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To the contrary

Reader comment on item: Reading Sharon's Mind

Submitted by Terd Belman (United States), Dec 23, 2003 at 10:18

Israpundit has an article in which they argue victory not defeat to be found at http://israpundit.com/archives/003883.html

What's more credible?

Prime Minister Sharon is being attacked from all sides.

On the far right it is claimed that Jews should not be transferred out of their heartland, Arabs should. For them, this is a red line that should not be crossed. They believe that Israel can keep all the territories and that the demographic problem can be solved by transfer of Arabs or by withholding citizenship from them. For them this is preferable than uprooting Jews from Judea and Samaria. Under no conditions would they give away these lands or cede any control of Jerusalem. I believe that they have right on their side in taking this position but that they cannot make it happen given the opposition of the Quartet and given the resistance of the Jews whether in Israel or the Diaspora to this solution.

Then there are those who claim this is a retreat by Sharon with nothing in return. Either he caved in under American pressure or was bought off. They worry about any concession other than negotiated ones where there is tit for tat.

I, on the other hand, argue that he made a good deal for Israel. That by yielding some settlements he was able to get America's agreement to let Israel keep the land on the west side of the proposed fence thereby securing the right of say 90% of the settlers to remain where they are by agreeing to transfer 10% of the settlers to the east side of the fence. Admittedly, this was speculation on my part based on slim evidence.

Which position is more credible?

In the past year, I worried that Bush wanted to implement the Saudi Plan for many reasons, the least nefarious of which, was that it would make it easier to get the Arabs to accept such a settlement. Sharon stood up to Bush shortly after being elected Prime Minister angrily announced that Israel wouldn't be another Czeckslovakia. He took a lot of heat for that but I, and many others, respected him for it. Since then he has developed a very close working relationship with Bush; one that he doesn't want to rupture. Every time there was a confrontation with Bush in 2002, Sharon backed down. Since the Roadmap was announced though Sharon has gone along with everything without any pretence of confrontation. I just haven't been able to understand why he didn't hold his ground and just say "no".

The Roadmap is an atrocious peace process and should have been rejected. Yet Sharon went along with it. In order to get his Cabinet's agreement he made the acceptance of the Roadmap subject to 14 redlines. The redlines were never referred to since. There was no doubt in my mind that Sharon had made a strategic decision that separation was necessary and desirable and that he went along with Bush's June 2002 speech which endorsed a two state solution providing the PA puts an end to terror and transforms itself. Now it appears that there will be a provisional Palestinian state created in 2004 regardless if terror remains and Sharon is once again not resisting. He must feel that separation is a good in and of itself.

Throughout it all I kept believing that Sharon was not resisting because he had received assurances from Bush that satisfied him that the Roadmap wasn't leading to the Saudi Peace Plan. This belief was sorely tested when Bush refused to amend the Roadmap by deleting references to the Saudi Peace Plan and to the right of return. In fact most of the positions taken by Bush that tied Israel's hands made it difficult or impossible to believe there was a silver lining. Why did Sharon not resist? Why did he make it so easy for Bush to push him around? Surely Sharon must have been given assurances that made him compliant, I thought to myself. At one time Sharon said that Bush had agreed that the final issues were to be "freely negotiated". In fact this is provided in the Roadmap. The problem is that if Israel were truly free to negotiate, this right would conflict with the preamble, which affirmed the Saudi Plan and the right of return. So the question was, "Which trumped which?"

I reflected my concerns in my call to focus on the destination and not on the process, which to my mind was of no concern. I maintained this concern even when Powell kept saying that the Roadmap was a process. The first requirement of that process was that the Arabs disarm and end terror and incitement. Maybe that was the whole purpose of the roadmap and the intent was to let Sharon freely negotiate in the absence of terror. To that extent the process hasn't worked and has been abandoned. Now without the process I don't have to worry about the destination.

Sharon has decided that Israel will get a better deal by not negotiating. He is prepared to unilaterally impose his own roadmap. Agreement with the Palestinians is worth something but not much given that they can't be trusted to honour their commitments. So better to make no concessions and not have to worry about Palestinian compliance. On Sharon's Roadmap, most of Yesha is being abandoned to the Palestinians because there was no realistic way to keep it and deal with the Palestinians. But what is being retained by Israel is far more then any negotiating process would get for her.

Palestinian power is inversely proportional to the use of Israeli power and directly proportional to their use of terror and to their unwillingness to compromise in negotiations. Sharon is now refusing to negotiate, is building the fence to curtail the terror and is using Israeli power to impose a solution. Thus the Palestinians can do nothing. They are powerless. It means the end of Oslo.

I cannot accept the view that this is a retreat by Israel because implies that there is nothing in it for Israel. Therefore, such view is not credible.

The only credible view is that Sharon is doing this because it is good for Israel.
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