The differences are plain

The United States is not in the habit of making public its disagreements with Israel, if any exist. For that reason it takes some effort to deduce whether the American and Israeli administrations are in concordance over Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s recent proposals. This ambiguity, of course, is all part of the special relationship and strategic friendship that Israel and the United States share. One can, however, extrapolate that there is not complete agreement on the issue: usually when their policies mesh, the United States says so quite publicly.

But it is not difficult to see the possible discrepancies between the shadowy outline Sharon has offered of his unilateral "disengagement" plan and the American position. The Americans are the main authors and promoters of a detailed plan and concept in the form of the roadmap, a series of stages based on multilateralism and reciprocal moves, intensive security cooperation and eventual negotiations to determine a conclusive solution of difficult final status issues like Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements, etc. In addition, the roadmap takes an explicit and robust position against Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and continuing settlement expansion.

The outline of Israeli unilateral "disengagement" on the other hand is entirely different. It is one-sided by name and definition and involves little cooperation or negotiation. It is based solely on the desires and interests of one party at the expense of the needs and demands of the other. For example, while the Israeli "disengagement" plan involves possible partial withdrawal from some of the occupied territories, it also involves consolidating the occupation in the rest of the territories, using the contours of the wall that is being built deep into the West Bank as the contours of the future expansion of Israel. Inside the wall, the vast majority of Palestinians will be confined to the least possible area of land. While the roadmap calls for ending the 37-year-old Israeli occupation, these unilateral Israeli steps are intended to rearrange Palestinian oppression. Another fundamental difference between Sharon’s ideas and the vision personally articulated by US President ! Bush is the crucial notion of two viable and independent states, living side by side. The unilateral Israeli "disengagement" plan eliminates this possibility by allowing for a Palestinian entity that the Israeli government will not mind calling a "state" because in fact, it will be neither independent nor viable–the perfect neighbor for a maximalist, insatiable, bullying Israel.

As such, although the American administration is diplomatically hiding its dispute with Israel, the differences are plain. But the absence of a clear US position, as well as any pressure on Israel to pursue the stated American goals, is responsible for encouraging Israel to continue its strategy of achieving objectives by force (which, one might add, have achieved nothing). What is needed from the United States is to deliver Israel to the roadmap as the only plan for Middle East peace that was drafted by the United States and has the full force of international legitimacy after its adoption by the United Nations Security Council.