Sharon Won the Battle But Did Not Win The War

by Mamdouh Nofal on 10/04/2005

The Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon insists on implementing his disengagement plan, pulling out and evacuating settlements in Gaza. He recently took two important steps and removed two major obstacles: the first step was the passing of the Budget by the Israeli Knesset and the second was the refusal of the Knesset for conducting a national referendum regarding his disengagement plan and withdrawal from Gaza. This was considered to be a victory for Sharon against those who oppose his plan inside his party and against yesterday’s political allies from the right wing.

According to the government’s decisions and the military leadership, the withdrawal from Gaza and the evacuation of the settlements should begin on the 20th of June 2005 and extend over seven weeks. The evacuation of four Israeli settlements in the North West Bank would be completed in one week. The disengagement plan would be completed in four stages and Sharon needs a new government decision before completing any of the four stages.

No one can guarantee that this plan would be completed peacefully and quietly from A to Z according to the expectations that were set. Despite the declared stances and the political preparations no one can exclude the possibility of certain developments in the 100 days that separate us from the implementation of this plan; developments that might influence the scheduled timetable and increase the chance of the failure of this plan. It is true that Sharon might have won a round in the determinate battle but he did not win the war. Everyone knows how much he struggled lately in order to remain in power, and how he ran in every direction in order to pass the Budget in the Knesset.

No one can ignore the possibility of impeding the implementation of any of the four stages of this plan, especially that each stage requires a governmental decision prior to its implementation. The right wing forces inside the Likud party decided to transform this issue into a fatal one, and they decided to fight this battle with all their abilities. Anyone who believes that the radicals of the right wing have limited their crimes to the leaders of the left wing is quite mistaken.

Sharon is well aware that his plan has opened a real battle between him and those who are close to him. The passing of this plan inside the Knesset and the government is not an indication of Sharon’s political power, and it does not mean a real victory in as much as it means that the real battle inside his own political bloc has begun. In any case, the implementation of the disengagement plan will increase the political and partisan tensions within the context of the Israeli political framework. Many indications point out that the conflict inside Sharon’s right wing bloc is escalating and this could be the beginning of more serious problems before the implementation of the plan by next June. It seems that the political regime in Israel is standing on a new threshold under the title of the reformulation of the alliances and political parties.

Sharon was forced to retreat on his initial plan and he introduced many amendments in order to find a certain formula to unit the forces of the right who oppose this plan. Sharon is well aware that an interim compromise has been reached and this compromise will not last. Some analysts believe that the same scenario that resulted in the fall of Benjamin Netanyahu after signing the Wye River Accord in 1998 would be repeated and could result in the fall of Sharon’s government.

Some factions in the right wing are seeking to topple Sharon’s government before the implementation of his plan, and the left wing forces are planning to topple Sharon’s government after the implementation of the plan. All indications point out that the Labor Party is willing to break partnership with Sharon’s government after the implementation of the plan or in case this plan was obstructed. Sharon might need a miracle next June in order to prolong the life of his government and in order to guarantee that he would remain in power until the end of his term in 2007. No one knows the density of this plan in case Sharon was forced to call for early election. It would difficult to ask Hamas and Islamic Jihad along with the other Palestinian factions to continue to abide by the armistice agreement that they reached with the president of the Palestinian authority in Cairo, in case the withdrawal was obstructed or in case Sharon did not live up to his commitments.

Many fear that the fall of Sharon and the victory of the more radical forces inside the Likud Party and the Israeli society means that the chance for the withdrawal from Gaza is lost. Whoever believes that Sharon agrees on the renewal of the Egyptian role in the peace process and Sharon’s willingness to cooperate with the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas expresses a change in Sharon’s anti-peace policies is mistaken.

The Palestinians and those who are interested in peace in the region will perhaps witness more conflicts among the Israelis. Therefore, Bush might demand the Arab leaders to provide assistance for Sharon in order to create Sharon’s peace. The Palestinian president should not be surprised if the U.S. asks him to be patient and asks him to help “poor” Sharon in his struggle against the radical settlers