U.S. Set To Verify Fulfillment of Peace Plan Requirements

By Ori Nir

Published May 02, 2003, issue of May 02, 2003.
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WASHINGTON — A special addendum to the “road map,” the American-led plan to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, says that the United States will take the lead in verifying that Israel and the Palestinians fulfill the plan’s requirements.

This leading American role — especially on the question of whether the Palestinian Authority is meeting the plan’s security-related demands — was one of Israel’s main conditions for accepting the road map. Israelis and their supporters have voiced fears that judging Palestinian compliance would be left to European officials, who are viewed as unfriendly to Israel.

Bush administration sources confirmed the existence and validity of the addendum. However, they did not indicate whether it constituted an integral part of the plan or should be understood as a separate understanding reached among the members of the diplomatic Quartet — the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia — backing the plan.

The addendum, titled “Verification Mechanism for the Quartet Roadmap,” describes a series of committees that will monitor the implementation of the road map and determine if each of the parties has fulfilled its requirements before the next phase of the plan kicks in.

The document says that the “U.S. coordinator” chairing the monitoring committee will “work with” representatives of the Quartet, the Israelis and the Palestinians. It also states that the United States, in its capacity as the chair of the subcommittee, will be primarily responsible to determine, following the implementation of security arrangements, whether Israel is fulfilling its obligation to freeze settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza, as required by the road map.

The road map is divided into three phases, the first of which is aimed at defusing suspicions and restoring order after two and a half years of violence. The plan envisions a Palestinian state with provisional borders as early as this summer.

In the first phase, the plan states that the Palestinians should “immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence,” accompanied by “supportive measures undertaken by Israel.” The two sides are expected to resume security cooperation in fighting Palestinian terrorism. The Palestinians are also expected to “undertake comprehensive political reform in preparation for statehood,” while Israel takes steps “to normalize Palestinian life.”

Israel, meanwhile, is expected to withdraw its forces from Palestinian towns and villages. During the plan’s first phase Israel is also expected to freeze “all settlement activity” and later dismantle “settlement outposts created since March 2001.”

At the outset of the first phase, the Palestinians are to issue a statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, and to call for “an immediate and unconditional cease-fire.” Israel is to issue “an unequivocal statement affirming its commitment to the two-state vision,” and also to call for an end to all violence against Palestinians.

Then, during that same phase, the Palestinians, Israel, the Quartet and the Arab states are supposed to take a series of steps to solidify the cease-fire and enhance security. The onus is on the P.A., which is expected to “undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt and restrain” violent groups or individuals, rebuild and reform its security services to effectively fight terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure. The P.A. is to consolidate its security services into three organizations, reporting to “an empowered interior minister,” in the context of “a U.S. security cooperation plan.” The Palestinian forces are to deploy to areas evacuated by the Israeli military, similar to the situation that preceded September 2000.

While Palestinians take these actions, Israel is required not to take “actions undermining trust,” such as deportations, attacks on civilians and house demolitions. Israel is also expected to resume cooperation with the Palestinian security forces. The plan envisions that “as comprehensive security performance moves forward,” the Israeli military will withdraw “progressively” out of Palestinian towns and villages to restore the pre-September 2000 status quo.

The Quartet, in consultation with the parties, is supposed to establish a “monitoring mechanism” that will follow the compliance of both sides. Members of the Quartet — as well as Arab states — are also to help train the Palestinian security forces. Arab states are also expected to cut off funding and support to Palestinian terrorists.

Another realm that the road map addresses in the first phase is Palestinian institution building. It mentions the appointment of a prime minister, the adoption of a constitution, legal reforms, laying the legal and administrative groundwork for elections, and then holding “free, open and fair elections.” Israel, in turn, is required to facilitate these measures by lifting restrictions on the movement of Palestinian officials, supporting non-governmental organizations involved in the preparations for elections, and opening Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, based on a commitment that they will not violate agreements banning the operation of the P.A. in the city.

The second phase starts after Palestinian elections have been held and ends with the creation of an “independent Palestinian state with provisional borders in 2003.” American officials have said that this deadline is flexible, but within reasonable limits. In this second phase, as security cooperation intensifies, Palestinians focus on building institutions. An international conference is to be convened, in order to launch Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the provisional borders of the Palestinian state. Israel, in order to “enhance maximum territorial contiguity” for the Palestinians, is to take “further action on settlements,” which is not specified.

Phase three focuses on measures that both parties should take to prepare for “Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at a permanent status agreement” in 2005, a deadline that is also flexible. These negotiations will be launched by a second international conference. A final agreement will address all outstanding debated issues, including Jerusalem, borders, refugees and settlements.

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