Reading the Roadmap From Behind the Veil

While I might agree with the theoretical post-modernist assumption that there is no such thing as an objective truth, one must admit that there are certain things, such as actions, that can be taken as facts and stripped of ideologically biased commentary. To do so, in the words of Rawls, would be to don the Veil of Ignorance: one would assume that he or she is a bystander with no identity or group affiliation, and attempt to look at the world without having specific end-goals in mind.
Sounds complicated, huh? Well, let’s give a thought-experiment a try using the current impasse between the Israelis and the Palestinians vis-a-vis the implementation of the roadmap as an example. While the Palestinians have accused Israel of trying to block the roadmap, and many if not the majority of the news outlets picking up the same storyline, let’s try to lay out the objective facts.
1. One should observe that, objectively, Israel is not doing itself any good in the international arena by strengthening the settlements. This point is important to confront due to its near redundancy throughout the left. Yes, whether you think that the settlements are a necessary precondition for the Palestinians to stop the violence or that their being there is the right of Jews to declare self-determination in the land of their forefathers depends on your ideological perspective. But, objectively, the reason the settlement activity is problematic has to do with the reactions it illicit from the rest of the World community, and not on the ground. One should note that stopping the building of settlements is the last on the road map’s list for the plan’s First Stage, and it is important to raise this point for future notice: keeping the settlements a live issue has tremendous political capital for PM Ariel Sharon, who would then be able to use it to counterbalance the Palestinian’s demand for the right of return.
2. The Palestinians, although asserting to have accepted the road map in total, have not done a thing to fulfill their primary obligations under that document. The road map first and foremost calls for the “appointment of new Palestinian cabinet, establishment of empowered Prime Minister, including any necessary Palestinian legal reforms for this purpose.” Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas himself admitted that Arafat remains in charge.
3. Next, the Palestinians were to consolidate their “security organizations…into three services reporting to an empowered Interior Minister.” No movement on that side. While the Palestinian Authority tries to buy off the unrepentent Al Aksa Martyr’s Brigades, Arafat still controls five of the eight Palestinian security forces. If my math serves me right, eight does not equal three.
4. Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip might go against the assertion that “The Government of Israel ends actions undermining trust, including attacks in civilian areas, and confiscation/demolition of Palestinian homes/property, deportations, as a punitive measure or to facilitate Israeli construction,” but an objective observer would notice that the above irregularities are, well, supposed to be sequentially prior to an Israeli ceasefire. Were the countries in question Country X and Country Y, one would not hesitate to say that Country Y’s irresponsibility should not be met with X’s compliance to a pre-existing document. Politics are fluid, and the politics of security are even more-so.
So, is Israel responsible for the traffic jam, with its settlements and incursions as many in the press would like us to believe, or could it be that Arafat’s stubborn insistence of retaining control a possible reason for the delay? One last objective event tips the scale in favor of Arafat’s responsibility: Sharon has taken extraordinary steps to build trust with Abbas, allowing his personal armed guards to carry their weapons where Israeli security servicemen themselves are stripped of arms. If the two leaders, both imperfect in their own ways, can overcome the issue of personal trust, could it be that Arafat is the major bump? Let’s hope the Israeli-Palestinian project, to milk the metaphor, makes him no more than roadkill so that we all can get on with our lives.

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