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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

May 31, 2003

Likud makes a historic U-turn

Likud, argues this piece in the Miami Herald, has been pragmatic and knows that a Palestinian state is the only way to prevent a demographic swamping of the Israeli state. Therefore it accepts Sharon's acceptance of the road map (Bush plan), but it is also incumbent upon the arabs to alter their past positions.
[...]
But -- whatever the reasons motivating the government's adoption of the peace plan, its endorsement of a Palestinian state and the premier's controversial statements -- the consequences of these developments cannot be underestimated. For they may have damaged, perhaps irreparably, Israel's case -- historically, legally and morally -- and will have a profound impact on the country's future[...]
Sharon's problematic wording likely intended to imply that the Israeli army cannot stay indefinitely in Ramallah and did not try to sever the Jewish tie to the Land (''We are not occupiers. This is the homeland of the Jewish people,'' Sharon would later clarify). Yet Israel's historic right to the land has been called into question, its legal standing has been tarnished and the moral ground has been ceded to the Palestinians. All in one stroke by none other than Sharon. Unbelievable.

As to Palestinian statehood, some see it as the solution to Israel's demographic predicament, which is real and calls for sober answers. The Sharon administration understands this and seems to have grudgingly acquiesced to Palestinian independence. Naturally, it conditioned it on a complete and final rejection by the Palestinians of their so-called right of return.

The logic is simple. If the rationale to withdraw from the disputed areas is to prevent a demographic nightmare, then it would be evidently useless (not to say suicidal) for Israel, which is smaller than New Jersey, to grant Palestinian statehood and then accept millions of Palestinian refugees within its shrunken borders. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas' insistence on realizing this ''right'' of return, as he told the Israeli daily Ha'aretz this week after the cabinet approval of the road map, is not auspicious, to say the least.

With its historic decision, the Likud-led Israeli government has shown impressive ideological flexibility. Now it is up to the Palestinian leadership to respond in kind.[more]