Sure, at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention they applauded Colin Powell when he said that settlement activity should be stopped. It is natural that among the 3,000 delegates there were a few hundred who oppose the settlements – particularly at present, when things have to made easier for the American government, which is already caught up in the conflict with the Arab world and with Europe.

But there were many there – and these are the vast majority of the organization’s activists, as anyone who has attended a few AIPAC conventions knows – who really and truly support the settlements. And even among them there were some who applauded. That is how cultured people behave, even when they hear things they don’t like.

Powell is therefore advised not to be too impressed by that applause. When AIPAC decides to fight the road map, even those who applauded in Washington will enlist. And AIPAC should start now. After all, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice is certainly not one of Israel’s enemies, and did not arbitrarily release a semi-ultimatum – not to a lobby that can (almost) influence the outcome of the elections – that the “demands [of the road map] are not open to negotiation.” And when such a resolute statement is made when the early cherry blossoms of the primaries are already blooming in Washington, it is a sign that the lobby fell asleep on its watch. The open rejoicing of a few left-wingers at the “news” that the road map is about to be forced down our throats, perhaps even before the end of the battles in Iraq, seems, therefore, to have some foundation.

The analysis of a few main clauses in this map of dictates makes one ask: Why the rejoicing? Because the implementation of the map includes two international conferences? This means the internationalization of the conflict and that Israel’s bosom buddies – like the representatives of the Quartet – will act as judge in the dispute between us and the Palestinians! After all, all Israeli governments, including that of the late Yitzhak Rabin, which kept even the United States away from the Oslo talks, felt that no good could come out of international conferences.

Another such clause is the Israeli parallel to the cessation of terror – the freezing of the settlements: “The Israeli government will freeze all settlement activity, including the natural growth of the communities.” It turns out, therefore, that even the U.S. has unfortunately been dragged into this outrageous and unethical equation. It is possible to oppose the settlements for ideological or other reasons, but for Jews in Israel to rejoice that a document is forced on us, equating construction and productivity – even in a disputed location – with the Palestinian terror that has murdered over 1,000 and injured thousands more in the last 30 months alone?

The “security” section of the document states that the supervising council, which includes the U.S., Egypt and Jordan, will set up the forces of the Palestinian state. Can Israel afford to repeat the bitter mistake, after the lessons of the establishment of the Palestinian force following Oslo, of putting such a critical matter in the hands of two countries that a priori and without hesitation support every Palestinian position?

Even the following words, according to Rice, are “not open to negotiation”: “The arrangement will take special consideration of the Saudi initiative that was accepted at the Beirut summit.” The two principles of that initiative are: 1. The full withdrawal of Israel to the 1967 lines, including from Jerusalem; and 2. The return of the Palestinians to their residences in Israel in accordance with United Nations Resolution 194. Those – the right of return and the complete withdrawal from Jerusalem – are a cause for rejoicing?

Perhaps the cause for celebration is the paragraph that calls all the territories liberated in 1967 – including Jerusalem – “occupied territory”? (American spokesmen, for instance, speak of all areas conquered in Iraq as “liberated territory,” with the ultimate goal being the “liberation of Baghdad.”) And what about the fact that all Israeli construction, including in Jerusalem, is an action that “undermines trust”? Journalist David Bedein of the Makor Rishon weekly magazine wanted to know whether the renovation of the Hurva synagogue (bombed by the Jordanians during the 1948 War of Independence) in Jerusalem’s Old City, for example, was included in that ban.

“Any building activity in the Old City of Jerusalem,” responded the American Embassy, “will be considered illegal construction as conceived by U.S. foreign policy.”

Another thing, take note, which is stated in the road map: “All Israeli institutions will end incitement against the Palestinians.”

The morning after the 1991 Gulf War, surely as a gesture to Israel’s obedience and restraint despite being bombarded with 39 Scud missiles, then-secretary of state James Baker came to Israel and forced then-prime minister Yitzhak Shamir to accept an international conference, the Madrid conference that led to the Oslo disaster and to this murderous war of terror that has no end.

Unlike its predecessor, which was hostile to Israel, the current administration, which is considered friendly to Israel is for some reason in a hurry to get moving and has unsheathed its claws at the height of the war. Now Israel must respond resolutely: The milestones that are marked on this “follow the rules without question” road map are liable to lead the Jewish state into a trap that will endanger its existence. From Israel’s perspective, and not that of the U.S., Rice is correct: This road map cannot be open to negotiation.

This piece ran in HaAretz on April 3, 2003 Nisan 1, 5763