Sharon's Two-headed Calf

Sharon understands that in order to increase security, it is necessary to retreat a bit. By this equation, in order to increase security even more, it is necessary to retreat even further.

The experiment that took place at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya succeeded beyond expectations: A two-headed calf was born. A curiosity, beyond any doubt. But what does one do with it?

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did indeed juxtapose the words "evacuate" and "settlements" - and it makes no difference whether he called the evacuation "relocation," "disengagement" or simply removal. There is also no real significance to the fact that he defined this evacuation as security-related, because even the movement of a single rusty trash can in the settlements is political. Everything done on that side of the border, including security, is political. But because everything is political, it is also theoretical.

Sharon laid down two conditions for this evacuation: It will take place only if, after a certain trial period, it becomes clear that the Palestinians are dragging their feet and not advancing the road map; or, alternatively, it will take place earlier, as part of the process of advancing the road map, if the Palestinians demonstrate a desire to advance it.

It is already possible to predict that the first condition of Sharon's scenario is the one that will materialize: The Palestinian Authority will not start fighting the rejectionist organizations now. The bulk of the Palestinian effort is currently directed, with Egypt's help, at achieving a cease-fire, and then at integrating these organizations into a unified Palestinian leadership. This necessarily means that the second condition will not be fulfilled, since according to Sharon, only a war against the terrorist organizations would constitute proof of progress.

Thus based on Sharon's conditions, it is already possible to determine that the trial period is unnecessary. So if these are really steps to improve our security, why not begin the evacuation today? And if in any event Sharon has declared that the disengagement program will not hinder implementation of the road map, why wait? Why couldn't Sharon have bestirred himself to set an exact date and to delineate exact disengagement lines, as he did with the separation fence?

This is where the calf's second head comes into play - the head that is pulling Israel back into the territories, that cannot see precisely what is happening within the Green Line and that has no intention of disengaging, relocating, separating or removing. As an example, one of the justifications for the disengagement plan is "to reduce as much as possible the number of Israelis who are located in the heart of a Palestinian population." Is Sharon referring to Kiryat Arba? To the Avraham Avinu neighborhood of Hebron? To leaving Joseph's Tomb? All are in the heart of a Palestinian population. Will withdrawing only from Netzarim, Ganim, Kadim and perhaps Kfar Darom substantially change the security situation or the defensive lines along which the Israel Defense Forces are flexing the last of their muscles?

This is the heart of the security bluff that Sharon is proposing: The depth of the areas of friction with the Palestinians will not change; the length of the defensive lines that will be needed to protect the settlements that will remain will be unchanged even if the disengagement plan is carried out; there is no diplomatic gesture here that could promote a nonmilitary solution; and what seems at first glance like an innovation - the use of unilateral measures as a sword with which to threaten the Palestinians - is also not new. The separation fence has the same effect - and it, too, is supposed to be a security measure rather than a political border.

And on the road to the disengagement plan, one should be careful not to trample over another small bluff. Sharon warns the Palestinians that they would be better off negotiating over the road map now, because otherwise they will not get what he is currently willing to give them. That is already a real threat. Now the Palestinians will have to hurry up and decide which of the two heads they should deal with: the one labeled "painful concessions," or the one labeled "disengagement plan."

Nevertheless, there is at least one historic achievement in all this: Sharon understands that in order to increase security, it is necessary to retreat a bit. By this equation, in order to increase security even more, it is necessary to retreat even further. And perhaps by the next Herzliya Conference, he will even be able to say aloud that the settlements are a security burden, and that in order to shape "Israel's Jewish and democratic character," there is no alternative to two states.