Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip may represent a historical watershed. Despite the chaotic manner in which the initiative was launched and unpleasant accompanying allegations concerning Sharon’s motives, most Israelis are desperate to separate from the Palestinians. Despite this, Sharon is widely perceived as beginning to lose the plot. Observers bracket his Gaza initiative with the bizarre Hizbullah hostage deal and zigzag concessions on the security fence.
Yasser Arafat and Hamas will undoubtedly exploit the Gaza initiative as proof that terrorism works. Like the helter-skelter retreat from Lebanon they will hail this as another Israeli capitulation in their war of attrition aimed at Israel’s destruction. Many opposition politicians agree with IDF intelligence evaluations predicting that a withdrawal from Gaza will lead to an intensification of terror.
Who could have visualized that the man who persistently warned against rewarding terror would move in such a direction when the Palestinian Authority is unashamedly reiterating that it has no intention of curtailing terror?
Setting aside for a moment the ugly allegations relating to Sharon’s family graft, what is in the dock is the prime minister’s credibility as a national leader. Barring unforeseen circumstances he is making himself a lame duck for the duration of his government, which could soon fall apart.
His only chance of regaining the nation’s trust would be convincing people that his Gaza withdrawal does not represent a victory for the Palestinian war of attrition.
To achieve this he has to take the following steps:
End once and for all the charade that those who continue to endorse blowing up our women and children are still considered potential peace partners.
Sharon must speak directly to the nation and explain how shortening the lines in Gaza will materially enhance our national security.
Without negating the commitment of accepting a contiguous Palestinian state under appropriate circumstances, he must balance the Gaza withdrawal with a clear delineation of the territories which are to remain forever within the borders of Israel.
He should relate specifically to the greater Jerusalem area, including the Etzion bloc, Ma’aleh Adumim, the foothills of Judea and Samaria and the settlement blocs dominating the coastal plain, including Ariel. The anti-terror fence must embrace those areas.
He should announce that this entire area will be annexed to Israel by Knesset legislation and insist that Israel is entitled to develop it any way it deems appropriate.
He should make clear that if settlements in the disputed territories were ever to be territorially located in a future Palestinian state, ethnic cleansing would be unacceptable and Jewish settlements would not be uprooted.
He must proclaim that once the Palestinians have been left to themselves, any acts of terror will lead to far more drastic responses than hitherto. The message to the Palestinian leaders must be that if after we have separated from the Palestinians terror continues, they will be inflicting a bitter price on their people.
THE PRIME minister should also enlist the assistance of the most talented Israeli and Diaspora Jewish activists and launch a global information campaign directed primarily at the US. This campaign should promote the message that with the end of the so-called “occupation,” Israel’s moral case is absolutely unassailable. We simply demand the right to live in peace and security and be left to ourselves.
The campaign should draw attention to the fact that that after 10 years of brainwashing by Arafat we are now confronted with a Palestinian culture suffused with evil similar to what Hitler and the Nazis achieved with the German people, a culture in which suicide bombers have become sanctified as a cult and promoted in every segment of Palestinian society.
The message must highlight the fact that as our unilateral withdrawal is about to be implemented the Palestinians are openly proclaiming that terrorism will be intensified, not bothering to hide their objective: the elimination of Jewish sovereignty in the region.
We should challenge Americans to ask themselves how they would respond if their neighbors carried on in this manner. There can be no better window of opportunity than now to convince Americans of the justice of our cause.
If hard-liners can be persuaded not to bring down the government and thus underwrite a catastrophic return to the 1967 boundaries, we may for the first time even begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
If, in contrast to the projected defeatist stand-alone withdrawal from Gaza, the process is implemented in conjunction with the annexation of settlements destined to stay with Israel and backed by the separation fence, the outcome could conceivably even lead toward a cold peace or armistice with the Palestinians, not dissimilar to what we have with Syria.
If that happened, Ariel Sharon might also regain the credibility and trust of the nation and avoid following the path of his failed predecessors.