January 29, 2004

Retreat Plan: Asking The Wrong Question

By Dr. Aaron Lerner

Before Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rose to read from his prepared retreat plan speeches at the Likud Central Committee and then at the Knesset, he had to sit through presentations of cogent arguments against retreat.

But his presentations never addressed the issues his colleagues raised, just as to this day he has yet to engage in a serious debate regarding the merits and consequences of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

By the same token, instead of instructing National Security Council Chairman Brigadier General (Res.) Giora Eiland, to head a team to study the efficacy of retreating, Mr. Sharon instructed Eiland to develop a detailed retreat plan.

And while Prime Minister Sharon promised in his Knesset speech that the retreat plan "will be undertaken following exhaustive discussions between the coalition parties", in truth it would appear that he would prefer to present his cabinet with a fait accomplis after making various commitments in Washington based on the detailed retreat plan that Eiland develops.

In the absence of a change in the process, the nation's planners and decision makers will never seriously consider if Israel should retreat -only how to retreat.

And this is a pity, because no one has a monopoly on wisdom.

A retreat program isn't a measure that can be readily changed once it is implemented. The consequences of bad policy could be grave.

If Mr. Sharon is so confident in the validity of his position he should be willing to argue his case and address the points made by retreat opponents instead of concentrating on how to neutralize or circumvent them.

The passage of a retreat plan should not solely be a question of backroom deals and unauthorized commitments to Washington.

This coming Sunday a number of ministers plan to ask for a conclusive cabinet discussion of the retreat concept before Sharon's Washington trip. I fervently hope our prime minister seizes the opportunity.

Dr. Aaron Lerner
Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
Mail POB 982 Kfar Sava
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