— The plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, known as the road map,
cannot be allowed to fail. The alternatives are too frightening.
Failure would most likely lead to the collapse of the cabinet of
Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian prime minister, giving Hamas
the upper hand on the Palestinian street. As a result, those in
Israel who have claimed that there are no moderate Palestinians
with whom to negotiate will be vindicated.
We can guess
what might happen next: another round of terrorism and violence
that will make it even more difficult to have meaningful Israeli-Palestinian
The road map's
success is crucial. But putting it in place will not be easy. Those
who would like to sabotage it are determined and ruthless. For this
reason, it's vital that we find a way to make concrete progress
immediately. And the best way to do that is through a quick interim
accord — a pilot project for the peace process.
The Gaza Strip
is the most appropriate place for such an experiment. This mini-road
map — "Pilot Gaza" — would have three consecutive stages.
Palestinian government would be given full access and power to act
in the Gaza Strip. Second, to improve living standards, all economic
and infrastructure projects there — including the United States-financed
desalination project and the Karni industrial complex — would be
resumed and steps would be taken to allow more workers to enter
Israel and to facilitate the export of goods from Gaza. Third, if
the Palestinian government could show, within one year, that it
had dismantled terrorist organizations in Gaza, stopped incitement
and imposed law and order there, then Israel would evacuate its
settlements and withdraw its troops.
that terrorism was effectively suppressed and that conditions for
Israel's withdrawal were met would have to be unanimously validated
by representatives from the United States, the European Union, Russia
and the United Nations.
While the aim
of the road map is the creation of a viable, independent Palestinian
state by 2005, the scope of this state's sovereignty and its geographic
boundaries are, as yet, not specific enough. But unless Abu Mazen,
as Mr. Abbas is commonly known, is able to present to the Palestinians
a satisfactory and attainable destination for the road map, he will
find it difficult to gain the popular support he needs to curb terrorism
The new Palestinian
government may be tempted to stop terrorism through a tacit agreement
with Hamas and Islamic Jihad instead of dismantling them. Such an
approach would merely postpone the inevitable showdown over who
will emerge as the dominant force in Palestinian society — Fatah
or Hamas. So long as the question of Palestinian leadership hangs
in the air, violence will continue. Israelis will feel threatened,
and thus the Israeli government will not be able to make the hard
concessions required for peace.
of Pilot Gaza would accelerate efforts to put in place the road
map. It would also reduce violence in other parts of the Palestinian
territories, help the residents of Gaza return to normal life and
allow the Palestinian Authority to show the world it can govern
effectively. Such success would demonstrate that an agreement based
on joint antiterrorism measures, economic cooperation and the establishment
of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, can be achieved — not just
on a map, but in reality.
Sneh, chairman of the Knesset subcommittee on defense planning and
policy, is a former member of the Israeli cabinet.