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If the government were headed by someone like the old version of Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres, or the new version of Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, we would have to write that the impending death of Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasser Arafat and the re-election of U.S. President George W. Bush have created a unique opportunity to change the face of the Middle East. We would have to mention the Beilin-Abu Mazen document, and the Peres-Abu Ala understandings, and to quote from the Clinton parameters and Taba agreements. For the purists, we could have brought selected lines from the Geneva Initiative and from the Nusseibeh-Ayalon principles.

If regional developments preoccupied us somewhat more than petty local politics, we would have to discuss the significance of the reports that archterrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (a native of the Jordanian city of Zarqa) has his eyes on Jordan. From there, as we know, it's a short distance to the West Bank. If the heroism of Israel Defense Forces commanders and the Shin Beth security services were not measured only by the number of assassinations but also by their willingness to tell the truth to the leaders and to the public, they would warn that the day isn't far off when the Al-Qaeda ambassadors of death in Gaza will arouse longings in us for the late Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

Were the government echelons in Jerusalem and in Washington capable of seeing further than the end of their noses, there would be a point in writing that if we don't soon reach a two-state agreement, before we have a binational, Balkan-style state or a South African-style apartheid regime, we will find ourselves with a Fallujah-style terrorist state.

However, what can we do when all that the Jewish mind has succeeded in inventing for us is the unilateral disengagement plan from places where we have no reason to be, and what preoccupies us is the ladder that will enable the man who claims the prime minister's crown to climb down from his demand to conduct a referendum regarding our exit from there? This is the situation.

"Without any relation to the question of whether disengagement is a successful plan," states a position paper of the Reut Institute - a nonpartisan Israeli think tank for policy planning, which presents its analyses to the National Security Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - "once it has begun, it has become a strategic watershed for the State of Israel." The authors of the document warn that causing the plan to fail will constitute a significant victory for the supporters of the binational state and will make it difficult in the future for Israel to use the strategic alternative of unilateral moves in order to bring about the end of its domination of the Palestinians. Arafat's demise will not lead to a replacement of the unilateral disengagement with negotiations, since his presence was the excuse rather than the reason for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's refusal to discuss a permanent agreement with the Palestinians. Moreover, as the paper explains, in Arafat's absence, in the short term, at least, there will be a decline in intra-Palestinian legitimacy for the historic compromises required to end the conflict.

Indeed, the fragile coalition that is beginning to be formed in Ramallah would do well to impose order on the military and civilian mechanisms before it is required to make painful concessions, such as the partition of Jerusalem and the limitation of the right of return for Palestinians. Unfortunately, even Arafat's death will not erase overnight the "there is no partner" propaganda that has taken root among us, left and right. In a rare moment of public courage, Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon expressed his regret about Sharon's refusal to grant Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) - during the short period in which he served as Palestinian prime minister - achievements that could have strengthened his position vis-a-vis "there is no partner" Arafat. Ya'alon was referring to the release of prisoners, the removal of checkpoints, an easing of economic restrictions and an attempt to renew security coordination.

With the claim that Arafat would take credit for the gestures, Sharon refused to give Abu Mazen even an iota of the achievement that he gave Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, with the release of murderers (in exchange for the bodies of three IDF soldiers and an Israeli businessman who had been held hostage). Arafat took this reason/excuse with him as well. The disengagement plan can serve as an ideal breeding ground for nurturing an old-new partner, in the guise of Abu Mazen. The very fact that it is unilateral will enable Israel's prime minister to coordinate the move with a Palestinian statesman who has never stopped condemning terror and believing in a two-state solution. It's not certain that there will be a third chance.