The Labor Party was so tied up with finding a solution to the existential crisis surrounding whether party chairman MK Shimon Peres was going to be second acting prime minister should the occasion arise or first deputy to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, that it did not give any consideration (or perhaps it did) to the fact that it had signed a plan to assassinate politically Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and the chance of an agreement with the Palestinians.
Under cover of the enthusiastic support of the plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip and four negligible Jewish settlements in northern Samaria, Peres and his colleagues have lent a hand to the burial of a two-state solution on the basis of the June 4, 1967, lines. At its death, it will take with it the last of the pragmatic Palestinian leaders whose lives depend on it.
Had the Labor people devoted to Sharon's peace and security policy the merest fraction of the energy they have devoted to the distribution of the minor government portfolios, it is hard to imagine that they would not have noticed the plot. In the Labor Party, and also in Yahad and Peace Now, they did not want to see the conflagration that is raging in the Gaza Strip.
They even forgot to condition their support of the disengagement plan on the evacuation of the illegal outposts (which are flourishing), as Sharon himself had promised to the president of the United States. When the day comes on which it emerges that the disengagement plan was a honey trap, the "peace camp" will not be able to claim that Sharon had deceived it; Abu Mazen's death certificate was written on the wall in December, 2004. Here is a quote from Sharon's most recent "Herzliya speech": "We have decided that in accordance with the road map, every step toward the realization of the diplomatic horizon that is offered to the Palestinians necessitates first of all real action on their part against terror until it is eliminated and contained, the advancement of real reforms and an end to the education toward hatred of Israel that exists among them. The United States has also recognized Israel's right to act in any manner to defend itself against any enemy and against any threat."
Peres can recite the road map in the middle of the night. He knows that Sharon is distorting it to suit his needs. The first phase does not require "real action against terror until it is eliminated and contained." Like Sharon, the writers of the document knew that no Palestinian force is going to succeed where the huge Israel Defense Forces have been failing for four years now.
As this is being written, the IDF is trying for the umpteenth time to "exterminate" and "contain," as Sharon puts it, the launchers of the Qassams in the Gaza Strip. Therefore, during the first phase of the road map, the Palestinian leadership is required to issue a call for a cease-fire - not to "exterminate" and not to "contain." That is - a maximal effort, and not full success.
Abu Mazen has already completely called upon his people to replace the violent resistance against the occupation with nonviolent struggle. According to the road map, it is the government of Israel that was required to issue a declaration confirming its commitment to the vision that is based on the establishment of a viable Palestinian state (that is, not Bantustans) and to call for an "immediate end to violence against Palestinians anywhere."
Instead of this, Sharon is not concealing his position that a cease-fire on the part of the Palestinians is also a necessary condition for the implementation of the disengagement plan - the hook on which the Labor Party leaders are hanging their ministerial suits. Last week he announced in the Knesset that "the evacuation of the settlements will not be carried out under fire." In this way Sharon is making the new and fragile Palestinian leadership, and henceforth also the Labor Party, into hostages of the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
In other words, what happened when the Labor Party walked out of Sharon's first government is what is going to happen in Sharon's second government. The death of Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat has not opened even a slit of opportunity. Until such time as peace is restored to the place it deserves, alongside security, there will be neither security nor peace. Perhaps there will also not be a disengagement, and it is not certain that there will be a unity government and that Peres will be second to the prime minister. In any case, if the left were concerned about the fate of IDF soldiers in the territories - "the children," as MK Haim Ramon has been calling them - in the same way as the ultra-Orthodox politicos are looking after the interests of their children, he would not be captivated by Sharon's policy.
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