The Sharon Strategy
Prime Minister's concession on settlements allows him to seize initiative.
strategic high ground.
"People underestimate Prime
Minister Sharon. They say he's a tacti-
cian but doesn't have a strategy, but
riel Sharon had no map, he drew no
this shows he may well have a strate-
lines, he spoke in the vaguest of terms,
gy," said Mack, a former U.S. assis-
but when he said he would remove settle- tant deputy secretary of state for Near
ments, he made the most startling con-
East affairs. "He may know that at
cession of his career — and cornered his rivals like a
some point there would have to be
withdrawals. This way, he gets a far
The Israeli prime minister warned his compatriots
better situation for Israel in terms of
Dec. 18 that they would have to face the "extremely
difficult" prospect of removing Jewish settlements in
In an irony perhaps typical of
the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a remarkable state-
Middle East diplomacy, prominent
ment from the man widely regarded as the architect
members of Israel's right and left
and driving force behind Israel's settlement move-
wings united in their alarm at a prime
ministerial vision they said was short-
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference — an annual
security conference that Sharon has used in the past
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom
for announcing new policies — the prime minister
already has come out against unilater-
ostensibly directed his speech at the Palestinians,
al moves, calling them a reward for
telling them they would gain much more if they
terrorism. Now the National
adhered to the U.S.-led road map peace plan and
Religious Party, a part of the govern-
cracked down on terrorist groups.
ing coalition with Sharon's Likud
ThrOugh negotiations, Sharon said, the
Party, is grumbling about a possible
Palestinians could gain "a democratic Palestinian
state with territoriaj. integrity in Judea and Samaria"
"We will form a bloc, including
— the Vest Bank — "and economic viability"
members of the Likud, to strike down
If the Palestinians abjure peaceful negotiation, he
this preposterous plan," Zvi Hendel,
said, "Israel will initiate the unilateral security step
an National Union lawmaker, told JTA. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon speaks during a convention on
of disengagement from the Palestinians."
- Though the idea of unilateral separa- security held in the Israeli coastal town of Herzliya.
It was Sharon's De Gaulle moment: Israel's most
tion originally came from the left,
Steven Spiegel, a professor of political science at
fearsome warrior, its fervent nationalist, saying that
some two dozen Peace Now activists braved heavy
UCLA and a national scholar of the Israel Policy
the time had come to give up officially on a dream
rain to demonstrate against Sharon outside Herzliya's
Forum, a J U.S. group that has been critical of
— in this case, the right of Jews to live anywhere in
Dan Accadia hotel.
"The Palestinians will want to avoid being
the biblical Land of Israel between the Jordan River
But there was satisfaction in another corner of
and the Mediterranean Sea.
Sharon's government — from Shinui, which has
Edward Abington, a top U.S. adviser to the -
"In the framework of a future agreement, Israel
billed itself as a pragmatic party with an unvarnished
Palestinians, said Sharon had made similar promises
will not remain in all the places it is today," he said.
view of both Palestinian diplomatic intentions and
in the past and failed to make good on them. But,
the feasibility of the idea of a Greater Israel.
added, the speech makes clear to the Palestinians
"I hope very much that the extreme right will leave
that the Israeli prime minister has seized
the coalition and make way for Labor to
Reaction to the speech was swift. Israelis across the
come in and restore some common sense,"
requires serious consideration and
political spectrum, American officials, Palestinians
said Shinui's leader, Justice Minister Yosef
merits a serious Palestinian response," said
and American Jews all weighed in.
Abington, a former U.S. consul in
The main pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington,
the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, noted
It was not only the Palestinians who
how far Sharon had come.
"In the face of opposition from his core constituen-
Palestinians were furious at Sharon's speech, calling it
By making the removal of settlements a condition
. cy, Sharon expressed a firm determination to take his- an ultimatum.
peace without specifying any settlements by
toric steps on the difficult and painful issues of settle-
"It's the mentality of occupation, the delivering of
ments and outposts," an AIPAC statement said. In his ultimatums and then imposing unilateral conditions," name, Sharon also made it difficult for hardliners in
and out of his government to protest.
speech, Sharon said he would act within months.
said Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator. "It's
"I know you want names, but we have to leave
Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League's
about time to get down to business and act without
for later," he said.
national director, who attended the speech, said he
imposing impossible conditions."
has learned the lesson of his
had heard Sharon was willing to wait up to six
The problem for the Palestinians is that, for the
settlement of Yamit in 1982,
time being, "getting down to business" is going to
when months of advance notice allowed settlers to
David Mack, an analyst with the Middle East
happen according to Sharon's timeline.
organize a bloody and traumatic demonstration of
Institute in Washington, said Sharon had taken the
"The ball is clearly in the Palestinian court," said
Jewish Telegraphic Agency