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Interview with Judith Kipper, Center for Strategic and International Studies - 2003-05-02


Just after the release of the Middle East Quartet's "Roadmap" to peace, violence erupted in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Judith Kipper, Senior Fellow of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, joins VOA's Amy Katz for a discussion on the road to peace in the Middle East.

MS. KATZ
I guess we're going to start out with the cabinet. The Palestinian cabinet was sworn in today. Obviously, just before that happened, we had a suicide bombing last night. I thought that would be a good jumping off point just to get started on this whole roadmap thing. It seems to me, as soon as the Palestinians approved Abbas and his new cabinet, three hours later there is a suicide bombing, so maybe we could start on that thought.

DR. KIPPER
Well, there are extremists in the Palestinian and the Israeli community, and clearly, over many, many years, unfortunately and tragically, often the actions of extremists have set the agenda. So, when there are acts of extremists, a suicide bombing or another act, it's that much more important for the leaders in the region not to throw up their hands and give up but to work with their people, to continue to work as diligently as possible to get to a peaceful settlement, so that the security situation will make it impossible for these extremists to carry out their vicious acts.

MS. KATZ
The Israelis and the Palestinians have been given this roadmap now, the Quartet group roadmap, which certainly addresses the security concerns. I guess what I'm curious about is already the Palestinians have said they are going to accept it in its entirety, and Sharon has said, well, we may want to renegotiate some points. Is it implementable?

DR. KIPPER
The roadmap, an effort by the Quartet, led by the United States, is a document that the sponsors, the Quartet, have said cannot be changed. It was presented as is. It will have to be implemented as is.

Clearly, the Israelis and the Palestinians have in the past accepted a lot of plans -- Oslo, Tenet, Mitchell, the roadmap, et cetera. It's not about accepting or not accepting. What is absolutely crucial is that the United States, along with its partners, stay on the ground, have a team, use tough love, are consistent, continuous, until it gets implemented. Without a concerted effort of the United States to make this work, along with its Quartet partners, it's not going to work, regardless of what Palestinians and Israelis do. They cannot make the concessions to each other; they can only make them to the United States and the Quartet.

MS. KATZ
In other words, the U.S. has to be there in some way on the ground? The U.S. and its partners would need to be there on the ground to hold both sides at bay, the extremists?

DR. KIPPER
No, the U.S. can't control the extremists. They have to control their own extremists. And the extremists are going to be there. The job of the Quartet, and the United States, is to mediate with the parties, not let them be too manipulative or resistant, and to make sure that a plan that has been approved by the Quartet is implemented. And there needs to be people on the ground to make sure that the Palestinians and the Israelis do what they are supposed to do, and are committed to doing, in a timely manner. And if they don't, you have to go public and say who is ready to implement this and who isn't.

Without outside parties with very, very strong persuasive powers, the roadmap is not going to succeed.

MS. KATZ
So, it can't really work without the outside parties and the Quartet in there?

DR. KIPPER
That's right.

MS. KATZ
Let's assume it does work and it can be implemented step by step and with the security measures, the settlements have to be destroyed, all of that, how is it going to impact in a larger way on the whole region?

DR. KIPPER
The core problem, the symbolic problem, the cause of anti-Americanism in the region, is the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian problem. It's a local conflict in the sense that Israelis and Palestinians, unfortunately, are killing each other, but it hasn't spilled over. But the symbolic importance of this conflict is so great that if it can be resolved, it will have a tremendous positive impact on the region. It will greatly diminish the anti-Americanism, and it will help the United States to do what is necessary to protect American interests in the region and to assist those governments that are ready to undertake economic reform and to have a process of evolutionary change.

So, this Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far, far bigger in its importance than the actual conflict itself.

MS. KATZ
I'm wondering -- and this is a little bit off to the side -- but the Palestinian state by 2005 -- am I correct on that?

DR. KIPPER
Yes.

MS. KATZ
Is there enough time really to build up that infrastructure and that the Palestinians could actually run a whole country?

DR. KIPPER
Yes, the Palestinian Authority, without being a state, has been running, before this Intifada started, what was in fact more or less a state. But they didn't have sovereignty, they didn't have control of many aspects of their daily life, because they were still under Israeli military occupation.

Are the Palestinians capable of running a state by 2005? There is no doubt about it. They will get assistance. It will be an incremental process. And it will keep them very, very busy, working to establish their state. The Palestinians are very educated. They have all the talent that they need. They have a very active and important diaspora. There is no question that they can have a state.

MS. KATZ
What have I left out?

DR. KIPPER
Well, you've left out really about what is the U.S. role in the roadmap.

MS. KATZ
Okay.

DR. KIPPER
President Bush has basically put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict aside while he responded to the war on terrorism, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq. The administration now says it has a real commitment to get the roadmap implemented. So, publishing the roadmap and listening to the speeches, the rhetoric, the positive and negative noises that we are going to hear about the roadmap, is not important. What is important is to see Americans on the ground, working with Quartet partners, to use tough love, to get the parties to do what they have to do.

And it's not going to be easy, because both Israelis and Palestinians are frightened, traumatized. Both are very manipulative. Both blame the other side for everything. And it's going to take very active mediation and intervention, using the full persuasive powers of the United States, along with the Quartet partners, to get this implemented.

MS. KATZ
In practical terms, persuasive powers, how are they going to do that on the ground, the U.S. and its Quartet partners?

DR. KIPPER
The U.S. is the only party that both Israelis and Palestinians turn to in seeking peace. The U.S. is big and they're little, for one. Secondly, both sides know that the U.S. has no ulterior motive, that the U.S. really would like both parties to have a better life, to be at peace. So, there is a certain amount of trust in the United States.

And, when necessary, the full persuasive powers of the United States are formidable. And the most important assets that the United States has is that the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, 70-75 percent on both sides, want this to happen. So, their leaders have to get out of the way.

Secondly, the United States' other very important asset is not to punish -- no, punishment is not helpful -- but by 10 o'clock on Friday, if they are supposed to do something, they should do it; and if they don't do it, they need to know that the U.S., at 10:01, is going to announce to the world who is being cooperative and who isn't. And if two or three times, if they balk and the U.S. goes public, they're not going to balk anymore. This is not rocket science. These people deserve to get the help they need to get the peace.

MS. KATZ
Last, but not least, what about some kind of a peacekeeping force?

DR. KIPPER
A peacekeeping force is probably going to be necessary, but more than peacekeeping, probably monitors. Because in the past, when the Israeli and the Palestinian security have gotten together, being helped by the American CIA, which helped them come to security agreements and to implement them, it in fact works very well. But it may become necessary to have monitors, American monitors, other monitors, to be in different places in the Territories, on the border between the Israelis and Palestinians, to make sure that what has been agreed in their security talks is in fact being implemented. So, that is certainly something that may be considered at a later stage.

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