DECIPHERING SHARON'S PLAN

(An Attempt to Read between the Lines)

By Boris Shusteff

In an interview published on April 13 in "Haaretz Magazine" Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said, "The one thing that has changed is my view of Jordan as Palestine - and that only because there is a reality [on the ground] here. I never believed there should be two Palestinian states. That is the sole change that has taken place in my position."

While Sharon is definitely right in believing that there cannot be "two Palestinian states," it appears that he is saying that Jordan has ceased to be Palestine anymore due to the "reality on the ground." In other words, it looks as though he is ready to acquiesce to the establishment of another Palestinian state on some lands of Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) due to the presence there of the Palestinian Arabs.

However, is it possible that he is not saying everything, and his statement must be taken with a large grain of salt? Undoubtedly he knows that the whole history of the Jewish-Arab conflict in Eretz Yisrael consists of the ceaseless establishment of facts on the ground, and that the five Arab-Israeli wars were nothing else than military attempts to change reality. In 1914 there were only 60,000 Jews and 340,000 Arabs in Western Palestine which now comprises Israel and Yesha. By 1948 the Jews had bought only 7% of the lands of Western Palestine, and the British, in violation of the Mandate, withheld from them majority of the land where they were told to "encourage the close settlement by Jews." Compare this to a prosperous Israel with almost 5,000,000 Jews. Obviously Sharon knows all of this; he even says in the "Haaretz" interview that he still gets excited about the "idea of 'another dunam and another dunam' [of land]."

More than 100 years of the Jewish-Arab struggle for Palestine have convincingly demonstrated that the "reality on the ground" can be changed. To resign to reality now, by allowing the creation of another Palestinian state would be an unforgivable blunder that could lead to Israel's destruction. Is this really what Sharon proposes or it is simply a political statement?

Let us carefully examine his words and try to read between the lines. On April 13 in an interview with the Israeli daily "Maariv," Sharon listed many limitations as the conditions for the creation of the Palestinian Arab state. He said that it should be created "by agreement, through negotiations, ...such a state would be limited, disarmed. Israel [would] supervise the borders for years. Such a state would not sign alliances with nations hostile to Israel. Israel retains its rights to overfly the territory. Israel's security is not harmed."

One need not be an Arab nationalist to understand that Sharon's conditions are absolutely unacceptable to Arafat, who rejected the sacrifices offered by Ehud Barak, which were incomparable in their generosity. Why, then, does Sharon offer to the Palestinian Arabs a "gift" that they will undoubtedly reject? This author believes that it is a purely political move and in reality has nothing to do with Sharon's beliefs. Sharon is simply sending a signal to the Jordanian leaders that he is not planning to expel Arafat and his cronies into Jordan.

The secret that lies behind this, which Sharon did not mention, is the concern that if Israel pushes the Palestinian Arabs into Jordan, the Hashemite regime will fall, and instead of a relatively moderate Jordan,

Israel will have an extremely aggressive Palestinian Arab state, which by establishing links with Iraq will form a huge anti-Zionist coalition of Arab countries. It is this fear of losing the Jordanian "buffer" that has caused Sharon to change his position on the issue of Jordan being Palestine.

In essence Sharon is saying that Jordan under Hashemite rule is less dangerous than if it were a Palestinian Arab state. Therefore he is ready for the theoretical option of the creation of a hostile Arab state that can be called Palestine. He is ready to allow it on 42% of the lands of Yesha in the hope of containing this enemy and fighting it as long as is needed.

Sharon must certainly also know that this scenario is fraught with extremely dangerous implications. There is absolutely no guarantee that one day the Jordanian regime will not become much more aggressive towards Israel and will not establish close links with Iraq. The example of a friendly Iran under a Shah that was replaced overnight by a fiercely anti-Zionist Ayatollah must never escape from the strategic calculations of the Israeli leaders. A united front of anti-Zionist Arab countries is a very real danger.

And it is not the only danger. Explaining why Israel cannot give the Golan to Syria, Sharon said in the "Haaretz" interview that "Israel suffers from permanent inferiority in that it is possible to confront it with serious dilemmas without firing a shot." One of the reasons for this is the small size of the country. By allowing the creation of another Palestinian state, Israel will suffer from this "permanent inferiority" on its borders with this state. Just consider a scenario in which there is a Jordanian Moslem fundamentalist regime as well as a new hostile Palestinian Arab state in parts of Yesha. Clearly this situation is much less preferable to the situation without an extra Arab state.

Israel's legitimate concern of Jordan being transformed into an aggressive Palestinian Arab state if Arafat's thugs move there must be solved not through the establishment of another Arab state, but through the defeat of Arafat and the PLO. Sharon knows better than anyone else that the Palestine Liberation Organization was established in order to destroy Israel. He is well aware of the fact that the PLO's Charter,

calling for the death of the Jewish state, has not been changed. He himself suspects that the 42% that he is ready to allow for the new Arab entity will not solve the problem, and he knows that he cannot give more. As he said in the "Ha'aretz" interview, "The question is what the alternative is. The other possibility is to give more, but that will not end the conflict either. In that case we will remain without our historic and strategic assets, and without an end to the conflict."

The Gordian knot of the conflict cannot be untangled, it must be cut. Sharon named several elements of his "cutting" plan when he said that there is "no reason for evacuating any settlement," that there cannot be separation and "it is possible to live with the Arabs," that he proposes "bringing a million Jews" to Israel within 12 years, while "renewing education according to Zionist principles, which will restore the sense of the justice of the struggle and the feeling that we have a full right to this land, ideas which have been very much eroded in recent years."

Examining Sharon's plan one inevitably comes to the conclusion that if the settlements stay put, the Arabs must live among the Jews, and as the number of Jews in Israel increases dramatically, and "the feeling that we have a full right to this land" is instilled in the Israeli Jews, then another Arab state in Palestine is not a real option. That means that Sharon did not say everything, that he did not reveal several elements of the plan that will be required in order to have a viable Zionist Jewish state in Palestine and to extinguish the fire of Palestinian Arab nationalism.

It is possible to guess at least two of them. Firstly, all militant Palestinian Arab groups such as Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Tanzim etc. must be eradicated. Secondly, a clear division should be established between loyal and disloyal citizens through introducing for all its citizens a pledge of allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state. Only those who are loyal to Israel and recognize it first and foremost as a Jewish and a Zionist state will have the right to elect and be elected. Those who do not make such a pledge will receive the status of "alien residents" with the right to live and work in Israel for only a certain period of time (e.g. 5 years).

As for Palestinian nationalism, why should Israel satisfy it? The only nationalism that is welcome in a Jewish state is Jewish nationalism. Arabs who disagree with it should move to Arab countries. The Palestinian Arabs would be well advised to go to Jordan, where the majority of the citizens are Palestinian Arabs. One should recall what Joseph Tekoah, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, said on November 13, 1974, in an address to the UN General Assembly:

Certain Palestinians [in Jordan] may be unhappy with their system of government... This, however, can in no way substantiate a claim that the Palestinian Arabs have been shorn of their rights as a people. Like all other branches of the Arab nation, the Palestinians too possess the political entity within which they exercise their national, political and cultural rights.

It is very doubtful that Sharon's view on Jordan has changed, since the reality on the ground in Jordan has not. Jordan is Palestine. The other reality - the presence of the Palestinian Arabs in Yesha - can be challenged by the annexation of Yesha, through aliyah, and through settlement activity. Or, putting it differently, through Zionism. There should not be two Palestinian states.04/15/01

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Boris Shusteff is an engineer. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.



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