DAWN - Opinion; July 14, 2003

July 14, 2003

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Time not yet for recognition

By Shameem Akhtar


GENERAL Musharraf’s plea for the recognition of Israel on the eve of his departure for the western countries was a desperate exercise in public relations by an insecure ruler, seeking legitimacy not from his people but from the Bush administration.

Embroiled in a bitter controversy with the opposition parties of all shades of opinion over the Legal Framework Order, General Musharraf has followed in the footsteps of despots who seek the patronage of a superpower by serving its interests. It is the same old story from General Iskander Mirza to General Ayub to General Yahya to General Zia. But none of them dared to plead for the recognition of Israel.

One cannot deny the force in Musharraf’s contention that sooner or later, Pakistan will have to recognize the stark reality of Israel’s existence, especially when the PLO and certain Arab states have not only recognized that state but have also entered into agreements with it. As for Egypt and Jordan, they made peace with Israel when it vacated parts of their territory which it had occupied during the Arab-Israeli wars.

But Israel has not so far given any indication that it is prepared to evacuate all the occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and those pertaining to the Holy City. Nor is it willing to dismantle all the 140 Jewish settlements.

Under the so-called road map of peace, it would vacate only those settlements which were built after 2001. Israel has outrightly rejected the right of return to four million Palestinians who were expelled by it after its occupation of the Palestinian territory. This is in contravention of the UN resolution 194 which enjoins upon it to allow the repatriation of the expelled Palestinians.

If Pakistan or the Arab League and the OIC members recognize Israel before its withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and Gaza and the establishment of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state, they will lose whatever leverage they could otherwise have had on Israel to persuade it to fulfil its obligations under the UN resolutions. Then there is the question of Israel’s illegal occupation of Golan Heights which is not addressed by the roadmap. It may be recalled that Golan Heights is Syrian territory which was seized by Israel during the 1967 six-day war. After its occupation the Zionist state expelled half a million natives from their homes and built Jewish settlements there. In 1981 the Security Council called for the withdrawal of the occupying Israeli army from Golan Heights but backed by the US, Israel refuses to vacate the Syrian territory. The restoration of Golan Heights to Syria and Sheba farms to Lebanon is indispensable for a durable peace in the region.

The PLO accorded de facto recognition to Israel in return for its own recognition. This was necessary for peace negotiations that began in Oslo. The 1993 Oslo accords did not provide for an independent Palestinian state; it only offered to grant self-rule to a Palestinian entity in West Bank and Gaza, a patchwork of enclaves within Israeli controlled territory. This self-rule Palestinian entity should have come into being by 1998 but it didn’t, thanks to Israeli intransigence.

Many Palestinians, including the moderate Fatah and PFLP, and not just fundamentalist Hamas, are now questioning the wisdom of Israel’s recognition by PLO without the vacation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza by Tel Aviv. What the Palestinians would be getting under the roadmap would only be one-fifth of the former mandated Palestinian territory. The Zionist state is reluctant to concede even that.

The PLO is ready and willing to live alongside the Jews in a united federal state of Palestine which could absorb the four million Palestinians living in exile but Israel and the US are opposed to this plan on the ground that Israel would lose its exclusive Jewish identity. This means that Israel and US are opposed to peaceful coexistence of Palestinian Arabs and Jews in a single state and instead, want an exclusively Jewish state. If this is not racism then what it is?

It is pertinent here to refer to the precedent established in South Africa: the international community withdrew recognition of the White racist regime of Pretoria and did not recognize it until the restoration of majority rule in that country. Nobody argued that the racist regime should be recognized because it was a reality. If General Musharraf is prepared to recognize Israel, a much stronger case can be made out for the recognition of Taiwan, 21.5 million-strong, and a highly industrialized and advanced economy which can immensely benefit Pakistan.

As compared to it, Israel has been living on four billion dollar US aid annually. How much Pakistani consumer goods can its five million people consume? If viewed from the standpoint of trade and economy, then Pakistan can gain much more by doing business with India and Taiwan than Israel. Why doesn’t the government extend the MFN facilities to India and recognize Taiwan?

The advocates of Israel’s immediate recognition are under the mistaken impression that by doing that, Pakistan will ingratiate itself to the US administration which will in turn lend full diplomatic and economic support to it vis-a-vis India. It is the same kind of misperception as manifested itself in the thinking of Pakistan’s ruling elite during the cold war years that if Pakistan joined the anti-communist alliance, America would assist us in our war against India.

In fact, Pakistan’s geo-strategic position is such that it is ideally suited to the Pentagon which could use it as a springboard for forward action in south-west and central Asia. Therefore Pakistan’s value as America’s surrogate is independent of the former’s ties with Israel.

When Gen. Ziaul Haq helped the US set up eighty bases in Pakistan for training the Mujahideen, a motley crowd of Omanis, Yemenis, Saudis, Sudanese, Moroccans, Tunisians, Pakhtoons, etc, and then sending them on cross-border missions in the Soviet- occupied Afghanistan, he received F-16s and massive economic aid from the US and its western allies. The fundamentalist Pakistani ruler did not have to make overtures to Israel to get into the grace of the Reagan administration. On the other hand, Musharraf didn’t do so well despite his untimely appeasement of the Zionist lobby.

This is not to say that Pakistan and the Muslim world should never recognize Israel but the time has not yet come for the decision. Unless the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Lebanon reach a just settlement with Israel, Pakistan and the OIC must wait. Since General Musharraf puts Pakistan’s interest above everything else, he should ponder over the implications of any hasty recognition of Israel prior to the restoration of occupied territory to the Palestinians. Acting on this precedent, the Arab and other states may likewise recognize India’s occupation of Kashmir.

Truth about poverty

By Sartaj Aziz


AT THE recent meeting of the Pakistan Development Forum, representatives of the donor community, led by the World Bank, said: “Poverty in Pakistan is not simply a development issue but an issue of national security”. They also urged Pakistan to devote more attention and resources to the objective of poverty reduction to create an environment that reduces tensions and provides jobs to the youth of the country.

The government of Pakistan has formulated a three-year poverty reduction strategy for the period of 2003-2006 as a follow-up to an Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) prepared in November 2001 for the period of 2001-03 as a basis for financial assistance from the IMF under its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) programme.

Surprisingly, the draft document on the full PRSP released in May 2003, does not give any specific target for poverty reduction. It does however admit that during the IPRSP period (2001-2003), poverty has actually increased. According to official estimates incorporated in the strategy document, the level of poverty under the basic needs approach, having remained almost stable at 29 per cent during 1986-98 (with a modest decline to 26.5 per cent in 1990-93), has now gone up to 32 per cent in 2002-2003. The increase in rural poverty has been even sharper, from 24.6 per cent in 1992-93 to 35 per cent in 2002-03.

The poverty reduction strategy is based on five main pillars: (i) accelerated growth and macroeconomic stability; (ii) investing in human capital; (iii) augmenting targeted interventions; (iv) expanding social safety nets and (v) improving governance. These, in turn, are supported by specific macro-economic and social targets in each sub-sector and include the following main targets for the three-period up to 2005-06:

(a) Real GDP to be accelerated from 4.5 per cent in 2002-03 to 5.2, 5.5 and 5.8 per cent respectively in the next three years, (b) Development expenditure will increase from Rs 130 billion to Rs 155, to Rs 180 and then to Rs 207 billion, (c) PRSP expenditure will increase from Rs 160 billion in 2002-03 to Rs 187, Rs 215 and Rs 246 billion (or from 4 to 4.6 per cent of GDP), (d) The literacy rate is expected to increase from 51 to 60 per cent,(e) The rate of population growth is estimated to decline from 2.07 per cent in 2002-03 to 1.87 per cent in 2005-06, (f) The rate of unemployment is likely to decline marginally from 7.82 per cent of the total labour force to 6.69 per cent.

These and other targets for education, health, housing and food support programmes are highly desirable and on the whole realistic. The PRSP document’s conceptual attempt to combine economic growth and stabilization objectives and place the overall strategy in the context of human development is certainly commendable. However, the quantitative targets, embodied in the strategy are not bold enough to make a major difference and qualitatively, the strategy does not go far enough to address many of the real and structural causes of poverty in Pakistan.

In other words, even if all the macroeconomic and social targets given in the strategy can be achieved over the next three years, there will be only a marginal reduction in the level of poverty, probably to 28-29 per cent — the same as in 1986-87. This is a serious challenge not just for the government but for all stakeholders to explore more decisive policy options that could reduce poverty at a much faster rate.

The poverty reduction strategies being adopted by developing countries under the guidance of the World Bank / IMF primarily focus on stabilization policies, in the expectation that lower budget deficits and low inflation will automatically lead to higher investment and growth. There is some icing on the cake in the form of social safety nets or targeted interventions to counter any negative fallout of these strategies on the poor. But when fiscal space is squeezed by the adjustment process and the process of growth promotes inequality and more poverty, a separate poverty reduction programme, which only creates limited employment opportunities, can hardly reverse the overall trend.

Another major flaw in the present conceptual framework, based on the Washington Consensus, concerns the role of governments. Even if the superiority of the market system in determining resource allocation and prices is accepted, we cannot deny the important role which the state must play in protecting the rights of the weaker and poorer segments of the population and in meeting their basic needs.

The inherent inadequacies of the market are in fact fully understood in the more advanced societies. That is why they have created laws and institutions against monopolies to protect the consumer and the small businesses; they have developed an elaborate system of taxation and social security to protect the weak and assist the poor. But at the global level, they refuse to recognize the impact of inappropriate globalization policies on the poor and evolve similar compensating mechanisms and policies.

The rethinking that is required cannot just stop at marginal adjustments that will increase the residual resources, spared by the adjustment process, for social development or for education and health services. What is required is a new development paradigm:

* that recognizes the role of the state in safeguarding the wellbeing of the rural population against the adverse impact of globalization and agricultural subsidies and in protecting the rights of the weaker and poor segments of society;

* that accepts balanced social and human development as a basic and essential prerequisite for sustainable development that is meaningful for the large majority of the population; and

* that regards the poor as a part of the solution and not just as a part of the problem, by evolving pro-poor growth policies under which overall growth of the economy can be accelerated by raising the productivity and incomes of the poor.

The chronically poor are poor because they have no land or other income-generating assets. They have limited access to education and health services and are therefore unable to improve their skills or income earning capacity. These inherent causes of poverty are further compounded by man-made or policy-induced factors, such as discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, tribal affiliation or gender and economic policies that favour urban areas at the cost of the rural population and have a sustained bias against the agriculture sector.

In such an unfavourable environment, the poor are often caught in a vicious circle of adversity in which they do not receive a fair wage for their labour nor a fair price for the goods they may be able to sell. Landlords, artis, officials all play their part in accentuating poverty.

Inadequate access to health services in rural areas and in the slums of urban areas has become a major cause of increasing poverty. A recent survey has revealed that the breadwinner in poor families, on the average, loses 80 to 90 working days in a year because of illness. This means not only a 20 per cent reduction in the family’s meagre income, but additional expenditure on treatment, often requiring sale of an animal or other assets the family may have.

A more meaningful poverty reduction strategy will have to bring about a paradigm shift in development policy to reverse the vicious circle of this unfavourable social and economic environment in which the poor are caught and, at the same time, alter the structure of growth in favour of the poor.

A pro-poor growth strategy has to be an essential element in any meaningful poverty reduction strategy. In the current socio-political environment, a major paradigm shift in Pakistan’s development and environment policy may not be feasible, but in view of the emphasis on poverty reduction, many policies and priorities can be reoriented in favour of the poor. These priorities will have to include the following:

a) A major reorientation of the macro policy framework in favour of agriculture and within agriculture in favour of the small farmers. In the past 15 years, the agriculture sector achieved a satisfactory annual growth rate of 4.5 per cent because of favourable macro policies. But now under pressure from the IFIs, the agriculture sector is being left at the mercy of the market forces although agricultural markets are highly distorted by large subsidies in the developed countries.

Pro-poor macroeconomic policies are needed to (i) prevent a recurrent deterioration in the terms of trade for agriculture, as a result of large agricultural subsidies provided by developed countries, through a combination of price support measures and selective productivity enhancing subsidies; (ii) improve distribution of irrigation water, so that small farmers can receive their fair share of water; (iii) ensure doubling of agricultural credit from Rs 30 to 60 billion in the next three years, with at least 40 per cent, channelled to small farmers, particularly for value-added agriculture like horticulture, livestock and fisheries.

b) A programme of rural industrialization to create employment opportunities in rural areas on a large scale and to reduce rural-urban inequalities. This in turn will require substantial improvement in rural infrastructure.

c) Major improvements in the delivery of education and health services to the poor.The relevant standing committees of the National Assembly and the Senate should thoroughly dissect the proposed pro-poor expenditure of Rs 180 billion in the next budget to ensure that at least 50 per cent actually reaches the poor. According to reports, only 20 per cent might trickle down and the rest may go to higher education, cadet colleges, modern hospitals and other facilities for the rich and middle income groups.

d) A multi-dimensional process of empowering the poor must be initiated, so that as a minimum, they can organize themselves into viable community organizations to be able to compete in the labour and product markets on an equitable basis and eventually participate effectively in decisions that affect their lives.

Finally, without accelerating and sustaining the overall rate of GDP growth to six per cent, poverty reduction will be difficult to achieve. Correspondingly, the overall ratio of investment to GDP which has declined from 20 per cent in the early 1990s to less than 14 per cent in the period 2001-03, has to be taken back to the previous level of 20 per cent.

But the constraints and obstacles that stand in the way are essentially non-economic in nature, namely the law and order situation, tensions with India and the spillover effects of the war in Afghanistan, leading to large-scale closures of foreign banks and airlines and advisories to many foreign nationals not to visit Pakistan. A more tranquil regional security environment and a stable political situation at home will in the end be equally necessary for poverty reduction.

The writer is a former finance and foreign minister of Pakistan.

Bring ‘em on!

By Eric Margolis


HERE in Vancouver, Canada’s ‘make love, not war’ capitol, I am reminded of a French reader who asked me the other day, “Why was President Clinton impeached for making love, while Bush goes unpunished for making a war over fake weapons?” Excellent question, monsieur.

Asked on TV this week about steadily mounting attacks on US occupation forces in Iraq, Bush narrowed his eyes and hunched forward aggressively — thrilling his ardent fans from Biloxi to Paducah — and growled, “Bring’em on!,”

As a US army vet, listening to such adolescent boasting from a man who never heard a shot fired in anger outside of downtown Washington DC made me gag. Bush, let’s recall, dodged real military service during the Vietnam War by making occasional appearances at the Texas Air National Guard. Watching him play John Wayne at Iwo Jima for the benefit of his adoring core voters, many of whom believe Elvis still lives, made me realize how much American politics have been debased by the double whammy of catch-me-if-you can Bill Clinton and truth-deprived George Bush.

I am appalled watching Bush and his neo-conservative handlers pursue an imperial war in Iraq that will kill or wound growing numbers of American GIs and turn Iraq into the ugly twin of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza. Decent, honest, good-natured American soldiers are now being turned into a colonial occupation army. All colonial wars — Algeria, Chechnya, Kashmir, Aceh, Palestine — are similar. Occupying forces in these dirty wars became brutalized, sadistic and cynical. Look back at Vietnam.

I shudder watching American GIs kicking down doors of civilian homes in the dead of night, threatening screaming children with their weapons, hooding and beating suspects, firing into crowds of unarmed demonstrators, and calling air strikes on villages. As night follows day, this nasty war will lead, as all colonial wars do, to torture of prisoners, masked informers, mass reprisals against civilians, secret executions. That’s what happened in Indochina, and is already taking shape in occupied Iraq. Just this week, Amnesty International sharply rebuked the US for brutalizing and humiliating captives.

Bush’s claims that mounting attacks on US forces in Iraq are the work of Saddam loyalists and ‘terrorists’ belong in the same trash bin as White House lies about weapons of mass destruction. Yes, there are some Baath Party loyalists fighting US occupation, but so are many more ordinary Iraqis who are reacting as would any other proud people to invasion of their nation.

George Bush has well and truly stuck the US into twin quagmires in both Afghanistan and Iraq. These on-going guerillas wars and their logistical support now tie down some 175,000 men, fully one third of total US ground forces. Back in the 1980s, Osama bin Laden preached that the only way to drive the US from the Muslim world was to bleed it in a score of small guerilla wars. Bush, who now threatens to attack Iran, is falling right into Osama’s strategic trap. Bravo, Mr President.

Iraq is not Vietnam, but we see disturbing reminders of America’s Indochina debacle. US pro-consul for Iraq, Paul Bremer just requested more troops, shades of Gen. William Westmoreland. Roads in Iraq are increasingly unsafe. Attacks against US military forces are both of the amateur, spontaneous kind, and well-organized assaults by former military men. Corruption, civic collapse, and political chaos hang over everything. The Iraqi oil that was supposed to be instantly plundered to pay for the Bush-Wolfowitz colonial adventure, and enrich powerful Republican corporate political donors, is barely being pumped because of fear of sabotage.

Faced with the growing mess in Iraq and Afghanistan, the administration is trying to emulate its role model, the late, unlamented British Empire by hiring mercenaries to do the dirty work in Iraq. Washington is offering billions to India and Pakistan to send 15,000 troops each to pacify Iraq’s unruly natives. No one in the West will care if Indian or Pakistani mercenaries skin Iraqis alive or burn down their homes.

Other rent-a-nations like Poland, Italy and Bulgaria, are being pressured or bribed to send token forces to help pull Bush’s chestnuts out of the fire in Iraq. Canada has been browbeaten into sending troops to increasingly dangerous Afghanistan.

— Copyright Margolis, 2003.

The bookies

IN spite of the Medicare bill, private health insurance is now a bigger gamble than ever before. The health insurance companies are betting you will not get sick. And you are betting you will.

The health insurers are like bookies. They all want their cut. Here is a typical scene.

Man: I would like to place a bet that I might get sick.

Health Insurance Underwriter: We’ll be happy to take the bet. If we lose, we pay off within 30 days.

A year goes by.

Man: I was sick and you lost our bet. I’m still waiting to get paid.

Insurance Claim Adjuster: Not so fast, wise guy. How do we know you were sick?

Man: I had a herniated disc and it had to be operated on. I have all the bills from the hospital to show you.

Adjuster: Everyone has bills from the hospital. You have to prove your operation was necessary.

Man: You can speak to my doctor.

Adjuster: Doctors don’t always tell the truth. If they didn’t operate, they wouldn’t make any money.

Man: So how do I get you to pay off?

Adjuster: We have a girl named Francesca in the claims department. She decides whether you had a necessary operation or not.

Man: Is she a doctor?

Adjuster: No, but she graduated from high school with a B average.

Man: See here, mister. We made a bet and you lost and you are trying to get out of paying me.

Adjuster: Did you read the fine print on your policy? It says, “In case of illness, the insurance company of the first part does not have to give the party of the second part (the client) money for five years after the policy goes into effect. All premiums collected during that period go to lawyers in case the party of the second part decides to sue the party of the first part.”

Man: I couldn’t read the small print because it was too small.

Adjuster: I can sell you a policy for people with weak eyes.

Man: I don’t think you want to pay me. Adjuster: That is not true. The other day, we paid off on a policy for a lady who fell down the stairs in a department store and we settled with her for $1,000 as long as she doesn’t tell anyone about it.

Man: I’m getting the runaround from people I trusted and put my heart and soul in. How can you do this to somebody?

Adjuster: We have to make a profit, too. We can’t let deadbeats steal money out of the mouth of the stockholders.

Man: Do you have a policy for people who are afraid that insurance companies will defraud them?

Adjuster: No, because it would be too expensive for us to pay off. —Dawn/Tribune Media Services

What the road map stands for

By Henry A. Kissinger


ALL the parties have endorsed — with varying degrees of conviction — a document listing 40 simultaneous steps to be carried out in three stages. Drafted by the United States, Russia, the European Union and a representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and labelled the “road map,” its implementation is supposed to be supervised by the quartet that drafted it.

To be sure, some of these statements have been heard before, especially in the immediate aftermath of the Oslo agreement. And some may have been intended as a hedge to shift the onus of anticipated ultimate failure. The fact remains that the commitments were broad and were made in the presence of President Bush who has pledged that he would insist on performance.

Nevertheless we must be careful not to exaggerate what the road map stands for. It is not a recipe for resolving the Middle East deadlock. Rather, it represents a reasonable compromise on rather general objectives. These goals are stated as if they could be achieved simultaneously by each side acting more or less autonomously. The road map does not establish criteria for verification, consequences of violation or the sequence of acts within each stage. The language veers toward truisms. For example, with respect to refugees, the road map calls for an agreed “just, fair and realistic settlement.” To the Palestinian “fair and just” means a return of most refugees, and to the Israeli “realistic” means, at most, a token return of refugees.

The negotiators working their way through these generalities have many positive elements to sustain them. The new impetus to diplomacy reflects the revolutionary changes wrought by American policy in the Middle East. The elimination of Iraq as a significant military force has removed for a considerable period the possibility of a conventional Arab-Israeli war. The American insistence that the Palestinian Authority produce a more representative and responsible negotiating partner than Arafat has provided the space and the framework to weaken the terrorist structure on the West Bank.

A combination of these factors has encouraged Sharon to offer the elimination of settlements established in violation of Israeli law and to acquiesce in the creation of a Palestinian state with “contiguous” territory — the code word for opening a discussion over the future of settlements that impede this objective.

Both sides have also their own reasons for reconsidering their previous attitudes. The Palestinians, as Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas pointed out, have suffered vast losses and the total disruption of their economy. Israel has learned that time and demography threaten its existence; a large and rapidly growing Arab population undermines the prospects for a state at once Jewish and democratic. Annexation of significant portions of the West Bank can no longer be considered a national Israeli interest. Therefore, there would be every reason for progress in the Arab-Israeli peace process, if all depended on reason.

But reason must contend with encrusted hatreds and disputes whose contents have been refined for two generations. The parties continue to differ on the definitions of security, borders, refugees and Jerusalem.

The ultimate problem is the deep-seated distrust existing between the parties. The Palestinians believe that Israel seeks to reduce the Palestinian state to a series of enclaves surrounded by Israeli territory and pierced by an Israeli road network — in short, a state virtually indistinguishable from limited internal autonomy. This interpretation can find support in statements made over the years by Sharon. It is why President Bush’s use of the word “contiguous” for the territory of the projected Palestinian state was a watershed. For it implies that such settlements as remain on the territory of a Palestinian state will be subject to Palestinian jurisdiction, if they can be maintained at all.

On their side, most Israelis are convinced that for the Palestinians any agreement represents only a stage in an ultimate war of extermination. Arab and Palestinian newspapers and schoolbooks and Arab and Palestinian television treat the state of Israel as an illegitimate interloper that must be removed from the Arab world. The Palestinians have never unambiguously recognized the right of Israel to exist.

In each Arab country — including Palestine — there are significant, perhaps majority, groups that will not accept Israel’s legitimacy, even after a comprehensive agreement. Only a tiny number of Arab states has recognized the Israeli state, and the few that have — such as Egypt — have reduced actual diplomatic contact to a derisory minimum.

Moreover, while the road map has performed a useful role in starting the process, the quartet that drafted it is not the ideal US forum for the follow-up. According to the road map, the quartet is to meet periodically to assess progress and to recommend measures to the parties for breaking deadlocks. But what the other signatories of the road map (the European Union, Russia and the United Nations) have in mind is the ultimate imposition of their version of the road map by the United States. This involves return of Israel to the ‘67 borders with only the most minor modifications; the consequent abandonment by Israel of all (or nearly all) of the Israeli settlements established since; partition of Jerusalem; some accommodation to the Palestinian view on return of refugees; an end of terrorism.

No progress is possible without pressure from America. But America should not be asked to break Israel’s psychological back and jeopardize its existence as an independent state.

Militarily by far the stronger party, Israel is demographically and strategically in an extremely precarious position. Having lived unrecognized by its neighbours for most of its history, subjected to systematic terrorism, surrounded by states technically at war with it, and aware of an essentially unopposed publicity campaign against its existence throughout the Islamic world, Israel will not base its survival on assurances and guarantees without a clear recognition of its security requirements.

I have known every Israeli prime minister starting with Golda Meir; none believed the 1967 borders to be defensible. No foreseeable Israeli government is likely to come to a different conclusion. No Israeli government has ever formally agreed to give up any authorized settlements, much less all of them, containing more than 5 percent of the Jewish population of Palestine. None will agree to the return of any significant number of refugees, if any.

Were such conditions to be imposed on Israel, it might destroy the psychological basis for a self-reliant state. The population may lose heart, and the ablest of them may seek their future elsewhere. The rump Israel may turn into a clinging client state seeking reassurance in every storm but gradually losing the capacity to stand on its own feet and therefore mortgaging America’s relations with the Arab world more severely in the long run.

Strong and subtle American leadership brought matters to this point; it is equally required to navigate the next phase:

— The United States must convince the Arab world that terrorism is not a strategy but a dead end; that it cannot be held in reserve by cease-fires; that its abandonment and the destruction of its infrastructure are the preconditions for major progress.

— Israel must be persuaded to make sacrifices for peace far beyond any as yet put forward, including the abandonment of some settlements.

— The other countries of the road map and our allies must be brought to understand that their most useful contribution is to encourage both sides toward a settlement that genuinely balances sacrifices. Trading territory — an irrevocable concession — for recognition is not such a balance.

With his instinct for getting to the essence of a problem, President Bush has reduced the immediate issue to two fundamentals: an end of terrorism on the Arab side, and an end to new settlements and their progressive reduction by Israel. The end of terrorism in these terms must go beyond a cease-fire, which keeps the threat alive, to the dismantling of the terrorist-supporting structure. At the same time, Israel needs to take the president’s advocacy of a contiguous Palestinian state seriously. It implies not only an end of new settlements but a reduction of the existing ones to create the promised contiguous Palestinian state.

The practical implication is that the road map’s goal of a comprehensive settlement by 2005 is unachievable. It is unimaginable that a new Palestinian prime minister precariously extracted from Arafat will be in a position to renounce the right of Palestinians to return to their place of origin in the early stages of the road map process. (Recent polls have shown that 97 percent of refugees in camps reject the Palestinian Authority’s right to deal with this matter at all.) It is inconceivable that Israel would make a final agreement that does not contain such a clause or that it would entertain transfers of populations without a tested period without terrorism — if then.

But if comprehensive peace is not achievable within the time frame established by the road map, the establishment of a provisional Palestinian state as envisaged in Stage II can be realized. The goal will not be comprehensive peace, which is a legal concept, but coexistence, which reflects the absolute precondition for peace. A negotiation compatible with the timetable of the road map could establish a Palestinian state in all the areas governed by the Palestinian Authority prior to September, 2001. — Dawn/Tribune Media Services International