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Will disengagement freeze the peace process?


In a sensational interview to appear in Ha'aretz, Dov Weisglass, a top adviser to PM Ariel Sharon says that the purpose of the disengagement plan is to freeze the peace process and confound domestic and foreign critics of Israeli policy. Is it for real or is it spin?

Weisglass's words have to produce nausea and extreme discomfort in dovish supporters of the disengagement plan, or even in anyone who is concerned that the Isaeli government not portray us as monsters of some sort. In a preview article, Ha'aretz quotes him as saying:

"The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process..."

"And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress."

"The disengagement is actually formaldehyde... It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."

Weisglass attempted to backtrack later, explaining on Israel radio that a part of his words had been cut off. He claimed that he said in the interview that the peace process was only on hold until the Palestinians agree to rein-
in terror, and that the Israel government remain commited to President Bush's Roadmap. The Office of the Prime Minister also issued a statement reiterating that that Israel is committed to the roadmap as the only path to peace. However, what Weisglass and the Prime Minister's office don't say is that the estimate of the Israeli government is that the Palestinians will never be compliant with the Roadmap. This is clear because Ha'aretz quotes Weisglass as saying:

what I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did."

So what he is talking about is a temporary halt in the peace process, supposefly with American approval. The halt is "temporary" - pending the time when the Palestinians turn into Finns, the Atlantic Ocean turns into pink lemonade and the Prince of Peace enters Jerusalem on a white donkey.

Weisglass also explains in the interview that disengagement is intended to frustrate genuine peace initiatives such as the Geneva accord.

This is not the first time that the government has presented the disengagement plan as being "bad for the Palestinians." Ariel Sharon had explained previously, similar to Weisglass's statement, that the disengagement plan was designed to torpedo genuine peace efforts such as the Geneva initiative.

Weisglass's pronouncements have been denigrated as empty spin by opposition politicians of the right and left. Labor MK Haim Ramon pointed out that the peace process was frozen before the disengagement plan was announced, so there was nothing to lose by disengagement. Ramon said he has favored disengagement for the last three years. Ramon's reasoning leads us to conclude that supporters of peace must support the disengagement plan because there is nothing else on the table, regardless of what spin the PMs office may put on it.

Weisglass's pronouncements may be spin, but that doesn't mean they do not reflect the truth. Does anyone believe that the Sharon government would be willing to make a fair offer to the Palesitnians if they did make a genuine effort to rein in terror? The poor beleagured peace dove was stabbed in the back by Yasser Arafat, and now Weisglass and Sharon are pouring formaldehyde over it and freezing it at the same time.

We have to face the fact that we have an Israeli government that is as dedicated to wrecking the peace process as Yasser Arafat. Whatever their truth value, Weisglass's words also did real damage to Israel's image and have undoubtedly embarrassed the United States. Even if it is true, it is monstrous to think that our government spokespersons are so stupid that they are perfectly content to portray Israel to the world as monsters who want to torpedo the peace process. There is no way that the United States can openly support a policy of freezing the peace process, or pouring formaldehyde on it, or postponing Palestinian statehood, a directive of a UN Security Council resolution, until kingdom come.

As for disengagement itself, withdrawal from Gaza should be good for Israel and good for the Palestinians. 57 percent of terror incidents have occurred in Gaza, and Gaza accounted for the deaths of 82 Israeli soldiers - nearly a third of the total, even before the current bloody engagement. If Israel does not withdraw from Gaza, there will be many more Israeli casualties, and many more tragic deaths like that of the 13 year old Palestinian school girl, Iman al-Hams, killed in the current incursion, which is itself a bit of bloody spin intended for "internal consumption" and with little strategic worth.

Nonetheless the most dovish Israeli must have second thoughts after Weisglass's statements, and as it becomes increasingly obvious that withdrawal will produce chaos in Gaza. The Israeli government has announced, more or less, that it will not talk to Palestinians, but without such negotiations - or perhaps even with them, Gaza could become a seething terrorist base dominated by the Hamas. Perhaps the best solution is to evacuate the settlers, but leave the IDF in Gaza until mechanisms are in place that can help ensure an end to terror from Gaza.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000302.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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