"Sharon’s Way" Was Always Israel’s Way

“[The] formula for the parameters of unilateral solution are: To maximize the number of Jews; minimize the number of Palestinians; not to withdraw to the 1967 border and not to divide Jerusalem,” then-Israel Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper in December 2003.

While Israel’s victorious political party, Kadima, campaigned with the slogan “Sharon’s Way” as if unilateralism were a new concept to behold, Prime Minister-elect Olmert’s words in 2003 clearly illustrate that one-sided solutions were always the vision.

Then again, every Israeli act ever undertaken has been unilateral, so it’s doubtful Palestinians will notice a difference.

Consider some unilateral acts and resulting figures from Palestinian and Israeli sources in the past 5 ½ years alone:

  • 117 deaths at checkpoints after being prevented access to medical care. Of these, 31 babies were born dead;
  • 561 murdered by extra-judicial killings, 253 of them were innocent bystanders;
  • The demolition of 7,768 homes;
  • The confiscation of 998,724 acres of land;
  • The uprooting of 1,187,762 trees;
  • Detentions of tens of thousands
    without trial, including 2.000 children with 350 currently being detained in dangerous and unsanitary conditions;
  • The erection of the Israeli Wall with the intent to unilaterally declare permanent borders in four years — "I believe that in four years’ time Israel will be disengaged from the vast majority of the Palestinian population, within new borders, with the route of the fence – which until now has been a security fence – adjusted to the new line of the permanent borders," Olmert recently said;
  • The prevention of Palestinian citizens from Israel and Palestinians from the Occupied Territories from living together after marriage. Note that the right to familial livelihood is a recognized fundamental right around the world.

Even the “generous” Camp David 2000 offer dictated that Palestinians accept 80% of settlements and no right of return for refugees.

In terms of publicity, two recent unilateral acts include the Gaza disengagement and raiding the prison in Jericho. The Gaza disengagement, which was trumped as the greatest thing since sliced bread, created the world’s largest prison. Israel still retains control over all entry and exit points to Gaza, as well as the flow of goods. And according to the Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, sixteen Palestinian children who were regularly undergoing chemotherapy in Israel are now barred entry.

Regarding the raid on Jericho’s prison, Israelis surrounded the prison armed with bulldozers and Merkava tanks. Six prisoners were sought after but hundreds of prisoners and policemen were forced to strip down and walk out. Keep in mind that the sought-after prisoners were already tried and convicted in a Palestinian court. The rationale Olmert gave was that he dismissed the 2002 convictions of those who killed Rehavam Zeevi, saying they would now be tried in Israel.

According to many Palestinians, no act has dealt a decisive blow to President Mahmoud Abbas’s credibility more that this raid, since he was abandoned by those who claim to support him. But the truth is there’s always been an arrogance in the way that Israel chooses to deal with the Palestinians. Even Israeli support for the “two-state solution” is guided by the “how much can I get away with?” syndrome.

Israeli news commentator, Gideon Levy said only last week, “Those who say the "Greater Israel vision" has given way to "dividing the land" are deceiving the country and the world. So are those who airily assert that Israelis now recognize the need to end the occupation. The truth is much worse: The Israeli discourse continues to foster the most deeply rooted national aspiration – to have the cake and eat it.”

Put even more bluntly, DePaul Professor and son of Holocaust survivors, Norm Finkelstein told me last fall, “There are people…who don’t support a two-state settlement. They support a one state solution for Israel and a phone booth for the Palestinians.”

Could they be wrong? Not if facts on the ground mean anything. What’s sad is that decades of unilateralism and marginalizing Palestinians have never achieved peace. Why would those tactics work now?