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Thursday, April 01, 2004

Sharon spells out rationale for disengagement, but no details

Herb Keinon, in the Jerusalem Post:

Sharon. . . said the current impasse presented him with four possibilities.

The first option, he said, was to essentially annex the territories, taking over responsibility for the 1.8 million Palestinians living there. "I strongly object to this possibility," Sharon said. "Israel has no interest in taking responsibility for and ruling over the Palestinians' lives. I do not think we should allocate billions of shekels from our budget at this time to deal with the Palestinians' education, welfare and sewage."

The second option, he said, was a complete withdrawal from the territories "in return for vague promises, as the extreme Left suggested in Geneva, to the great joy of [Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser] Arafat and his cronies." He said this option would be "a disaster for Israel in terms of security, as well as practically impossible to implement."

The third option, Sharon said, would be the easiest – do nothing; maintain the status quo. "In terms of internal politics, this possibility is very attractive," Sharon said. "You stay put, you have a stable coalition and the support of the parties on the Right. There is no need to face the disagreements of your own party. This would undoubtedly be an ideal political situation." But, Sharon said, the status quo is dangerous for Israel because "a deadlock cannot last forever. The world will not allow the impasse to continue. A dead end will, sooner or later, bring about political initiatives which are dangerous to Israel."

In a clear reference to the Geneva Initiative, Sharon said there are people around the world, and in Israel, who believe "we should first withdraw from all the territories, and then, simply by force of a written agreement, the Palestinians will stop the terror. These people, who garner a wide range of support around the world, primarily in Europe, will not stop pressuring Israel to abandon its demand that the Palestinians fight terror. Since the Palestinians are doing nothing, the pressure is focused on us. It is easier to pressure a westernized democratic country like Israel." While Israel has been able to fend off these initiatives up until now, Sharon said there is no guarantee it will be able to do so forever.

In the meantime, terror continues, and Israel continues its "security activities." The end result, he said, is that "Every day around the world, pictures are transmitted of people standing at Israeli roadblocks, of Israeli soldiers in the streets of Palestinian towns, and there are horror stories of alleged Israeli abuse of Palestinians."

A continuation of this situation, he said, will lead to a humanitarian collapse in the territories.

As a result, the prime minister said, the only option available is the fourth one – unilateral disengagement. While saying that he will not reveal details of the plan, which are still under discussion with the White House, Sharon did present the basic principles:
- establishing a security line along which the IDF will be deployed, "in areas essential for Israel's defense";

- erecting a physical obstacle to make terrorist infiltration into large population centers more difficult;

- withdrawal from areas which will clearly not be under Israeli control in any future permanent agreement and which are sources of great friction, "such as the Gaza Strip";

- obtaining the political support of the US and other "friends around the world" for the plan.
Sharon said the Palestinians are afraid of the plan because it will obligate then to fight terrorism or "be stuck with their political aspirations until they do so."

"The withdrawal from Gaza," Sharon said, "will remove the historic Palestinian excuse according to which the Israeli presence prevents them from acting against terror.

We must say to them, 'Gentlemen, please, there is no Israeli presence, let us see you begin to act.'"