Laborites Split on Peretz?s ?New Road Map? Plan

Defense Minister and Labor party Chairman Amir Peretz issued a call Monday evening for a “new Road Map” in which Israel’s permanent borders would be drawn. The proposal received mixed reviews.

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Peretz called for final status negotiations with the Palestinian Authority to begin within the next six months in a three-stage plan for a “new Road Map” which he presented to a Labor faction meeting.

Formulation of a new security and economic policy would comprise Step One of the plan. Negotiations on final status principles and the expansion of the PA, which would begin within the next six months, would constitute Stage Two. The final stage would be implemented with negotiations on the details of the final status agreement.

Peretz contended that the plan, coauthored by Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, would strengthen moderates such as PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) by offering a “diplomatic solution” to the present situation.

The original Road Map was also comprised of a three-stage plan formulated by the United States, Russian, the United Nations and the European Union (known as the “Quartet”). The PA never got past the first step, however, which called for an end to violence as Israelis came forth with confidence-building incentives. A PA state with provisional borders would come with the second phase of the plan. Final status was reserved for stage three.

Three of Peretz’s competitors in the primaries were quick to slam the proposal.

Knesset member Danny Yatom said the proposal was unrealistic. “As long as the Palestinian Authority is made up of two heads, it is impossible to reach an understanding regarding a permanent settlement. The most that can be accomplished is a ceasefire and the release of Gilad Shalit,” he added, referring to the IDF corporal who was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists last June. Shalit’s whereabouts and condition are unknown.

Another voice from the leadership race, Knesset member Ophir Pines-Paz also criticized Peretz’s initiative. “You can’t mention the evacuation of illegal outposts in a diplomatic plan, while you as a defense minister are doing nothing to address the issue,” he charged.

Knesset member Ami Ayalon, considered by many to be the frontrunner in the upcoming race for the party leadership, expressed his preference for Kadima Foreign Minister Tzipy Livni’s diplomatic proposal. “Such an approach of working in phases will fail,” he said, adding that Livni’s plan did not require cessation of violence as a condition for moving on to the next step, the main difference between her plan and the original Road Plan.

Livni’s proposal, though not specifically outlined, includes steps which have already begun, including the transfer of funds to the PA.

Release of prisoners and convincing the Egyptians to stop smugglers from bringing arms into Gaza under the Philadephi Route are also part of the plan. As with the Quartet’s plan, other elements include setting up tentative borders to establish a PA state, followed by final status negotiations.

There was no comment from former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who announced his candidacy in the race the day before the meeting. Expressing his support for the plan, Tourism Minister and Barak supporter Isaac Herzog, said, “We always said we wanted to strengthen the moderates. This plan will serve as a basis for negotiation within the Labor party.”

Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, also praised the initiative, saying he was “glad about any policy that is founded to advance dialogue with our neighbors.” Simhon is a Barak supporter.