Mark Osborn, south London
Re: the debate on the 'road map'. Perhaps it would help if I try to briefly state how things stand.
An editorial in Solidarity (29 May) stated that the Bush people claim to have started a "democratisation and stabilisation of the Middle East As regards the Palestinians [the road map] is a test of the US's ability at 'nation building'. If the Americans do not force the Israeli government to genuinely accept a 'sovereign, independent and viable' Palestinian state, then they will fail It is in the US's interest to find a viable solution the Americans may, therefore be serious." While socialists should not give political support to the US, the US may, nevertheless, "do something approximating what we want" for their own reasons. "In the name of what should we oppose the road map?" "In the name of suicide bombers against Israeli civilians?" Or in the name of the SWP and MAB?
That is the case Sean Matgamna has defended.
In reply I argued (in detail, 12 June, giving a lot of factual evidence in paper - which Sean has hardly replied to) that the road map, if implemented, would not lead to any sort of settlement that would "approximate what we want", it would lead to a Bantustan. I argued that the document is woolly and contradictory; that some warm words in the document should not be taken in isolation from what the players are doing.
For example, if the US intended to press Sharon to make a Two States settlement which "approximates what we want", why not sign a deal with Arafat? Why replace Arafat with Abu Mazen and (Israel's favourite Palestinian secret policeman) Mohammad Dahlan? The answer to me is quite clear: the Israelis believe that Abu Mazen was their best chance of getting a rotten deal signed (or, perhaps, starting a Palestinian civil war).
The sidelining of Arafat was not in the road map but it has been the most important result of the road map process so far. And it illustrates why the words of the document are not the only thing to take notice of.
The US produces a document that calls for an independent Palestinian state, the first step of which is the imposition of a US-Israeli promoted leader with no real support among Palestinians, in order to sideline the Palestinians' own choice. Come on! Remind me, Sean, what was it about the end conditioning the means?
And it is not as if the road map's text is good either.
For example, if ending the Occupation is the real goal, why does the map's Phase III call for final status negotiations over borders, Jerusalem and the settlements?
SM makes a big fuss over the question of "force". So much hot air. The question to Sean is this. Will the US press the Israelis to make a settlement that 'approximates what we want'? The editorial sees this as a possibility. A subsequent letter from Sean says not. So which is it? Please, no wriggling, let's get down to the basic issue: if there is to be no great US pressure - and there isn't: look at the recent US votes at the UN on the question of Arafat, for example - how can there be a settlement 'which approximates what we want'? Who else could conceivably deliver such a settlement?
Back in June I argued that:
In fact the US was not looking to use the road map to force any sort of settlement which 'approximated what we want' but, rather, the 'best' solution that could be expected was a squalid little deal which pressed the Palestinians into a Bantustan;
Sharon was setting the agenda, not the US.
I think I was right. Take the Israeli assassinations of Hamas (8 August) and Jihad (14 August) people. Sharon killed just enough of them to guarantee a return to tit-for-tat killings and to derail the road map. What did the US do? Nothing much.
Sean's response? Laughably, that a Bantustan is not possible because the road map guarantees a contiguous territory. Laughable because contiguity is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a Palestinian state to have the same status as Israel.
It seems to me that there is a perfectly reasonable democratic case to counterpose our Two State programme to the road map's "Two State" programme.
Sean's response? That he represents Marxism and 'analysis', and I, apparently, champion SWP-style 'militancy'. This is of course a frame, an exercise in trying to 'tag' an opponent, and it is a sad replacement for argument. Let's take it at face value for the time-being. It would make sense if I was cheering on some militants, or suicide bombers. But I'm not. In fact the only thing I'm militantly advocating is our own programme.
We're all Marxists and we've each got our own, somewhat different, analyses. Perhaps we could discuss these.