Hours after Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas took office, international Middle East mediators presented Israel and the Palestinians with the long-awaited blueprint for peace dubbed the “road map.”

United States ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer delivered the road map to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon while United Nations Middle East envoy Terje Larsen conveyed the plan to Abbas.

Israel Insider reports the presentations were “symbolic” as both sides had already received copies.

The plan was drafted by the so-called Mideast “Quartet,” which consists of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

It lays out conditions, phases, timelines and benchmarks for the formation of a Palestinian state – a move perceived by mediators as key to achieving “final and comprehensive settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict” – by 2005.

The conditions include an immediate cease-fire, a crackdown on Palestinian militias, an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns and the dismantling of Jewish settlements erected since 2001.

According to the plan’s timetable, a Palestinian state with provisional borders would be established by the end of the year, with full statehood coming within three years.

“This initiative is a vital element of international efforts to promote a comprehensive peace on all tracks, including the Syrian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli tracks,” reads a copy of the plan released by the State Department.

According to the plan, the road to peace begins with declarations from both sides. The Palestinian Authority must issue “an unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire.”

Likewise, Israel must issue an “unequivocal statement affirming its commitment to the two-state vision of an independent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state [and] calling for an immediate end to violence against Palestinians anywhere.”

U.S. rebuilding and training would follow the crackdown on terrorism, the Palestinian Authority’s rebuilding of a security apparatus and its reform of civil institutions, according to the plan. And an oversight board made up of representatives from the U.S., Egypt and Jordan would implement a security-cooperation plan.

The blueprint calls for two international conferences to be convened by the Quartet after the successful conclusion of Palestinian elections by the end of 2003, and to endorse agreement reached on an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders in the beginning of 2004.

“The plan establishes a realistic timeline for implementation. However, as a performance-based plan, progress will require and depend upon the good faith efforts of the parties, and their compliance with each of the obligations outlined below,” states the plan. “Should the parties perform their obligations rapidly, progress within and through the phases may come sooner than indicated in the plan. Non-compliance with obligations will impede progress.”

Sharon’s bureau chief attorney Dov Weisglass recently presented the U.S. with a list of Israel’s 15 “reservations” about the plan, according to Israel Insider.

In a speech to the Palestinian parliament yesterday, Abbas said the road map would be accepted without changes and implemented immediately.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is due to tour the Middle East in mid-May to push for implementation of the plan.

“The road map represents a starting point toward achieving the vision of two states – a secure state of Israel and a viable, peaceful democratic Palestine – that I set out on June 24th, 2002. It is a framework for progress toward lasting peace and security in the Middle East,” said President George W. Bush in a statement released this afternoon.

“Both Israelis and Palestinians have suffered from the terror and violence and from the loss of hope in a better future in peace and security. An opportunity now exists to move forward. The United States will do all it can to seize this opportunity,” the statement continued.

Bush announced last month details of the road map would not be revealed until someone of “credible authority” came to lead the Palestinians.

Abu Mazen

Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, was overwhelmingly confirmed as prime minister by the Palestinian Legislative Council yesterday and sworn in today at a ceremony at the headquarters of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Arafat created the post amid international pressure and condemnation that he represented a barrier to Mideast peace. He subsequently appointed Mazen, who has been part of the Palestinian hierarchy for nearly four decades.

As WorldNetDaily reported, an Israeli civil rights group doubts Mazen will be the reformer the international community seeks. Israeli attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center claims Mazen provided financing for the terrorist attack that killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.

The terrorist group, operating under the name “Black September,” sent a squad of armed Palestinians to attack dormitories housing the Israeli Olympic team. The gunmen murdered a coach and a member of the weightlifting team, then took nine other Israelis hostage. The Palestinians demanded they be transported to the Munich airport where a rescue attempt by German police failed, and all nine hostages were murdered.

The mastermind of the Munich attack, Mohammed Daoud Oudeh, or Abu Daoud, claims Abu Mazen provided the funds to carry out the Black September attack.

The Islamic militant group Hamas rejected the road map today and vowed continued attacks against Israel.

“The road map aims to assure security for Israel at the expense of the security of our people. It is a plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause. It is rejected by us,” Sheikh Ahmed Yassin told Reuters News Agency in Gaza City.

Terror ushered in the presentation of the road map. As WorldNetDaily reported a suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv restaurant killed 3 and injured 49.

State Department officials condemned the attack but vowed it would not derail the peace effort.

“This despicable attack was undertaken by those opposed to the restoration of dialogue and the peaceful pursuit of a comprehensive peace in the region,” spokeswoman Nancy Beck told the Associated Press. “Attacks such as these will not deter us and the proponents of peace throughout the region from continuing down the path on which we have embarked.”

The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, later claimed responsibility for the attack.

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