A road map that leads nowhere

Israel did the right thing this week in agreeing to support President Bush's "road map" for peace.

Now the onus is on the Palestinians to make the next move. Based on history, it's doubtful they will rise to the occasion.

No one, including Bush, will push Israel to make any concessions if Palestinian suicide bombers continue to slaughter innocent civilians. The chance of achieving a cease-fire is remote. Hamas, the largest of the terrorist groups, has said it will not stop its attacks.

In deciding to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders next week, Bush may be putting his prestige on the line. However, he really doesn't have to achieve anything other than to show the Europeans that he is following through on his promise to push for a Mideast peace after the victory in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon successfully forged a new image for himself by first persuading his Cabinet to back the road map and then telling Likud members that occupation was wrong.

Even though Sharon backtracked the next day and said he didn't consider Israeli settlers to be occupiers, he still got a huge public relations boost from his initial statement. The fact that he stood up to the right wing and got support for the road map also helped his image.

So where does that leave the road map?

The answer is nowhere.

Sharon knows that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat will do everything he can to stand in the way of a peace settlement. As long as the United States and Israel refuse to bargain with him personally, Arafat will stop his prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, from signing any agreement.

Even if Arafat could somehow be brought on board, Hamas will do what it can to scuttle any talks by provoking more violence.

Sharon took all this into account when he persuaded his Cabinet to support the road map. While the ministers went on record raising 14 objections to the plan, they still approved the road map.

Israel did the right thing. If only the Palestinians would.