ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Arafat and Netanyahu Face the Sharon Evacuation Plan 3.2.04

Arafat and Netanyahu Face the Sharon Evacuation Plan

03 February 2004

By Yisrael Ne'eman

Oddly enough Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat and Israeli Finance Minister Benyamin Netanyahu find themselves in the same boat after PM Ariel Sharon’s bombshell announcement yesterday that he was ready to evacuate 17 settlements in the Gaza Strip. Both are expected to react and prove their leadership abilities.

Arafat cynically announced that if Sharon evacuated 17 “caravans” he would certainly replace them with 170 new “caravans” and refused to relate seriously to the implementation of the “Sharon Plan”. Netanyahu is silent.

Sharon’s declaration to the Ha’aretz daily newspaper should not have taken anyone by surprise, since he has consistently repeated his aim of “separation” or “disconnection” from the Palestinians as his strategy for implementing a unilateral solution to the conflict. Challenges by the “Geneva Understandings” and the demanded court appearance at The Hague (over the security fence) are not enough to force a Sharon concession, since knowing Arik, he would ignore both.

But as a strategist the PM knows the Gaza game is a demographic loss with 7,000 Israelis living among 1.1 million Palestinians. As a general, Sharon knows he is completely overextended and cannot defend nor reinforce his troops. The same is true for the heavily populated hill regions of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) where it is expected that at least ten settlements will also be removed. When Sharon goes to Washington at the end of the month, he will have to prove to the administration his seriousness, and hence the plan, or so say the cynics.

The real reason for the announced withdrawal is to avoid falling into the emerging Palestinian trap of a bi-national state. Time is on the Arab side as their birth rate continues to skyrocket and in a surprising poll taken a few weeks ago, more than a quarter of all Palestinians said they prefer a bi-national entity to having their own independence. Certain Europeans are also becoming restless and are hinting that should the stalemate continue, they will advocate full individual rights for anyone living under Israeli control – meaning they will support a bi-national solution.

The Palestinian Authority has collapsed and exists only in name. Arafat hoped to bide his time forever. Netanyahu is a different story. Should Sharon be forced to step down due to corruption charges he is the most likely successor. Despite the fact that he has quietly supported the PM over his “disconnection” policies the Likud right wing is already advocating dumping Sharon and replacing him with Netanyahu. Even if the PM rides out the storm, Bibi will be expected to take a stand.

Netanyahu will be expected to show leadership when the “disconnection policy” will be implemented. One can rest assured he will adopt Sharon’s policy as his own, realizing it is the only way to guarantee the continued existence of democratic Jewish state in the Mideast.

Arafat can be expected to continue engaging in terrorism, his only response to all challenges of any kind.