Roadmap or Roadkill?

Barely a week after President Bush attempted to kick-start the latest Middle East peace process with the Red Sea Summit in Jordan, the bloodletting in the Holy Land has resumed with its usual vengeance. Keeping a tally of how many Israelis and Palestinians kill each other requires daily vigilance because it’s a daily occurrence. The road map might more aptly have been named road kill.

President Bush is to be commended for taking the Middle East bull by its horns and committing to ride herd. Time will show that the map of the ranch will have to be redrawn if the bucking broncos are ever to be tamed.

One of the roadmap’s failings is that, like the Oslo peace process that preceded it to such disastrous effect, it avoids discussion of the most contentious (read intractable) issues–borders, settlements, Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees–until the end-stage ‘final status’ negotiations, so they can cause the process to unravel later rather than sooner. Another failing is in the unequal demands the roadmap places on the two warring parties, an example being the onus on the Palestinians to draft and adopt a constitution, while Israel is allowed to remain without one.

A more logical approach is to address all the issues–the tough ones at the head of the list–up front, and to frame everything strictly in the context of American values of governance. There is only one solution that is consistent with American-style democracy, and it resolves all the issues to the satisfaction of all but those on both sides who preach exclusionist segregation. It involves defeating those on the Palestinian side whose avowed aim is to create an Islamic nation in all of historic Palestine, an unacceptable recipe because it means the destruction of Israel and the disenfranchisement of the Holy Land’s Jews and Christians. It also involves defeating those on the Israeli side who espouse Jewish domination of the land, because that leaves the Muslims and Christians with not just the short straw, but no straw at all.

The two-state solution in the Holy Land is objectionable for the same reason the international community rejected it in South Africa, where it would have meant a state for blacks alongside a white state still built on–and practicing–Apartheid principles. Two infrastructures must be dismantled for peace in the Holy Land: The infrastructure of terror–the targeting of innocent civilians by whichever group or government–and the infrastructure of racism–the state-sanctioned laws that assign rights, privileges and obligations to people based solely on their religion.

Jews have a right to live in peace and security anywhere in the world, including in the Middle East, and nowhere more so than in the Holy Land. Equally so Christians and Muslims. This is disputed only by those who give precedence to religion over human rights, those who, in America, we regard as religious fanatics.

There’s only one solution, with the emphasis on ‘one’, and it is the American way. One state. One set of borders. One constitution. One set of laws that treat all citizens–regardless of race, color, religion or sex, as one. No need to dismantle a single Jewish settlement. The Palestinian refugees can all return to their ancestral homeland or be adequately compensated if they choose not to. Ditto for the Jews who left other countries–including Arab ones–to go to Israel. Jerusalem the eternal capital of the Holy Land, home to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Idealistic? Of course. But not more so than the values America’s founding fathers espoused when they charted the future of our nation, and drafted the document that has so stalwartly endured as the cornerstone of our democracy. We don’t need to draft a new constitution for Iraq. We’ve already got one as hale as any has ever been hailed to be. We just change a few names and addresses and we’re done. And it’s the same one we should impose on all the other autocracies and dictatorships in the Middle East as we promote the democratization of that region.

More than any other territory in the world, the Holy Land deserves nothing less. The only rejectionists who must be allowed to flourish are those who reject terrorism, violence, segregation, and racism. All others are obstacles to peace. America should use its power, and wielding its Constitution, its moral authority, to defeat them.

TARIF ABBOUSHI lives in Houston, Texas. He can be reached at: