The New York Times reports in Israeli Causes Uproar Over Status of Road Map, that Dov Weisglass, one of Ariel Sharon’s most trusted henchmen, made an incredibly and uncharacteristically candid revelation about Israel’s true intentions in withdrawing from Gaza. He said that Israel’s withdrawal would accomplish several important goals in its struggle with the Palestinians. First, it would effectivey freeze the peace process. After leaving Gaza, there would be little or no pressure (at least in Weisglass’ view) from the U.S. for further Israeli concessions. Second, it would mean the end of the idea of a Palestinian state for the forseeable future. Third, the Gaza pullout would effectively nullify the Road Map, which almost everyone knows that Sharon detests, though he’s forced to publicly embrace it because official U.S. Mideast policy endorses it.
Dov Weisglass–Sharon’s right hand man (credit: Haaretz)
This is Weisglass in his own inimitable words from the original Haaretz report:
“The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process,” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass has told Haaretz.
“And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.”
“The disengagement is actually formaldehyde,” he said. “It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.”
Asked why the disengagement plan had been hatched, Weisglass replied: “Because in the fall of 2003 we understood that everything was stuck. And although by the way the Americans read the situation, the blame fell on the Palestinians, not on us, Arik [Sharon] grasped that this state of affairs could not last, that they wouldn’t leave us alone, wouldn’t get off our case. Time was not on our side. There was international erosion, internal erosion. Domestically, in the meantime, everything was collapsing. The economy was stagnant, and the Geneva Initiative had gained broad support. And then we were hit with the letters of officers and letters of pilots and letters of commandos [refusing to serve in the territories]. These were not weird kids with green ponytails and a ring in their nose with a strong odor of grass. These were people like Spector’s group [Yiftah Spector, a renowned Air Force pilot who signed the pilot’s letter]. Really our finest young people.”
Weisglass does not deny that the main achievement of the Gaza plan is the freezing of the peace process in a “legitimate manner.”
“That is exactly what happened,” he said. “You know, the term `peace process’ is a bundle of concepts and commitments. The peace process is the establishment of a Palestinian state with all the security risks that entails. The peace process is the evacuation of settlements, it’s the return of refugees, it’s the partition of Jerusalem. And all that has now been frozen…. what I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did.”
One of the many extraordinary things Weisglass says here is that “this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.” The unbelievable effrontery and sheer chutzpa of that statement is breathtaking. Weisglass chortles with his interviewer about hoodwinking George Bush, both Houses of Congress and the American people into dismantling the peace process! And guess what Bush’s response is going to be? He’s going to take it lying down because what else can he say? Can he say that he has an independent Mideast policy that is not subject to Israeli veto? No, of course not. Without Israel’s collusion, he has no Mideast policy. Even as it is he doesn’t have a policy. But at least he has a fig leaf of a policy.
Sharon’s office quickly moved to distance him from his deputy’s remarks:
The statement from Mr. Sharon’s office said the prime minister “supports the road map, which is the only plan that will enable progress toward a lasting political settlement.”
But, you see, Sharon has a bit of a problem here since he recently told an interviewer that precisely the opposite was Israeli policy:
Mr. Sharon has dropped many hints that he is less than enthusiastic about the road map, which would require many concessions from Israel. In a recent newspaper interview, Mr. Sharon said Israel was not following the peace plan, which stalled amid violence shortly after it was introduced in June 2003.
I guess the Israeli policy is studied ambiguity: keep ’em guessin’.
But no one is fooled. The Palestinians know that what Sharon’s real intentions are. They know that Weisglass speaks with the blessing of Sharon. They know that the U.S.’ professions of concern about Weisglass’ remarks are an exercise in hypocrisy. It’s all window dressing and means almost nothing at all. Bush’s current Mideast policy calls for a wink and a nod toward the Palestinians while allowing the Israelis to pursue pretty much whatever murderous objectives they wish. “It’s a fine mess you’ve got us into,” Ariel!
For another view of this interview read Lawrence of Cyberia’s post.