposition: If you defeat terrorism and accept Israel as your neighbor, we can invest enough resources to help you become prosperous and create a safe, free country in which people have a good future," Gingrich wrote.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman Dr. Ra'anan Gissin said that, in essence, the plan Gingrich described is already happening on the ground, but he said he doesn't believe that anyone can afford to abandon the road map.
"It's regrettable, [but] that's what's happening in the process," Gissin said. "We're not in the road map. We're in the pre-road map state."
To move forward, P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas must show that he wants to deliver by fighting terrorism. Otherwise, the road map will be stalled "indefinitely," Gissin said.
"The road map has built-in safety valves," said Gissin. While it should not be the end target in and of itself, it still remains the "strategic goal of all parties" and should not be abandoned, he added.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, president of the Palestinian National Initiative, which is a democratic Palestinian movement, also opposed the idea of abandoning the road map.
"It was a horrible article," said Barghouti. In suggesting that Washington abandon the road map, Gingrich might as well have said that Israel should "annex the occupied territories," Barghouti said in reference to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
It is not that the road map is so great for the Palestinians, Barghouti said. It is a digression from the Oslo agreements that were signed between Israel and the PLO in 1993, he stated.
Gingrich is calling for an apartheid state in which the P.A. would end up being the policemen for "the occupation," he said before suggesting that Gingrich visit the area to see what is really going on.
'Not far enough'
But Prof. Ron Breiman, chairman of Professors for a Strong Israel, said that while he likes the idea of abandoning the road map, he believes Gingrich doesn't go far enough.
"I agree that the road map is a kind of extension of Oslo [accords] and includes the same drawbacks," said Breiman. "In a way, it is even more dangerous."
The Oslo Accords were named after the Norwegian capital where they were secretly negotiated between Israel and the PLO and signed on the White House lawn.
They deteriorated into the current armed conflict between the Palestinians and Israel in September 2000 following a failed summit in Camp David, hosted by then-President Bill Clinton. Clinton later blamed Arafat for the failure of the summit.
Breiman also agrees that the welfare of the Palestinians needs to be improved, but said that cannot be done by just pouring money into the Palestinian Authority.
But Brieman disagrees with Gingrich on the idea that if there were no terror, it would be possible to implement a two-state solution.
"I don't think it is feasible in such a tiny land [to have two states] between the Jordan [River] and the Mediterranean [Sea]," Breiman said. "This is a major mistake of the road map, Oslo and Sharon."
Israel is smaller than the U.S. state of New Jersey, the West Bank is smaller than Delaware, and the Gaza Strip is slightly larger than twice the size of Washington, D.C., according to the CIA World Factbook.
Gingrich didn't even mention the original Biblical land of Israel (which includes the West Bank, known as Judea and Samaria, and the Gaza Strip) or the 1917 Balfour Declaration, in which the British government, then the authority in what was called Palestine, promised the Jewish people it would facilitate the establishment of a national homeland for them there, Breiman said.
Barghouti said that having just one state, in which Israel would annex the West Bank and Gaza Strip, would be a bigger problem for Israel than the Palestinians because Israel would have so many Arab residents that it would cease to be a Jewish state.
But Breiman said a comprehensive agreement should include Egypt and Jordan, giving the Palestinians the possibility to live in the Sinai Desert and in Jordan.
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