A top Israeli official has claimed that Ariel Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan was deliberately formulated to block peace negotiations with Yasser Arafat.
"The significance of the plan is the freezing of the peace process," Dov Weisglass told Haaretz newspaper, adding the US had given its backing.
Palestinian statehood, refugees and the status of Jerusalem had effectively been dropped off the agenda, he said.
When asked by the U.S. to clarify:
Weisglass does not deny that the main achievement of the Gaza plan is the freezing of the peace process in a "legitimate manner."
"That is exactly what happened," he said. "You know, the term `peace process' is a bundle of concepts and commitments. The peace process is the establishment of a Palestinian state with all the security risks that entails. The peace process is the evacuation of settlements, it's the return of refugees, it's the partition of Jerusalem. And all that has now been frozen.... what I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did."
Sharon, he said, could also argue "honestly" that the disengagement plan was "a serious move because of which, out of 240,000 settlers, 190,000 will not be moved from their place."
No canny observer of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is surprised by this. Ariel Sharon's actions, his past support for the settler movement, his attempted isolation of Arafat and attacks on the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority, have always been at odds with his claims to support the peace process and the creation of a Palestinian state. And Sharon is smart enough to realize that the time to give a stiff middle finger to his number one patron is right now, in the middle of campaign season.
So, to sum up, we have Ariel Sharon signing on Bush's road map, then undertaking actions which aim specifically to frustrate the implementation of that road map. I'm curious if, and to what extent, Bush is aware that he was party to a charade, one that will result in the deaths of more Palestinians, Israelis, and, very likely, Americans?