Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Ali Jarbawi, writing in the Daily Star, is not encouraged by electoral prospects in Israel and Palestine.
It should be noted, however, that this transformation in the Israeli political system is not based, as many think, on a shift by Sharon from the right to the center, but rather on a shift of the center toward Sharon, whose real place is still in the Israeli right-wing camp.

Sharon has already declared his acceptance of U.S. President George W. Bush's vision of a settlement based on the principle of two states, thereby implying that he does not oppose the establishment of a Palestinian "state." However, he has been unilaterally designating the boundaries of this "state" on the ground according to Israeli conditions, which include the previous government's opposition to the internationally-supported "road map."

What this means is that Sharon wants to give Palestinians a "leftover state" - without full independence or complete sovereignty, which is established on whatever land Israel cannot annex because of dense Palestinian population concentration. Annexing these areas would lead to an imbalance, from a Jewish-Israeli perspective, in the demographic reality and would eventually transform Israel into a bi-national state. This is why Sharon carried out his unilateral withdrawal from inside the Gaza Strip while continuing settlement construction in the West Bank, isolating Jerusalem from its surroundings, completing the separation wall and establishing cantons to squeeze the Palestinians into the smallest possible geographically scattered spots within the West Bank, while maintaining the Jordan Valley as an isolated security zone under Israeli control. These are the characteristics of the settlement Sharon wants to impose on the Palestinians by creating facts on the ground, and this settlement will constitute his political platform after the elections.


Rather than creating a hope for a breakthrough, the Palestinian and Israeli election results are going to collide. Sharon will continue to impose facts on the ground, disregarding the Palestinian position. Likewise, Palestinian election results will lead to a reaffirmation of the Palestinian position rejecting a "leftover" state. Most likely, the elections on both sides will result in an increased possibility of confrontation: these elections will set the stage for a third, "springtime" intifada.

That's about as succinct and accurate interpretation of Sharon's goals, and their likely results, as I've read. By attempting to unilaterally determinine the boundaries of Jerusalem and large settlements in the West Bank, Sharon has created conditions which no Palestinian leader can accept while still maintaining his own credibility.

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