ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Sharon Plays the American Card 21.11.04

Sharon Plays the American Card

21 November 2004

By Yisrael Ne'eman

The pressure is on Israeli PM Ariel Sharon. Internationally, there are demands that he cut a deal with the Palestinians for the return of Gaza, turning his unilateral Disengagement into a bi-lateral agreement. Interestingly, there are those both to his left and right in Israel who are demanding the same. The Israel Left has always claimed that all dealings for peace must be done with Palestinian concurrence, while those on the Right figure that if there will be direct negotiations, they can only fail and the Gaza Disengagement will be stillborn.

But Sharon will adhere to none of this advice or criticism. His agreement is with the Americans. Last April he received full American support on four points: No refugee return; no return to the 1967 borders (1949 Armistice lines); the defensive fence Israel is building does not violate any law and Israel has the right to destroy terrorism wherever it may be. He owes the Americans as Israel's only real ally.

In return Israel is to withdraw from Gaza and either hand it over to someone or not, and then remove illegal proto caravan settlements. Now with a second Bush term assured, Sharon is being tested, no just on intent, but on action. If he does not fulfill his part of the bargain, the Americans need not be obligated to their promises.

In his battle against the Right, he can explain that this is a small price to pay for such US support.

Facing the Left and the international community he wants to reverse the pressure. Dropping Gaza onto the Palestinian Authority will force them to prove they can reign in terrorism, or fail. Happily, from Sharon's perspective, he has no obligation to them, only an agreement with the Americans. He fears any arrangement with the Palestinians would leave Abu Mazen & Co. responsible to deal with terrorism and tie the IDF's hands as concerns forays into Palestinian areas to halt or pre-empt terror attacks. At this stage of distrust between Israel and the Palestinians, Sharon fears any partnership with the Palestinians designed to halt terrorism. He believes it will not succeed and only paint Israel into a corner.

As for the final objective, Sharon not only wants to avoid a bi-national state, but in addition he hopes for a proper alliance with the US, solidifying the relationship. Due to Mideast complications, especially with the nuclearization of Iran (despite Iranian denials and Neville Chamberlain style European agreements to the contrary) Washington may very well need Israel as a close up-front ally in the region. Sharon wants to be in as tight as possible and find favor in Washington.

The hope is to cash in his chips with the coming of a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians and the eventual comprehensive Middle East peace to include both Syria and Lebanon. Boundaries reflecting the need for geographic defense and demographic realities are his strategic objectives. He believes his best chances lie with Washington and no one else.