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   MAY 2001 -  Issue #135    


Sharon's No-Win Strategy

Herbert Zweibon

Ariel Sharon was elected by a landslide unprecedented in recent Israeli politics. The Jewish public recognized that Oslo had led to a dead end. It repudiated Ehud Barak with his desperate attempt to bring Oslo to fruition through offering hitherto unimaginable concessions. It was apparent to all but Israel's terminal leftists that Oslo had brought not peace, but open warfare from Israel's "peace partner." Much of the Israeli public had long regarded Sharon as too hard-fisted and bellicose. Now these qualities were assets as the public hoped for new policies that would restore security to the country.

Instead, Sharon installed a government that is hard to distinguish from its Labor predecessor. While the cabinet is the largest in Israel's history, it has been shut out of decision-making on the crucial issues. The only active body is the "mini-security cabinet" consisting of Sharon and two Labor ministers, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer and Shimon Peres. It boggles the mind that Shimon Peres, the architect of Oslo, the man with heaviest reponsibility for the policy that has transformed Israel from a respected power in the Middle East to its despised punching bag (see the article by Aharon Levran in this issue), should have been made Foreign Minister.

Sharon offers only one respect in which he claims his policies differ from those of Barak. He says he will not negotiate under fire, but only after the violence stops. This is a distinction without a difference. Sharon's target remains the same--negotiations. But what is there to negotiate? With Arafat, only Israel's disappearance. Arafat's core demand is the refugees' right to return, i.e. to convert Israel into an Arab state. How many times, in how many forums, in how many ways does Arafat have to repeat that he intends to turn Jewish Israel into Arab Palestine? In 1998, five years after Oslo was signed, Arafat's Fatah could not have been more forthright. It put its constitution on its website, which includes the target: "The complete liberation of Palestine and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence."

Suppose Arafat suspends the violence? Does that mean his goal has changed? Does that mean negotiations (which can only result in more Israeli territorial retreats) make any more sense than they did while the shooting went on? Of course not. If Sharon were serious about Israel's security (or even her survival), he would defeat Arafat, not babble about negotiations. That means destroying Arafat's forces on the ground and sending Arafat himself and what is left of his tanzim, his Fatah followers, his "police force," etc. off to some corner of the Arab world. This is not hard to do. Sending in an IDF contingent, Sharon easily cut Gaza into three pieces. Tails between their legs, the IDF forces scuttled out within a matter of hours in the face of State Department disapproval. It is the will, not the way, that is lacking.

In the United States, terrorist Timothy McVeigh produces no sympathy. Why should Arafat, the remorseless murderer of thousands of innocent civilians in schools, on airplanes, at bus stops, in cafes, on beaches, in hotels, on ships, be treated as a "statesman," a "partner for peace?" McVeigh and Arafat are two remorseless murderers who deserve the same fate.

By continuing to pursue the failed policies of Oslo, Sharon guarantees personal failure (like Barak, he will be repudiated by a disillusioned Israeli public) and much more serious, the failure of the Jews' great triumph, challenge and opportunity: a state of their own.

Herbert Zweibon is chairman of Americans For a Safe Israel.


The Decline of Israeli Deterrence - Part 2 ...3

Reflections on an Israeli "Revisionist" Historian ...7

More on Allegra Pacheco ...11

May 2001               - 1 -               Outpost


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