Sharon stunts fit Israel’s public relations pattern

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No matter how liberal and open-minded an observer is, it is clear to all that there cannot be a fair and just peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The present balance of geopolitical power in the Middle East rules out justice being done to the Palestinians, and by extension to the Arabs at large.

It is difficult to envisage Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister known for his ruthlessness, moving to accept the inevitability of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians as the foundation for peace in the region. We in Jordan have seen it happening when Sharon was the minister of water, refusing to abide by his country’s commitment under a celebrated peace treaty with Jordan. At this point in time, Sharon is trying to rescue his political career by putting an end to the Palestinian resistance. But that is an elusive goal.

What Sharon has failed to recognise is the reality that the Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel are not a tactic but a strategy that an oppressed people has found fit to adopt in its struggle for life in dignity and freedom. For Sharon, maintaining Israel’s domination of the West Bank is a political goal, but it is a matter of life and death for the Palestinians not to let that happen, whether Sharon is in power or otherwise.

From our vantage point in Jordan, it is clear that Sharon is not the Israeli prime minister to make peace with the Palestinians. We need to wait for a dramatic change in the Israeli mindset before peace is restored in the Middle East.

What happened at last week’s UN Conference Against Racism was a clear example of Israel’s determination not to relent on its stand. Indeed, Israel has the support of the world’s sole superpower to secure its positions on the international scene.

Regardless of whatever compromises were reached at the conference in Durban, we know that any international approach to the Middle East problem has to take into consideration the clout of the world’s sole superpower.

The Israeli plan to set up a “buffer zone” to defend itself against Palestinian resistance attacks is a dangerous signal of Sharon’s plans. He is only interested in short-term solutions to the problems since he is interested more in piling up pressure on the Palestinians in a bid to convince them to accept the Israeli version of peace.

Obviously, Sharon seeks to ensure that the Palestinians are deprived of all options to make life difficult for the Israelis as long as they occupy Palestinian territories and refuse to accept the legitimate rights of the Palestinians as the basis for a peace accord.

Israeli commentators are calling the plan a substitute or a “security zone” rather than the fence or wall that has been discussed for many years but never built. In sum, Israel is recreating what it did in Lebanon.

The next scenario probably is to get the Palestinians to “patrol” the zone, as Antoine Lahad and his predecessors did with their South Lebanon Army. But then, it is highly unlikely that Israel will find its Palestinian Lahad in the West Bank or Gaza. As such, the very “leakage” of the reported proposal to create the zone was aimed at sending another international message of the need for Israel to defend itself from Palestinian “terrorism”. In any event, trust Israel to come up with new stunts every time it feels it is coming under international criticism. The plan for the “security zone” fits into the pattern of Israel’s “public relations” stunt.

Israeli experts have called the plan unfeasible and questioned what logic went into the proposal, in view of the many points that make it a non-starter.

The fact that Sharon reportedly froze the plan before its full details were “leaked” indicated that the proposal was never seen as practical. Israel used it only as a tool for international sympathy, particularly after the very negative image it drew for itself at the Durban conference.

Quite simply, it was another Sharon stunt, coming from the Israeli premier at a time he sees his political popularity receding fast. So there would be more and more such stunts and the success of the Palestinians will be in seeing these stunts for what they are and come up with suitable strategies to counter them.

Mr. Musa Keilani contributed this article to the Jordan Times.

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