Between America and South Africa

It is customary to treat the things said on the eve of a presidential election lightly, particularly if the race is likely to be determined by the Jewish vote.

The debate surrounding the disengagement plan and a national referendum lacks a component that has for years accompanied political-ideological debate in Israeli society: Everyone is talking about "a torn people" and about "civil war." You hear almost nothing about "American pressure" and "a rupture with the United States." The prime minister cannot warn the public, as many of his predecessors did, that if his plan doesn't go through America won't phone us. Here, in response to the eulogy for the road map plan that Dov Weisglass delivered in the pages of Haaretz, all the American secretary of state, Colin Powell, had to say was that the adviser's statements didn't matter - only the firm commitment to the road map of Ariel Sharon himself.

That was three weeks after Sharon himself voiced his "commitment" to the road map in an interview with the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, saying: "[Labor's Amram] Mitzna suggested beginning by evacuating Netzarim and continuing to evacuate according to the road map ... I objected to that ... Now, too, we're not going for the road map. I'm not prepared to do that."

Since the disengagement plan nudged the road map off the agenda, a reminder is in order that Sharon, according to Powell, is "committed," in accordance with the road map, to an agreement that will bring about "the establishment of an independent, democratic and lasting Palestinian state that will end the conflict" in 2005.

It is customary to treat the things said on the eve of a presidential election lightly, particularly if the race is likely to be determined by the Jewish vote. This time, too, some are warning that "the American pressure" will come on the day after the elections.

Gerald Ford promised Yitzhak Rabin that if elected president, his first act would be to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Later on, when they met at the White House, Ford shrugged his shoulders and muttered: "Life looks different from the Oval Office." Ronald Reagan bequeathed the dialogue with the PLO to George Bush Sr. He, in turn, bequeathed to Bill Clinton the linkage between the peace process and financial aid (releasing loan guarantees in return for freezing settlements).

Bush Jr. is the first American president who abandoned the "land for peace" formula in favor of the formula of "unfreezing negotiations in return for a total freeze on terror." Weisglass recounted that "when Sharon declared six or seven years ago that we would never negotiate under fire, he only generated gales of laughter. Whereas today that same approach guides the president of the United States. It was passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 405-7, and in the Senate by 95-5 ... Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress."

Weisglass wasn't overstating matters. On September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden changed the rules of the game in the American-Israeli arena. Islamic terrorism deleted the term "pressure" from the lexicon of U.S.-Israel relations and granted every last terrorist veto power over the peace process. In the congressional elections, which take place alongside the presidential race, the large political group that is enamored of the concept that Israel has no partner for peace, unfortunately, until Yasser Arafat is gone, is expected to strengthen its position further. The Jewish lobby, the one that contributes greatly to fashioning the positions of American politicians on everything concerning the Israeli-Arab conflict, is having trouble dealing with even a unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

Regardless of whether Bush is reelected or John Kerry takes his place, there will be no "pressure" from America. Unfortunately, we will have to wait patiently until the prophecy by the brave doomsayer from the Foreign Ministry comes to pass and the world begins treating Israel like the apartheid regime in South Africa.