Looking over the horizon
Staging a unilateral Israeli withdrawal, which means moving the IDF out of areas it entered during operation Defensive Shield to combat Palestinian terrorism, means leaving those areas under terrorist control and bringing terrorism back to the doorstep of Israel's cities.
The Likud ministers who have recently presented various versions of Israeli unilateral withdrawals, unilateral moves or unilateral separation schemes from the Palestinian population are right about one thing: There is almost no chance of reaching a settlement with the Palestinian Authority, regardless of who the prime minister, selected by Chairman Yasser Arafat, will be. But their conclusion - that Israel therefore should now withdraw from most of Judea and Samaria and uproot the settlements there - is way off. It is myopic vision at its utmost.
The peace process with the Palestinians is being held hostage by the Palestinian terrorists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Brigades and other groups and movements with various exotic names. It has been proven time and again that there can be no useful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians as long as acts of terror continue. This was the underlying assumption of Prime Minister Sharon's policy when he first took office. The principle was incorporated in the U.S.-sponsored road map: The first step on the road to peace must be the dismantling of the infrastructure of Palestinian terrorism. That step has not been taken by Arafat, nor by Abu Mazen, nor will it be taken by Abu Ala, or by any of his successors. For the simple reason that, even if they were willing to take on this task (and that is highly doubtful), they are eminently incapable of accomplishing it.
Under these circumstances, staging a unilateral Israeli withdrawal, which means moving the IDF out of areas it entered during operation Defensive Shield to combat Palestinian terrorism, means leaving those areas under terrorist control and bringing terrorism back to the doorstep of Israel's cities. In other words, a return to the days of the massacres at the Dolphinarium and the Park Hotel.
The belief that the fence currently being built can serve as adequate protection and make unnecessary the presence of the IDF in the areas beyond the fence is an illusion. Israelis will not be able to live peaceably as long as terrorists reign in the areas across the fence. It's just too close for comfort.
The inescapable conclusion is that a partner for negotiating a settlement with Israel must be someone that is willing to take on the terrorists and is capable of subduing them. In the absence of such a partner, that mission remains in the hands of the IDF and the Shin Bet security service, who have been doing a creditable job of this difficult and unpleasant task.
Israel has a neighbor to the east, which has demonstrated over the years both the determination and the ability to suppress terrorism. It is Jordan. Arafat and the PLO were close to taking over Jordan, when they were driven out by King Hussein in "black" September of 1970. That was the real origin of the demand for a "second" Palestinian state. In the years that followed, the Jordanians have shown themselves very effective in suppressing terrorism. In that area they evidently can be relied upon.
It is therefore not idle speculation to consider Jordan as the eventual partner for a settlement of the outstanding issues between Israel and the Palestinians. There is little question regarding the legitimacy of Jordan in that role. Seventy percent of its population is of Palestinian origin, its queen is Palestinian, Judea and Samaria were annexed to Jordan in 1949 and Jordanian citizenship was bestowed on the population there. The most difficult issues, Jerusalem and territorial compromise, would be easier to handle in such a framework. Jordan already has a capital, in Amman, and does not need a second one, and the territories of Judea and Samaria are contiguous to Jordan geographically.
There is only one fly in the ointment. The Jordanians are concerned that the absorption of additional Palestinians, who have been radicalized by the PLO in the past decades, could destabilize the kingdom. They don't need that kind of headache.
Is this likely to change in the years to come, and what can Israel do to bring about such a change? Israel should strengthen its relations with Jordan in the battle against terrorism and contribute to the growth of the Jordanian economy. The U.S. and the European Union should be encouraged to make large-scale investments in the Jordanian economy so as to strengthen and stabilize the present regime. The time may come when a prosperous Jordan will feel sufficiently strong and confident to assume the role of representing Palestinian interests in negotiations with Israel. It is such thoughts, rather than unilateral moves, that should be occupying the minds of Likud ministers.