Sharon’s Carrot and Stick
By Ted Belman
Prime Minister Sharon is using both the carrot and the stick to convince Israelis to endorse the Disengagement Plan. The stick is inherent in his dire warnings
a) The disengagement plan is "an initiative that will prevent political collapse."
b) The danger of pressures on Israel to accept diplomatic plans that were harmful, and
c) The threat of international bodies to stop assisting the Palestinians, which would lead to a "humanitarian collapse" and to "pointing an accusing finger at Israel." If violence continues, international donors have said they could not maintain their contributions to the Palestinians, which he said support 1.8 million people.
A moment's reflection on these concerns leads one to wonder whose collapse he is talking about. If he means the PA's collapse, I wonder what is the harm in that considering that they are not a force for good, law or order.
As for the necessity to forestall pressure to accept worse diplomatic plans, I wonder why Israel just can't say "no". The suggestion that the pressure could be so great as to render Israel without a choice in avoiding the alternate plans, leaves me stunned.
The last fear is not so easily dealt with. If the international donors were to pull out it would become Israel's responsibility as occupying power to care for and feed the Palestinians. I believe this to be a real concern.
As for the carrot, PM Sharon has managed to secure only the weakest possible assurance from the US
a) It will not have to withdraw to the Green Line in a future permanent settlement with the Palestinians. (I thought the Roadmap provided that borders were to be freely negotiated and that they must be "secure". So the US is assuring Israel that it doesn't have to do what it is not required to do. Big deal. Or is it the reality that Israel was only given the appearance of rights to get it to accept the Roadmap and that it has no choice but to do America’s bidding.)
b) The Americans propose a vaguely worded letter, which Israel would be able to present as implied recognition of the settlement blocs. (Take note there is neither an express nor an implied recognition, only the right to present it as implied.)
c) The Palestinian refugees will be able to return to a future Palestinian state. (That was never in question. But the assurance is silent on whether they will also be able to return to Israel.)
As anyone can see, these "assurances" are worthless.
Furthermore, according to <a href="http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/411103.html">(Ha'aretz)</a>
"Two principles guided the administration in drafting the letter of guarantees to Israel - support for the disengagement plan and providing answers for Sharon's political needs, and refraining from taking political or legal undertakings which could tie the U.S.'s hands in the future and hinder its contacts with its friends in the Arab world and Europe. The Americans don't want Egypt and other countries to pressure them to give counter guarantees to the Palestinians."
In other words the "assurances" do not amount to "political or legal undertakings". Doubly worthless. Once again their only purpose is to overcome the objections of Israelis. America is not prepared to hinder its contacts with its “friends” in Europe and the Arab world but it is quite prepared to hinder its relationship with its best friend, Israel.
“Sharon said that in exchange for the disengagement, the U.S. would state in writing that it is against any plan that endangers Israel, which "does not condition progress on eliminating terror."
“Sharon said the withdrawal from Gaza would "deprive the Palestinians of the historic excuse that the Israeli presence is preventing them from acting against terror."
Why does Israel need to get the US in writing on the elimination of terror as being the first requisite? The Roadmap clearly states this. Is Sharon suggesting that Israel can't rely on this provision of the Roadmap, which enshrines Bush’s June ‘02 speech, making it a prerequisite? Furthermore, in this assurance, America is the determinant of whether it endangers Israel and not Israel. Unacceptable.
As for the last point why should Israel do anything to remove pretexts? That's a poor excuse for doing anything let alone something so monumental as withdrawing.
It seems to me that Israel has accepted defeat. It has long since thrown in the towel. There is no fight left. Whatever happened to Res 242, which legitimized the occupation until Israel had secure and recognized borders?
When the Roadmap was being sold to the Israelis, it was said that Israel would not have to do anything prior to the cessation of terror. Now they are going to do a major withdrawal without cessation of terror.
Even worse than teaching the Palestinians that terror pays, Israel is now teaching them that they can get anything they want by simply not doing anything that they are obligated to do.
After Resolution 242 was passed, the Arabs met in Khartoum and passed their famous policy of three "noes'; no recognition, no negotiations, no peace. This policy succeeded in getting Israel to beg them to accept the Oslo Accords in which they got many rights without having to do anything. But these accords fell short for them in not offering a settlement freeze during negotiations or a state at the end of the line.
Not to worry, The Quartet decided that even though the Palestinians were in fundamental breach of Oslo, that they would be given an even better deal in the Roadmap. If Oslo meant anything it was that the Palestinians should have been forced to honour their commitments in Oslo.
Instead, the Roadmap offered them a state and a settlement freeze providing they eschew terror and incitement both of which they were obligated to do under Oslo. And still they did nothing to meet this obligation.
Does anybody care? No. The Disengagement Plan gives them most if not all of Gaza and much of the West Bank without the elimination of terror and incitement. But don't worry; the US is assuring Israel that no further plan will be thrust on it that "does not condition progress on the elimination of terror. " Where have I heard that before?
The end result of this proposal is that Israel moves closer to the '67 lines without a bankable commitment in return. Israel will be subjected to more terror not less. After the Yom Kippur War in ’73, Israel was at its strongest yet demanded many physical assets to be secure e.g. the Jordan rift, the heights of Judea etc. Now that it is weaker, diplomatically at least, it is ready to accept “peace” as a means to security and not assets. It is virtually accepting the '67 lines and equal exchanges of land. Just what the Saudis wanted. So not only is Israel being denied any land, it is being denied the right to be secure.
The Middle East is coming under great pressure from the US to transform itself. Israel should not make a move until it sees if the US will succeed. Israel may have to nuke Iran’s growing capacity to build nukes. Why make a move until the future unfolds.
Essentially since '67, Israel has been fighting a rear guard action to protect its flanks as it withdraws rather than a fighting to win. Maybe all it wanted to win was acceptance. Unfortunately, even that is denied to it.