This House believes that the Middle East road Map for peace is dead

Wednesday February 23 2005
MOTION REJECTED by 46% to 54%

Transcript

Order of speeches

This House believes that the Middle East road Map for peace is dead

 

Introduction

introductionTIM SEBASTIAN
Ladies and gentlemen, a very good evening to you and welcome to this, the latest in our series of Doha Debates from the headquarters of the Qatar Foundation. The Palestinian President and the Israeli Prime Minister have both indicated they believe a peace deal can now be reached after years of bloodshed and political stalemate. Tonight we ask how realistic such beliefs are. Is the current optimism nothing more than mood music, or is there finally a clear road map to a clear destination? Our motion, in keeping with the character of the Doha Debates so far is as controversial as ever, and aims to challenge the pre-conceptions of the moment, 'This House believes that the Middle East road map for peace is dead.' Our speakers tonight all have an intimate knowledge of the subject and come at it from widely different perspectives. Speaking for the motion, Dr. Flynt Leverett. In February 2002 he served for a year as Senior Director for Middle East Affairs at the Security Council, and was closely involved in the drafting of the road map. He left the White House because of policy differences, and is now Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. He says he has plenty of stories from the Oval Office. Also for the motion, Alastair Crooke. He served most recently as Security Adviser to Javier Solana, the European Union's Head of Foreign and Security Policy. He helped facilitate the Palestinian ceasefires in 2002 and 2003. He was honoured by Queen Elizabeth for services to the advancement of the Middle East peace process. Let's see if he can do the same tonight. Speaking against the motion, Ghassan Khatib, Palestinian Minister of Labour, who's flown here directly from some of the stormy scenes we saw earlier this week in the Palestinian Parliament. He was part of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid Peace Talks in 1991, and is co-founder and director of Bitterlemons.org, an Israeli/Palestinian internet magazine. And for once on the same side, Rabbi Michael Melchior, member of the Israeli Knesset and the Deputy Minister of Education, Culture and Sport. He's been a Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs under Shimon Peres, and holds the Nobel Institute's Prize for tolerance and bridge-building. Ladies and gentlemen, this is our panel. Let me now call on Flynt Leverett to speak first in the support of the motion 'This House believes the Middle East road map for peace is dead'.

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Flynt Leverett

Speaking for the motion
Flynt Leverett

FLYNT LEVERETT
Thank you very much. I'm very pleased to be here in Doha, and honoured to be here at the Qatar Foundation to participate in this Doha Debate. I am here to argue on behalf of the resolution, that the road map for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is indeed dead. I am here to argue that because during my tenure at the White House and at the State Department during the first two years of the Bush administration, I was, as Mr. Sebastian said, heavily involved in the drafting of the road map. I was heavily involved in the deliberations of President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, Secretary Powell, Dr. Rice, Secretary Rumsfeld, about the administration's approach to the Palestinian issue, and I was very much involved in the process of working the text of the road map with various parties in the region and in the international community. And on the basis of all of that experience, I have to argue that the road map is dead because really from its inception, at its very beginning, it was stillborn. By that I mean that the road map as it was conceived and put over cannot serve as a serious substantive basis for resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and for helping the parties get to that two-state solution that President Bush and Israeli and Palestinian leaders say that they want. Now, of course that's not to say that you can't have diplomatic activity, diplomatic process that is generated by the road map. To some degree, we're seeing such activity and process today, and if that diplomatic activity and process can help the parties stop the killing that we've seen go on over the last 4 years, considering literally how many thousands of people have lost their lives on both sides during that period, that obviously is a good thing, but we should have no illusions if we rely solely on the road map as it is presently constituted to guide our diplomatic efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. Whatever we achieve in the near term will be temporary and it will not get us to that final settlement of the conflict. There are many specific deficiencies one might point to in the road map. My colleague, Mr. Crooke, will tell you about some that he believes are particularly important. But I want to focus on one thing in particular, and that is at its beginning when we were working on the road map, we had no illusions that the document we were putting together would be able to serve as a comprehensive and complete framework for resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The road map as it existed was conceived really as a place-holder on this issue to show somewhat of an increase in American attention and engagement on the issue in the run-up to the Iraq War, to provide political cover to our allies in the Arab world and in Europe in advance of that conflict. Those of us who drafted the road map knew that without further substance, further substantive elaboration, particularly on the difficult final status issues - final words, status of Jerusalem, how the Palestinian refugee issue would be handled - without further elaboration on those issues in particular, the road map as it was constituted did not stand a chance of working. I think that history has so far borne out that assessment, and I think that, I hope that this is not the case, but I think it will be the case that if we do not move beyond the road map, that whatever near-term progress we're seeing now will be temporary. Thank you.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Dr. Leverett, thank you very much. You're saying it was a fraud right from the start, the road map.
FLYNT LEVERETT
No. I'm not saying that it was a fraud. I'm saying it was a place-holder, it was meant to provide political cover to states that were going to be working with us.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But the Bush administration knew from the start that it wasn't going to do what it was advertised to do.
FLYNT LEVERETT
I would say certainly that the people who were working on it for the administration knew that, and I believe that our principals were very well aware of our view.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So it was mis-sold then to the public at large, for political cover?
FLYNT LEVERETT
In its original intention, it was put forward to provide political cover.
TIM SEBASTIAN
And that is what you took exception to?
FLYNT LEVERETT
That is part of what I took exception to. Part of what I took exception to was that we didn't even do a very good job of getting political cover out of it. We promised our partners in the Arab world and Europe that we would put the road map out well before the end of calendar year 2002. But when Mr. Sharon's government fell apart in Israel and he called early elections, the decision was taken not to put it out at that point, and the way that decision was described was, if we put it out while the Israelis are having an election campaign, we would be interfering in Israeli politics. My answer to that was, if you don't put it out when you promised the world you're going to put it out, because Mr. Sharon has asked you not to, then you are interfering in Israeli politics, just in a different direction. What can I say, I've lost that argument.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So do you think that America's credibility as a peace-maker has been damaged by this road map and by the reasons for which it was put out?
FLYNT LEVERETT
I believe that American credibility on this issue with important players in the international community and with the Arab world is obviously strained at the moment.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Dr. Leverett, thank you very much indeed. Can I ask Ghassan Khatib please to speak against the motion for three minutes.

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Ghassan Khatib

Speaking against the motion
Ghassan Khatib

GHASSAN KHATIB
I disagree with the conclusion that the road map is dead. I believe that the road map is alive and it has a chance of being revived these days, and I have specific reasons why I believe it's alive. The first one is that when you look into the context of the road map, you find that it has answers to what the majority of the public opinion in both Israel and Palestine want. For Palestinians, the road map is about ending the occupation that started in 1967, it is about establishing a Palestinian state alongside these same borders, and the road map includes also the notion of a solution to the refugees problem. For the Israelis, the road map also includes most of what the majority of the Israeli public opinion want: peace, security, recognition and integration in the region which can lead into economic prosperity. So the basic notion of land-for-peace is embodied in this document in a way that will keep it alive, as long as there is a conflict. From a Palestinian prospective, as long as there is a conflict we will continue to work for ending that occupation, and the Israelis will continue to work for ending conflict, violence, and get peace and recognition. The second reason why I believe that it's still alive is that it's one of the unique documents that is based completely on the international legality, and the Palestinian side - and I think it's difficult to have anybody disagree with that - is interested in a solution that is based completely on the requirement of the international legality. The road map embodies inside it the specific Security Council resolutions that are accepted by all parties, and it's structured in a way that should fit with international legality in terms of a solution. Thirdly, it is unique in the sense that it enjoys a consensus support in the Arab world and the Arab initiative is included in this document, and at the same time it was endorsed by the international legality and the international community in a legal way when it was adopted by the Security Council as resolution number 1515, so it has the support of the international legality and it represents a consensus, and in this sense it's the only document that has this status. So I think that the road map in terms of its context, is alive and will remain alive as long as the conflict remains alive. The question is how the parties, Israelis, Palestinians, and the third party will make use of this document, and I think that the main reason why it hasn't been useful yet is that the third party, which is the author of this document, has never invested enough political capital in making it work, in making it serve its own purposes. Now there seems to be hopefully a different atmosphere and I think that the two sides and the third party reported in particular will lead a revival process to the peace process on the basis of the road map which is good enough to meet the basic requirements of the majority of Palestinians and the majority of Israelis.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Thank you very much indeed. Ghassan Khatib, how can the document be said to be alive when so many people have died since its inception? It's like a surgeon saying the operation was a great success but the patient died.
GHASSAN KHATIB
Well, it's true that many people have died, but this is another reason why we have to search for whatever means that can enable us to put an end to the continuity of the killing.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But it hasn't done it. It hasn't done the job.
GHASSAN KHATIB
It hasn't done it. In my view it's not the fault of the document, it's the fault of the parties that are not able to make use of that document, and particularly the author, the initiator of this document. I mean, when this document was presented, we in the region, especially Palestinians ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
We're talking about the Americans here.
GHASSAN KHATIB
Yes, the Americans. Basically the Americans just put this document forward and they did not do what it takes to make it function, to make it able to serve its purposes, so if now the attitude in the United States will change, together with the changing reality in the region, maybe there is a chance for this document to be revived and to serve its purposes.
TIM SEBASTIAN
I mentioned in the introduction the divisions that we saw apparent in the Palestinian Parliament earlier this week. If Palestinians are so divided about where to go, what is the point of having a road map if you have so many different destinations that people want to get to?
GHASSAN KHATIB
Internal legitimate debates according to the law in any parliament, in any parliament is not a split, it's not a disadvantage.
TIM SEBASTIAN
The splits are very real. The debate may have been quite gentlemanly but the splits are very real, aren't they?
GHASSAN KHATIB
No, no, the contrary. No, no Parliament is not split, it is democratic debate over how to form a cabinet and this happens in every democratic society and this is very healthy, we're proud of it, and we will have a cabinet in a few days and I think that this is a reflection of pluralism that is the characteristic of the Palestinian political entity.
TIM SEBASTIAN
And the worth of having assurances from the Palestinian Authority if they're not backed up by agreement of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, what is the use of the Palestinian authority agreeing on a road map without their participation?
GHASSAN KHATIB
No, the Palestinian Authority is always depending on dialogue between the different Palestinian groups and factions, and this time all Palestinian factions in the Authority or in the opposition and as result of dialogue that was led by the newly-elected president, reached an agreement that they should give a chance to a possible effort, political effort, to revive the peace process.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But right after Sharm-el-Sheikh, we saw rockets fired by Islamic Jihad or Hamas at Israeli settlements.
GHASSAN KHATIB
We saw certain violations from the two sides, but we have to admit that there is a dramatic reduction in the casualties in the two sides, and we think that there is a progress. There are fewer Palestinians killed by Israelis, and there are fewer Israelis killed by Palestinians, and the reduction is dramatic, and that's why people in the two sides are hopeful. Now, if we are able to show people on the two sides that this period of time, this cease-fire or whatever we call it, is paying off, is improving the political situations, improving the economic situations, moving us Palestinians towards ending the occupation, then this is why it can be consolidated and we can move through the cease-fire into a peace process that can help ending the occupation because it is the source of all the ongoing violence.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right. Ghassan Khatib, thank you very much indeed. You're saying there's a great sense of urgency here.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Cooke, can we ask you to speak in favour of the motion.

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Alastair Crooke

Speaking for the motion
Alastair Crooke

ALASTAIR CROOKE
Thank you very much. I propose to argue, ladies and gentlemen, that what remains, I mean of the road map, is process and only process, and the credibility and legitimacy of the underlying contract on which the road map was founded has long since eroded, and this means essentially that the prospect for any substantive outcome are dead. The flaws that undermine the original contract are simply just unacknowledged and unaddressed by both the international community and also by the road map itself. I would suggest to you that simply optimism and process alone is insufficient to have overcome the obstacles that it faces. I believe that there are three principal flaws to this. Firstly, that any successful political process that deals with conflict must have as a basis inclusiveness, inclusiveness both internally within the Palestinian context and externally as well. A critical mass of support is necessary to take the thing through. This is simply a recognition of the psychology of conflict. In any community, in any part of the world that is experiencing violence, deep feelings are generated. Trauma and humiliation mean that you simply cannot just take up and put down violence at the stroke of a pen. There needs to be this large, broad support both internally and externally to carry this forward, but this support, ladies and gentlemen, I believe the consensual basis that may have existed in '93 has been shredded and it's been shredded in the estimation of the participants of the process by the salami-slicing of the West Bank, by settlements, by military roads, by check-points, which for Palestinians has meant that the prospect of a Palestinian state has not come closer during this incremental process but has receded. The second key element in this is that the principal component on which the road map actually stands is that of security, and this is couched in the road map in terms of confrontation and Palestinian disunity. But this approach demonstrably has failed. It failed with Zinni, it failed with Tenant. Now lately we are moving towards trying to co-opt other factions into it, but I underline that the road map specifically, and President Bush in Brussels in the last few days, have re-asserted the monopoly of power to confront and dismantle, not co-opt and not to go and look for power-sharing. This approach can only fail because there is no longer a mandate or legitimacy for attacking fellow-Palestinians. Finally, the last element is the one touched on by my colleague, the omission of its clear destination of the process, '67 and Jerusalem as the capital of the state. This puts in jeopardy the fragile historic compromise, and putting that in jeopardy can undermine the justice of the process as seen by Muslims everywhere in the world. Thank you.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Alastair Crooke, thank you very much. How much do you blame the international community for the road map going wrong?
ALASTAIR CROOKE
I think the international community have failed to address or to learn from history the evident flaws that we have seen during the process since '93 and to address them and to try and put remedies into the process to recapture some of this credibility and legitimacy.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Why have they failed? Because they never wanted to put it in there in the first place? They never thought of the destination, they just thought of the journey.
ALASTAIR CROOKE
No, I think they failed to do this because it was complicated. It meant re-establishing legitimacy, bringing in support for it, and that meant things like elections. It meant internal political accommodation. These things are quite complicated to do.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You now have European and American policy far apart on the Middle East. How damaging is that in the process to getting a settlement?
ALASTAIR CROOKE
Well, we'll see how far apart it is.
TIM SEBASTIAN
We know they're far apart on the settlements, don't we?
ALASTAIR CROOKE
They're far apart on settlements, that's clear, and as I indicated, it was clear well before the road map was actually written, at the time of Mitchell, that the settlements, the incremental, slow, salami-slicing of the West Bank had reduced everybody's confidence that an incremental process would lead to a Palestinian state. That was clear.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But if the international community can't get their act together, how are the participants in the Middle East process supposed to?
ALASTAIR CROOKE
That is why we're arguing that this process is dead.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Alastair Crooke, thank you very much indeed. Let me call on Rabbi Michael Melchior to speak against the motion.

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Rabbi Michael Melchior

Speaking against the motion
Rabbi Michael Melchior

MICHAEL MELCHIOR
Ladies and gentlemen, fellow panellists. We have both a Muslim and a Jewish expression which says that the things which come out from the heart, they will go into the heart, and I hope that this will be so with what I want to pledge with you tonight against the motion before us. We've had a hundred years of bloody conflicts in the Middle East, in our part of the Middle East. We've had now 4 years of the intifada. In my country, we have been bleeding, hurting, going to funerals. A terrible period is over. I know also that the Palestinians have, during this period, heavily suffered, going through a humanitarian tragedy in many, many aspects of the Palestinian community life, and we have one term of reference which can put us back again on something which is sane and something which will bring us on a track which finally we hope the road map will bring us to, which is the creation of two states living side by side in peace, with the Israelis achieving peace and security, and the Palestinians obtaining what they deserve as a future and peace and borders, will live together with us. We have one term of reference, and that's the road map which is accepted by all parties, has the legitimacy of the international community, is accepted by the Israeli government, by the Palestinian Authority, and our situation, with all due respect to my colleagues who are trying to kill this road map, I must tell you that we are in a new situation. We're not where we were a half a year or a year ago. Maybe you are right a half a year or a year ago, that there was not much prospective, but now we are starting, now we are taking up with roots and it's important what is going on now in the disengagement, in Gaza and the northern West Bank in Northern Samaria, it's a very crucial step which gives a signal from Israel where we want to go and we know that we have to bring this disengagement now as a first step to bring us on to the road map. We've seen now the Palestinian leader, Abu Mazen, dealing seriously with the issues of violence and terror, and we have good signals and a very good language together between the leaderships of the two countries, and I think maybe it's symbolic that the two parties who are saying that this is wrong, that we want the road map, are the Palestinian and Israeli side in this debate, because we know that our future is dependent on this. This is our term of reference, and we need to know, we need to have the end game. Oslo did not have the end game. Oslo did not talk about a Palestinian state. There were those who knew that it would lead to that, but it didn't talk about it specifically. We have to know where we have to go, and I must say that in this respect the road map in itself is not enough, and nobody claims that. The road map needs to be supplanted with legitimacy inside the two societies. We need to work on the language, on culture, on religion, to find legitimacy for a way which didn't have legitimacy in the 90's during the Oslo process. We also have to have fallback positions, because we're not sure we will succeed and we can't fall back to violence this time but have to go ahead. I hope very much that if the road map will proceed at a serious speed, then things will be fine, but also if not, the road map still has to be the term of reference and then we will have to find other ways of disengagement and pulling back settlements also from the West Bank during the period which we are going into. Let me just, with your permission, say one more sentence. You know, we're sitting here in Qatar, we have maybe for the first time a debate where you have both Christians, Moslems and also some Jews present. All of our religions believe in resurrection, so I would claim that even if the road map might be dead, we have to take care that it comes alive again. Thank you very much.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Rabbi Melchior, thank you very much indeed. You said the road map was accepted by the Israeli government. It was accepted with 14 reservations which sort of invalidates the acceptance, doesn't it, right from the start?
MICHAEL MELCHIOR
As you very well know, just as the Palestinians have some political turmoil, we in Israel also have some political turmoil once in a while, and we have a new government now in place. I was that time in opposition, for example, I'm now in government. And as I'm presenting my view, that's what I was asked to do, the Israeli government will tackle the whole road map, I hope, as soon as we've finished with the disengagement, and I hope that we can be on board and that we will have full support for going ahead with the road map as was presented as a vision and as a practical plan.
TIM SEBASTIAN
And the fact that the Prime Minister has on previous occasions, the same Prime Minister who you have now, declared the road map dead, does he bring it to life on one day and kill it off on another? Is it just a matter of whim as far as he's concerned?
MICHAEL MELCHIOR
If you would like to invite the Prime Minister for a debate, I'm sure he will know how to answer. He has, just as we all have, our political backland. He has made a very courageous step now - against what he had promised the Israeli public, against what he has built - and doing this disengagement, it's a very tough process. I think we have to go through this process, start something which really puts us on the road map, and then we will have to take our internal debate and I hope that we will have Sharon in place to be the one who brings Israel to peace and brings the Palestinian state, makes it happen, and if not, then I hope we will choose another and better leader.
TIM SEBASTIAN
If you have political goodwill, you don't need a road map, do you?
MICHAEL MELCHIOR
Yes, you need to know where you're going to, what the end game is. That's the strength of the road map. It wasn't there in the Oslo process in '93. The road map gives us the map where we're going to. It's not a detailed plan of how to get there. We'll have to work that out in negotiations, but the vision that we know where we're going to is so important, so that we don't lose hope as we've done too many times in the past.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let me widen the discussion out to include all the members of the panel. Flynt Leverett, are you impressed by what you've just heard from Rabbi Melchior, that they know where they're going? You apparently didn't with the road map and you helped draft it.
FLYNT LEVERETT
I'm always impressed by what I hear from Minister Melchior but I think I would disagree with the depiction of the road map as containing an adequate description of, as Mr. Melchior calls it, the end game. It is true it takes it a step further than Oslo. It makes it clear that we are aiming at a two-state solution, two states, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security, but it says virtually nothing about the bases on which those two states will be established. On critical final status issues, like final boundaries, like Jerusalem, the road map is silent in terms of substance, and personally I worry that there is a real structural disconnect here which could bring, at some point bring this process to a grinding and very disappointing halt.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you worry about a process that leaves all the difficult issues to the end?
FLYNT LEVERETT
What I worry about is a process in which Mr. Khatib for example representing the Palestinian side believes that the road map, when it gets to final status, is going to provide for '67 borders as a reference point for negotiating final boundaries, will stand up for the idea of Jerusalem as the capital for two states, Israel and Palestine. I don't believe, as someone who wrote the document, that the road map says anything of the sort, and I do not believe that either this Israeli government or this American administration is committed to that interpretation of the road map.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Ghassan Khatib, it's not going to do what you think it's going to do, that's his contention.
GHASSAN KHATIB
Well, the road map says literally that it should lead into ending the occupation that started in 1967, and this is the most explicit sentence that one can come up with to indicate the borders of the two states. It's about ending the occupation that started in 1967, so this is very well defined.
FLYNT LEVERETT
No, I can tell you there were more explicit sentences which were rejected in the drafting process.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Such as?
FLYNT LEVERETT
Well, that the '67 borders should be the reference point for negotiating final boundaries with mutually negotiated adjustments, for security, for consolidation of settlement blocks or whatever reason the parties agreed to.
TIM SEBASTIAN
And who ordered that taken out?
FLYNT LEVERETT
That was the decision taken in the inter-agency process at the White House.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So a White House decision.
FLYNT LEVERETT
Yes.
TIM SEBASTIAN
That undercuts your argument, Mr. Khatib.
GHASSAN KHATIB
No. I think that going in a process that will lead into ending the occupation that started in 1967, indicates the borders between the two states, that's explicit enough. Second, it also includes a specific view and resolutions like 242 which also called for ending the occupation, so I mean, this is good enough for negotiations. Did you know that in the Camp David negotiations, there was the possibility, accepted by the two sides, to go for mutual changes in the borders on the basis of equal (word missing), equal in size and in quality, so I think that the concept of the final borders is more or less clear in the road map and in previous negotiations as well.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Rabbi Melchior, you wanted to come in.
MICHAEL MELCHIOR
I just wanted to say to my friend Flynt that I think that you're making a mistake in saying that just because something isn't perfect from your perspective, that it could have been even better, then that means it's dead. It gives us a term of reference, it gives us a way, it gives us path, it tells us where to go. It's true, it's not perfect. If it would have been a perfect document, that would already have been the final status agreement. That would have been the purpose which we're all seeking to get to. It's not that document, but it helps us on the way with the terms of references and that is the strength of the document. We mustn't - and we've done this mistake before, in Oslo, in international negotiations, other places, especially in the Middle East - that if things are not perfect, then we just throw them out and then we get deeper and deeper into the mud of bloodshed and so on.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But how has it helped when every single deadline has been missed?
MICHAEL MELCHIOR
Well, you know very well what the situation has been. We've been in the middle of an intifada. The last half-year has dramatically changed the situation. The bloodshed is now down, we're back to talking, we're in a whole new situation.
TIM SEBASTIAN
And back to settlement expansion as well.
MICHAEL MELCHIOR
We're back to settlement withdrawal, you're absolutely right.
TIM SEBASTIAN
We've seen settlement expansion in other settlements.
MICHAEL MELCHIOR
For the first time Israel is now, under Sharon, you know how difficult this is for his purpose, Israel is uprooting inside the Palestinian areas, uprooting important settlements. We're taking an enormous battle on this because we know that if we succeed, which I hope, in this battle inside Israel, and which the government, the parliament this last week has passed resolution on, this will be the model for what will happen also on the West Bank.
GHASSAN KHATIB
I think there is something that needs to be clarified in terms of this Gaza project. Palestinians have never been excited by this project, although we're not going to be against removing any settlements, but I have to remind everybody of a statement that Sharon made a few days ago, in which he was trying to sell the idea of Gaza withdrawal to the Israeli public by saying that this will enable Israel to further expand and enrich the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. For those who might not know, Gaza is 2% of the occupied territories, and we are sceptical because while Israel is talking about evacuating certain settlements from Gaza, which is good, they seem to be in the same token preparing for expanding and consolidating the Israeli illegal settlements in the vast majority of the occupied territories which is the West Bank, and I believe, talking about the road map, I believe that the Gaza disengagement contradicts with the road map and the international community is trying to put a condition for accepting the Gaza withdrawal, which is developing it in a way to make it part of the road map, and my suggestion is, it can fit with the road map if the withdrawal from certain settlements in Gaza is accompanied with stopping settlement expansion in the West Bank.

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Audience questions

TIM SEBASTIAN
All right. I want to throw the discussion up now to the floor and take questions from you. Can I ask you please to stand up if you have a question, and also to just ask a single question. That way we can go round more of the audience. There's a gentleman at the back who has his hand up. We'll get a microphone to you, sir.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
My question is to Dr. Leverett. When two parties to a conflict are sitting next to each other and saying, 'Let's give peace a chance,' why does the erstwhile superpower and the current superpower kill it before giving it an opportunity to succeed?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Dr. Leverett.
FLYNT LEVERETT
I think that you certainly have seen more activity from the Bush administration in the last few weeks and months on this issue than you saw during most of President Bush's first term in office. I certainly don't want to argue against giving peace a chance to succeed. In many respects, in the things that I have said this evening, I hope that I'm wrong, and I hope that the process we're embarking on right now will take us to a resolution of this conflict that has gone on for far too long and cost far too many lives. I hope I am wrong but if I look at it as an analyst, as someone with experience in policy and with this document in particular, the road map, I have to come to the conclusion that the road map is not an adequate basis for resolving this conflict, and I worry, as I said, that down the road we will reach a point where expectations about the political process surrounding final status issues, will prove to be so different on the Israeli side and on the Arab side, Arab and the side of international community, that this process will break down once again.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Alastair Crooke, I know you want to come in here. It is a good question though, isn't it? Why is it for the outside powers to take away something that the parties on the ground believe is actually in their interest, or they seek to denigrate it?
ALASTAIR CROOKE
I think it's very difficult for those arguing in favour of the motion to show that we are as much interested in a solution, and it's actually the solution that we're looking for more than the process that is important, and I think what you have heard now from our colleagues here is actually something that is quite dangerous, quite dangerous because they say, 'Look, we know it's imperfect. It doesn't really work, it doesn't fulfil its needs exactly, but we need to just go on with it.' Both sides know it is deeply flawed. There are elements of it and they know they won't work. I remember asking George Tenant at one point why the disarmament factions were included in the security provisions when he knew perfectly well that this was not practical for the Palestinian Authority to undertake, and he said, 'Well, politicians wanted it. They would like it in the process.' Both sides know it's flawed, and what this risks is actually raising expectations yet again only to have them crash further, and the possibility of further divisions amongst Palestinian groups.
Audience questionTIM SEBASTIAN
All right, let's take another question. Lady in the second row there.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
I'd like to ask a question to Mr. Michael. In your opinion, Mr. Michael, why don't the Jewish groups who call for peace have any influences on the American administration or the Israeli government to apply the issue between Palestine and Israel?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Right, Peace Now presumably and groups like that, why don't they have more influence on the government and the Americans?
MICHAEL MELCHIOR
Well, as you know, there are different opinions both in America and in Israel, and even amongst the Palestinians. That is the nature of democracy, and we are in turmoil. People are afraid, people have been hurting, and it's not easy to see the pain of the other in such a situation, but I do think that there is an influence. Whereas I agree with my co-speaker in killing the motion so that we can revive this plan, we disagree on the process which is going on in Israel today, and actually I'm pleased that the Palestinian President Abu-Mazen thought much more positively recently about the disengagement and how it will bring us on track of how important it is, because we have to take a very deep debate in Israeli society, and the Israeli peace movement, the Israeli left, have today had a serious influence on the developments in Israel. The fact is that today, Sharon is going with a plan which is supported by the whole Israeli left and which, in his own party and by the settler movements and others is considered to be treason, and it is because we are right, because we have a line which will bring us to something sane for the Israeli people who needs borders, we haven't had borders, and that can only happen if also the Palestinians have peace and borders. So we do have an influence, maybe not enough but we will try to do a better job in the future.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Let me take someone from the student population. The gentleman there.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
The question is to Mr. Leverett. For decades thousands of Palestinians and Israelis have been killed and the people of the Middle East have been living in intolerable political conditions because of this conflict. The road map is not perfect, I agree, but what do you think makes more sense: allow killing to go on by both sides and allow human rights violations in the Middle East to go on until a perfect plan comes some day, or try to work with an imperfect plan which might achieve something after all?
FLYNT LEVERETT
I believe I said in my opening remark that certainly there could be diplomatic activity and process generated by the road map, and if that diplomatic activity and process has the effect of reducing or God willing, even stopping the kinds of violence that we've seen over the last few years, that is obviously a good thing, but to return to my main point, I do not believe that the road map as it is presently constructed, can serve as the basis for actually resolving this conflict, for getting a political settlement to this conflict that leads to the two-state outcome, Israel and Palestine side by side, which is I think the way that we ultimately solve this conflict and allow this region to move on.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So given there is a sense of urgency at the moment, palpable sense of urgency, what would you like to see actually move the process forward then?
FLYNT LEVERETT
I think what is required at this point is an effort by the United States, possibly in conjunction with the Quartet, possibly in conjunction with the modern Arab states that have worked with the Quartet up until this point, to spell out a little more specifically than we have so far the parameters on which final status issues need to be laid down.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You mean a destination, where they're going to?
FLYNT LEVERETT
Yes, make the destination clearer than it is at this point. I think that's critical in the short term to empowering Palestinians to do the things they need to do on the ground. I think it is also critical moving beyond that point to tell people on both sides that they are going to have their fundamental needs met.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Gentleman in the grey suit, your question.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
This is a question for Rabbi Melchior. My question to you is this, and I need to sort of make two points to contextualise it. First, we can see that every time there's a danger of peace breaking out, it seems to me that Sharon stages some sort of provocation and gets people at each other's throats again, and also despite Oslo and despite the road map and everything, we still see the acquisition of Palestinian lands either by force or more frequently by some sort of quasi legalistic device, so my question is this: Is it not reasonable to conclude that the Sharon government is content to have, we'll say, stratagems such as the road map and tolerance for low-intensity conflict to continue in the medium to long-term, while it further extends its control of the occupied territories, and ultimately by creating facts on the ground will only leave a Palestinian state that can be only described as a Bantustan?
MICHAEL MELCHIOR
Well, I politically have never been a supporter of Mr. Sharon and I would probably also not be it in the future, but I am a member in his government now and I will tell you that I am doing that because I sincerely believe that he is the right person, at this stage, to take the steps bringing us in the right direction, and I'm pleased to hear from President Mubarak and from President Abu-Mazen the same. So something has happened, something serious has happened, things have happened in the Palestinian side and things have happened in the Israeli side. Also Sharon himself has changed opinions from what he had before. Now, I just want to reiterate, the battle which was going on inside Israel today is so sharp, not because we're talking about the 2% and the settlements in Gaza and the 7,500 settlers living there, and in the Northern Samaria. It's going on this way because everybody in Israel knows, as you rightly stated also, that this is a first step, and that then we're into a road map which eventually will lead to the settlements also on the West Bank and Judea and Samaria, although I'm telling you as a religious Jew, I feel that this territory is our territory, but I know that the Palestinians feel the same and I know that in order to have peace, we both have to compromise, and therefore we will have to leave the large amount of those settlements, and we will have to find, I hope, agreements with the Palestinians based on the '67 line. Maybe we'll swap some different kinds, as was discussed, by the way in all different talks which have been the Abed Rabbo/Beilin Plan and the Camp David and the Taba and the Geneva, all of them have had a certain weight because we know the reality on the ground, and we will have to find a way to concretise that, but I think that we're wrong. Here I would just like to add to this, you know, you're right, a road map raises expectations, but if we don't do something to raise expectations, to put a little optimism, then we will fall into a total different kind of mode. If people think that we're going to go on forever and ever in this conflict and we can't bring a prospective, a hope of vision to our people, then we're going to be back in the blood chain, so I wouldn't be afraid of raising expectations, just as we know that they should be realistic, and that the road map doesn't solve all the problems.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Ghassan Khatib, you've been writing busily.
GHASSAN KHATIB
Just some clarification, just to set the record straight. I never heard Abu-Mazen referring in a positive way to Sharon's policies or practices. I mean, the impression on our side in general, including Abu-Mazen, that now Sharon is in front of a test. If Sharon will take the opportunity of the current cease-fire by adhering to the immediate obligations on Israel in this road map, including for example dismantling the outpost settlements in all the territories, and stopping the expansion of settlements in addition to dismantling the closure regime and removing the Israeli forces from the Palestinian cities, then I think that Sharon is going to be responsible for wasting this opportunity.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right.
GHASSAN KHATIB
The second point, if you'll allow me. How can evacuating settlements in Gaza be a positive step while the rest of the settlements in the vast majority of the territories are being expanded? The criteria of judgment for the seriousness of this Gaza withdrawal is if Israel will stop the expansion of settlements everywhere, otherwise it will be just a cover-up.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Alastair Crooke, a brief point because there are a lot of people waiting for the questions.
ALASTAIR CROOKE
Very brief. We've had it presented as if there were just two alternatives. Either you do nothing or else you allow and follow the route of some optimism and trial. It's not that. There's a third alternative, and the third alternative is actually to address and confront some of the flaws in the process, and we could just start off by saying, as a first starter, Palestinian cohesion and unity is not only a Palestinian interest but it's an Israeli interest if we're going to genuinely end the conflict.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, next question. The lady up there.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
I'd like to address the question to Mr. Ghassan Khatib. The road map is probably not dead but I think a lot of us believe it's in a vegetative stage. Do you really believe that Israel will make any fair or sincere measures to resuscitate the road map?
Audience questionGHASSAN KHATIB
Frankly speaking, I think in my analysis this Israeli government is not interested at all in the road map. I think that this Israeli government will face a challenge if the cease-fire will work and if we will move towards certain obligations that are stipulated in the road map vis-à-vis Israel, because one of the earliest obligations would be stopping all kind of settlement expansion in addition to dismantling what is called outpost settlements. That's why Israel in its approval to the road map, burdened its acceptance of the road map with 14 reservations, that's tantamount to eventually not accepting the road map. Since then Israel has been in practical terms not in co-operative mood with all efforts that has been put forward in order to proceed in accordance with the road map. I agree with what has been said, simply the insistence on behalf of Israel to make the security requirements in the road map as a pre-requisite into moving to other components whilst responsible for killing all the previous initiatives that you referred to, because we believe that there is a security component, but there is a political component and there is also an economic component, and these should be treated as one package, so the Palestinians should see, for example, that there is an end to the expansion of settlements, that there is an end to the economic suffering, to the Israeli political punishment measures which are responsible for the increased poverty in Palestinian and so on, alongside with measures to stop the violence..
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, OK. Gentleman in the yellow shirt up there.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Thank you very much. My question is to Mr. Crooke. A while ago you spoke of the fact that international community which stands for the third party in all of this and whose representative are you, is interested in the solution, not the process itself, and since the opinion is such, I was wondering, why participate in the creation and launching of such a process which in its constitution does not offer any solution to the conflicted sides. Thank you.
ALASTAIR CROOKE
Thank you. If you are looking at the process, to start with it is very important that there should people on the inside who are directly involved in it, who can point out the flaws and the failings of the process. Simply to stand on the outside and do nothing as has been rightly pointed out, is not a solution. It also takes people on the inside to point out the flaws. Whether they're addressed or not is more than just one or two people, it's a question of the involvement of Israel, the United States, Russia and the United Nations.
TIM SEBASTIAN
One of our student community. The lady up there on the right.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
My question is directed to Mr. Leverett and Mr. Khatib. I would like to know, what is the difference between this framework for peace, this road map for peace, and the other road maps for peace. Mr. Melchior mentioned Oslo for example. You mentioned the flaws of that. What is the difference between the flaws of this one and the implementation process and the flaws of the previous ones? How can we implement this one if we haven't been able to implement those before? It doesn't seem to provide us with a clear framework of implementation for peace.
FLYNT LEVERETT
Obviously Mr. Khatib will have his own thoughts on this. I think that your question is essentially confirming my line of argument about the road map..
TIM SEBASTIAN
That's why give it over to Mr. Khatib quickly.
FLYNT LEVERETT
Yes, OK, that's fine. My point is that this framework is not going to work significantly better than Oslo worked or than previous frameworks worked.
GHASSAN KHATIB
Look, I believe that the road map is built on the accumulation of previous attempts and previous documents. If you read the road map, you'll see in the preamble all the previous processes and previous agreements and previous UN resolutions. You see the Oslo process referred to, you see the Madrid Conference referred to, you see the Security Council 242, you see the Arab initiative referred to, so I think that one of the good things in it is that it encompasses all the different efforts and initiatives that have been presented so far, and added to it the steps that made it a road map, because previous attempts were about trying to deal with the context. Now this road map is suggesting particular steps that would take us into the end game, which is in our view very clear in this road map, which is ending the occupation. That's why we think that it's a little bit different from previous attempts.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Right. Gentleman right at the top.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
My question is directed to Mr. Melchior and Mr. Khatib.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
My question is, considering the optimism that you have for the peace process, has the demise of Yasser Arafat, a rude word to use, contributed to your optimism?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Ghassan Khatib.
GHASSAN KHATIB
No. I don't think at all that the absence of the late President Arafat has been responsible for the changes. I think that the current Palestinian leadership is continuing more or less the same positions, the same political positions that have been held by the previous leadership. I think that...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Is that strictly true? It has done a lot more on the security front, hasn't it? Abu-Mazen since he took over, he's done a lot more.
GHASSAN KHATIB
Abu-Mazen received positive treatment from the other side that wasn't presented to President Arafat, and let me be clear in this point, because it's very sensitive. The Israelis were refusing to accept a cease-fire during the period of President Arafat. Now they are accepting it. There has been several attempts during the life of President Arafat to try to work out a cease-fire. Israel was refusing in principle to accept the concept. This time Israel is accepting this concept, so I think that there has been changes everywhere and I think that there is a change in the Israeli attitude that contributed to allowing this new reality to…
TIM SEBASTIAN
Would you agree with that, Rabbi Melchior?
MICHAEL MELCHIOR
I would like to say this: Israel cannot decide who should be the leaders of the Palestinians, just as the Palestinians also have to deal with whoever we decide, wisely or not wisely, to choose as our leaders.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But Israel didn't deal with Yasser Arafat.
MICHAEL MELCHIOR
But we dealt with Yasser Arafat a long time. I want to tell you, there is a substantive difference today. Today there is a president of the Palestinian people, an elected president, who from the first day came out loudly and clearly against the intifada and against the violence, loudly and clearly from the first day on the intifada, and this has a different influence, of course, in the internal debate inside the State of Israel. I would like, with your permission, just to add to a point which was made before.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK Very briefly.
MICHAEL MELCHIOR
I'll try to do it briefly. We have no guarantees that this will work. Nobody claims that. But we have a point of reference which is accepted and which we need in the present situation. That's what it gives us. I also think, by the way, that Oslo, although people say that it was a total failure, I think we should have gone for it, yes. There were people who were responsible for this process during the time who were against Oslo, and made it fail, but it wasn't that the concept and basis was wrong. There were things which we've learnt during this process and just as Mr. Ghassan Khatib has said, the things which we've learnt are now part of this and we have to follow it up with conscience dealing with the flaws. Let's not kill the baby just because it has flaws which we need to mend.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, gentleman in the third row.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Thank you very much. A point for our gentleman here who participated in writing the road map, the road map was written after September 11th and in the mist of preparing the Iraqi situation. Was that a plan from the United States to show the Arab world that there is an interest in resolving this conflict, which actually is fuelling all the tension that we see around? Thank you.
FLYNT LEVERETT
I can tell you exactly how the road got its genesis. After the President gave his June 24th 2002 speech on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, King Abdullah of Jordan came to Washington basically to make an argument that that speech was not enough, that there needed to be more political cover on the Palestinian issue, that we needed an operational plan. The Foreign Minister for His Majesty, Marwan Muasher, came in to see Dr. Rice the day before the King went into the Oval Office. Foreign Minister Muasher, a very, very articulate diplomat, made this argument in, I thought, a very persuasive way and was told by Dr. Rice, no, there would be no operational plan, no road map, the speech would stand on its own. The next day the King came in to see the President and he did something that I thought was very gutsy. Even though Dr. Rice had told the Foreign Minister no the previous day, the King raised it directly with the President in the Oval Office, saying 'We need this.' His Foreign Minister, who was with him, helped him make his case. The President heard this out, looked over at Assistant Secretary William Burns and me and said, 'That's sounds pretty reasonable, let's see what we can do about that.' That's the genesis of the road map.
TIM SEBASTIAN
That's the way foreign policy is done these days in the White House?
FLYNT LEVERETT
I can only speak about the time that I was there.

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Vote result

TIM SEBASTIAN
Ladies and gentlemen, we've come to the point in the proceedings where we're going to vote on the motion. If you would take your voting devices, you have two choices. You have a yellow button which you press if you're for the motion, and the red one if you're against the motion, and would you do that now. You only need to do it once to register. You don't need to keep your finger on the buzzer. 'This House believes that the road map to peace is dead.' Voting will last another 10 seconds. If those who haven't already pressed the button would do so now. Thank you very much. Let me also remind you, as we're waiting for the results of the vote to come in, as Ali Willis said, this debate will be broadcast on the BBC over the weekend, both on Saturday and Sunday, a total of four times. We hope very much that you will tune in. And also if you would take a look at our web site which www.thedohadebates.com and let us know what kind of feedback you have, what it is you liked and what you didn't like about the debates. There we have the results coming up on the screen. So 54.1% were against the motion, 45.9 are for it. The motion that 'This House believes that the road map for peace is dead' has been rejected by this House. Thank you very much indeed. Ladies and gentlemen, it just remains for me to thank our eminent speakers, some of whom have travelled an enormous distance to get here. Thank you to them, thank you also to you for coming here tonight. We'll be back on March 30^th with the next debate. Please do join us then, please apply for tickets. Please let us know what you thought of this one. Thank you very much indeed and have a safe journey home. Good night, thank you.

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