Mofaz in the Footsteps of Sharon

Ariel Sharon was not an ideologue, but he left a legacy behind him: the division of the Land of Israel.

Ariel Sharon was not an ideologue, but he left a legacy behind him: the division of the Land of Israel. Sharon did not believe in peace. He realized how deep the dispute really is, he did not trust the Arabs, and he remembered 1948. But as time went by, Sharon also lost faith in the occupation. Very belatedly, he realized that the status quo endangers the very existence of the Jewish state. Thus, he began looking for a third way when he was in his in his 70s. A way that would grant the Palestinians a state and grant Israel defensible borders without necessarily bringing the conflict to an end.

Sharon's strategic goal was a long-term interim agreement. The strategic alternative was a long-term interim situation without an agreement. Either way, Sharon believed that Israel must act quickly and with determination: that it must establish borders that would enable Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side - without peace, but also without occupation.

Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni inherited Sharon's party and his marketing staff, but destroyed Sharon's legacy. In complete violation of everything Sharon believed in, they sought a permanent agreement. And, again in complete contrast to Sharon's defining trait, they did nothing to alter the reality on the ground. Instead of a third way, Olmert and Livni adopted the path of Meretz. Between one war and the next, they spoke about peace and promised peace and wrapped themselves in the festive garb of peace. The leaders of Kadima made cynical use of Kadima's toolbox and its political position in order to advance a program that was not Kadima's. A path that led to a dead end.

Next week, Shaul Mofaz will try to revive the Kadima way. At a time when Benjamin Netanyahu was going nowhere fast, Ehud Barak was twisting and turning and Livni was leading people astray, Mofaz was hard at work. With the help of a small group of experts and the cooperation of many research institutes, the former defense minister analyzed the strategic situation thoroughly and sought a way out. He looked for a new organizing principle that could jump-start a rational diplomatic process that was not divorced from reality. The result is an original and creative diplomatic program that he intends to present in a few days. A plan that will challenge Netanyahu, Barak, Livni and the entire political establishment.

Mofaz's basic assumptions are those of Sharon: On one hand, at this point in time, there is little chance of reaching a final-status agreement. On the other hand, Israel must urgently effect a change that will produce a two-state solution. The way to do this is via an interim solution - an agreement that will create a Palestinian state in two years in about 60 percent of the territory of the West Bank.

Mofaz is aware that the Palestinians are leery about establishing a Palestinian state with temporary borders. For this reason, he recommends that alongside implementation of the interim agreement, intensive negotiations be held on a final-status agreement. In his assessment, the establishment of a Palestinian state will intensify pressure on both sides to make the concessions needed to achieve a historic compromise. But even if the effort to make peace fails again, a two-state situation will have taken root.

Once 99 percent of the Palestinians are citizens of a free Palestine, the Israeli-Palestinian situation will look different. Once the evacuation-compensation law is implemented, Israel will gradually converge within its own borders. Even if the conflict does not come to an end immediately, it will be stabilized. Just as in Sharon's vision, Israelis and Palestinians will live side by side in relative calm until peace arrives.

All his life, Shaul Mofaz has been looked down on and derided by the Israeli media. In September 2008, two television channels arrogantly robbed him of Kadima's leadership. But Mofaz is a man who rises above his image. The plan he has prepared is not flawless and is not free of risks. But it is the most serious and practical plan any Israeli leader has prepared in years. It is backed by Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres, and has a chance of interesting the Americans and the moderate Arabs. The plan may also restore Kadima to its lost path.

Therefore, it is worth listening to the former chief of staff, and it would be appropriate to extend him credit with which to launch his initiative. It would not be surprising if this move by Mofaz once again rearranges the shape of Israeli politics.