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Sharon's speech - The anti-Climax


Ariel Sharon's address to the UN
gave people something to talk about, but in fact there was nothing new there.

Everything Sharon said in his speech, he had written in his letter to President Bush in 2004, had he not? And before that, hadn't he already talked about the evils of occupation and ruling over another people? Sharon has not suddenly joined the left, as his right wing critics insist.

Had he not said all these things before?

Here is Sharon in 2003: (See Land for
Peace in MidEastWeb Log

Sharon: "I believe that this is what will happen. One has to view things realistically. Eventually there will be a Palestinian state. I view things first and foremost from our perspective. I do not think that we have to rule over another people and run their lives. I do not think that we have the strength for that. It is a very heavy burden on the public and it raises ethical problems and heavy economic problems."

Here are the main points of his UN speech:
1. Public recognition of the rights of the Palestinians, the right to a Palestinian state, and the need for compromise:
The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel does not mean disregarding the rights of others in the land. The Palestinians will always be our neighbors. We respect them, and have no aspirations to rule over them. They are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own.

This represents a significant departure from the platform of Ariel Sharon's Likud party, but not from policies that he has been advocating and pursuing.

2. Reiteration of the Israeli claim of sovereignty over Jerusalem, which is not recognized by the UN, the International Court of Justice and most countries:
I arrived here from Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years, and the undivided and eternal capital of the State of Israel.

3. Reiteration of the Israeli right and need to build a security fence (Wall) which was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice.

Until they do so - Israel will know how to defend itself from the horrors of terrorism. This is why we built the security fence, and we will continue to build it until it is completed, as would any other country defending its citizens. The security fence prevents terrorists and murderers from arriving in city centers on a daily basis and targeting citizens on their way to work, children on their way to school and families sitting together in restaurants. This fence is vitally indispensable. This fence saves lives!

The Israel High court, ruling on the legality of the Security Fence, (http://www.zionism-israel.com/hdoc/High_Court_Fence.htm obliged Sharon on the same day by dismissing by the ICJ ruling that the fence is illegal, as based on insufficient and incorrect evidence.

4. Israel, according to Sharon, has done its part, and the future now depends on the Palestinians:

Now it is the Palestinians' turn to prove their desire for peace. The end of Israeli control over and responsibility for the Gaza Strip allows the Palestinians, if they so wish, to develop their economy and build a peace-seeking society, which is developed, free, law-abiding, transparent, and which adheres to democratic principles. The most important test the Palestinian leadership will face is in fulfilling their commitment to put an end to terror and its infrastructures, eliminate the anarchic regime of armed gangs, and cease the incitement and indoctrination of hatred towards Israel and the Jews.

And if the Palestinians eliminate the anarchic regime of armed gangs and cease the etc. etc. then what? Sharon didn't say. He missed an opportunity to give Palestinian moderates something to "sell" the peace with. To be fair, he probably couldn't say anything that would really help, without putting himself in an impossible political position. Sharon's speech represents the culmination of a revolution in Israeli thinking, but for the Palestinians it was hardly enough. The Palestinians insisted that at the UN, Sharon should have called for 1967 borders. Perhaps we could envision that at the end of days, or in an anti-matter universe, Abbas will call for Greater Israel from the river to the sea, while Sharon would call for 1967 borders. In this world, perhaps we can be content with what would have been considered a most remarkable speech by Ariel Sharon two or three years ago, and hope that Palestinian implementation of the roadmap will consist of more constructive steps then burning synagogues.

However, the Middle East remains the Middle East. The new Middle East is quite a bit like the old one, and the new Sharon is quite a bit like the old Sharon, so after the UN speech, and the earlier euphoric meeting with the Pakistanis, we could expect an anti-climax, and we got it. No sooner had he finished making the speech, then Sharon went on to say elsewhere that if Hamas participates in the Palestinian elections, Israel will impede the elections, an announcement which immediately drew criticism from the US as well as the Palestinians.

To be sure, the Oslo Interim agreement, Annex 2 which was the basis of the original PNA elections, disqualifies candidates who are racists or terrorists:

The nomination of any candidates, parties or coalitions will be refused, and such nomination or registration once made will be canceled, if such candidates, parties or coalitions:
1. commit or advocate racism; or
2. pursue the implementation of their aims by unlawful or non- democratic means.

The Hamas hobbies of blowing people up in supermarkets and keeping illegal weapons and a private army can qualify as "implementation" of "aims by unlawful or non-democratic means" and theHamas Charter which refers to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, certainly qualifies them as racist. On the other hand, it is not at all clear that the legal foundation for the elections remains the 1995 Oslo interim agreement, which was only supposed to be in force for five years, until a final settlement was achieved. Moreover, if Sharon wans to block the Hamas on those grounds, he could have first taken his case to the Palestinians, the US, the EU and the UN in a civilized way. Instead, he made a unilateral announcement of intent.
Like the mad decision by the Israeli government to storm the Muqata (see
Muqata Madness
) there is no chance that Sharons' threat will be carried out. It is impossible to imagine that the US or EU will let Israel stop the Hamas from participating in the elections.

The Palestinians cannot let Israel disbar the Hamas. Palestinian PM Abbas would probably like nothing better than to eliminate his main opposition, but he cannot afford to be seen as succumbing to the whims of Israel. If the Hamas doesn't run, then they will of course, have every right to say that the elections are "undemocratic" and discredit the PNA government in the eyes of the Palestinian people. Moreover, it would be pointless for Israel to stop them from running by strong-arm tactics, because the Hamas is still armed, and it would then have the perfect excuse to resume the violence against Israel. Nothing can be gained from making threats that cannot be carried out, and a lot can be lost.
The US for its part, was forced to adopt the strange attitude of acquiescing in Hamas participation. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said:

"We understand that the Palestinian political system is in transition, that it is in transition towards a democratic system and that that has to be a Palestinian process.
"I think we have to give the Palestinians some room for the evolution of their political process,"

By the same logic, would Dr. Rice favor Taleban participation in the elections in Afghanistan, or Baath party candidates running in Iraq?

The hope of course, is that Hamas, given the opportunity to participate in government, will mend its ways and reform its charter. There are hints that this could happen. Mohamed Ghazal, a Hamas leader in Nablus, is quoted as saying:

"Historically, we believe all Palestine belongs to Palestinians, but we're talking now about reality, about political solutions... The realities are different.

This quote by a junior official should be viewed in perspective. It is a hopeful sign and nothing more. The only way to effect a real change in the Hamas is to pressure them into that change, and that will never happen unless the US forces it to happen. They aren't even going to try, it seems.

Abbas and Sharon are due to meet for another summit conference in October. By all indications, it will be a dud like the previous conference. The truth is, that both leaders are before elections.

Neither side can afford to make any concessions. We have heard a great deal about how Israel has to make concessions because Abbas is weak and needs "help." It is true perhaps, but it is equally true that Sharon has to have something more to show for disengagement then shaking hands with Pervez Musharaf if he is to remain in office very much longer.

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/00000382.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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Replies: 4 comments

The concern for Abbas' weakness seems to me somewhat misplaced. Abbas represents a political movement which due to its own inadequacy has lost the support of a large proportion of the Palestinian people. Hamas as the only other coherent political movement has exploited this and stepped into the breach. However, its current agenda precludes it being able to conclude a lasting peace with Israel.
It is not the responsiblity of Israel to bolster or undermine one faction or another, unless that would meet Israel's needs. If the Palestinians want to reach an agreement with Israel where both sides agree on co-existance, then it is concommitant upon the Palestinians to develop political movements that are capable of that. If the Palestinians do not do this then it is indicative of their collective intent.
Israel's weakness is that it has clung to the concept of land for peace to the point where it has outlived its usefulness. Continued occupation of the West Bank, and until recently Gaza, merely diminished Israel's human and financial resources and brought no significant benefit. Israel has also changed since 1967, and its strength is now in its economic preeminence in the region. Denial of access to Israeli markets and facilities is a far stronger weapon that occupation in pursuit of a lasting peace.
Nevertheless the strength of the IDF must be maintained. There is no guarantee that Hamas will alter its agenda away from proposing an existential war against Israel. Nor even if it were to do this, that Palestinian support would not transfer to another organisation that continued with this proposition.
At this stage it is absolutely essential that Israel makes clear to the Palestinian people that to elect Hamas will inevitably result in all out war, and the terrible consequences of that for the Palestinian people. It must also be made clear to the Palestinian people that if Hamas were to form the next government, or even part of it, that attacks by Hamas forces will be regarded as de facto declarations of war.
The current sitaution continues the infantilisation of the Palestinian people. It allows them to permit attacks against Israel, with almost no sanction and certainly no the level of sanction that any other state would expect from an attack upon a regional military power. Excusing Palestinian actions affords them the opportunity to avoid responsiblity and ultimately responsibility for their own political evolution and maturity. Until the Palestinian people begin to act maturely they will be unable to conclude a meaningful peace treaty with Israel and will remain effectively at war with Israel.
But to bolster up Abbas when clearly he and his government are incapable would simply serve to inhibit political and social development.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 09/22/2005 09:14 PM CST

Good blog! It would be very bad if Hamas participates in the elections as it will probably get a lot of votes, because it is the main opposition party to Fatah with its widespread corruption. Every democracy has laws that forbid racist and violent parties to particpate in elections. A party that by its nature doesn't accept the authority of the government and its sole right to use violence, would not be admitted to participate in most, if not all, democatic states. I don't understand why Sharon doesn't put it this way instead of threatening to prevent the elections which, as Ami correctly states, the US and EU will not let happen.
Many Europeans think that Hamas is not that bad, and is so radical mainly because of the occupation. Giving them the opportunity to achieve real power might moderate their stance. Europeans should remember however that parties don't always moderate their views if they get political power, and that this can be very dangerous. Moreover, Hamas didn't moderate its views during the Oslo peace process, as the overwhelming majority of Palestinians came to live under Palestinian rule, and finally proposals for a viable Palestinian state were on the table, and it didn't moderate it's views because of the disengagement from Gaza. Recently Hamas leader Al Zahar made it clear once more that 'all of historical Palestine should be liberated' and "that Israel could not be recognized as "the legal owner of any part of Palestine".
If Hamas runs in the elections and wins, there will certainly be immense pressure on Israel to recognise the free elected Palestinian government and negotiate with it and make concessions. That means Israel has to talk with people that say the worst anti-Semitic things - some of the same things the Nazi's said and we all know the result of what they said. How can - especially Europeans - expect that the only Jewish state negotiates peace with (and thus trust) a government with people with such views in it? Again, I don't understand why Israel doesn't use this kind of arguments to explain its problems and concerns regarding Hamas and the Palestinian elections, and so make the international community part of a problem that should be solved in order to give peace a chance in the Middle East - something all want - instead of threatening to thwart a democratic event that many view as positive and thereby placing itself in the position of trying unilaterely to decide what the Palestinians should do.

Posted by Ratna @ 09/24/2005 06:50 PM CST

Sharon didn't give up Gaza because he is a man who is committed to peace. He gave up Gaza because he could no longer control it. While Israelis have this tendancy to constantly belittle Palestinans and profoundly speak about Palestinian violence - they forget one simple fact: Israel was created from Palestine. If a solution is to be found, it must involve both parties, dealing as equals. When one side has all the strength, it plays by its rules. The solution to peace is a simple equation: Palestine = E. Jerusalem, all of the West Bank and all of Gaza. When Israelis can accept the fact that they already have 77% of historical Palestine and will never be able to keep 100%, they will find not only peace but an Arab World that is willing and ready to accept them as a natural part of the geographic landscape, not some fabricated State in their midst. The Palestinians and Israelis have both suffered enough (Palestinans of course have suffered far more in this conflict). It is time a true leaders tells the Israeli public "The occupation must end".

Posted by Moshe Katz @ 09/29/2005 10:35 PM CST

Dear Moshe,
Much as I agree with the approximate outcome of your logic, it is supported by sloganeering and falsification of history. We must be for peace, but we also must not distort history or hold out unrealistic hopes for the future.

1- It is true that Israel was created from "Palestine" but that is what was intended from the start. "Palestine" was the name of the British mandate for Palestine, intended to be a national home for the Jewish people. At that time, "Palestinians" referred to Jews living under the mandate. Arabs did not call themselves Palestinians. My mother was a Palestinian and had Palestinian travel documents. My mother was not an Arab.

2-"Historic Palestine" as an administrative entity with defined boundaries was at different times either larger or smaller than the land from the river to the sea, and for most of the last 2000 years did not exist at all. It did not exist in Turkish times certainly. Depending on political orientation, you can claim that Israel takes up varying amounts of "historic Palestine." The original Palestine mandate of Britain was far larger than the land from the river to the sea, while the Palestine maps of the Zionists presented in 1919 were also larger than the land from the river to the sea, but smaller than the mandate. I cannot see any justification for applying the term "historic Palestine" to a geographic area that had administrative meaning for less than 30 years in a history of 2500 years. Historic "Palestine" of Herodotus was probably the Gaza strip and southern Sharon. Use of the term "historic Palestine" identifies a placard waver rather than a thinker.

3 "Fabricated State" - In what sense is Israel a "fabricated state" as opposed to, say, Kuwait and Iraq and Syria and Lebanon and the Hashemite Kindgom of Jordan, which were carved out of different chunks of Middle East real-estate? Among those, Israel is the least fabricated state, because it is the only one that came into being in large part through the efforts of its own inhabitants, rather than being created only by some commission that drew lines on maps. The partition plan was an attempt to make 2 of these fabricated states.

4- Though you do not seem to know it, the Arab-Israeli conflict did not begin in 1967. The Arabs of Palestine and their Arab and Muslim neighbors objected to the Jewish homeland in 1922, and even under the Turks. It is a fact, whether we like it or not, and it is recorded by Rashid Khalidi and every other responsible historian on both sides of the divide. Anyone who believes that ending the occupation will end all the enmity immediately is in for a big bad surprise.

Arabs were opposed even to an itsy bitsy teeny weeny Jewish state that would have been formed by the Peel Commission in less than 20% (ultimately) of the Mandate land. They rejected the partition plan of 1947. The "objections" were not simply voiced in academic debates, but were backed with violence begining in the 1920s. Therefore, while we can agree that ending the occupation can be a positive step toward peace, the scenario you describe above is rather unlikely. Israel can reasonably expect an exchange of ambassadors with some Arab countries in the event of peace.

You wrote:
"When Israelis can accept the fact that they already have 77% of historical Palestine and will never be able to keep 100%, they will find not only peace but an Arab World that is willing and ready to accept them as a natural part of the geographic landscape, not some fabricated State in their midst. "
There is not march harm in hoping, but we are a long way from that reality. I wouldn't count on it.


Posted by Ami Isseroff @ 09/30/2005 04:30 PM CST

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