On the road to a two-state solution?


The internationally accepted framework for negotiations between Israel and the PLO is contained in a document called A performance-based roadmap to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict [1].  This was drawn up by the US, under the auspices of the so-called Quartet (EU, Russia, US and UN Secretary General), and presented to Israel and the PLO on 30 April 2003.


This Roadmap requires Israel to take a number of well-defined steps prior to the start of negotiations.  These include:


(a)      “Israeli leadership issues unequivocal statement affirming its commitment to the two-state vision of an independent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel, as expressed by President Bush, and calling for an immediate end to violence against Palestinians everywhere.


(b)      “GOI [Government of Israel] immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001”, and


(c)      “Consistent with the Mitchell Report, GOI freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements)”.


Halt colonisation

Israel’s unceasing colonisation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has already jeopardised  the creation of a viable Palestinian state in these territories (and Gaza).  So, it is essential that this colonisation process be halted before negotiations that are supposed to lead to a viable Palestinian state begin.


During the eight years of peace negotiations after Oslo was signed, the number of settlers in the occupied territories doubled.  In other words, during those eight years of peace negotiations, Israel moved in as many settlers as they had during the 20 years prior to that. 


Michael Tarazy, a legal advisor to the PLO, once said: “It’s like you and I are negotiating over a piece of pizza. “How much of the pizza do I get? And how much do you get? And while we are negotiating it, you are eating it”.   Israel must be forced to stop eating the pizza, otherwise there will be no pizza to negotiate about.


It should be emphasised, of course, that all of Israel’s settlement building in the Occupied Palestinian territories is in breach of international law, not just future settlement building.   To be specific, it is contrary to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states:


“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” [2]


Despite this, around 500,000 Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the numbers are growing all the time.


Israel has resisted repeated demands by the Security Council to cease settling these territories and remove the existing settlers.  These demands began as long ago as March 1979, when the Council passed resolution 446, followed by 452 in July 1979 and 465 in March 1980.  Israel has refused to comply – and the international community has failed to make it comply.


Roadmap internationally accepted

On 25 May 2003, the Israeli Government, headed by Ariel Sharon, approved the Roadmap by 12 votes to 7, but entered 14 reservations [3].  However, these reservations did not relate to points (a), (b) or (c).  The PLO accepted the roadmap without reservations.


The Roadmap – in its original form, without reference to Israel’s reservations – was endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council in resolution 1515, passed on 19 November 2003.  In addition, the resolution:


“Calls on the parties to fulfil their obligations under the Roadmap in cooperation with the Quartet and to achieve the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security;” [4]


Thus, the Roadmap is the internationally accepted framework for negotiations between Israel and the PLO about the establishment of a Palestinian state.



In reality, no Israeli Government has ever articulated a clear and unequivocal commitment to the establishment of “an independent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state”, which is the most basic aspect of the Roadmap.


Although the governments led by Ariel Sharon and by his successor, Ehud Olmert, were prepared to say they accepted a Palestinian state as the goal of negotiations, there was never much doubt that the “state” they envisaged would be, to a considerable extent, under Israeli control, and there was grave doubt about whether they envisaged this “state” ever coming into existence.


At Annapolis in November 2007, Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas put their names to a Joint Understanding committing themselves to “immediately implement their respective obligations under the performance-based road map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict issued by the Quartet on 30 April, 2003”.  And, President Bush went so far as to say that “Israel must demonstrate it's support for the creation of a prosperous and successful Palestinian state by removing unauthorized outposts, ending settlement expansion, …” [5].  But, in practice, Israel never implemented pre-conditions (b) and (c) – the freezing of settlement activity and the removal of settlement outposts – and the Bush administration didn’t force it to do so.


On the contrary, according to Peace Now, “1,257 new structures were built in settlements during 2008, compared to 800 in 2007, an increase of 57 percent” [6].  Furthermore, according to Peace Now, building more than doubled in settlement outposts, 261 structures being built in 2008, compared to 98 the year before.  Under the roadmap, outposts erected since March 2001 should have been dismantled, not expanded.


Obama says

The Obama administration has stated clearly that negotiations must be based on the Roadmap, and that Israel must fulfil the pre-conditions specified within it, beginning with the acceptance that the goal of negotiations must be two states.   In his speech in Cairo on 4 June 2009, Obama said:


“The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.


“That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest.  And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires.  The obligations – the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear.  For peace to come, it is time for them – and all of us – to live up to our responsibilities. 


“At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's.  The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.  This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace.  It is time for these settlements to stop.” [7]


Earlier on 27 May 2009, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was even more emphatic about settlement activity:


“With respect to settlements, the President was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here. He wants to see a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions. We think it is in the best interests of the effort that we are engaged in that settlement expansion cease. That is our position.” [8]


Netanyahu says

Initially, Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, resolutely refused to utter the phrase “Palestinian state”.  However, under pressure from Obama, he allowed it to pass his lips in his speech on 14 June 2009 [9], but he made it crystal clear that the “state” he envisaged would be neither independent, viable or sovereign, as required by the Roadmap.  The security needs of Israel demanded, he said, “clear commitments” from the US that “in a future peace agreement, the territory controlled by the Palestinians will be demilitarized”, by which he meant:


without an army, without control of its airspace, and with effective security measures to prevent weapons smuggling into the territory - real monitoring, and not what occurs in Gaza today. And obviously, the Palestinians will not be able to forge military pacts. Without this, sooner or later, these territories will become another Hamastan.”


Significantly, he never used the phrase “two-state solution”, understandably so, since that would grant the Palestinian “state” he proposed the same status as Israel.


In addition, he unequivocally rejected the Roadmap pre-condition that the Israeli government must freeze all settlement activity, saying:


“We have no intention of building new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements.  But there is a need to enable the residents to live normal lives, to allow mothers and fathers to raise their children like families elsewhere.”


This is generally referred to as allowing for the “natural growth” of settlements.  Family expansion could, of course, be catered for by families moving elsewhere, for instance, to Israel.


In an interesting article in the Washington Post on 14 June 2000 [10], Daniel Kurtzer, who was the US Ambassador to Israel form 2001 to 2005, pointed out that the phrase “including natural growth of settlements” in the 2001 Mitchell Report and the 2003 Roadmap had been inserted precisely because Israel had been abusing the concept of “natural growth” as a justification for expanding settlements.


The main point of Kurtzer’s article was to rebut charges from Israel that, by insisting on the freezing of all settlement activity, the US was going back on a formal understanding Israel had arrived at with the Bush administration in 2003/4.  As Israel tells the story, the US had accepted continuing building as long as it was within the “construction line” of settlements.  According to Kurtzer, who was US Ambassador to Israel at the time, “there was no such understanding”.


It remains to be seen if the US is prepared to put whatever pressure on Israel is necessary to make it adhere to the Roadmap pre-conditions, including the freezing of all settlement activity.  If not, the pizza will continue to shrink, making a Palestinian state less and less viable.


Lieberman says

Netanyahu made no mention of the Roadmap in his speech.  Understandably so, since he cannot accept it as the basis for negotiations, given the pre-conditions contained within it.  But, mindful of the fact that Israel (and the US) is forever demanding that Palestinians stick to past agreements, he hasn’t specifically repudiated the Roadmap either.


Strangely, at his inauguration as Foreign Minister on 1 April 2009, Avigdor Lieberman, stated explicitly that he accepts the Roadmap.  Here’s what he said:


“… we would honor all the agreements and all the undertakings of previous governments. The continuity of government is respected in Israel. I voted against the Road Map, but that was the only document approved by the Cabinet and by the Security Council - I believe it was Resolution 1505 [1515 actually]. It is a binding resolution and it binds this government as well.”  [11]


That is bizarre, given that the Roadmap commits Israel to a two-state solution and a complete freeze on settlement activity.  His assertion that Security Council resolutions are binding on Israel is equally bizarre.  It means that he should immediately expel himself from the settlement in the West Bank where he lives, in accordance with Security Council resolutions 446, 452 and 465.


EU says

The EU has also been firm in its insistence that Israel must obey its commitments under the Roadmap.  The conclusions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting on 15 June 2009 on the Middle East included the following:


“The Council reiterates its commitment to the two-state solution with an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian state, comprising the West Bank and Gaza, living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel. The Council confirms its view that this constitutes a fundamental European interest. 


The European Union calls on the government of Israel to commit unequivocally to the two-state solution and welcomes the initial step, following the Israeli policy review, announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of commitment to a peace that would include a Palestinian state . It urges both parties to take immediate steps to resume peace negotiations, respecting previous agreements and understandings. To that effect, the Council also calls on both parties to implement their obligations under the Roadmap.


“The Council remains deeply concerned by settlement activities, house demolitions and evictions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including in East Jerusalem. The Council urges the government of Israel to immediately end settlement activities, including in East Jerusalem and including natural growth, and to dismantle all outposts erected since March 2001. It reiterates that settlements are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to peace.” [12]


Now, all that’s necessary is for the EU to apply political and economic pressure on Israel to make this a reality.  The EU is in a position to do so, because it has granted Israel privileged access to the EU market, under the EU-Israel Association Agreement, and around a third of Israel’s exports are sold into that market.  That provides the EU with powerful leverage – if it had the will to use it. 


It could begin by initiating a formal inquiry about whether Israel is living up to the human rights obligations in Article 2 of the Association Agreement.  It wouldn’t be difficult for the EU to find that it wasn’t – if it had a mind to.


Upgrade on hold

The 9th Meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council took place on 15 June 2009.  Foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, represented Israel.  At the 8th Meeting in June 2008, the EU agreed to Israel’s request to upgrade its relations with the EU [13] and in December 2008 it made a series of concrete proposals to this end [14].


Over the last few months, in the aftermath of Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza and the coming to power of a government led by Binyamin Netanyahu, the signs were that the upgrade was being put on hold.


For example, an article by EU External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner was published in Ha’aretz on 17 April 2009.  This was entitled The offer on the table, referring to the upgrade.  In essence, this made the upgrade conditional on Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution (and provoked heated criticism of the Commissioner by Israel):


“That offer still stands. For it to be taken up and pursued, however, we will need to be sure that we are working with the same terms of reference. For Europeans, the context of EU Israel relations remains the same: work for a prosperous, secure and peaceful Middle East, with an independent, viable and democratic Palestinian state living peacefully beside Israel, with East Jerusalem as its capital. …


The EU, as Israel's partner and friend, expects the new Israeli government to help implement the vision of a two-state solution. Recent activities intended to create new facts on the ground in and around Jerusalem run counter to this vision. Only a negotiated settlement will bring security and end the violence. Living up to past agreements, including those made in the context of multilateral forums, is essential.” [15]


In the light of this, it wasn’t a great surprise when the upgrade wasn’t put into effect at the Association Council meeting on 15 June 2009.


(The implementation of the upgrade proposals requires the development and approval of a new Action Plan within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), but such an Action Plan has not been drawn up and approved.  The formal position is that the EU-Israel relations will continue to be governed by the existing Action Plan, which expired in April 2009.)


The formal EU position on the upgrade at the Council meeting was as follows:


“The upgrade needs also to be, and to be seen, in the context of the broad range of our common interests and objectives. These notably include the resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict through the implementation of the two-state solution, the promotion of peace, prosperity and stability in the Middle East and the search for joint answers to challenges which could threaten these goals.” [16]


Unlike the Commissioner’s formulation in Ha’aretz, this doesn’t go as far as making the upgrade conditional on Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution, but it comes close.


After the meeting, statements by some EU foreign ministers give grounds for hope that the upgrade will not go ahead without some movement by Israel.


For example, French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, was reported as being “sceptical that Mr Netanyahu's speech was a genuine endorsement of a viable state for the Palestinians”.  He went on: “Without a Palestinian state, there is no chance for peace in the region” [17].


Carl Bildt, the Swedish Foreign Minister, said: “The fact that he uttered the word state is a small step forward”, adding: “Whether what he mentioned can be defined as a state is a subject of some debate”.


Franco Frattini, the former EU commissioner and current foreign minister of Italy, which has been one of Israel's strongest backers in the EU, described the Israeli leader's wording over Jerusalem as “worrying”.  Netanyahu had reiterated his government's stance that Jerusalem is the "united capital of Israel”, which conflicts with the Roadmap stipulation that there be “a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide”.



David Morrison

20 June 2009





[1]  unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/0/6129b9c832fe59ab85256d43004d87fa

[2]  www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/7c4d08d9b287a42141256739003e636b/


[3]  www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=297230

[4]  unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/


[5]  www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/928652.html

[6]  www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1059483.html

[7]  www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/


[8]  www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/05/124009.htm

[9]  www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Speeches+by+Israeli+leaders/2009/


[10]  www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2009/06/12/


[11]  www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/About+the+Ministry/Foreign_Minister/Speeches/


[12]  www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/gena/108500.pdf

[13]  www.delisr.ec.europa.eu/english/specialftr.asp?id=59

[14]  www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cmsUpload/104571.pdf

[15]  ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/ferrerowaldner/speeches/speeches/


[16]  www.delisr.ec.europa.eu/docs/Statement%20of%20the%20European%20Union.doc

[17]  euobserver.com/24/28310