After receiving American assurances that most of the Israeli concerns, formulated in the 14 submitted points, will be considered in the implementation of the road map plan, the Israeli cabinet approved the plan. Is this a new possible start on diplomatic efforts? What chances does this plan stand? And how significant is this move from the Israeli side?
What is positive?
Different from Oslo, a bilateral agreement sponsored by the American administration, the road map as it stands is an international initiative accepted by both parties. The obligations of the Quartet are different and their role is more direct. The basic idea of monitoring the implementation of the plan by a third party is the most important of all.
A broad definition of the outcome, the light at the end of the tunnel, is included. This factor was completely missing and subject to different interpretations in the Oslo accords. The Israeli Prime MinsterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s statement regarding the need to divide the land is more significant coming from the side of a right wing Prime Minster with a long record of unshakable commitment to the ‘greater land of Israel’ ideology.
The lose-lose situation that both sides find themselves in after two and a half years of fighting increases the chance for more serious diplomatic efforts. Stepping out of diplomacy into resuming the fight will be more difficult to both.
The coordinated move of the quartet might mean a different level of international intervention which is essential to overcome the longstanding greed, mistrust, and fears of negotiating parties. The expectations that the international partner will invest efforts in implementing an accepted plan are different from the effort invested by Clinton to help or pressure parties to arrive at an agreement.
Both parties are evidently tired of this conflict. This is reflected in the dramatic shifts showed by public opinion polls. 62% of Israelis support the road map. Support for suicide attacks amongst Palestinians dropped from 80% to less than 50% in a few days. This can be an important factor to overcome the popular hard feelings against the painful concessions that will be required.
What is negative?
Parties and groups opposed to such a concession have grown in numbers and power. Their ability to counterattack has grown considerably.
The geopolitical conditions have changed dramatically. More hard facts are standing against the necessary concessions to arrive to a peaceful settlement.
With the level of destruction that the Palestinian infrastructure was subject to, it will be impossible to bring about short term improvements to improve the life of Palestinians.
There exists no level of good well or trust on either side. Negotiations are expected to be tough, lengthy, and painful. Similar negotiating attitudes have proven to be self destructive. It provides the opponents of diplomacy with more power and influence. When leaders look hesitant and show a great level of mistrust, people not only lose faith in them but in the process as well.
It looks as if this diplomatic process will barely stand a serious military escalation from either side. It will be, as expected, be kept hostage to the acts and initiatives of the many sides who would love to bring it to an end.
To conclude, the road map is setting the region at a crossroads. The risk is as high as the potential created.