ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | The Game is Up 22.2.05

The Game is Up

22 February 2005

By Yisrael Ne'eman

US President Bush has made it very clear. He is demanding a "viable" Palestinian state with "territorial continuity" during his European tour. His words are directed at the Israeli Right and not at Ariel Sharon. The president is speaking of territorial concessions to include the heartland of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). On the other hand however, even if the Palestinians were to get all the West Bank and Gaza their state would not be viable from an economic perspective.

As for Europe, he is looking for a tighter Atlantic alliance since world terrorism holds the ultimate issue on his agenda and he knows the Europeans have a deep sympathy for the Palestinians (whether he agrees with their reasoning or not). He believes that solving the conflict will remove an obstacle to the cooperation necessary to defeat terrorism.

He also sees an opportunity with Arafat gone, and PM Sharon understands this very well. The question is whether the right wing opposition sees the same picture. Interviewed on Israel's Channel 2, Judea and Samaria settlement leader Benzi Leiberman denied that Bush said what he meant and pointed out that he also had sources in the White House and they though differently than the president. He continued by speaking of democracy and the need for a referendum, something which the Bush administration would fully understand.

A few days ago Shaul Goldstein from the Etzion Bloc expressed relief that the fence would include his region within Israel's security demarcation line but lamented the need for a referendum and expressed fears over disengagement and settlement evacuation. Veteran Gush Emmunim leader Hanan Porat speaks of the need for a referendum and explains that whatever is decided is what will have to be done (2/3rds of the Israeli population is in favor).

At the beginning of the week the government passed its final vote on material compensation to be awarded those who will leave their homes under the Gaza and northern Samarian Disengagement and the final fence demarcation was approved. It will include some 6% of the western part of the West Bank and a much more limited Palestinian population than previous will find itself on the Israeli side.

The pieces are falling into place. The US and Israeli governments appear to be of one mind as to where the western border will fall between Israel and the Palestinian state in the making. Bush is in Europe and it appears he is lining up European support for his views or at least he hopes they no longer will oppose his thinking. The test will come when the Palestinians demand another condemnation of the fence at the UN (and it is in the works).

In short, the game is up. The settlement leadership needs to prove its determination and loyalty to its supporters while emphasizing their super democratic (demands for a referendum) values. With 80% of Jews living across the 1967 lines to be included within the fence, they aspire to retain their leadership roles. Explaining that what Bush says he does not really mean is ridiculous. It is all perfectly legitimate as they act to minimize losses. They are promising a non-violent opposition, knowing most Israelis are satisfied with the Sharon - Bush territorial policy, at least for the moment.

Difficult and depressing as the summer disengagement will be, it is only the first and easiest step. The greatest challenge will be to avoid a civil conflict at the behest of the extreme right where Jew will turn on Jew. The Yesha leadership will be judged in its actions no less harshly than Ariel Sharon.