Israel´s go-it-alone peace plan looks good - Draw borders, pull the settlers behind them (NEW YORK DAILYNEWS OP-ED) Richard Z. Chesnoff 12/14/03)
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Forget the Geneva accord, the U.S.-backed road map and all those
other peace plans waving in the Mideast wind. The real direction
Israelis and Palestinians seem headed was signaled in a recent rash
of tough-minded interviews by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert spoke what has long been unspeakable for his right-wing Likud
bloc: If Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and Gaza,
Palestinians will eventually outnumber Israel´s Jewish majority. In
other words, unless Israel wants to turn totalitarian and deny.
Palestinians the right to vote, the ballot box will do what
Palestinian bombs have failed to do - destroy the Jewish state.
What´s Olmert´s solution to this creeping demographic disaster?
Israel must act unilaterally. If the Palestinians continue to refuse
reasonable peace terms, he argues, then Israel must draw what it
considers secure borders, dismantle or move many Jewish settlements
that are outside the new borders and withdraw from most of the West
Bank and Gaza. This, explains Olmert, will "maximize the number of
Jews under Israeli control and minimize the number of Arabs." The
Palestinians will be left to their own devices.
It´s not a new idea. I was among those who proposed it last year, and
unilateral withdrawal was a cornerstone of the Labor Party´s platform
in Israel´s last national elections. The difference now is that the
idea is coming from a senior member of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon´s
government and party.
Superslick Olmert is not one of my favorite politicians. But whether
he´s using this as a springboard for his own political ambitions or
is floating a trial balloon on Sharon´s behalf, the idea is out there
now. And it´s causing a quiet revolution in Israel.
The hard-liners are blasting the idea as heresy, and some right-wing
groups are threatening to leave Sharon´s always fragile coalition.
But other Likudniks are backing it. And there are reportedly discreet
talks going on with the Labor Party about possibly joining the Sharon
government to strengthen the coalition and march forward with this
Sharon himself has often mysteriously said that any peace accord will
require "painful concessions" by Israel. He´s expected to enumerate
some of them at an Israeli security conference on Thursday. Sources
close to the prime minister say he will propose relocating some
60,000 West Bank and Gaza settlers to areas within the proposed new
According to some press reports, Israel´s parliament, the Knesset,
has already been asked to establish guidelines to reimburse settlers
who have to move.
Other press reports say the border will more or less follow the
course of Israel´s controversial West Bank security barrier.
Sharon has promised the Bush administration that he will give the new
Palestinian premier, Ahmed Qureia, one last chance to move down
Washington´s road to peace by braking Palestinian terrorists. The
betting is that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will make sure
So all eyes will be on Sharon this week. He is likely to suggest a
moderated form of Olmert´s ideas to replace the rapidly wrinkling
U.S. road map. Whatever he suggests, it could signal a major new
direction for Mideast peace, and a desperately needed one at that.
(© 2003 Daily News, L.P. 12/14/03)
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