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The Roadmap will not lead to peace while each side waits for the other

By S Ross Jones - posted Thursday, 4 September 2003

It looks like it should be so simple: "You shall do no murder." "You shall not be a false witness." What could be easier? The Ten Commandments gives no exceptions to them, though humans have often found ways to justify transgressions. The problem with the justifications is not that there are no obvious exceptions but that there is no one but God to say that an exception is justified.

God may indeed be suffering as well but humanity is now staggering from the exceptions. Thousands of people are dying unnecessarily and we no longer know who is telling the truth. Governments are being called on the carpet for slanted versions of reality while common people are still dying. The world is being torn apart and everyone is affected.

Consider the Holy Land, as columnists around the world discuss the survival of the Road Map. There are certainly ample reasons to be pessimistic after events of the past ten days, the old cycle of retaliation having returned. But whose version of the truth do we accept: Palestine's? Israel's? The US Government's? The E Mail's? The Media's? At one level it makes no difference who transgressed the ceasefire first, though it was certainly before the terrible bus bomb last Tuesday. There had already been two targeted assassinations and more than 100 arrests by Israel as well as two (thankfully ineffective) suicide bombers from Palestine. Regardless of who began it, it needs to cease.


The only difference it makes where the finger of blame points is that the assessment is accompanied by demands for change. Official US opinion seems to spare Israel. Those demands need to be made on both Israel and Palestine, rather than demanding that either change first. The Road Map was supposed to be different in that changes on both sides were to happen on a parallel track in each phase, not dependent upon response from the other. The provisions of the Road Map have changed a lot since it was first drawn, and that is not good.

My own feeling about the success of the Road Map has never changed. It depends totally on the sincerity of the US in brokering a just peace. (It would have a better chance if the US had let the other three partners to that Road Map participate.) And the answer does lie in Washington rather than Jerusalem. A hands-off attitude or a biased stance from Washington will only ensure continuing huge human-rights violations against Palestinians and ultimate Palestinian despair at freedom. Only Washington can stop that now, and it remains to be seen whether the desire is truly there. The Israelis do need security and a fear-free day but present policies will not produce it. That is so obvious that many Israelis question the motives of their own government. Many Palestinians question the motives of their own government as well.

It would seem that a basic need in this world now is a common trust that we all basically accept the two commandments above, whether because we believe them to be of God or simply because we believe them to be right. We must be able to affirm that much for each other. Then we must act on that trust. The more we let fear and distrust control our actions, the more we will spiral downwards.

Interestingly some of my time away from the desk lately enabled me to be in Minneapolis for the Episcopal convention that approved the election of an openly gay man as Bishop. Society in Jerusalem would be anything but open to such an election but who really cares about such issues when people are being blown up or assassinated. The very fact that the world can be so caught up over the issue of homosexuality is an indication of how much we can avoid far more important issues. Let us pray, work, act, and vote as if everyone is a brother or sister. Our family may be larger than we know.

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This article was first published in Dean Jones's e-newsletter UPDATE on 29 August 2003.

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About the Author

The Very Reverend S Ross Jones is Dean of St. George's College Jerusalem.

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