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The Sharon “Disengagement Plan”

18 December 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Israeli PM Ariel Sharon’s major announcement on a “Disengagement Plan” was made last Thursday at the Herzliya Conference think-tank and not in the Knesset.  Sharon has come to the conclusion that Israel’s parliament is filled with political hacks and if one wants to make a major policy statement it is best done in the forum of Israel’s broad intellectual elite seeking out solutions for the future.  Many would agree the Knesset usually seeks solutions only concerning their own re-election.

Sharon’s compromise “Disengagement Plan” leading to an interim Palestinian state makes several major points:

  • Israel will complete the western security fence (across from Tel Aviv and Netanya) as a barrier against Palestinian terrorism, as a bulwark against allowing in illegal Palestinian workers and as a temporary border demarcation between Israel and the interim Palestinian state to be.
  • Although not mentioned specifically the Jordan Rift Valley will be held on the eastern front with Jordan as a security measure to halt any future Arab/Moslem threat from across the Jordan River.
  • Large settlement blocs close to Israel’s 1967 borders will be integrated into Israel proper and the accompanying funds will be allotted to strengthen such development.  These areas will be included west of the fence.
  • All illegal settlements (by Israeli law) will be removed in the near future.
  • Settlements falling within the region to be handed over unilaterally to the Palestinians are to be evacuated (Gaza and the central West Bank) and re-established in those areas kept by Israel. 

Sharon did not say which settlements will be evacuated but he is on a collision course with the hard line Right, especially his coalition partners the National Union and National Religious Party who comprise 13 seats in his 68 member coalition.  Should he go through with the evacuations they will leave the government.

Enter Shimon Peres and the Labor opposition.  The center Left claims Sharon is all declarations and no action.  The PM is giving the Palestinians 3-6 months to negotiate with him (first ending terrorism as a condition) and them he will make his unilateral moves.  One can assume such negotiations will fail, Sharon will act, the Right will bolt the coalition and most of Labor’s 19 member faction will replace them.

Sharon wants to ensure a two-state solution avoiding a bi-national demographic disaster while simultaneously holding on to the center Right.  He wants to obtain maximum physical security for all, show the Americans progress on the Bush Road Map and inspire investor (especially hi-tech) confidence that Israel is safe for economic development.  Israel’s greatest nightmare would be capital flight leading to a brain drain. 

Peres and Labor agree but they need proof.  Should all work according to plan one can expect to see Labor in the government this summer.