The issue of making a transition from the evacuation of Gaza to the road map was discussed this week at the James Baker Institute in Houston, at a meeting of Americans including assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs William Burns, Palestinians headed by Jibril Rajoub, and Israelis including Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Brig. Gen (res.) Shlomo Brom, and others.
The summary of the seminar, which the participants will try to promote with their respective leaders, is that the withdrawal must be complete for it to work, including the Philadelphi corridor, which means it will require Egyptian involvement and American supervision.
That approach is closer to the Geneva understandings than to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan. There was a hint of that two months ago involving Ibal Giladi, the officer that Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon decided - in a procedure meant to dilute IDF participation in political matters - not to appoint as head of the planning branch because of Giladi's very close connections to Sharon.
In the eyes of foreigners, Giladi - who until the end of the year is a brigadier on vacation ahead of retirement - is considered an expert, and is wanted for his analysis as much as Yaalon and his generals. He is sought after by the White House; John Kerry's headquarters wants to talk with him; and he is invited to lecture to the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC. In Washington, Giladi is considered a key to understanding the Sharon plan because he understands best the background to the plan - he prepared the dough and heated the oven for Sharon's baked goods.
The last four years, Giladi said, completely toppled the idea that was the foundation for the Oslo process - that peace would bring security because in the absence of a Palestinian incentive to attack Israel, terror will fade of its own accord.
"Now we understand that peace will not bring security," he said. "On the contrary, security comes first."
The mutual activity between the two societies and economies, in an era that includes a separation fence, will be complete different - nearly zero - compared to what was forecast by Oslo. Yasser Arafat is not striving for peace and an agreement with Israel to manage a Palestinian state, but for a constant revolution; and the transition generation or Abu Mazen and Abu Ala, who are not much younger than Arafat, also won't succeed, so Israel will be forced to wait because it was not smart enough to help the generation of the 40 and 50 year olds - "Hassan Aspur, Kadura Fares, Mohammed Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub, and one can say Marwan Barghouti" - reach positions of leadership.
Another assumption that has slipped away, Giladi continues, is that it is possible to reach a final status agreement in one step.
"The two sides are not ripe for it. Israel might be a lot more ready than Palestinian society, but neither are ready, and a long period is required for profound security and educational change among the Palestinians, meaning another leadership.
"If that's the situation, and it is impossible to reach a permanent agreement in one step, should we march in place? And if it is impossible to proceed with negotiations, in a `zipper' system - we move, they move - because both sides are focused on what the other side was supposed to do and sought good excuses not to move, should we take action to improve our situation and ultimately pave the way to a permanent agreement? The idea is to evacuate Gaza - soldiers, settlers, checkpoints, everything - and to deny the Palestinians the excuse to evade their responsibility there."
It's a unilateral plan, Giladi admitted, but "I contacted Abu Ala and proposed he publish a unilateral Palestinian plan for a positive implemention on his side after our evacuation ... we would minimize the friction in northern Samaria as well. We would redeploy our forces and change the IDF's modus operandi to a `small footprint.' The minute the fence is standing, we will base our deployment of forces on that line and defend Israel from there."
There's no room for illusions. The evacuation will not be an "end to the occupation" in Gaza and the northern West Bank, but rather will be pure occupation, without garrisons or settlements, all done by remote control. Israel will return to the reality of 1967 - not to June 4, before the Six Day War, but June 10, the last day of the war.
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