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A Step Beyond the Aqaba Conference

01 June 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

One should expect Ariel Sharon to be preparing for a letdown at the Aqaba Conference this Wednesday.   US President George Bush may force a verbal agreement between Israel and the Palestinians but the proof of success will be on the ground.  The Palestinians will promise a ‘hudna’ or temporary cease-fire or abstention from terror attacks for anywhere from three weeks to three months.  Palestinian PM Abu Mazen hopes he can negotiate such a deal with the Palestinian opposition.  Chances of success are miniscule and who needs a temp cf(See article May 30, 2003).

Sharon and (apparently) the Americans are demanding a mutual recognition of Israel as a ‘Jewish’ state and Palestine as an ‘Arab’ state.  Sharon is willing, while the Palestinians are not, since it undermines their claim for refugee return (see article     ).

The PM is planning for the great failure with the demarcation security fence as his centrist fallback.  What falls west of the line will remain in Israel, to the east he can be expected to begin dismantling illegal (by Israeli law) proto-settlements.  This will go over well with the US and the Peres led Labor Party.  It will force his right wing coalition partners into the opposition (see yesterday’s article).

More importantly it will trap the Palestinians.  From a 95% in halting terror attacks in central Israel, one can expect an over 99% success rate.  There is a big difference when a homicide/suicide bomber believes he/she has a one in twenty chance of success as opposed to a one in a hundred (or more) shot.  Politically this will start becoming Israel’s de facto compromise border.  According to peace activist and Ma’ariv columnist Ben Dror Yemini, even the supposed Palestinian moderates who fifteen years ago opposed terrorism, were willing to relent on ‘refugee return’ and advocated a two state solution, now demand a fight to the end.  Palestinian actions will contradict Abu Mazen’s declarations.  And Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat, from the shadows can be expected to stand firmly behind all terror activities.

But the security fence will take on a much more painful function.  It will keep out illegal Palestinian workers looking for a day’s wage in Israel to feed their hungry families.  Security forces have rounded up tens of thousands over the past two and a half years and shipped them back to the Palestinian areas.  Nowadays they are not fined since they have no money, nor held in jail since Israel does not want to feed and look after them.  And after all they did not really commit a ‘crime’.  The economic pressure will become intolerable as they will not be able to cross the fence. 

Cynical but true, resistance functions best when a population is one or two levels above destitution, meaning there is still enough to eat and get by.  The separation fence will plunge the average Palestinian into grinding poverty.  Israel’s approach is two pronged in breaking the Palestinian Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) and terror offensive.  The security forces have shattered the major terror organizations and what is left is working out of disconnected, inexperienced cells.  Popular support exists but will be undermined when the economic glimmer of hope will be dashed by the fence.

Israel succeeded in breaking the real Palestinian national uprising or ‘intifada’ of 1987 – 91 through economic and security measures.  The objective is the same this time, just that a compromise may be enforced by Israel. 

Sharon, with popular backing (and US compliance?) is preparing his centrist dictate.