Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Israelis - 1 -- Is Sharon indispensable? - an Israeli peace view

Taking a different view toward Sharon's policies iand their long-term impact on the Palestinians is another Israeli peace activitst As described by Patrick Seale in Dar Al Hayat:

Yossi Beilin, the prophet of the Left, had spoken out in favor of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who, for most Arabs and indeed for much of the world, is the very epitome of a brutal, expansionist and militaristic Israel.

I can't quote Beilin's exact words but he said something like this: 'Sharon is not yet General de Gaulle [the man who gave independence to Algeria], but we should support his Gaza withdrawal plan because it sets a precedent for giving up occupied Palestinian territory.' [...]

We seem to be witnessing the beginning of a radical restructuring of Israeli politics. Sharon is no longer the idol of the messianic, land-grabbing settlers, dedicated to seizing the whole of the 'Land of Israel'. In fact, he is now seen by many of them as an enemy who must be brought down -- and even killed. [...]

But, in spite of this opposition, Sharon remains committed to his unilateral disengagement plan. He has crossed the Rubicon. He has vowed to sever Israel's links with Gaza and withdraw the 7,500 Jewish settlers by the end of 2005. To appease the Americans, he is also planning to dismantle three or four small settlements from the northern West Bank. These moves are denounced by much of the Right as a criminal betrayal of Zionist principles, which must be thwarted at all costs.

Three powerful ministers in Sharon's government - Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Education Minister Limor Livnat -- have paid lip service to Sharon's policy but have not lifted a finger to support him. It is evident that he no longer commands a majority in the Likud party, in his parliamentary faction, or even in his own cabinet.

This is not the first time Sharon has enraged the extremists. In the autumn of 2002, he made a statement in favor of a Palestinian state, declaring that Israel could not for ever rule over 3.5 million Palestinians against their will. For a Likud prime minister to utter these words was sheer heresy.

Sharon's opponents called a meeting of the Likud Central Committee at which Benjamin Netanyahu, Sharon's main challenger, submitted a resolution stating that there could never be a Palestinian state. It was carried by a 60 per cent majority. Sharon walked out. 'I am the Prime Minister,' he declared at the time. 'I lead this government. I know what I have to do!'

Defying his own party on the issue of a Palestinian state, he pursued the same line in his election campaign and, in early 2003, soundly defeated the then Labour leader, Amram Mitzna, a former general and mayor of Haifa, doubling the size of his Likud party faction in the Knesset. [...]

Seale does agree with Uri Averny's position, described in the post below, regarding Sharon's long-term objectives:
Sharon has not been suddenly converted to the cause of Palestinian nationalism. He remains what he has always been - an implacable enemy of Palestinian aspirations. But he is a pragmatist. He wants to leave Gaza in order to hold as much of the West Bank as possible. That is the purpose of his infamous 'apartheid wall' and of his relentless attempts to destroy Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority. His strategy is to shatter Palestinian society, to make life unbearable in the occupied territories and force as many Palestinians as possible to quit in desperation.
Yet the danger to former General Sharon is the same as faced by former General Rabin. Anything that suggests a step toward legitimating the presence of the Palestinians as a distinct group with an independent political existence is the beginning of the slippery slope. Though the words "Palestinian state" may have been heresy, the settlements as "facts on the group" remain superior to any theological niceties. That is why the disengagement from Gaza, and the potential precedent it would set, is creating such a dangerous climate -- it's the red line which some settlers simply will not accept that Israel cross.

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