Frankly, I don’t know what to make of this story. Dov Weissglas has the reputation of being one of the harshest of Ariel Sharon’s political attack dogs. I once wrote a post here decrying an incredibly cynical comment he made about Israel’s manipulation of the Bush administration accompanied by a claim that Sharon’s Gaza withdrawal had put the peace process “in formaldehyde.” He famously bragged that the Israeli siege of Gaza amounted to putting its residents “on a diet.”
Can the leopard to change its spots? In today’s Haaretz, Weissglas is quoted as giving an another astonishingly candid speech in Israel in which he recounted how Israel was forced to mark it agricultural exports originating in the Territories with special labels for EU countries. Originally, Ariel Sharon refused the EU’s demand. Only when Marks & Spencer, one of Israel’s major customers, began returning millions of dollars worth of product and all Israeli produce was threatened with a 15% surcharge did Sharon relent.
The reason this story is quite suggestive and important is it indicates that Israel understands the language of economic power. When it’s going to be hurt in the pocketbook, ideological considerations are quite properly jettisoned as being less important. All of which should tell the Obama administration to ignore the Israeli pundits and Lobby naysayers who tsk-tsk about what a raw deal the president is giving poor Bibi; and who ask the former to have a little heart for a poor, set-upon ally like Israel. The lesson Weissglas teaches is that tough love is not only called for–it is often the only thing that works.
Weisglas continues with these lightning flashes of nationalist apostasy:
Weissglas said Sharon decided to begin evacuating the occupied territories as early as 2002, out of the recognition that no other country, including Israel’s top allies, supports the settlement project.
“Only one state out of 188 supports the settlement project, and that’s Israel. The world doesn’t care about historic rights, it cares about reality. The reality is that there are 2 million Palestinians living in the territories, but only 300,000 Israelis.”
Weissglas said Israel is dependent economically on Europe, and militarily on the United States. “$4 billion, a quarter of all American military aid, goes to Israel.
Without Europe and the States we’d be like the Palestinians, surviving on $200 a month,” he said.
“Now that we’ve left the Gaza Strip, we will give back the rest of the territories sooner or later, and every single settler will have to leave,” he said.
I don’t know what has given Dov Weissglas such a change of heart. Is he a political bomb thrower who likes to provoke even his allies and friends? Is he a cold, hard pragmatist who doesn’t need a weather vane to know which way the wind blows? I’d prefer to see him as the latter. Whatever the reason for Weissglas‘ brutal realism, it’s quite bracing and astonishing to read it coming from one of Sharon’s great political warriors. It makes one yearn for the days when Sharon was premier and a certain pragmatism seemed to creep into the Israeli leader’s agenda.
There is little or no hope that Bibi Netanyahu sees the same things that Weissglas does, though it would behoove him to.