Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Middle East Peace - "Road Maps" and Settlements
HIRAYAMA Kentaro / Former NHK Commentator

July 9, 2003
I have before me a "road map." I don't mean that document of the same name currently gathering attention as a guideline for peace in the Middle East. This is a real road map of the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the River Jordan - or Judea, Samaria, according to the inscriptions of Carta, the leading Israeli mapmaker that published the map. It provides detailed information on towns and villages on the Palestinian side, Jewish settlements large and small, main roads, side-roads and roads used exclusively by the Israeli army and settlers. In particular, the borderline with the "Palestinian Autonomy Area Zone A" - over which the Israeli armed forces have no control under existing agreements - are prominently marked. The map warns Israeli travelers to never wander into the zone, and advises them to constantly check their current location against the road map because the Palestinians may have intentionally removed border markings along the roads. Furthermore, the map clearly distinguishes between roads where there is a possible danger of encountering sniper shots and stone-throwing by the Palestinian side from roads that are relatively safe, and lists emergency stations and phone numbers for each region to be contacted in case of emergencies, in addition to locations and phone numbers for gas stations, regional outposts of Israeli security organizations and emergency medical facilities.

This map was commissioned by a group of Jewish settlers in 2001 after the Palestinian riots of the "al-Aqsa Intifada" began. And the emergency outposts mentioned above are permanently manned by armed staff from the settlement group, ever-ready against any type of "emergency" including traffic accidents, vehicle breakdowns and attacks or suspicious moves on the part of the Palestinian side. Although most of the "Palestinian Autonomy Area Zone A" has come under "re-occupation" by the Israeli army since the spring of last year, that doesn't mean the roads have become any safer for the settlers, and the usefulness of this order-made map remains unchanged.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian side has also developed secret path guides for bypassing the Israeli army's permanent and temporary inspection posts that have been increased since the riots, to move from one sealed-off area to another, to the City of Jerusalem or even into Israeli territory. With ironic implications, the Palestinians call this their very own "road map," though there is of course no guarantee of safety.

Whether such "road maps" - both of them imbued with conflict - can be done away with, whether the future will bring success or not, depends on that "Road Map" - the document offering guidelines for Middle East peace. Upholding the goal of creating a Palestinian state that doesn't pose a threat to Israeli security, the "Road Map" lays out steps of the process towards a final resolution beginning with recovery of order, Palestinian independence based on provisionary borders by the end of 2003 and finally by the end of 2005, finding a solution for such difficult issues as final borders, settlements, Jerusalem and the return of refugees which remain unanswered by the "Oslo Accords".

One cause of anxiety is that the "Road Map" presented by the U.S. Bush Administration isn't backed up by geographic maps regarding the borders between Israel and Palestine, either provisional or final. Words such as "a viable Palestinian state with territorial contiguity" and "an end to the occupation that began with the 1967 war" are the only guidelines being offered. A sensible interpretation of these words seem to indicate that at least with regard to final borders, they will infinitely resemble the compromise proposal presented by the Israeli side based on recommendations issued by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in the final months of his term during the Taba talks that took place in January 2001, which fell one step short of reaching an agreement. At the time, Israel proposed to return the entire Gaza Strip and 96% of the "West Bank." How President Bush, known for his "Clinton allergy," will stomach the issue is yet to be seen.

As if to synchronize with President Bush, Israel's Prime Minister Sharon surprised the public by also speaking of the "need to end the occupation" and "territorial contiguity in the West Bank for a viable Palestinian state," though he soon qualified his remarks with an "explanation" that he was not speaking in terms of the "land," but rather of "occupational control over the Palestinian people." He also offered "supplementary explanation" that he meant "traffic contiguity" instead of "territorial contiguity." Thus Sharon had reiterated his pet theory that it is possible to give Palestinians greater freedom of movement without having to go through Israeli army checkpoints by building elevated roads and tunnels to connect Palestinian territories that currently lie scattered. In other words, these comments indicate his intentions to avoid dismantling settlements that are dear to him and retain them as best he can.

The vicious cycle of Palestinian terrorist acts and Israel's targeted killings of Palestinian extremists and excessive military retaliation undertaken without regard for civilian casualties is often described as a "chicken or egg" situation, but we mustn't make light of the fact that Israeli occupation and settlements lie at the starting point of this vicious cycle. During the tripartite summit between U.S. President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas that took place in Aqaba, Sharon expressed his reluctance towards implementing the "Road Map," to which an irritated President Bush responded: "You can. Just do it!" CNN reported this incident to explain the background for the subsequent "softening" on the part of the Israeli side.

I only hope that such decisive words would some day be uttered with regard to the settlements as well.

The writer is a former NHK Commentator.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

平山 健太郎 / 元NHK解説委員

2003年 7月 9日






イスラエルに対するパレスチナ側のテロ行為と、パレスチナ過激分子に対するイスラエル側の狙い撃ちの殺害、一般市民の巻き添えを顧みない過剰な軍事報復の悪循環が、ニワトリとタマゴによく例えられるが、この悪循環の出発点が、占領と入植にある事実を軽視すべきではなかろう。ブッシュ大統領とシャロン、アバス両首相のアカバでの三者会談で、「ロードマップ」の実行に難色を示したシャロン首相に対し、ブッシュ氏がいらだち、「出来る筈だ。やれ!」(”You can. Just do it!”)と告げたという話を、その後のイスラエル側の「柔軟化」の背景として、CNNが伝えていた。


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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Middle East Peace - "Road Maps" and Settlements