Before the Road Map–a diplomatic initiative to help break the stalemate between the Israelis and the Palestinian–several other diplomatic initiatives tried and failed to achieve that same goal. The following article looks at two of those plans.
The dynamics of the various diplomatic attempts to end the Intifada and resuscitate the peace process have all been influenced decisively by the views and actions of the United States.
The so-called Al-Aqsa Intifada broke out in September 2000 in the waning days of the Clinton administration; many observers regard the failure of the Camp David summit convened by President Bill Clinton in July of that year as one of the triggers of the Palestinian uprising. Clinton and his staff–with the full agreement of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak–reacted by redoubling efforts to arrive at a speedy resolution of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Despite marathon sessions conducted by Israeli and Palestinian teams in Washington and at Taba on the Egyptian-Israeli border in December 2000 and January 2001, no breakthrough was achieved. Soon after Clinton was succeeded by George W. Bush, the Barak government was replaced by that of Ariel Sharon, from the right-wing Likud party.
The attitude of the new Bush administration to the Middle East peace process initially appeared to be the polar opposite of the Clinton administration. Where Clinton had invested a lot of time and energy into nearly every detail of the peace process, Bush projected aloofness from the subject, exhibiting a preference for concentrating on domestic US issues over matters overseas.
The Mitchell Plan
Given the central importance of U.S. foreign policy in the region, however, it was impossible for Washington to ignore the increasing violence of the Intifada. On April 30, 2001, a group of international diplomats called the “Sharem El-sheikh Fact Finding Committee” published a report subsequently termed the Mitchell Plan after the committee’s chairman, George Mitchell. The Mitchell plan, which was adopted by the Bush administration as a basis for diplomatic talks, called for ending the violence, rebuilding confidence between the two sides, and resuming negotiations.
The problem was that the question of what comes first–the end of violence (which Israel insisted was a necessary first step) or the resumption of negotiations (which the Palestinian Authority asserted was required first)–was itself in dispute.
The Tenet Plan
When the Mitchell plan failed to lead to any substantive results, another plan, named after CIA director George Tenet, was promulgated on June, 13, 2001. The Tenet plan called for an immediate cease-fire, followed by an Israeli pullback of military forces to the lines of September 2000. These would be considered confidence-building measures leading to the implementation of the Mitchell plan, which would in turn lead to the resumption of negotiations.
The Zinni Plan
The Tenet plan did not have any more success than the Mitchell plan, and it was followed in turn by the Zinni plan, promoted by U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni, who was sent to the area in order to persuade the two sides to adopt the Tenet plan.
None of these diplomatic initiatives managed to gain any traction with respect to the main issue of which side would blink first in its estimation. Israelis believed that offering political concessions prior to a cease-fire would be tantamount to rewarding Palestinian violence; Palestinian leaders were equally firm in their insistence that without some tangible achievement, the Palestinian public would not accept a declared cessation of fighting.
Even worse, some observers and journalists began ridiculing the indirect way diplomatic efforts were being presented–the Zinni plan was intended to pave the way for the Tenet plan, which might finally enable the implementation of the Mitchell plan. In the end, none of these plans went very far.