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The "road map" for peace is a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict proposed by a "quartet" of international entities: the United Statesmarker, the European Union, Russiamarker, and the United Nations. The principles of the plan, originally drafted by U.S. Foreign Service Officer Donald Bloome, 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 Israelmarker in peace: "The Roadmap represents a starting point toward achieving the vision of two states, a secure State of Israel and a viable, peaceful, democratic Palestine. It is the framework for progress towards lasting peace and security in the Middle East..."


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


The road map comprises three goal-driven phases with the ultimate goal of ending the conflict as early as 2005. However, as a performance-based plan, progress will require and depend upon the good faith efforts of the parties, and their compliance with each of the obligations quartet put the plan together, with amendments following consultations with Israelis and Palestinians:

  • Phase I (as early as May 2003): End to Palestinian violence; Palestinian political reform; Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities and freeze on settlement expansion; Palestinian elections.
  • Phase II (as early as June-Dec 2003): International Conference to support Palestinian economic recovery and launch a process, leading to establishment of an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders; revival of multilateral engagement on issues including regional water resources, environment, economic development, refugees, and arms control issues; Arab states restore pre-intifada links to Israel (trade offices, etc.).

  • Phase III (as early as 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 state to agree to peace deals with Israel.

Start of implementation

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.

On May 12, 2003 it was reported that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had rejected Israel's main road map requirement, a settlement freeze, as "impossible" due to the need for settlers to build new houses and start families. Ariel Sharon asked then US Secretary of State Colin Powell "What do you want, for a pregnant woman to have an abortion just because she is a settler?".

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. While the Prime Minister's Cabinet 'approved' the road map, they attached 14 reservations to the plan. The move was regarded by some as reminiscent of the political tactic employed by the US Senate to defeat the ratification of the Versailles Peace Treaty.

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 prisoners before the first summit in Egyptmarker as a sign of goodwill. The list consisted largely of administrative detainees who were due to be released. Subsequent prisoner releases involved members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but the government insisted that those slated for release did not have Israeli "blood on their hands." In Egypt on June 3, President Bush met with the leaders of Egyptmarker, Saudi Arabiamarker, Jordanmarker and Bahrainmarker, 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 Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas.

Halt in implementation

After Bush left the region, the Palestinians launched a series of attacks against Israelis, which led to retaliations by the Israelis. This threatened to derail the road map plan. On June 5, 2003, the bodies of two Israelis were found near Hadassah Ein Kerem hospitalmarker in Jerusalem, beaten and stabbed to death. On June 8, 2003, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi directed an attack that killed four Israeli soldiers at the Erez Checkpoint in the Gaza Strip. On June 10, 2003, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a car in Gaza in a failed attempt to assassinate Rantissi; two Palestinians were killed. The next day, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 17 passengers and bystanders on an Israeli bus. On June 15 Israeli forces entered Gaza killing a Palestinian, In the following few days, Israel continued its targeting of Hamas leaders with new helicopter attacks.

The hudna

On June 29, 2003, a tentative cease-fire ("hudna" in Arabic) was reached between the Palestinian Authority 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. One condition of maintaining the truce was a demand for the release of prisoners from Israeli jails, which was not part of the road map process. Despite this, Israel withdrew troops from the northern Gaza Stripmarker and was discussing the transfer of territory to Palestinian control. This coincided with a visit to the region by United States National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

On July 1, 2003, in Jerusalemmarker, 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 on too long and that they were committed to the U.S.-led road map for peace. On July 2, Israeli troops pulled out of Bethlehemmarker 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.

The hudna quickly collapsed. In an IDF operation to arrest Hamas bombmakers, gunfight broke out in which an Israeli soldier and two alleged Hamas militants were killed. Hamas responded with a suicide bombing on August 12, killing one Israeli civilian. Fatah claimed responsibility for a second suicide bombing on August 12, killing another Israeli citizen. Despite this de facto violation of the hudna, Hamas stated that the cease-fire would continue. Hostilities then escalated: the Israeli army killed Islamic Jihad's Muhammad Seeder on August 14; the Jerusalem bus 2 massacre by Hamas and Islamic Jihad on August 19, killed 23 and wounded 136 people ; and Israeli forces killed Hamas' Isma'il Abu-Shanab on August 21. After the killing of the two high-ranking leaders, Hamas eventually called off the hudna.

By the end of 2003, the Palestinian Authority had not prevented Palestinian terrorism, and Israel had neither withdrawn from Palestinian areas occupied since September 28, 2000, nor frozen settlement expansion. Thus the requirements of Phase I of the road map were not fulfilled, and the road map has not continued further. It is thus currently effectively in limbo.

On February 13, 2004 the United States government decided that it would endorse Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for a unilateral withdrawal of most Israeli settlements from the Gaza Stripmarker, adding that "...negotiations were impossible because of Palestinian recalcitrance."

Continuation of the road map

On April 14, 2004, President George W. Bush wrote a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seeming to herald two significant changes or increased specifications to longstanding but ambiguous U.S. policy which had most recently been embodied in the road map. For the first time during the road map process, Bush indicated his expectations as to the outcome of the final status negotiations. The letter was widely seen as a triumph for Sharon [32698], since Bush's expectations seemed to favor Israel on two highly contentious issues. Regarding final borders, the letter stated: "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities...". Second, regarding the Palestinian refugees' right of return, Bush also stated: "It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there rather than Israel." [32699]

On May 8, 2004 in an interview with Egyptmarker's Al-Ahram newspaper, President George W. Bush clarified the current situation regarding the road map stating:

Well, 2005 may be hard, since 2005 is right around the corner. I readily concede the date has slipped some, primarily because violence sprung up. When I laid out the date of 2005, I believe it was around the time I went to Aqaba, Jordan. It was a very meaningful moment, where former Prime Minister Abu Mazen, myself, Prime Minister Sharon and His Majesty, the King of Jordan, stood up and pledged to work together.

But we hit a bump in the road -- violence, as well as Abu Mazen being replaced, which changed the dynamic. I don't want to make any excuses, but nevertheless, I think the timetable of 2005 isn't as realistic as it was two years ago. Nevertheless, I do think we ought to push hard as fast as possible to get a state in place.

And I repeat to you, sir, that part of my frustrations were alleviated with the Quartet making the statement it made the other day -- the Quartet being the EU, Russia, United Nations and the United States, working together. I think we can get the World Bank involved. But there is a certain sense of responsibility that falls upon the Palestinians, reform-minded Palestinians to step up and say, yes, we accept these institutions necessary for a peaceful state to emerge.

On July 18, 2004, United Statesmarker President George W. Bush stated that the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2005 was unlikely due to instability and violence in the Palestinian Authority. (Le Figaro)

In November 2004, Yasser Arafat died at age 75 in a French hospital. Arafat's powers were divided among his officials, with Mahmoud Abbas elected head of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Rawhi Fattuh sworn in as acting president of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the death could be a turning point for peace if the Palestinians "ceased terrorism" and waged a "war on terror". The White House simply described the death as a "significant moment in Palestinian history", and offered condolences.

On 8 February 2005, the leaders of Israel, Egyptmarker, Jordanmarker and the Palestinian Authority came together at Sharm el-Sheikhmarker for a summit meeting at which they declared their continuing support for the road map.

In his May 26, 2005 joint press conference with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the Rose Gardenmarker, President Bush said:

Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice lines must be mutually agreed to.
A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity of the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work.
There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bankmarker and Gaza.
This is the position of the United States today, it will be the position of the United States at the time of final status negotiations.

This statement was widely seen as a triumph for Abbas, as many commentators view it as contradictory to his April 14, 2004 letter. The Bush administration has made no attempts to clarify any perceived discrepancies between the two statements.

In August 2005, the Israelis started their planned disengagement from the Gaza Strip, removing all of its settlements from this area and from a portion of the West Bank. This was widely endorsed around the world and the process, although unilateral on Israel's part, was co-ordinated with the Palestinian Authority.

In early January 2006, Sharon suffered a major stroke and did not awake from an induced coma. With Sharon in a serious condition in hospital, his powers were transferred to his deputy, Finance Minister Ehud Olmert. On March 28, Knesset elections were held, and Olmert's party, Kadima, won the most seats. On April 14, 2006 Sharon was declared permanently incapacitated, and Olmert was named interim Prime Minister, becoming Prime Minister on May 4.

On 4 June, 2006 Ehud Olmert announced he would meet Mahmoud Abbas to resume talks on the Road map. Olmert and Abbas joined breakfast with King Abdullah II of Jordan on 22 June 2006 in Petramarker. They pledged to meet again in coming weeks.

On 22 June, Hamas accepted parts of the prisoners' document, which called for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders and the creation of a Palestinian state. On 27 June, 2006 Hamas and Fatah both accepted the document fully.

2006: hostilities resume

In January 2006, the Islamic militant group Hamas won a surprise victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections. The preliminary results gave Hamas 76 of the 132 seats in the chamber, with the ruling Fatah party trailing with 43.

Both Israel and the U.S. announced that they would not deal with Hamas. In Israel, Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated, "Israel will not conduct any negotiation with a Palestinian government if it includes any members of an armed terror organization that calls for Israel's destruction." Bush said the U.S would not deal with Hamas until it renounced its call to destroy Israel. But Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahhar refused to renounce violence. "We are not playing terrorism or violence. We are under occupation," he told BBC World TV.

In mid-2006, the 2006 Israel-Gaza conflict started between Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces in the Gaza strip. Not long after, clashes with Hezbollah in Lebanon precipitated the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war. This conflict had a profound impact on the Middle-East crisis surrounding Israel. Controversial armament shipments from the USA were "rushed" to Israel, inducing Arab resentment..

The crisis caused many analysts to declare the road map dead, or at least severely strained.

In October 2006, it was revealed in a Haaretz expose that rampant construction of settlements was ongoing in the West Bank, contrary to Israeli promises to the United States to halt settlement construction. According to the report, many of these settlements were built on private Palestinian property, including properties previously guaranteed by Israel. The report was allegedly kept secret in order to avoid a politicalcrisis with the US.

As of mid-June 2007, a Palestinian civil conflict was unfolding, as Hamas had taken control of the Gaza Strip from the Fatah-led forces while Fatah controlled most of the West Bank.

In June 2008, Hamas and Israel agreed to a cease-fire which has somewhat held in the following months.

2009 Israeli elections

In January 2009, prior to the February 2009 Israeli elections, the then election front-runner and leader of Israel's right-wing Likud party, Benjamin Netanyahu, informed Middle East envoy Tony Blair that he would continue the policy of the Israeli governments of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert by allowing "natural" growth of settlements in the West Bank, in contravention of the Road Map, but not building new ones

Hillary Clinton said that Israel was in breach of the road map with its plans to demolish 80 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem that Israel claims were built illegally.

2009 President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu debate on settlement freeze

In June 2009 Netanyahu announced Israel's acceptance of the Road Map while simultaneously rejecting a settlement freeze which is a main Israeli requirement under the Road MapIn rejecting President Obama's call for a settlement freeze Netanyahu also claimed that settlement expansion, so called "natural growth", was needed to allow settlers to raise families by moving to new larger houses rather than move to existing houses either elsewhere in the so called Occupied Territories or in Israel itself.In June 2009 the construction of 300 new houses in the West Bank was announced by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.Most of these "new" houses were already built or in the process of completion. The Defense Minister's permit for construction was just another layer on top of those already given earlier.

Statistical background

Although the Oslo accords stipulate no settlement ban, Israel refrained from building any new settlements but continued building in existing settlements at a pace which fell far short of the Shamir government's 1991-92 level. Construction of Housing Units Before Oslo: 1991-92 14,320 units. After Oslo: 1994-95 3,850 units; 1996-1997 3,570 units Israel never agreed to freeze construction within existing settlements. The Palestinians built throughout area C administered by Israel without permit which, according to Peace Now is due to the extreme difficulty Palestinians face in obtaining building permits for Area C. (Under the 1993 Oslo Accords 59% of the West Bankmarker was allocated to Israeli control and denoted as Area C .) Only 91 of 1,624 Palestinian requests permits were approved by Israeli authorities in 2001-2008). Peace Now also said the army demolished 33 percent of the 4,993 cases of illegal Palestinian construction against which it issued demolition orders. By contrast, 7 percent of the 2,900 cases of illegal settler construction that drew demolition orders were torn down, the group said. . Further in other areas such as East Jerusalem the UN in May 2009 noted that "only 13 percent of East Jerusalem land is currently zoned by the Israeli authorities for Palestinian construction, and much of that is already built up" While the settlers constitute 17% of the residents of the West Bank (300,000 out of a total population of 1.8 million), the built up areas in the settlements occupy just 1.7% of the West Bank; and if they continue to build solely at the rate of their natural growth (9,000 births per year), they will consume over the next decade a total of just one-half of one per cent in an area already delineated as their "municipal boundaries.". The amount of land allocated to Israeli settlements will exceed this figure if the current level of immigration is maintained in addition to "natural growth". Settler immigration to the West Bank accounted for between a third and half of the population growth in each year between 1999 and 2007, save 2005, when numbers were skewed by Israel's withdrawal of 8,500 settlers from the Gaza Strip.Further Israel is enclosing some main Israeli settlements with a West Bank Barrier. According to the current route, 8.5 percent of the West Bank territory and 27,520 Palestinians are on the "Israeli" side of the barrier. Another 3.4 percent of the area (with 247,800 inhabitants) is completely or partially surrounded by the barrier

In addition Amnesty International argue that in addition to the stated area of West Bank settlements there is a further impact on the Palestinian population as "bypass roads and related infrastructure and discriminatory allocation of other vital resources, including water, have had a devastating impact on the fundamental rights of the local Palestinian population, including their rights to an adequate standard of living, housing, health, education, and work, and freedom of movement within the Occupied Territories."

Total population in the settlements of the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem):
  • 2005: 258,988
  • 2006: 268,400
  • 2007: 276,462
  • 2008: 285,800

See also

Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy and treaties


  1. Roadmap For Peace in the Middle East:Israeli/Palestinian Reciprocal Action, Quartet Support'U.S.Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs,16/7/2003
  2. Powell visit highlights problems, 12/05/2003
  3. Israel's road map reservations, Haaretz, 27/05/2003
  4. US Senate History, A Bitter Rejection
  5. Cabinet approves release of Hamas and Jihad prisoners
  6. Agreements met with violence
  15. EuroNews, 22 June 2006
  16. AP, 22 June 2006
  17. Palestinians recognize Israel, CNN, 27 June 2006
  28. Foundation for Middle East Peace
  29. Independent Media Review Analysis

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