The Road Map is officially dead. Its cause of death: the Bush administration’s impatience. In a stunningly frank statement to the Washington Times, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice begrudged the Road Map’s “sequentiality,” according to which the cessation of Palestinian terrorism and Israeli settlement-building were prerequisites for final status negotiations. “You don’t want people to get hung up on settlement activity or the fact that the Palestinians haven’t fully been able to deal with the terrorist infrastructure and prevent that from moving forward on the negotiations,” Rice said.
In today’s Boston Globe, columnist Jeff Jacoby lambasted Rice’s statements, arguing that they marked the end of the Bush doctrine:
In its hunger for Arab support against Iran – and perhaps in a quest for a historic “legacy” – the administration has dropped “with us or with the terrorists.” It is hellbent instead on bestowing statehood upon a regime that stands unequivocally with the terrorists. “Frankly, it’s time for the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Rice says.
Though Jacoby seems to forget that it’s Iran—and not Abbas’ current government—that “stands unequivocally with the terrorists,” he is right to confront Rice’s apparent A.D.D. After all, the Road Map was only launched once it became abundantly clear that countering Palestinian terrorism and final status negotiations could not be done “in parallel,” as Rice suggests—a historical detail that the Secretary has sadly forgotten.
Yet, as far as Israelis and Palestinians concerned, Rice’s sudden memory lapse will hardly matter. In the aftermath of President Bush’s recent trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories, tensions have flared. Today, Palestinian militants fired 40 rockets from Gaza, while Israel has killed 24 Palestinians, including seven civilians, in the past two days. In short, the death of the Road Map has no consequence for Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects, which have always been modest and remain so.
But as far as American credibility is concerned, Rice’s statements do not bode well. Indeed, if the sudden push for Israeli-Palestinian peace is really all about building a broad coalition against Iran, Rice’s dismissal of the Road Map—which was supported by the U.N., E.U., and Russia after much arm-twisting—is truly counterintuitive. Moreover, what kind of message does it send when the Secretary of State kills her own administration’s peace plan because she finds the first steps too challenging?