Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the May 2 government cabinet meeting.

No Negotiation

Sharon reveals his plans for the West Bank

BY Neve Gordon

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Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sha-ron is a man of deeds rather than words. So on those rare occasions when he does disclose his political goals it is important to pay close attention and carefully consider every word.

During his recent visit to the United States, Sharon revealed to a group of Jewish donors how he foresees the developments between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He divulged a plan he has not yet talked about in Israel, at least not in a public forum.

“There won’t be negotiations with the Palestinians about Jerusalem or the settlement blocks of Ariel, Ma’aleh, Edumim, and Gush Etzion,” Sharon said, adding, “They will remain eternally under Israeli sovereignty within a contiguous territory.” This straightforward sentence reveals both the method that Israel’s prime minister intends to embrace and a crucial element informing the substance of his plans.

Concerning the method, Sharon clearly stated that he intends to replicate the unilateralist approach he adopted vis-à-vis the Gaza withdrawal. Israel, in other words, does not plan to discuss two of the most central aspects of the occupation–East Jerusalem and the large Jewish settlement blocs–and will force its plan on the Palestinians. Peace, according to this Machiavellian logic, is achieved when the strong impose their will on the weak.

No less important is the substance, and particularly the two words with which Sharon concluded his sentence: “contiguous territory.” This seemingly benign phrase is well worth noting, since the attempt to create a contiguous territory from the three Jewish settlement blocs is tantamount to declaring war.

Allow me to explain. Ariel is a large settlement located in the heart of the West Bank’s northern part. The settlement Ma’aleh Edumim is located about 30 km southeast of Ariel, while Gush Etzion is located another 20 km southwest of Ma’aleh Edumim, and is situated in the West Bank’s southern part. Connecting these three settlement blocs means that the territory Sharon intends to offer the Palestinians will not be contiguous (except maybe by building tunnels!), and that Israel plans to annex a large portion of the Palestinian state-to-be, which is already a very small entity–22 percent of the British Mandate of Palestine.

No Palestinian leader can accept such a solution. But since negotiations, at least regarding these crucial issues, are not on Sharon’s agenda, the Palestinian position is, in a sense, besides the point.

The outcome of such a move will no doubt be devastating, since unlike Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, which has been endorsed by all of the Palestinian political factions, including Hamas, Sharon’s West Bank plan will be unanimously rejected. Resistance will most likely mount and the bloody cycle of violence will resume, this time with even greater vengeance.


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Neve Gordon teaches in the Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Israel. One can read about his most recent book, Israel's Occupation, and more at www.israelsoccupation.info.

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