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As the President's special envoy to the Middle East, Condoleezza Rice has taken the lead role in helping to implement the U.S.-backed "road map," demonstrating again her ever-increasing role in articulating the Bush administration's foreign policy.

But critics wonder whether Rice is willing or experienced enough on Middle East policy to assure that Israel—one of the United States' strongest allies—meets its obligations under the comprehensive peace initiative.

"Can America stand tall on the issue of Palestine and speak justice?" asks Fahed Abu-Akel, a Palestinian American Christian and Presbyterian minister in Atlanta. His family fled their home and became refugees during the 1948 War. "Right now the U.S. government's foreign policy vis-à-vis the issue of Palestine is bankrupt." The internationally supported peace plan seeks to end years of violence in the region and establish an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip within three years. Skeptics say the plan is doomed to fail unless Israel ends its occupation and withdraws from all settlements in the West Bank and Gaza as outlined in the road map. That withdrawal, Israel says, will depend on how successfully the Palestinian Authority can curb terrorism and crack down on militants.

Many of Rice's critics see the road map as little more than another attempt by the United States to assert its hegemony over the Middle East. Rice's comments to an Israeli newspaper that she has "a deep affinity with Israel" only deepened their concerns.

"I have always admired the history of the State of Israel and the hardness and determination of the people that founded it," Rice told Israel's daily Yediot Aharonot in May. "Israel was a state who in the beginning was not given ...

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September 2003

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