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Sharon Seeks Full US Strategic Relationship

05 May 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Israeli PM Sharon will be meeting with the new Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen at the end of the month.  After US Sec. Of State Powell makes his Middle East rounds in the aftermath of the American involvement in Iraq there are expectations for flexibility on the Bush ‘Road Map’.  But a prerequisite for any movement is the cessation of all Palestinian terror.

Abu Mazen is the one expected to put an end to terrorism.  He is thinking in terms of a “hudna” or cease-fire by all Palestinian groups including his own Fatah (El Aksa Brigades) and the opposition Islamic groups Hamas and the Jihad.  Yasir Arafat is still the Palestinian president (or chairman, as Israelis would prefer) and steadfastly refuses to cease the “armed struggle”.  Sharon has no intention of accepting a hudna, giving breathing space to Palestinian terror organizations to regroup and on some pretext or other break the cease-fire with increasing deadly attacks. 

He will demand Abu Mazen completely uproot terror, an impossibility since the Palestinian PM fears a civil war and loss of any possible support due to such actions.  Sharon will then bank on a good ten to fifteen more years of Palestinian refusals and violence (Arafat’s continued life expectancy).

This allows for him to satisfy the Israeli center, building the security fence as a demarcation line and future boundary to include some 75 – 80% of Israeli developments in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).  He has already warned Benny Elon of the extreme right National Union party not to undermine the ‘Road Map’ by lobbying far right wing circles in the US who oppose a Palestinian entity.  The pragmatic Sharon fears the Palestinian demographic time bomb, something messianic fundamentalists on both sides of the Atlantic ignore or deny.  He is fully aware the centrist Bush Republicans favor a two-state solution.

Sharon’s real aim is to cement a strategic relationship with the US, a throwback to the old right wing Revisionist ideology of the “Iron Wall”.  From the 1920’s onwards Zionism depended on two security concepts, either peace and eventual integration into the Middle East as plied by the Labor movement and other ‘moderates’ over the years or in the face of constant conflict, the need for a foreign, western power guarantee in the form of an alliance or “Iron Wall”.

Both Britain (during the early Mandate days) and France (1950’s and 60’s) were seen as possible candidates until their pro-Arab interests became apparent.  The US stepped in after the Six Day War and has been a semi-guarantor with strategic understandings through the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Labor leaders such as Ben Gurion, Golda, Rabin and Peres also worked these angles as long as peace looked unattainable.  ‘Oslo’ was a Left Labor shift towards regional integration, but it failed. 

Sharon is depending on Palestinian and world – wide Arab/Islamic terrorism to lock in his relationship with the US.  With the center Republicans in power this is a chance of a lifetime and he will gladly sacrifice the unpopular far Right to do so. 

Consistent and reliable as ever, Yasir Arafat is his best guarantee for an alliance with the US.