Has Sharon started to understand that what he is facing in reality, as a result of his policies, is a huge iceberg?
We all know that only the tip of icebergs rise above the water surface, whereas their larger part remains hidden underwater and that this hidden part is the most dangerous.
Honestly, we hope that Mr. Sharon has begun to realize this, as it will help him think and make decisions in a more practical and realistic manner, decisions in harmony with the reality, with international legitimacy and the will of the international community and with the legitimate rights of Palestinians (within the compromise put forward by the PLO in 1988, that is to say a two-state solution on the land of historical Palestine).
The bigger part of the iceberg is made up, first and foremost (for the right-wing government in Israel) of the American stance that is changing vis-é-vis the Israeli government’s positions.
The other part of the iceberg comprises the Palestinian will to bring occupation to an end and to establish an independent, fully sovereign state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It also consists of the EU and Russian angry stand vis-é-vis the Israeli occupation, killings, destruction and sieges, not to mention the entire international community’s stance, isolating Israel from the rest of the world because of the occupation and its practices.
In the Press Conference held by the Israeli Prime Minister and his Palestinian counterpart, Mr. Sharon underlined the chance to make peace and to create a future of opportunity and hope. He also talked about his well to make painful concessions and “the compromise”. Mahmoud Abbas asserted that peace could materialize through political means and rejected resorting to force in order to reach a political solution that would lead to peace.
The compromise and the political settlement:
The real crisis
If things are not made clear from the very beginning, then the road map’s destiny under the current Israeli prime minister will not be any better than that of the Oslo agreement under the two preceding Prime Ministers Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak.
So what exactly is “the compromise” according to Israeli Prime Minister Sharon?
It is for Israel to maintain settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and to keep the Jordan Valley under Israeli military control for security reasons. It also means that Israel is to cut up chunks of the North of the West Bank especially in Jenin, Qalqilya and Ya’bad, and that the Palestinian-Jordanian and the Palestinian-Egyptian borders are to remain under full Israeli control.
I said earlier that I hoped Israeli Prime Minister has started to understand that he is facing a gigantic iceberg, with the biggest and most dangerous part hidden under water. Once he understands this, the Israeli ship will be able to sail in safe and secure seas. Mr. Sharon must realize this and take further positive steps that will let in more hope, most important of all by understanding that he must head quickly towards peace and that achieving peace means he has to accept the establishment of a Palestinian State that is independent and fully sovereign on land occupied by Israel since 1967.
In order to do so, Mr. Sharon must read the Taba Minutes once again and rethink about President Bush’s position and his adamance about the creation of an independent, totally sovereign and viable Palestinian state as this would serve US interests in the Middle East.
It has become more urgent for Mr. Sharon to change his stance, taking into account the new context in the Middle East, in Iraq and the position of the international community.
The compromise was put forward by Palestinians in November 1988: it consisted in the coexistence of two-states. Mr. Sharon must comprehend that President Bush endorsed this solution and that the American public leans towards it.
According to this compromise, the Palestinian state will be built on 28% of the total area of historical Palestine, which is in itself a large concession, that is to say a compromise.
If the compromise that Israeli Prime Minister wants is -as he declared previously-, for Palestinians to build their state on 14% only of the land of Palestine, then this will not be accepted by any party. If we add to this Mr. Sharon’s positions concerning borders, the Jordan Valley and settlements, then this compromise becomes not only unacceptable, but also impossible.
Once again we say that we hope that Sharon’s positive push is the sign of a change in the way of thinking and in positions, as this change will lead to real peace between the two peoples and will build the bridges for normal relations with the whole world, especially with countries in the Middle East.
And this would serve both Palestinian and Israeli interests.
Rapid change and implementation are of the utmost importance because they will give the Palestinian government a chance to live and to convince all Palestinian factions that it will act with vigor to end occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state that is fully sovereign with East Jerusalem as its capital. This in itself will enhance the capacity of the Palestinian government and security apparatus to control security issues. The only weapons allowed then would be the ones owned by the Palestinian Authority.
We say this because Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas too is facing an iceberg of which only a tiny tip is visible above water.
The relation between Sharon and his iceberg (and his understanding of it) and Abou Mazen and his iceberg is a dialectical one: if the old Sharon changes and proceeds with his positive steps towards peace (in compliance with international legitimacy), then Mahmoud Abbas will be able to face his own dangerous iceberg. In order for Sharon’s mindset to change and in order to enable Abou Mazen to face his iceberg, the US, and especially Mr. Bush, must continue to use their weight so that the two-state solution could quickly be put into place. It must be implemented according to the road map which refers in its preamble to UN Resolution 242 and which endorsed Prince Abdallah Ibn Abdel Aziz’s initiative and was approved during the Beirut summit.
It has become obvious that only the US can play this role because of its influence on Israel (we all know the reasons behind this). It has become more obvious now that Washington is keener on a larger participation by the three other members of the quartet. It even called upon all countries of the world to participate in making peace prevail in the Holy Land. Bearing all this mind, the US administration must not commit the same error as previous administrations, i.e. to stall and to postpone matters.
Sharon can make peace if he changes his positions and if he acknowledges Palestinian rights in an independent state.
He even said this publicly.
Well, what is needed now is a clear and unequivocal statement affirming that the objective is to create a completely sovereign Palestinian state within the 4th of June borders.
One must recall here the proposal I made earlier in Al Sharq Al Awsat Arabic newspaper published in London, consisting of the deployment of international troops to replace Israeli troops and where the borders are run jointly by Palestinians and Americans (or international troops) for a certain period of time, so that Israel will be reassured that the Palestinians will not use their control over the borders to smuggle weapons é as the Israelis previously alleged.
Palestinians want their freedom, their independence and their sovereignty so that they can live in the dignity they deserve and build a better future for their children without fear of aggressions, of their homes, schools and universities being destroyed or their trees being uprooted. They aspire to live in peace and in cooperation with Israel within the borders of their independent and fully sovereign state.
We hope that the new Mr. Sharon will understand this. Then he will become a real man of peace.
Bassam Abu-Sharif is a special advisor to Yasser Arafat.