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Has Sharon set a trap for Bush? - International Herald Tribune, USA

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  • Zafar Khan
    Has Sharon set a trap for Bush? Henry Siegman IHT Tuesday, June 3, 2003 The road map and the settlements http://www.iht.com/articles/98279.html NEW YORK
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 5, 2003
      Has Sharon set a trap for Bush?
      Henry Siegman IHT
      Tuesday, June 3, 2003
      The road map and the settlements

      http://www.iht.com/articles/98279.html

      NEW YORK President George W. Bush's summit meeting
      Wednesday with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel
      and the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, is
      unexpected and extraordinary. The hope it generates
      for progress in the implementation of the
      American-back peace plan known as the road map could
      not have been imagined just days ago. Nevertheless, it
      is difficult not to view Sharon's and Abbas's
      acceptance of the road map without a large dose of
      skepticism.

      In the case of Abbas, that skepticism has less to do
      with his intentions than with his ability to implement
      the road map's requirements, particularly the demand
      that he put an end to terrorism. Abbas must contend
      with the likely obstructionism of Yasser Arafat and
      with the sorry state of Palestinian security forces,
      destroyed by Israel.

      In Sharon's case, the skepticism has nothing to do
      with his ability to deliver on the road map's demands,
      which he unquestionably can, but with his intentions.
      Since becoming prime minister in February 2001, Sharon
      has accepted every peace initiative, including the
      Oslo accords, the Mitchell Commission proposals and
      the Tenet guidelines, and yet managed to torpedo each
      with "reservations" and "conditions." If anything, the
      reservations Sharon has attached to his acceptance of
      the road map are far more destructive than the
      conditions that enabled him to defeat previous peace
      initiatives while skillfully avoiding blame for doing
      so.

      Skepticism about Sharon's acceptance of the road map
      is also warranted by reports in the Israeli press
      about "facts on the ground" being established every
      day that are wildly inconsistent with Sharon's new
      conviction that Israel cannot continue its occupation
      of 3.5 million Palestinians.

      According to the Israeli journalist Amira Haas,
      writing in Ha'aretz, these facts on the ground include
      a new separation wall that is destroying thousands of
      acres of the most productive Palestinian orchards and
      farmlands critical to the economy of a new Palestinian
      state and enclosing Palestinian villages and the
      entire city of Qalqilya. Israel has also built
      security fences around settlements, security roads and
      bypass roads that continue to cut off the Palestinian
      villages from each other and the villages from their
      land, and has expanded settlements to half the total
      area of the West Bank.

      These facts may already have determined that the
      "state" that Sharon is willing to accept, and that has
      so deeply scandalized rightist opinion in Israel, will
      be comprised of three enclaves within the West Bank
      (not counting the fourth enclave in Gaza) cut off from
      one another, with no direct outlet to neighboring Arab
      countries, much less to the rest of the world.

      Another leading Israeli expert on Palestinian affairs,
      Danny Rubinstein, concluded in Ha'aretz that the
      Israeli presence in the territories is becoming a
      permanent one. It is an assessment endorsed by Emunah
      Elon, a leading rightist opponent of Palestinian
      statehood, who wrote in Yediot Ahronot that "the road
      map is irrelevant, and all that matters is what the
      prime minister does." Elon confirms that what Sharon
      is doing is "dividing the territories of Judea and
      Samaria into tiny Palestinian cantons, cut off one
      from the other, fenced in and surrounded by a plethora
      of Jewish settlers." She assures agitated settlers
      that the excitement generated by Sharon's
      controversial statements about ending the occupation
      will be "a fleeting episode."

      Perhaps the conclusions of these Israeli analysts
      about the irreversibility of the changes already made
      in the occupied territories are exaggerated. What is
      clear, however, is that only President Bush's personal
      involvement in the peace process and his insistence on
      the strictest compliance by both Israel and the
      Palestinians with the road map's provisions will
      prevent the plan's failure.

      Despite formidable obstacles, Bush's welcome personal
      immersion in Middle East peace diplomacy holds out the
      hope of significant changes in Israeli policy, as
      evidenced by the fact that Sharon persuaded his
      government to accept the road map despite his own
      hostility to it. It is not necessary for the United
      States to threaten Israel with sanctions in order to
      influence its policy. It is more than sufficient for
      the president to convey to Israel's leaders that
      obstructionist tactics would damage America's
      interests in the region and affect America's
      perception of Israel as a peace-loving nation.

      With the exception of the ideological core of the
      settler movement, the vast majority of Israelis
      understand that Israel's security and continued
      viability depend on America's friendship.
      Consequently, a prime minister who is seen as
      responsible for a cooling of America's friendship for
      Israel cannot long survive.

      The issue of settlements will tell us what we need to
      know about Sharon's real intentions. It will also tell
      us what we need to know about Bush's intentions. There
      is no justification for delaying a cessation of all
      settlement activity or the dismantling of outposts,
      for they serve no security purposes whatever. In fact,
      more than any other factor, settlements are
      responsible for Palestinian violence and for the
      absence of popular Palestinian opposition to terrorist
      groups. The settlement enterprise has been nothing
      less than the theft of Palestinian land in broad
      daylight, a theft made possible only by Israel's
      vastly superior military force. The notion that Abbas
      can confront and subdue terrorist groups while this
      theft continues is absurd.

      If Sharon will contrive reasons to delay or undermine
      the road map's provisions dealing with the settlements
      and settlement outposts, it will be a clear indication
      that his real intention is to trap Bush into lending
      U.S. support for his notion of a Palestinian state
      comprised of several cantons on territory fragmented
      by the settlements. And if Bush insists on full
      compliance with the road map, beginning with its
      provisions for an end to all further settlement
      activity, this will be a clear indication that he
      intends to remain fully committed to doing what is
      necessary to bring the century-long conflict between
      Jews and Palestinians to an end.

      The writer is a senior fellow on the Middle East at
      the Council on Foreign Relations. These views are his
      own.



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