Sharon’s disengagement plan had many international and regional corollaries that will leave fingerprints on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the situation in the region. This plan agitated the Israeli political regime and affected Sharon’s political and moral standing; as he is paying for the price of disregarding his Party and his allies before going to Washington to present his plan to President Bush last April. I believe that Sharon’s historical status and his personal friendship with Bush are enough to approbate the implementation of his plan vis-à-vis his cabinet and the Likud leaders. His bravery in confronting the Palestinians, brilliance in assassinating prominent Palestinian leaders, murdering Palestinian women and children, destroying Palestinian homes, and besieging their leader, not to mention his racial tricks, are enough to gain the support of prominent members in the Likud Party.
Sharon was very successful in convincing his friend Bush, that the Palestinian Authority during the Arafat-Qureih reign lacks the necessary characteristics of a partner participating in the execution of the plan. The White House welcomed the plan and Bush praised Sharon’s bravery. Bush gave Sharon an historic promise, which Arabs compared to abhorrent Balfour Declaration.
Realities proved that Sharon failed in marketing his plan. He was astonished when he lost the referendum that was proposed on his Party. He started to search for an exit that would maintain the unity inside his government and one that would save both his own dignity and his friend’s. Sharon introduced amendments on his plan, which touched on the essence and mechanism of implementation, and dissected it into four stages: it begins by evacuating three isolated settlements in the Gaza Strip. In the second stage the settlements in the northern parts of the West Bank would be evacuated. In the third and fourth stages, more settlements would be evacuated. Sharon was pressured by his opponents. He agreed to postpone the implementation of the first stage until March 2005. Sharon kept the issue of Israeli control over the territories between the Egyptian and Palestinian border a vague issue, and he did not clarify whether he will destroy or transfer the buildings and civil institutions in the settlements to the Palestinians.
The Israeli government agreed on an amended plan closer to a declaration of intentions with a majority of 14 ministers and opposed by seven. Will Sharon’s plan be implemented? Can the Palestinians build on Sharon’s plan?
The Palestinians do not disagree that the evacuation of any settlement in the West Bank and the withdrawal of the Israeli army from any piece of Palestinian land is definitely a gain. The Palestinian advocates of peace are convinced that Sharon was successful in altering his plan as the sole legitimate proposal on the scene, and he was able to escape from the implementation of his commitments in the Roadmap. They doubt that Sharon’s original, or amended, plan will be implemented. No one knows the destiny of Sharon’s plan, or whether Bush will remain in the White House after the elections in November.
Sharon knows that if the cabinet agrees on an amended plan, it does not indicate an eloquent standing inasmuch as it means that the real battle began inside the right-wing forces. He knows that he lost the first round of combat, of which he came out wounded. The current situation indicates that Sharon is in a race against time. He is confused.
Sharon knows the retraction of prominent members of the Likud towards voting against the plan does not mean that things are back to normal. Sharon might need a miracle to guarantee that his government would remain in power, and he would remain as PM until the end of his term in 2007.
I think that the fact that Sharon sought assistance from the Labour Party might prolong the lifespan of his government. An Israeli minister said, “No machinery can whiten the words of one of the darkest decisions in Israeli history… we will call upon all forces to resist this plan.” No one knows the destiny of the plan if Sharon was obliged to go for early elections.
In any case, it is not in the interest of the Palestinians, or any Arab, to support Sharon in order to egress his current dilemma. Some Palestinians and Arabs fear that the fall of the “moderate” Sharon will give rise to extremist forces inside the Likud and the Israeli society. Whoever believes that Sharon will agree to renew the Egyptian role in the collocation process is quite mistaken. I think that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has entered into a dramatic stage that might be entertaining for some. However, it is definitely painful for the Palestinians.