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Road map for peace

The "road map" for peace is a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict proposed by a "quartet" of international entities: the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations. The principles of the plan were first outlined by U.S. President George W. Bush in a speech on June 24, 2002, in which he called for an independent Palestinian state living side by side with the Israeli state in peace. Bush is the first U.S. President to call for a Palestinian state.

In exchange for statehood, the road map requires the Palestinians to make democratic reforms and abandon the use of terrorism. Israel, for its part, must support and accept the emergence of a reformed Palestinian government and end settlement activity of the Gaza Strip and West Bank as the Palestinian terrorist threat is removed.

The first step on the road map was the appointment of the first-ever Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen) by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The United States and Israel demanded that Arafat be neutralized or sidelined in the road map process, claiming that he had not done enough to stop Palestinian attacks against Israelis while in charge. The United States refused to release the road map until a Palestinian Prime Minister was in place. Abbas was appointed on March 19, 2003, clearing the way for the release of the road map's details on April 30, 2003.

The road map comprises three goal-driven phases with the ultimate goal of ending the conflict by 2005. Diplomats from the quartet put the plan together, with amendments following consultations with Israelis and Palestinians:

  • Phase I (to May 2003): End to Palestinian violence; Palestinian political reform; Israeli withdrawal and freeze on settlement expansion; Palestinian elections
  • Phase II (June-Dec 2003): Creation of an independent Palestinian state; international conference and international monitoring of compliance with the road map
  • Phase III (2004-2005): Second international conference; permanent status agreement and end of conflict; agreement on final borders, clarification of the highly controversial question of the fate of Jerusalem, refugees and settlements; Arab states to agree to peace deals with Israel

On May 27, 2003, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated that the "occupation" of Palestinian territories was "a terrible thing for Israel and for the Palestinians" and "can't continue endlessly." Sharon's phraseology prompted shock from many in Israel, leading to a clarification that by "occupation," Sharon meant control of millions of Palestinian lives rather than actual physical occupation of land. Nevertheless, outsiders believed that Sharon knew what he was saying when he used the word "occupation" and was carefully offering the road map for peace a chance, despite his traditionally hawkish views towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

President Bush visited the Middle East from June 2-4 2003 for two summits in an attempt to push the road map as part of a seven-day overseas trip through Europe and Russia. On June 2, Israel freed about 100 Palestinian political prisoners before the first summit in Egypt as a sign of goodwill. In Egypt on June 3, President Bush met with the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain, and with Prime Minister Abbas. The Arab leaders announced their support for the road map and promised to work on cutting off funding to "terrorist groups." On June 4, Bush headed to Jordan to meet directly with Sharon and Abbas.

After Bush left the region, a series of retaliatory attacks by Israelis and Palestinians threatened to derail the road map. On June 10, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a car in Gaza in a failed attempt to assassinated Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi[?]. Two Palestinians were killed in the attack. The next day, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up on an Israeli bus, killing 17 passengers and bystanders. In the following few days, Israel continued its targeting of Hamas leaders with new helicopter attacks.

On June 29, 2003, a tentative cease-fire was reached between Israel and four major Palestinian groups. Islamic Jihad and Hamas announced a joint three-month cease-fire, while Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction declared a six-month truce. The cease-fire was later joined by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In response, Israel withdrew troops from the northern Gaza Strip and was discussing the transfer of territory to Palestinian control. The apparent breakthough coincided with a visit to the region by United States National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

On July 1, 2003, in Jerusalem, Sharon and Abbas held a first-ever ceremonial opening to peace talks, televised live in both Arabic and Hebrew. Both leaders said the violence had gone one too long and that they were committed to the U.S.-led road map for peace. On July 2, Israeli troops pulled out of Bethlehem and transferred control to Palestinian security forces. The plan required that Palestinian police take over from withdrawing Israeli forces and stop any anti-Israeli militant attacks. At the same time, the U.S. announced a $30 million aid package to the Palestinian Authority to help rebuild infrastructure destroyed by Israeli incursions.

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