Withdrawing from Jericho? The Israelis aren't even in Jericho. If the Israelis said they were withdrawing from Wales, some people would still believe them. - Saeb Erekat
Being a natural cynic, I tend to wonder whether people really mean what they are saying, when they claim to be making those painful concessions for peace. So I like to consider all the possibilities.
1. Prime Minister Sharon is sincere when he says that he accepts the Road Map, which envisages ending the Occupation and establishing a sovereign Palestine in 2005, through a short-term interim phase of a “provisional state” on about 40% of the West Bank in 2003/4.
2. Sharon is therefore dismantling these outposts in order to fulfill his phase one Road Map obligations. Next, he will demolish the other 104 outposts that he has established since he became Prime Minister. This is the beginning of the wider withdrawal from the Palestinian Territories that phases two and three of the Road Map require.
1. Prime Minister Sharon is not sincere when he says that he accepts the Road Map to an independent Palestine. Sharon has been saying for 20 years that the right model for the Palestinians is to confine them instead to South African-style “tribal homelands”, on the 40% or so of the West Bank where they are most concentrated. e.g. a recent reference is found in this Ha’aretz report.
2. Sharon is now building a Wall which, coincidentally, will completely enclose the Palestinians in about 40% of the West Bank. (The planned final route of the Wall is here, scroll down to map). This is an unofficial map, produced by an opposition member of the Israeli Knesset, as Prime Minister Sharon declines to admit publicly what the route of the finished Wall will be.
3. Sharon is currently being pressured by the U.S. to keep things quiet between now and the 2004 Presidential election, by showing some willingness to implement the Road Map. Sharon does not believe in the Road Map, but it does have one very attractive feature for him: the second phase which envisages a “provisional state” for the Palestinians on, coincidentally, about 40% of the West Bank.
4. Sharon really likes the “provisional state” idea in phase two of the Road Map. He knows that an open-ended “provisional” or “interim” state is guaranteed not to lead to independence for the Palestinians.
5. This “provisional state” matches very closely the Bantustan he has always had in mind for the Palestinians. He will therefore carry out some Road Map steps, i.e. the ones which bring about the “provisional state”. He will pretend he is doing this to implement the Road Map, but he is actually using convenient Road Map provisions as cover for his tribal homelands plan.
6. Proof of this is the fact that he will not meet any Road Map provision that contradicts the creation of a Palestinian Bantustan e.g. he cannot stop building the Wall, or move it to the Green Line, even though the Road Map requires him to stop creating new facts on the ground, because it is an integral part of the Bantustan plan. He is sure that, in an election year, the Americans – who are supposed to adjudicate on the Road Map but have so far failed dismally – will not call him on this.
7. One step he can carry out, because it is part of both the Road Map and the tribal homelands plan, is the dismantling of outposts in the land earmarked for the Bantustan. The IDF has been pushing for these isolated outposts to be abandoned anyway, as it is a burden to have to keep deploying troops in hostile territory to patrol outposts that have just one or two inhabitants, or even, as in the case of three of the four outposts earmarked today for removal, no inhabitants at all. (They are in fact empty containers and caravans).
8. Eventually, the Bantustan and Road Map projects have to diverge. Sharon’s "South African" plan has to end at the phase two, i.e. “provisional state”, stage of the Road Map, because phase three of the Road Map leads to an independent Palestine. He will then have to explain why he is not implementing phase three of the Road Map.
9. Sharon laid the groundwork for his explanation last week in his “unilateral separation” speech. He warned that unless the Palestinians make acceptable progress on the Road Map in the next few months, he will be forced to abandon the Road Map and impose a unilateral peace upon the Palestinians. What he really means is that when the Wall is ready, he will withdraw the IDF from the Bantustan inside the wall, and effectively annex the rest of the West Bank, i.e. the most desirable parts, to Israel.
10. He will say that this is a temporary solution, imposed for security reasons, citing any violence at all that happens in the next six months as proof that the Palestinians are not making “acceptable progress”. In reality, there is absolutely nothing that the PA might do that will count as acceptable progress on the Road Map, because the Road Map is not the agenda at all, it is just camouflage for imposing the “tribal homelands solution".
So those are the two possible ways to understand Prime Minister Sharon's announcement on removing four "illegal outposts". This is the same Ariel Sharon who told a meeting of the far-right Tsomet Party on 15 November 1998: Everybody has to move, run and grab as many [Palestinian] hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements, because everything we take now will stay ours...Everything we don't grab will go to them." Bearing that in mind, which possibility do you favor?
** Footnote: Vocabulary Check re. "Illegal outposts":
i. All settlements and outposts are actually illegal, under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Art. 49
ii. Israel continues to violate international law by approving new settlements and new outposts. The Israeli government refers to outposts it has approved as "legal" outposts. Israel justifies "legal" outposts on the grounds that they are merely extensions - or "natural growth" - of existing settlements, even when there is no contiguity between settlement and outpost. Under the terms of the Road Map, extending existing settlements for "natural growth" or any other reason is forbidden.
iii. Some settlers build outposts without seeking Israeli government approval. The Israeli government refers to these as "illegal" outposts. It nevertheless provides them with state services such as water and electricity supply, and of course security from the IDF. It also offers them retroactive "legal" recognition.
iv. All new outposts - "legal" or "illegal" - built since March 2001 are supposed to be dismantled in the first phase of the Road Map, which Israel has accepted.