What Prime Minister Ariel Sharon played down in his Rosh Hashanah
interviews was clearly exposed by his former bureau chief, Dov Weisglass,
in an interview in Haaretz Magazine (October 8). The goal of the
disengagement plan is to perpetuate Israeli control in most of the West
Bank, and to repel any internal or external pressure for a different
Sharon is consistently trying to realize his vision: Israeli control over
the eastern and western slopes of the West Bank, and maintaining traffic
corridors along its length and breadth. The Palestinians will be left with
seven enclaves connected by special highways for their use. The
disengagement plan will facilitate the realization of this vision, at a
bargain price from his point of view: He is giving up the Gaza Strip, where
37 percent of the Palestinians live, but whose area is only 1.25 percent of
the Land of Israel.
Anyone touring the West Bank will have no doubts regarding the hidden
agenda of the disengagement plan. Building in the settlements, including
the illegal ones, is proceeding at full speed. About 4,000 housing units
are now under construction. When they are populated, the number of settlers
in the West Bank will grow by approximately 10 percent.
Most of the Israeli public supports the Sharon plan. It naively believes
that its realization will bring about the end of the war and a significant
economic improvement. The international community also supports the plan.
It is tired of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is no longer investing
any real input in attempts to solve it.
Even after Weisglass' damning confession in Haaretz, the peace camp will
continue to support the Sharon plan. More than anything, this uncritical
support expresses weakness and lack of confidence. Many of this camp's
leaders no longer believe in their ability to lead a daring political move,
which includes a clash with the extreme right, and to convince most of the
public that they are right.
Anyone who supports a unilateral step and prefers it to a serious attempt
at rapprochement is accepting Sharon's basic assumption that "there is no
partner" - an assumption that he has made every effort to ensure: Anyone
who was likely to be a partner received nothing from him, with the
exception of harmful compliments. It's true that there is no Palestinian
partner to the seven-enclave plan, nor will there be.
Many good people seriously hope that the exit from the Gaza Strip and the
evacuation of the settlements will begin a dynamic that cannot be stopped.
Such a dynamic would make the continuation of the process in the West Bank
unavoidable. This possibility is what is influencing the extreme right to
react with violent opposition, which has not yet reached its peak.
However, such a scenario will occur only if Gaza is handed over to a
responsible Palestinian government, through close coordination with Israel,
and with active and generous support from the international community and
the wealthy Arab states. A Gaza that is not a source of terrorism or a
place where terrorism reigns, which is rehabilitated economically, and
which is run by a Palestinian government, is likely to be a positive model
for the future.
I am not certain that this is the model Sharon has in mind. An opposite,
negative development seems more likely at the moment: Gaza in chaos,
supported by international welfare organizations, and controlled by armed
gangs - that is the model that will prevent any Israeli from even
considering a continuation of the process in the West Bank. Continuation of
the war after the Israeli exit from Gaza will cause the Israeli public to
lose any desire to reach an agreement. In such a public atmosphere, our
death grip on 2.5 million Palestinians in seven enclaves in the West Bank
will turn into a perpetual one.
If general elections are held [in Israel] before the disengagement plan is
carried out, they will of necessity focus on support for or opposition to
the Sharon plan. Without any other plan before it, the public will support
Sharon and his plan, and thus will indirectly prepare the ground for the
continuation of lawless settlement in the West Bank. When it turns out that
the conflict has not been solved, that the war with the Palestinians is
continuing, that the Israel Defense Forces are busy protecting the settlers
and that the country's political isolation is increasing, Israelis will be
left for four more years with a government that in effect doesn't want
Weisglass openly told Haaretz: "The disengagement supplies the amount of
formaldehyde that is necessary so that there will not be a political
process with the Palestinians." Formaldehyde, it should be remembered, is
the liquid in which dead bodies are preserved.
The parties that want a political process - Labor, Shinui and Yahad - must
present an alternative. The real choice is between an end to the war and a
continuation of the settlements. There will be no agreement with the
Palestinians when 250,000 Israelis live in 230 settlements and outposts in
the West Bank. Unless about half of them return to the borders of the State
of Israel and a new map is drawn separating Israel and the Palestinian
state, there will be no end to war in the land.
On the new map, about 80 percent of Mandatory Eretz Israel will be within
the borders of the state. Such a division, achieved through agreement,
means a historic victory for Zionism. The choice between the settlements
and the end of the war should be the focus of the next elections. The
majority, which is tired of being dragged into an endless war by an
extremist minority, will then have its say.
Ephraim Sneh is a member of the Knesset from the Labor Party and the chair
of the Knesset Subcommittee on Defense Planning and Policy.
Source: Haaretz, October 11, 2004.
Visit the Ha'aretz website at http://www.haaretzdaily.com/
The women of Tunisia have a decisive role to play in shaping Tunisia's future. Fatma Ben Saïdane reminds women of the power of their vote and the importance of civic engagement.
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founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center
for Muslim - Christian Understanding at Georgetown University
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