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

May 14, 2003

Sharon Is A Good Driver on the Roadmap's Winding Roads

An important point has been lost in the discussion of Sharon's latest assertion about settlements: while some pundits argue that Sharon is showing his true colors by protecting the settlements at any cost, in reality his moves are tactically brilliant and strategically sound.

I should preface my remarks by saying that I was a staunch supporter of Oslo, and was rudely awoken by the Palestinian violence that swept the region more than two years ago. This puts me in the minority of the contributors to this site, but I think the point is no less valid no matter the color of your political lenses. Looking back, Oslo was fundamentally flawed, not because it was a peace-process whose goal was to create a Palestinian entity--I do believe that such an entity will be Israel's only solution to the demographic time-bomb--but because it was based on the idea of 'land-for-peace.' It did not realize that those factors that were the most sensitive--Jerusalem and the refugees--had nothing to do with the land. Instead, any peace process with the Palestinians must be based on peace-for-peace, a mutual recognition of legitimacy and rights.

The roadmap, although a highly flawed document, does make some good points. Until the Palestinian people can reign in their terrorists and extremists, there can be no movement. They have failed to do so. Although the world celebrated the appointment of the first Palestinian Prime Minister, Abu Mazen, whether you like him or not, has not been given the opportunity to do anything by Arafat. Arafat still holds the keys to five of the eight Palestinian militias, thereby stripping Muhammad Dahlan of any real opportunity to unify the forces. Not that Dahlan is perfect--far from it, he himself has a history of terrorism and is seen as unreliable by some Israeli officials--but he does seem to have chosen a new path, one he will have to prove himself on, and one Arafat will do anything to avoid.

Besides the security aspect, which is certainly one of the more salient parts of the document, Abu Mazen himself continues to play the refugee card--possibly due to his weak political backing that would put him in mortal danger were he to compromise on the refugee issue. Regardless of the behind-the-scenes causes for Abu Mazen's lack of courage, the refugee issue is central to a 'peace-for-peace' compromise: no one, not from the left or right, can afford to accept the Palestinian right of return. Moreover, it is unethical; would the Arab lands be willing to repatriate and compensate the +800,000 Jews who were forced to flee their lands and leave behind their belongings? Of course not. What is done is done, and to make peace we have to wipe that slate clean.

So Sharon's settlement card came at the perfect time. With it, he will be able to bargain through the US, creating an environment of mutual pressure. 'If the Palestinians would only give up their right of return,' he could say, 'I will make painful compromises on the settlements. If not, just know that I was willing to make the deal and they busted it.'

Was Sharon not to play this card now, the Quartet would take great pleasure in denigrating Israel for holding back on the roadmap. Now, although they may continue to whine, they must realize that the roadmap is no more than an idea, an idea that will take a lot of negotiations and compromises from both sides to make a reality. The only way to achieve peace between the Palestinians and Israelis is through peace. There will be no Sinai separating the two--only true recognition will ensure a peaceful Middle East.