The Roadmap Leads to a Political Deadlock

This document forewarns that the Roadmap may lead to a political deadlock due to substantial differences of opinion among the relevant parties regarding the entry point and each of its phases.

Essence of the Warning

The Roadmap - the agreed framework for the Israeli-Palestinian political process - may lead to a deadlock due to substantial differences of opinion regarding the entry point to the Roadmap and each of its phases.

Therefore, Israel must prepare a new coherent political strategy taking into account:

  1. The possibility that the Palestinian would reject the idea of a Palestinian State in Provisional Borders (PSPB);
  2. The sequence of the political process and its structure;
  3. The identity of the Palestinian interlocutor (PLO or PA);
  4. The use of additional unilateral moves or the return to negotiations on Permanent Status Agreement.

Existing Mindset

The Roadmap is the formal political framework, agreed upon by Israel1, the Palestinians and the international community2.

The Disengagement Plan was presented as independent of the Roadmap, but not preventing its future implementation.3 Currently, some contend that Israel has partially fulfilled its requirements, as stipulated within the First Phase of the Roadmap, primarily regarding the dismantlement of settlements.

The Roadmap inverts the sequence of the political process set in Oslo:

  • According to the Roadmap - Palestinian State with Provisional Borders (PSPB) will be established prior to a Permanent Status Agreement;
  • According to Oslo - Palestinian state with permanent borders will be established after and according to a Permanent Status Agreement.

According to current Israeli mindset, the Roadmap is performance-based i.e. progress and Israeli concessions depend upon Palestinian implementation of their respective undertakings and not upon a set timeframe.4

The current Israeli mindset can be framed as follows:

  • PSPB is viewed as a "concession" or "prize" for Israel to grant the Palestinians;5
  • PSPB's establishment is conditional upon fulfillment of all Palestinian obligations as stipulated within the First Phase of the Roadmap;6
  • PSPB will be established through negotiations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel;7
  • PSPB will have limited sovereignty: it will be de-militarized and Israel will maintain control over entry/exit points as well as its airspace and electro-magnetic spectrum;8
  • PSPB will be established independently of discussions on Permanent Status issues such as borders, refugees, Jerusalem and Holy places.9

Diverging Reality - Roadmap Leads to a Deadlock

In reality, current trends are undermining the existing mindset of the GOI, rendering it irrelevant:

What is the entry point to the Roadmap / Whose turn is it?

The Disengagement created ambiguity regarding the entry point to the Road Map. For Example, within the First Phase of the Roadmap, Israel is supposed to freeze settlement activity and dismantle illegal outposts.

Following the implementation of the Disengagement Plan, Israel may contend that it has more than fulfilled its obligations and therefore it is the Palestinians' turn to act.10

The Palestinians may contend that the fulfilling of their obligations is conditional upon dismantling of outposts and a freeze on settlement construction.

Deadlock within the First Phase of the Roadmap / Palestinian Dysfunction

The Carrying Capacity11 of the PA is weak and may become weaker. The weakness of Abu-Mazen and the incorporation of Hamas in the political system will undermine the PA's ability to dismantle terrorist organizations and carry out political, security and civil-economic reforms.12

Deadlock within the Second Phase of the Roadmap

Israel insists upon the implementation of the Second Phase of the Roadmap and the establishment of a PSPB, while the Palestinians oppose it;13 The positions of the parties reflect the following structural problems:

  1. Who is the Palestinian interlocutor? - According to Israel's reservations to the Roadmap, an agreement regarding a PSPB will be signed with the PA.
    According to the Palestinian Constitutional Structure and the Interim Agreement, the PLO is the official signatory to all agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.
  2. Mismatch between the structure and focus of the Roadmap and the status of the PLO as Israel's formal Palestinian interlocutor -
    On the one hand, the establishment of a PSPB within the Second Phase of the Roadmap is focused on residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip while the issue of the Palestinian Diaspora is postponed to the Third Phase of the Roadmap.
    On the other hand, according to existing agreements the PLO is still Israel's formal interlocutor. However, the PLO is obligated to the Palestinian Diaspora and will thus widen the agenda of the political process.14
    Therefore, it may impossible to reach an agreement on a PSPB between Israel and the PLO.
  3. What is the relation between the Second Phase and the Third Phase of the Roadmap? - The Israeli position is that the establishment of a PSPB in the Second Phase would be unlinked from the Third Phase;15 The Palestinian position is that a PSPB will be established only under guarantees regarding a Permanent Status Agreement.16

Deadlock within the Third Phase of the Roadmap

Principles and content of a Permanent Status Agreement - Presently, it seems that Israel and the Palestinians disagree on the main issues of the Permanent Status (borders, right of return, Jerusalem, etc.)

Sequence of the political process leading to Permanent Status - The establishment of a PSPB erodes the logic of concluding a comprehensive Permanent Status Agreement:

  • Who is the interlocutor: The Palestinian State or the PLO? - Up to this point, and supposedly until the establishment of a PSPB, the PLO is the Sole Legitimate Representative of the Palestinian People.
    Following the establishment of a PSPB, the government of the Palestinian state is supposed to be the sole representative of its residents.17
  • Fragmentation of a Permanent Status Agreement - Up to this point, it was assumed that a comprehensive Permanent Status Agreement between Israel and the PLO would solve all of the "Outstanding Issues" and shape future relations between the parties.18
    The establishment of a PSPB, will strengthen the logic of fragmenting a Permanent Status Agreement into multiple separate agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. These separate agreements can serve as the future chapters of a Permanent Status Agreement.19

Erosion of the principle of the Two-State Solution

The principle of two states for two peoples is based on recognition of the Jewish right to self-determination in the land of Israel. This principle formed the basis for the political process which began in the early 90's (as well as the UN Partition Plan and Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338);

Nonetheless, this principle is still rejected by Palestinians and non-Palestinians who object to the Jewish character of Israel and promote the principle of a state of all its citizens;20

The Roadmap presents the possibility for a political breakthrough on the basis of the Two-State Solution. Therefore, the groups who "converge"21 to de-legitimize Israel, in the hope of preventing possible political breakthroughs are likely to object to the Roadmap as well.

The manifestation of these forces includes:

  • Strategic Terror against Israel and Israelis at key points of the negotiations;
  • Undermining the PA's authority;22
  • "Elusive Horizon" - Raising the bar for a negotiated Settlement - Groups that allegedly accept a Two-State Solution, but throughout negotiations raise demands that are inconsistent with the logic of two states for two peoples, and unaccepted feasible from Israel's perspective;23
  • Contention that the Two-State Solution can not be implemented - Various groups contend that due to the situation on the ground, the only feasible solution is the One-State Solution;24


In light of the deadlock in the Roadmap, it is imperative for Israel to form a comprehensive policy regarding the following issues:

  • The sequence and structure of the political process - Is Israel striving for the establishment of a PSPB prior to a Permanent Status Agreement or for the establishment of a Palestinian state after and as a consequence of a Permanent Status Agreement according to the Oslo Process (Package Approach)?
  • Identity of the Palestinian Interlocutor - Will Israel continue to conduct formal negotiations with the PLO or will it work vis-à-vis the PA in order to have an address capable of signing agreements regarding the West Bank and Gaza?
  • Unilateral moves - The deadlock of the Roadmap and differences regarding the Permanent Status Agreement may lead Israel to pursue further unilateral moves based on the logic of the Disengagement Plan.[25]

Significance of the inversion towards a PSPB:

  • Inversion of positions in negotiations - The Israeli and Palestinian positions regarding PSPB have been inverting:
    In the past, the Palestinians demanded a state (even with provisional borders) and Israel opposed this demand.
    Following the Inversion, Israel may work towards the establishment of a Palestinian state, while the Palestinians oppose it.
    Therefore, Israel may have to pay a political price for establishing that the PA is a state, despite Palestinian objection.26
  • Inversion of the positions in public diplomacy -
    In the past, Israel explained to the world why the Palestinian entity was not a state, while the Palestinians explained why the PA fulfilled the criterion of statehood.
    Following the Inversion, Israel may have to explain to the world why the PA is a state, while the Palestinians explain why they have not yet fulfilled the criterion of statehood;27

Policy Options

The following policy options may help Israel address the deadlock arising from the Roadmap.

Upgrading the sovereign status of the PA - The essence of this strategy is that the political deadlock of the Roadmap necessitates Israel to upgrade the sovereign status (political and civil-economic) of the PA in order to create an address for any issue relating to the territory and residents of the West Bank and Gaza.

Strengthening the sovereign status of the PA regarding residents of the West Bank and Gaza may be coordinated with the Palestinians, third parties, or be carried out unilaterally; it may be achieved by

  1. rescinding restraints on the PA's powers and authorities stipulated in the Interim Agreement (9/95), such as, limitations on the PA's foreign affairs or civil-economic abilities;
  2. Helping the PA to build institutions, establish sovereign authority and gain international recognition.28

This strategy can include measures such as, acceptance of the PA into international organizations (World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, etc); appointing PA representatives abroad; establishing international diplomatic representation to the PA; canceling the customs envelope in the West Bank and Gaza;29 or switching the interlocutor from the PLO to the PA.

Additional unilateral moves - According to this strategy, unilateral moves, based on the logic of the Disengagement Plan can break the political deadlock of the Roadmap:

This strategy is founded on five main tenets:

  1. Ending Israel's permanent presence in parts of the Palestinian areas;
  2. Upgrading the political status of the Palestinian interlocutor;
  3. The timetable and extent of the moves will be executed without negotiations with the Palestinians. However, tactical implementation and arrangements may be negotiated;
  4. Extensive coordination with the US and other relevant third parties;
  5. Mobilization of solid support among the Israeli public for diplomatic and political steps that do not entail Palestinians concessions. This is based on the assumption that this process benefits Israel in any future scenario.

Examples for measures under this category include: the dismantling of West Bank settlements; construction of the Security Fence; upgrading the political status of the PA (see above); dismantling the customs envelope, unilateral Israeli recognition of the PA as a state (see below); or excluding Palestinian neighborhoods from the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem municipality by altering the municipal borders.

Unilateral recognition of a PSPB / Moving directly to the Second Phase of the Roadmap - A series of Israeli moves, whether unilateral or coordinated with the US and other third parties, aimed at upgrading the sovereign status of the PA to the level of Palestinian State albeit with Provisional Borders.

The mainstay of this alternative is a formal American and Israeli recognition of the PA as a sovereign state. It should be stressed that such a move requires a comprehensive plan, which takes into account the implications that recognition will have upon the inherent rights and duties of the Palestinian state, and in its relationship with Israel.30

Fragmentation and Dilution of the Permanent Status Agreement and changing the agenda of Negotiations - Following the establishment of a PSPB, the deadlock of the Third Phase of the Roadmap is avoidable through:

  1. Israeli move to fragment permanent status agreements into multiple separate agreements, to be signed gradually between Israel and the Palestinian state (chapters of a Permanent Status Agreement) and the dilution of the Historical Issues;
  2. Changing the agenda of the negotiations on Permanent Status so that it would deal mainly with issues pertaining to the state-to-state relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.

1 Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: "The Roadmap is the only political plan accepted by Israel, the Palestinians, the Americans and a majority of the international community... The government under my leadership will not compromise on the realization of all phases of the Roadmap" (12/03) (See 2003 Herzliya Speech).

2 The Roadmap was first introduced by the Quartet on 7/15/02 and was presented to Israel and the Palestinians on 4/30/03. Israel approved the Roadmap on 5/25/03. At the Aqaba Summit (6/4/03) PM Sharon promised to fulfill the Bush Vision and the Roadmap as adopted by the Israeli government, while Abu-Mazen accepted the Roadmap without any reservations.

3 See Exchange of Letters Concerning the Disengagement Plan" (4/14/04). Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: "The Disengagement Plan does not prevent the implementation of the Roadmap. It is a merely a measure taken by Israel, in the lack of other alternatives, to improve its security" (See 2003 Herzliya Speech).

4 Dov Weissglass, political advisor to the Prime Minister, in a lecture at Tel Aviv University, 6/2/2005.

5 PM Sharon declared that, "It is clear to all that Israel can no longer be expected to make political concessions until there is proven calm and Palestinian governmental reforms" (12/4/02, 2002 Herzliya Speech); Dov Weissglass stated that, "when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state..." (Interview with Ari Shavit, Ha'aretz, 10/2/04)

6 Israel presented 14 Reservations to the Roadmap (5/03). Reservation 2 stresses the performance-based nature of the Roadmap and the Palestinian obligations within the First Phase of the Roadmap. (for Israel's reservations to the Roadmap).

7 Ibid. See Reservations 5 and 8 to the Roadmap and Re'ut Institute publications: Who Should be the Interlocutor: the PLO or the Palestinian Authority and Policy Options for Switching the PLO with the PA.

8 Ibid. Reservation 5 to the Roadmap.

9 Ibid. Reservation 9 to the Roadmap.

10 "It seems that Israel and the US see eye to eye on the way to move forward. Now the burden of proof is on the other side [Palestinians]... " (Shmuel Rosner, Ha'aretz in Hebrew, 8/25/05).

11 The concept Carrying Capacity refers to a party's ability to implement the policies it wishes to pursue in a particular context.

12 Hamas is working to create a balance with the Palestinian Authority (PA) by maintaining independent military capabilities, fostering civil institutions equivalent to those of the PA, creating areas which are "off-limit" for PA security forces and managing an independent foreign policy (Amos Harel, Ha'aretz, 6/29/05).

13 Abu-Mazen stated that a PSPB before a Permanent Status Agreement is a "trap" (New York Times, 2/14/05); Fatah Central Committee rejected the idea of a temporary Palestinian state, and stressed its desire for the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state; Abu-Ala declared that there will be no state unless it has all the rights of a state as well as the right of return" (Ynet, 7/26/05).

14 Abu-Mazen is the Chairman of both the PLO and the PA. Since the Oslo Accords the distinction between the two has become blurred. Nevertheless, the distinction between these two entities has symbolic, constitutional and practical significance. See Table of Palestinian Representation.

15 See Reservation 9 to the Roadmap. Supra note 6

16 See: Re'ut Institute Point of View: Is Abu-Mazen Driving the Political Process to a Deadlock??

17 President Bush stated that following the Disengagement Plan: "the next step is the establishment of a functioning Palestinian government in Gaza, as well as consolidation of PA security forces" (Ha'aretz, 8/24/05).

18 The Package Approach is premised on the assumption that the issues on the Israeli-Palestinian agenda are intertwined and therefore should be addressed in a comprehensive and integrative manner. The major structural weakness of the Package Approach has been its inherent "all-or-nothing" nature.

19 See Fragmentation and Dilution Approach. For further elaboration on the Permanent Status issues, see the concepts: Historical Issues, Intrusive Issues, Movement and Personal Security Issues, Outstanding Issues and Finality of Claims.

20 Rejection of the Two-State Solution is based on liberal theories that reject the definition of a political entity on the basis of culture, ethnicity, or religion. Thus, they are undermining the Jewish right of self-determination in its state (see Contemporary One-State Argument, One-State Threat and Anti-Zionism).

21 The concept Convergence Phenomenon refers to the convergence of seemingly unrelated movements and associations into a coalition that fundamentally de-legitimizes the Jewish character of Israel. This convergence shifts from one issue to another.

22 See footnote 12.

23 For example, these groups claim to recognize Israel, but also demand a full Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount, or monetary compensation for the Occupation and Refugeeism.

Following the Disengagement from Gaza, there may be Palestinian resistance to claims that Israel has ended its responsibility (See End of Responsibility, End of Occupation and Viable Palestinian State).

24 These groups may attempt to use the reality, which has been created on the ground by the settlements and other factors, to argue that Israel and the Palestinians are intertwined to the extent that it will be impossible to resolve the Outstanding Issues or separate the two entities. For example, see Tilley Virginia, The One-State Solution: a Breakthrough for Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Deadlock University of Michigan, 2005; Tony Judt, "Israel: The Alternative", The New York Review of Books, Vol. 50, No. 16, Oct. 23, 2003; and Michael Tarazi, "Two Peoples, One State", Haaretz, 10/20/04

25 The premise of the Disengagement Plan was that in the lack of a Palestinian partner for negotiations, Israel should pursuer its interests unilaterally or, to the extent possible, in coordination with third parties. For further details see Disengagement Plan and Off-the-Table Strategy.

26 For instance, Israel may be required to give guarantees regarding the Permanent Status in order for the international community or the Palestinians to agree to a PSPB.

27 See Viable Palestinian State; and Responsibility (in the context of Occupation).

28 Israel and the PLO agreed that the PA would not have the authority to conduct foreign affairs. Moreover, the PLO retained the authority to represent the PA and sign agreements in its name (see Interim Agreement, Article IX: "Powers and Responsibilities of the Council", Section 5, Paragraph A).

29 See The End of the Era of the Israeli-Palestinian Customs Envelope

30 The international community views Israel as an "occupying" force in the West Bank and Gaza. Therefore, if unilateral recognition is not followed by negotiations or within the framework of an agreement, the international community will likely claim that Israel breeched the inherent rights of the Palestinian state. These rights, such as control over airspace or water, are inherent to every state according to international law.