It is almost a sure thing that no Nobel Peace Prize will come of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "peace plan," which is based, he says, on U.S. President George W. Bush's speech. However, the "plan" makes the prime minister a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Chemistry: From a speech that calls for an end to the Israeli occupation, he has succeeded in distilling contact glue that adheres Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Minister without Portfolio Effi Eitam to a single government. Who would have believed that it was possible to invent a substance that has the power to glue the architect of Oslo and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's partner in the Nobel Prize for Peace to a man who calls for bringing "the Oslo criminals" to trial and for wiping out the Palestinian Authority?
According to the Peace Index of the Tami Steinmetz Institute for Peace at Tel Aviv University that was published yesterday in Ha'aretz, only one out of four Israelis casts doubt on the reliability of Sharon's magic adhesive. Hence, most of the public has adopted the prime minister's argument that the media have fallen asleep on the job, frozen into a conception that he, Sharon, has no peace plan. To dispel doubts that the media have deceived the public, Sharon announced loud and clear from the podium of the Caesarea Conference that he had adopted President Bush's speech.
The most important response to the bomb that Sharon dropped in the hall was the silence of the right. One would assume that Minister without Portfolio Yitzhak Levy, Public Security Minister Uzi Landau and Environment Minister Tzachi Hanegbi had taken the trouble to peruse Bush's speech. One could assume that they know that the meaning of Sharon's statement is that the prime minister of Israel supports the following aims that were mentioned in that speech - "two states living side-by-side in peace and security" and "an end to the occupation that began in 1967," as well as "the cessation of settlement activities in the territories, in accordance with the recommendations of the Mitchell Report" (including construction that derives from the needs of natural reproduction).
This is the place to note that at the time, Sharon announced that he had adopted the Mitchell committee's recommendations; but to this day, he has refrained from placing them on the government's table. Cabinet Secretary Gideon Sa'ar has explained that there is no need for a government decision, as all the steps that the report imposes on Israel, such as freezing the Jewish settlements in the territories, are contingent on the total cessation of Palestinian terror.
It is also worth noting that this was not the first time that Sharon has "adopted" American initiatives - nor will it be the last. Previously, at the side of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he signed the Wye agreement, and later gave his blessing to the Tenet document and accepted Anthony Zinni's proposals. In all these cases, the proof of the pudding is in the implementation; or as a senior Israeli government official has put it: "Sharon is relying on the Arabs shooting themselves in the foot at the last moment." Sharon is also relying on his partners from the Labor Party not taking the risk of testing the adhesive that is gluing them to their chairs by putting Sharon's declarations on the government's agenda.
In the case before us as well - the Bush plan - Sharon has declared adoption, while avoiding a discussion in the government and even in the cabinet. This time too, preconditions - security and civil reforms, including the deposing of Arafat - are dividing Sharon's stated intentions and putting the plan to the ideological test, between Sharon and himself, and the political test, between the prime minister and his partners on the right.
To comprehend this gap between Sharon's policy plans and his peace declarations on the one hand, and the renewed creeping occupation of the territories and the declarations of war by his partners in the government on the other, several questions should be clarified. All of them come from that same speech by Bush that Sharon has adopted from top to bottom, with no reservations: Since Thursday, has the Sharon government been supporting a Palestinian state and answering the U.S. call for help in establishing it? Does the government really agree with Bush's definition that "the land of the forefathers" or "Judea and Samaria," is "occupied territory?" Would Effi Eitam be sitting in a government that has decided to support the establishment of a provisional Palestinian state, even after Israel fires a bullet into the heads of all the Bargouthis? Would Uzi Landau remain even for a singe day in a government that will authorize the Palestinians to hold municipal elections by the end of the year, a process that would necessitate the withdrawal from all of Area A? Is Sharon himself prepared, upon the opening of the census of registered Likud members, to give Netanyahu a gift in the form of a declaration of a freeze on the settlements?
If the answers to these questions are in the affirmative, Sharon is on the way to a Nobel Prize for Peace. If they are in the negative, he will have to be content with the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
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