The pretext behind `confiscating weapons'
It is preferable to wait, delay and block - even at the expense of a few terror attacks, or perhaps the collapse of the cease-fire or the fall of Abu Mazen - as long as the road map remains a mute map. The tactic used for this end is to demand the confiscation of weapons.
It is difficult to understand the new excuse Israel is presenting for postponing implementation of the road map. Ostensibly, it is a logical and reasonable issue, which is even contained in the terms of the road map: confiscation of illegal weapons and waging war against "the infrastructure of terror." In fact, this is a vague condition that functions well as a barrier that can be easily deployed again and again, in an attempt at blocking any diplomatic progress.
According to the road map peace plan issued in Israel in April 2003, the Palestinians must "commence" confiscation of illegal weapons and not, as Israel claims, complete the collection process. In any case, this is only one of two conditions that are cited as part of the war against the infrastructure of terror. The main condition is an unequivocal cease-fire declaration and consolidation of security authority in the PA. The first condition has been fulfilled and the latter is in the process of being implemented.
The parallel condition demanded of Israel is stopping attacks against civilians and demolition of homes and, in particular, freezing all construction in the settlements. Israel is not fulfilling these conditions, nor its commitments from the agreements reached at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit. Settlement construction continues unabated, and the Israel Defense Forces are still targeting wanted Palestinians in the territories.
Okay, in such a "critical period," when Israel is about to implement the disengagement, everything is forgiven. In fact, "everything is forgiven" also held true before Israel faced the disengagement plan. But now, when we've just begun to stop panicking every time a vehicle's engine backfires, and when it is possible to travel behind a bus without hurrying to pass it, when more people are killed in nightclubs than on the roads of Gaza or Ramallah, and when Hamas is busy counting municipal council seats and with the parliamentary elections looming in another two months - Israel is again pushing the button that blocks the peace process.
The condition this time, of course, is to "first confiscate the weapons and then we'll transfer control of the cities to you."
What is the connection here? Is transfer of control of cities to the Palestinian Authority a prize for good behavior or an Israeli interest that would free Israeli forces and help the Palestinians establish their security authority? Has Israeli control in these cities facilitated the confiscation of illegal weapons and dismantlement of the terrorist infrastructure? If the answers were in the affirmative, there would be nothing for the PA to do in any case. But since the answers are negative and Israeli control - while preventing many attacks - did not prevent the creation of the terrorist infrastructure or eliminate weapon supplies, the Palestinians can be given a chance to deal with the problem under optimal conditions - that is, with direct and exclusive control of their cities.
However, it seems that there is another reason to delay this transfer of control. The transfer could be perceived as another Israeli withdrawal, and how many withdrawals can the battered, divided and disengaging Israeli public endure at one time? But this is not the main thing either. The transfer of control is liable to be interpreted as proof that the Palestinians have indeed fulfilled the conditions stipulated in the road map and that it is now Israel's turn to freeze settlements, help establish a Palestinian state and begin discussing withdrawal from the West Bank.
It is this stage that the government - and the prime minister in particular - fears so much. After all, he is the one who formulated the equation according to which the disengagement from Gaza would enable Israel to hold on to more of the West Bank. If he transfers control to the Palestinians, he would need to explain, especially to the Americans, why he is not continuing to implement his road map commitments.
Therefore, it is preferable to wait, delay and block - even at the expense of a few terror attacks, or perhaps the collapse of the cease-fire or the fall of Abu Mazen - as long as the road map remains a mute map. The tactic used for this end is to demand the confiscation of weapons. It is interesting that the Americans, who granted broad authority to the Iraqi government without precondition and who took such pride in the formation of an independent government in Afghanistan (which also did not succeed in confiscating weapons) have failed to see through this maneuver.