Directions to peace

By 0, 5/1/2003

UNDERSTANDABLE as their doubts and anxieties may be, Israelis and Palestinians alike are in dire need of the road map for Mideast peace presented to each side yesterday by the United States and its partners, a quartet that includes the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia. As underlined by another demented suicide bombing yesterday that killed three people in Tel Aviv, there are implacable extremists who will continue to do everything they can to sabotage the goals and procedures envisioned in the road map. It will not be possible to realize the document's promise of peace unless the two parties to the conflict work with members of the quartet to counter, and eventually overcome, the resistance of the haters and destroyers.

One of the strengths of the road map is that the first of its three phases calls for security cooperation aimed at ending terror and violence. The new Palestinian Authority government under Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas -- who was confirmed by Palestinian lawmakers Tuesday -- will have to direct streamlined and redesigned Palestinian security services to dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.

This is the indispensable starting point for a peacemaking itinerary that foresees a two-state solution with final secure borders by the end of 2005 as well as an end-of-conflict agreement and acceptance by the Arab states of full normal relations with Israel and security for all states in the region.

If there is to be any chance of reaching that ultimate destination, the members of the quartet -- and above all the Bush administration -- must apply unrelenting but even-handed pressure on Abbas and on the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Israel.

Since the Israeli side is mistrustful of the other quartet members, it must fall to the CIA to monitor and assess Abbas's success in cracking down on the terrorist groups.

There was an unmistakable warning of just how difficult that task will be yesterday when the leader of the Islamist organization Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, declared: ''The road map aims to assure security for Israel at the expense of the security of our people. It is a plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause. It is rejected by us.''

Not only will Abbas have to keep his promise to the Palestinian legislature to end the ''armed chaos'' of Hamas and others involved in violent attacks; Sharon will have to fulfill Israel's obligations in the first phase of the road map. This will require freezing settlement activity and a cessation of deportations, attacks on civilians, and the destruction of Palestinian homes.

Both peoples have suffered too much for too long. They both need firm guidance along the road to peace.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.