ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Sharon’s Two - Pronged Approach

Sharon’s Two - Pronged Approach

18 February 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Israeli PM Ariel Sharon is living up to his word.  He made two major declarations of intent just prior to the elections.  He promised to meet with Palestinian leaders immediately after the elections in an effort to arrange a cease-fire and he announced his intention of establishing a national unity government.

For three weeks he has held discussions with the Palestinians, in particular, Salam Fayad, the new Palestinian Authority finance minister.  With a cessation of violence, both the Israeli and Palestinian economies can begin to recover allowing for joint industrial and tourist projects while Palestinian laborers may once again find employment in Israel (at least until industrial zones are built in the West Bank and Gaza). 

In the meantime PA Chairman Yasir Arafat announced he will appoint a prime minister, supposedly answering the Quartet and especially American – Israeli demands for reforms in his corrupt, violence ridden regime.  Only the new premier will not have powers like in the Israeli system.  Rather the PM position is to be modeled after the French where the president holds the powers and the PM is his number one subordinate, meaning Arafat will still hold the full reigns of authority, including finance and security. 

There is also the question of who will be the Palestinian PM.  Fayad is considered a technocrat and an excellent money man but he is not a PLO insider and has no political pull.  Arafat’s number two, Abu Mazen is considered best for the post.  In the past year he had a major falling out with Arafat, seeing the Palestinian violence as counter productive.  Even if not particularly liked by Israelis (his doctorate for the most part denies the Holocaust), he is seen as a pragmatist with some political and diplomatic pull.  Over time he too has had his contacts with Sharon.

With the Bush and Quartet ‘Roadmap’ as a guide, Israel has three basic demands of the Palestinians:

-          All monies are to be followed carefully to ensure they are not used for terrorist purposes or are
           stolen by PA officials.

-          The PA security services are to bring terrorism to a halt, doing battle in the streets with   
           Hamas, the Jihad, the Tanzim/Fatah/Al-Aksa Brigades or anyone else.  This will lead to a
           cease-fire with Israel.

-          The PA news media is to eliminate anti-Israeli and all anti-Semitic diatribes from their
           repertoire.   And there is a possibility this demand will be extended to the education system
           which has been poisoning young minds with hate for Israelis and Jews while glorifying war and
           matyrdom.

Last night Sharon and Labor chairman Amram Mitzna met.  Members of Mitzna’s entourage quipped that should a secular NUG be suggested by the Likud, this would be a proposal Mitzna could not turn down.  The statement was then qualified, saying such a position would allow for the opening of negotiations.  By this morning everyone expects more discussions to take place.

Labor is demanding negotiations with the Palestinians, a settlement freeze, the evacuation of ‘illegal’ outposts, the slashing of yeshiva budgets and an overall realignment of the economy.  Although Sharon for the most part agrees and is even considering bringing in the former governor of Bank of Israel, Ya’akov Frankel to be the new finance minister (and is known to concur on all the above points), Mitzna and Co. are presenting their position as ‘demands’.  This is Labor’s only way of climbing down from their pre-election refusal to ever consider serving in a NUG.  It is well known from the outset that many in Labor certainly want a place in the next government.

Believe it or not, there is room for optimism.