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By Ratna Pelle

I recently read two convincing articles, one in favor of further unilateral withdrawals, and one opposing it. Ari Shavit explains that unilateral withdrawals reward Palestinian terrorism:

In September 2000, the Palestinians began a terror offensive against Israel. They did this because they refused to accept the Camp David proposal, which promised them the entire Gaza Strip and 91 percent of the West Bank in exchange for full recognition of Israel and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If Ehud Olmert is elected prime minister and implements his convergence plan, then in September 2010 the Palestinians will have sovereignty over the entire Gaza Strip and some 91 percent of the West Bank, and all this without recognizing Israel and without ending the conflict.

Thus will the national Palestinian movement fulfill the objectives of its wars and obtain a full strategic resolution against the State of Israel.

A full Israeli withdrawal behind the fence will not provide for a disengagement from the Palestinians and more quiet, but lead to the emergence of a new hostile entity intent on the destruction of Israel:

What Olmert plans to do in the next few years is to establish an armed Hamas state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Via the nearly complete withdrawal, Olmert will promise Hamas almost total control in the Palestinian state for generations. The Palestine of Olmert will be hostile, dissatisfied and violent. Its founding ethos will be "We've chased them out of Ofra, we'll chase them out of Tzahala too.".

Sounds drearily convincing, no? One can hardly imagine that Olmert could be so stupid as to let that happen, and he very probably won't. Unilateral withdrawal can have a different outcome, according to Chuck Frelich, formerly Israeli Deputy National Security Adviser:

* If Israel disengages, it should end its civil rule in the vacated areas but maintain military control for security purposes and to retain future "negotiating cards." This would entail the dismantling of settlements in the vacated areas and consolidating settlement blocs. Already, a new term has been coined in this regard: "consolidation."

* To be effective, the consolidation would be unilateral vis-ŗ-vis the Palestinians, but should be made contingent on a major US, EU, and international quid pro quo, including:

- Recognition of the consolidation as the fulfillment of all steps required of Israel under the Roadmap, pending final status negotiations, and of the vacated area in the West Bank and Gaza as the Roadmap's provisional Palestinian state for the future.

- Explicit EU recognition of the 2004 Bush letter which states that Israel's future borders will reflect demographic realities, that the refugee issue can only be resolved within a Palestinian state, and that Israel has the right to defensible borders.

- A major upgrading of Israeli relations with the EU, Egypt and Jordan, as well as the Gulf States and North African countries. Efforts should also be initiated with Saudi Arabia.

An international recognition of this 'consolidation' will not be easy, as Frelich also recognizes:

* Unlike Gaza, Israel will be seeking a diplomatic quid pro quo for less than a full withdrawal, while leaving the army in place. The more extensive the withdrawal, the greater the likelihood of international assurances but also of greater security risks for Israel.

However, Israel must first try to negotiate with the Palestinians. When it is clear that this is not possible, it will more likely get international support for its unilateral policy:

Hamas must, therefore, be put to the test. Assuming that it does, indeed, prove itself implacably opposed to any compromise, Israel would then be justified in declaring that the period of negotiations has ended, at least for the foreseeable future, and would be far freer to impose a unilateral settlement to its liking. Though not permanent, this arrangement might be very long-term.

Yet the ultimate goal remains a negotiated peace settlement, and, according to Frelich, this approach (of Israel's 'consolidation' being backed by the international community) will possibly move the Palestinians in that direction:

A united international front would pressure the Palestinians to come to terms with reality, accept that they will never achieve 100 percent of their goals, and hasten their possible return to negotiations.

This sounds too good to be true. This will only happen, however, if it is clear that the Palestinians will be able to achieve more by negotiating than by continuing 'armed resistance'.
Moreover, it is not very likely that Arab states would back the 'consolidation', and would improve relations with Israel while its army is pursuing 'freedom fighters' in the still occupied territories. Israel doesn't fulfill its part of the roadmap with this 'consolidation' plan, as the roadmap requires also a withdrawal of the army to the positions of before the outbreak of the second intifada. It is also very doubtful if the EU is willing to recognize Israel keeping the large settlement blocks, as the Bush letter of 2004 implies. Europe's position has been until now that the final borders should be based on the 1949 armistice lines (Green Line), with only some minor adjustments agreed upon by both parties.

Frelich is right however that, if negotiations with the Palestinians fail (as is very likely), removal of at least the smaller settlements east of the fence while keeping the army in the territories is the best, or to say it more accurately, most pragmatic solution, while making clear that it is only an interim solution, and final borders will be determined in negotiations.

After all, both parties have to acknowledge that they cannot achieve 100% of their goals, and have to compromise. 'Consolidation' cannot be a substitute for peace, and peace should remain the goal, even if it looks as far away as the moon. "If not now, then in 50 years, it will happen", said Herzl about a Jewish state more than a century ago, and nobody believed him. I hope very much it will not take fifty more years before there will be peace.

Original content is Copyright by the author 2006. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000031.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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