Sharon's dream of 'Greater Israel'
by Michael Jansen
Foreign minister Shimon Peres
begins visits to Cairo and Amman today where he will present Israel's
"positive" response to the Jordanian-Egyptian peace proposal.
But this "positive" stance is deceptive because Israel seeks
major modifications in the proposal while portraying the changes it is
demanding as being minor. Israel's hardline Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
has not shifted from his rejectionist policy but simply adopted the public
relations tactic of appearing positive.
The proposal calls for
implementation of the understandings reached at last October's Sharm Al
Sheikh summit. They provided for a return to the situation before the
Palestinian uprising, the Intifada, erupted at the end of September.
According to these understandings, both sides undertook to restore calm
within a week. Israel was called upon to end its siege and blockade of
Palestinian self-rule areas, withdraw its forces, tanks and armoured
vehicles from positions around Palestinian towns and villages, and release
all funds due to the cash-strapped Palestinian [National] Authority. In
parallel to the implementation of these steps, security officials from the
two sides were meant to jointly monitor the situation.
Sharon and his hard-right
cabinet are prepared to accept this portion of the proposal without
changes because, if implemented, it would, essentially, bring an end to
the Intifada. This is Israel's main short-term objective.
But Sharon has already
rejected the confidence building measures which constitute the second
section of the proposal, particularly a freeze on "all settlement
activities, including those in East Jerusalem" and implementation of
"all other [outstanding] commitments" made under the Oslo
Accords. Sharon has no intention to cease settlement construction or carry
out Israel's obligations under the accords signed since 1993.
Third, Sharon has said
categorically that he will not resume negotiations with the Palestinians
on the fundamental issues of Jerusalem, borders, Palestinian refugees,
Israeli settlements, security and water at the point they were broken off
on Jan. 28, 2001. Sharon rejects the entire Oslo process, particularly the
advances achieved during the negotiations which took place between
November 1999 and January 2001. Sharon is prepared only to negotiate
long-term interim arrangements with the Palestinians, giving them a
statelet in 42 per cent of the West Bank and the 60 per cent of Gaza they
now hold. This is totally unacceptable to both the Palestinians and the
Finally, Amman and Cairo
propose that Europe, Jordan, Egypt and the UN secretary general act as
sponsors of the peace process. Israel wants the US and only the US to
perform this role. Furthermore, Israel insists that the Bush
administration should refrain from playing the part of peace broker by
putting forward its own proposals, as the previous Clinton administration
did. Sharon insists that the two sides should engage in direct talks
without mediators because this gives Israel, the dominant military power,
an overwhelming advantage, particularly when there is no Palestinian
resistance to the occupation.
proposal is a package of measures which, if implemented, would lead to an
end to the Palestinian insurrection and the Israeli siege and assaults and
a resumption of negotiations at the point where they were broken off. The
first section, dealing with security, cannot be dropped or delinked from
the others because they address the causes of the Palestinian Intifada:
Israel's continuing occupation and colonisation of the territories and
Israel's refusal to implement its commitments under the Oslo Accords.
Unless there is progress on the fundamental issues of the
Palestinian-Israeli dispute the Intifada cannot and must not be shut down.
The Intifada is the only means
the Palestinians have to exert pressure on Israel and the international
community. Without the Intifada the occupation will go on, and on, and
more, and more Palestinian land will be swallowed up by Israeli
settlements and settler roads.
This is why Egyptian Foreign
Minister Amr Moussa's statement in Germany on Tuesday that Amman and Cairo
would "consider [newly] proposed ideas" is disappointing and
even disturbing. The plan is a package for the reasons discussed above.
The package should remain as it is.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb
Erekat summed up Israel's call for changes by saying: "When Israel
says it wants to incorporate revisions, what it really means is that it
wants to scuttle the plan... I believe that Sharon and his government
aren't serious, and that they are exploiting the Jordanian-Egyptian ideas
merely as a ploy."
Sharon's aim is to force the
Arabs to turn down his suggestions for change in order to make the Arab
side appear rejectionist rather than Israel, the real rejectionist.
Sharon and Peres initially
turned down the Jordanian-Egyptian proposal. But when it was formally
tabled by Jordan's Foreign Minister Abdul Ilah Al Khatib during his visit
to Israel last week, Sharon reconsidered his position. During a meeting of
his security cabinet, Sharon signalled a new approach: "The
Jordanian-Egyptian proposal is important, but the content is not good
enough and it needs to be changed somewhat. We'll study the initiative,
and we'll see what we can do to change it."
Sharon was clearly rattled by
Washington's criticism of the Israeli army's reoccupation of a portion of
Gaza which US Secretary of State Colin Powell characterised as
"excessive and disproportionate". Sharon suddenly realised that
there are limits to his freedom of action and that he needs the support of
the Bush administration more than it needs the backing of Israel and the
US Zionist lobby. Therefore, Peres' visits to Cairo and Amman must be seen
as a public relations prelude to next week's trip to Washington where he
will put on a show of sweet reasonableness and moderation.
It is particularly important
for Israel's politico-military establishment to create the illusion that
Sharon has changed from being a man of "excesses" lacking
"proportion". Sharon is now prime minister: "Mr
Israel". He is not a mere Cabinet minister who can be criticised and
condemned for his "excesses" and rusticated by the
establishment. But his appearance of moderation is deceptive: beneath the
benign grand fatherly exterior the old Sharon harbours his long-standing
dream of ingesting the West Bank and Gaza into "Greater Israel."
Mr. Michael Jansen contributed this
article to the Jordan Times.
by courtesy & © 2001
Times & Michael Jansen
by the same author: