Mideast Peace: A Road Map

A U.S.-led effort to stem the violence that dominates Israeli-Palestinian relations.

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The year 2003 saw continued violence between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as new attempts at peace. The following article describes the most prominent of these peace efforts.

Among the momentous effects of Al-Qaeda's violent strikes against the United States on September 11, 2001, was a re-orientation of American policy toward the Middle East. The new paradigm adopted in Washington viewed much of the world as being divided into opponents versus supporters of terrorism. Furthermore, the roots of terrorism were ascribed to Mideast regimes that caused social and economic failures while pursuing the interests of small groups of ruling elites.

road map to peacePalestinian Regime Change 

The Bush administration increasingly came to view the regime of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat as a hindrance rather than a partner. Widespread corruption in the Palestinian Authority and its lack of a stable judiciary were problematic, but the convoluted nature of the PA's multiple security arms--along with mounting evidence that they were involved in or supported terror attacks against Israeli targets alongside militant groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad--persuaded influential officials in the White House that progress in the Middle East required a form of "regime change" in the Palestinian Authority. The administration advocated replacing Arafat with another Palestinian leader.

President Bush announced a new plan on June 24, 2002, in which Bush stated that the leadership of Yasser Arafat was unacceptable to the United States. The U.S. called for the election of new Palestinian leaders not compromised by terror and for the creation of a truly democratic Palestinian entity. This was balanced by support for the creation of an independent Palestinian state--the first unequivocal and open expression of such support from an American administration. The U.S. also persuaded the so-called Quartet--a group consisting of the European Union, the United Nations Secretariat, Russia, and the United States--to endorse aims consistent with its policies a month later.

Yasser Arafat, who had been under Israeli military siege in his headquarters in Ramallah since April 2002, was obviously not pleased with the suggestion that his leadership be replaced. Not much progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations was made while the U.S. waited for signs of a change in Palestinian leadership. It wasn't until March 2003 that, in response to growing international pressure, Mahmoud Abbas, better known as Abu Mazen, was appointed prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. This solution enabled Arafat to retain the title of President, thus out-ranking Abu Mazen, while the U.S. could claim that the PA indeed had adopted new leadership.

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Ziv Hellman is a Jerusalem-based writer and mathematician. A former editor at the Jerusalem Post, Ziv was a founding member of Peace Watch--the watchdog group reporting on the implementation of the Oslo Agreements. He also led the Israeli elections observer team evaluating the Palestinian Authority elections.