So Many Documents. So Little Security

Updated May 27: After receiving urgent advice from the attorney general and the head of his own Likud Knesset faction, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon issued a hurried retraction of his use of the term “occupation” in relation to Israel’s presence in Palestinian areas. He said he was misunderstood and really meant “control”. (His detailed statement appears further down this article.) Legal experts find this bland retraction unsatisfactory and urge the prime minister to wipe the slate clean by publishing a formal statement formulated with the help of legal experts. The damage to Israel’s cause is not just moral, but places its government, its citizens on both sides of the Green Line as well as the military and security personnel defending the country and its population from terrorists in grave legal jeopardy.
May 26:The forty-member Likud parliamentary party hurled bitter complaints against prime minister Ariel Sharon Monday, May 26, for failing to consult the party before he presented the Middle East road map to the cabinet for endorsement on Sunday, May 25. It was carried by a narrow majority of 12 to 7 ministers and four abstentions. None of the Likud ministers voted against the document. Even the nay-saying coalition hawks did not walk out of the Sharon coalition.
Former foreign minister David Levy attacked the government for accepting a Palestinian state. For a much lower price, he said, “the left” would have got us full peace. Why did the ministers who publicly decried the road map as dangerous and bad fail to vote against it? he asked. Pointing at finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he said: Fence-sitting is not an option when the Land of Israel is at stake. There is no longer any difference between Likud and the left-wing parties.
One MK accused the Sharon government of accepting “Oslo C” – a reference to the 1993 Oslo accords signed by a Labor government, long anathema for Likud and nationalist parties.
Sharon was unmoved by his critics. He demanded that the party line up as one man behind his policies. When a MK ventured to remark: Consult with us and we’ll support you, the prime minister retorted: You will support me whether or not I consult with you.”
He went on to declare:” Maintaining three and a half million Palestinians under occupation is a bad thing. One and a half million are in the care of international organizations. Do we want to take over? Can we? We have to let the occupation go without compromising our national security. It is not possible for us to stay forever in Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah and Bethlehem. Fifteen years ago I decided that any effort was worthwhile – limited only by our security needs – for an accommodation that left us holding onto areas vital to our security and turned the rest over to a Palestinian state – even though I cherish every scrap of our homeland as much as anyone here. I will continue dedicate myself to that effort in the hope of a settlement that leads to peace.
The road map, Sharon emphasized, is not an accord but a framework. Nothing has been negotiated or agreed. A political accord will be brought before the Knesset.
Asked what would happen if the Palestinians continued to wage a war of terror, he said thumping on the table: We will continue to fight terror day and night as we do now and the Palestinians will get nothing. Without our consent, nothing can go forward.
When a representative from the West Bank town of Ariel asked about building a new neighborhood, Sharon replied: Expansion to accommodate natural growth is not restricted. “Go and build houses for your children, your grandchildren and maybe even your great grandchildren.”
debkafile‘s political analysts note that Sharon is the first Israeli prime minister to use the term “occupation” in reference to Israel’s presence on lands captured in the 1967 all-out war launched by its Arab neighbors. He thereby risks providing fodder for future anti-Israeli UN resolutions, writers of international treaties and international courts, including war crimes tribunals, seeking grounds for incriminating Israel or any individual acting in its name. The Americans mindful of this potential legal trap were careful to refer to their invasion of Iraq as liberation rather than occupation.
Three more of Sharon’s observations deserve attention:
1. Sharon: It is not true that we have paid a price in the coin of security. I set my limits at the point where our citizens’ security is at risk.
The fact is that Israelis have never had security – personal or national – under any prime minister, from the late Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres – co-signers of the Oslo peace accords, Binyamin Netanyahu – signatory of the Wye Plantantion accord, Ehud Barak of the Camp David concessions, and finally Ariel Sharon, whom Israelis despairingly elected prime minister twice against a pledge of security and a vow to eradicate Palestinian terror – certainly not for the sake of abstruse arrangements and understandings with President George W. Bush.
All those prime ministers tried their hands at peace negotiations, accommodations, diplomacy, culminating in Sharon and his road map. They all produced stacks of paper but to this day no Israeli has any guarantee that he and his family will live through the next day or night, in or outside his home, without being struck down by Palestinian terrorists.
2. Sharon: We have never surrendered to terror.
In the course of yet another “peace” procedure, Sharon last week received in the “sterile” area of the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, Mohamed Dahlan, the notorious invetor of bomb cars, cell-phone-operated explosive devices and the pact between the Fatah and Hizballah, accompanied by armed Palestinian guards. Is it likely that the US president – even for the sake of peace – would receive in the White House a fully armed al Qaeda leader, say, Egyptian Jihad Islami leader, Dr. Ayman Zawahri?
3. Sharon: I have always said I am willing to pay a painful price for a genuine peace, one that will last for generations to come.
As things stand now, no one in Jerusalem or Washington can promise peace next month, let alone for generations to come. The painful price exacted by terrorist violence is climbing all the time. But the price demanded of Israel for a nebulous “peace” is climbing faster.

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