Ariel Sharon fools no one but himself [Archives:2003/696/Opinion]

December 22 2003

Hassan Al-Haifi
For almost a week before Ariel Sharon's speech of Thursday, December 18, 2003 at a “security conference” (of all places) at Herzilya, Israel, a great PR effort was launched to announce that Ariel Sharon was about to make a “dramatic speech”, in which he will outline his “agenda” for a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians. This PR blitz included expectations of “significant concessions” to be made in order to reach a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians. Then the speech came, which incidentally very few Arab channels even bothered to broadcast. Sure enough Ariel Sharon was unfailing in showing how peace in the Holy Land remains the farthest thing in his mind and reflecting his acumen for stalling any real genuine serious effort to achieve peace. The speech was neither dramatic or even hinting that indeed the Israeli Government was fully prepared to engage in effective negotiations towards getting the Roadmap to Peace or any of the many peace accords already worked out with the Palestinians, under international or American auspices, on the right track towards full implementation.
Any objective observer would be at pains try to find any meaningful content to the speech, which was clearly characterized by a tone that hardly invoked any genuine striving for peace. The “dramatic” speech for peace was more an ultimatum and a dictation of “surrender terms” than a convincing indication that Mr. Sharon had any real indications of ending his pogrom of the Palestinians in whatever remains of the Palestinian territory. Though he talked about the achievement of a peaceful settlement based on the Roadmap, he put forth a threat that, unless a settlement based on the Roadmap is implemented within “several months”, Israel will “unilaterally” sever itself from the Palestinians on its own terms. This would mean, he pointed out, that the Palestinians would be getting far less than they would under the proposed Roadmap. On the other hand, in reference to the Roadmap, he did not indicate what steps he and his Right Wing Government would take to start the Roadmap talks. In fact, he was insistent on the continuation of his activities in the occupied areas (settlement building, “security wall building” and the continuation of the “hot pursuit” of what he calls “terrorist suspects”). How dramatic can you get? Yet, he set forth in general terms what he intends to proceed with in the “disengagement” process (all of which are contrary to the spirit and letter of the Roadmap and all the United Nations resolutions vis a vis the illegitimate occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip). His reference to the Palestinian Authority was a contemptuous one and hardly drove across any resolve to achieve agreement with the PA, or to end the suffering of the Palestinians or the occupation and systematic gradual annexation of Palestinian territory under different wishy-washy pretexts.
Where is Washington in all this orchestrated fanfare? The White House credited Sharon with some positive points, and only coolly showed disfavor to the “unilateral” approach Sharon was promoting. The timing of the Sharon speech could not be ruled out as placing a heavy significance to the oncoming US Presidential elections. Mr. Sharon knows well that all the candidates would not be inclined to express any disapproval for the approach Sharon was unilaterally declaring. On the other hand, Ariel Sharon wanted to take the limelight out of the international community's disfavor with the obvious stumbling blocks that Sharon was putting ahead of the Roadmap, or the several efforts by unofficial and quasi-official elements from the Palestinian and Israeli sides that reflected a more realistic approach towards reaching a genuine settlement, in keeping with the Roadmap and all the other agreements that have been reached in the past.
In effect, Sharon was factually revealing to the whole world that the Israeli Government has no real intentions to implement the Roadmap, since he has already drawn a comprehensive scenario as to the outcome of non-implementation; i.e. the kind of “peace” that Israel will impose on the ground, in keeping with the long term Zionist aims for the full eventual annexation of all the Palestinian territory. This would entail that Israel will do all it can to superficially placate the efforts towards getting the Roadmap on track, while carrying out all the activities on the ground that will make the implementation of the Roadmap almost impossible to realize, resorting to the usual stalling tactics and excuses that the Israelis have a good track record of using in leading to the failure of other peace accords reached in the past. In essence, Ariel Sharon was underscoring the continued insistence of rejecting any drive for peace that has any international involvement in it, because that could put a valve of sorts to the freedom of the Israelis to carry on with their long-term plans for the Holy Land. Moreover, Sharon was speaking the language of an occupier, who will continuously insist that he shall dictate the terms that the guns he holds shall impose and enforce, without regard to the international legislations and conventions that have been developed over the years, or the feelings of the international community, even if it means going against the wishes of Israel's major sponsor and ally, the United States. We knew what Sharon was really after and thus where under no illusions of finding anything that Sharon could say that might be enlightening or in the interest of real peace. The example that Washington is setting in Iraq is of tremendous help in deciding the real course that Ariel Sharon and his likes would be interested in pursuing.