Article By Asher Shla'in

[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner]

Sharon's Riddle

A Clue to the Disengagement?

The public debate is currently heating up over Sharon's disengagement plan. The recent interview with his assistant Dov Weisglass in the Haaretz daily may give us some insights about Sharon's political motives. (see full article). What is missing from his explanation, as well as from other explanations in the press, is a prediction of Sharon's policy for the phase that will follow the disengagement. I cannot accept the view that Sharon does not bother to think about the developments that will follow the evacuation. On the contrary, I believe that he has a scenario, which he does not reveal to the public, about the events that we shall have to face if the disengagement will be completed as planned.

The riddle: Sharon has no intention of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians and insists on a unilateral move. At least this element ensures that the disengagement will not calm the terror organisations. They will view it as a victory and be encouraged to continue their efforts. It is hard to believe that Sharon relies on the completion of the security fence and on the existing fence around the Gaza Strip, as a major obstacle to terror attacks. His understanding of security issues is not worse than that of other experts. Yet he obviously intends to succeed in his way, not only in political relations but also in gaining security for the population.

I would like to suggest my own guess about his military consideration, including the actions that he intends to take in the future. Clearly, the disengagement is not meant to continue the current security policies. In my opinion, Sharon talks about "ending the occupation", not out of a guilty conscience. Apparently, he has reached the conclusion that Israel's continued control of the territory makes us responsible for protecting the lives and wellbeing of non-combatants, a responsibility that he finds unbearable. Yet, the hostilities against Israel are carried out specifically from the areas that are inhabited by "innocent civilians".

The suffering of the Palestinian population is a source of a mounting internal and external pressure on Israel's government. Sharon hopes to change the situation where "we are responsible" for the fate of the Palestinians due to our status as "occupiers". According to him, leaving the area will relieve us of this responsibility, and whatever happens to the Palestinians will not be our concern. It seems clear to me that Sharon does not expect any improvement in their situation. On the contrary.

Both left-wing supporters of the disengagement and its right-wing opponents emphasise the removal of the Israeli communities. Both see this move as a precedent for more evacuations of the settlements - the former with satisfaction and the latter with anxiety. Sharon insists that his plan will strengthen the remaining settlements... In my hypothesis, I see a certain function for the evacuation. As mentioned above, Sharon understands that the terror will increase and therefore the remote Jewish settlements may become a security burden, almost held hostage by the terrorists. Evacuating the settlements is not intended to appease the Palestinians but mainly to facilitate the reaction to future terror attacks. Although I have no solid proof, I believe that Sharon has already planned his reaction.

According to him, terror attacks that will come from a territory that we are no longer responsible for will be considered as an external attack on the state. In such a constellation, it will be our "right" to conduct defensive actions on a large scale. According to widespread practices, these may include aerial assaults on presumed military targets, even if they are close to civilian population. Punitive incursions and mass destruction of infrastructures will also be considered "normal" warfare.

Obviously, we shall not need to worry about feeding and employing the population of an enemy country that will not be within our jurisdiction. Cutting off water and electricity supplies from Israeli sources will also be considered a reasonable reaction to military attacks.

If all this causes a complete collapse of Palestinian society, thinks Sharon, Israel will not be held guilty, since we would be disengaged from that area... Perhaps it would serve as a warning to the regions that will remain under our control.

If "terror" against Israel continues, military activities will increase against the entire area. The number of casualties will not be a deterring factor. It may also be assumed that the harsh trauma of the deported settlers will serve to balance the Palestinian suffering - mainly in our own public opinion. Israel's right-wing would rally to support the offensive against the Palestinians, since there would be a feeling that we have made enough concessions by handing over territories and settlements that were so dear to us...

Even if the "Roadmap" remains our official policy, we would not have to implement it, since we would have done more than expected of us, and they would be the ones to continue applying terror...

I am not sure that my guess is accurate in all its details, as I have no information except what I see in the media... I am open to alternative explanations that may disprove my theory.

Asher Shla'in, 4/November/2004


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