With the passing of Ariel Sharon this weekend, Ha’aretz went digging in the Wikileaks documents to try to piece together what Sharon’s next moves might have been had he not succumbed to a stroke:
A series of cables from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to the State Department that were leaked to WikiLeaks show that in fact, even before the Gaza withdrawal, Sharon was planning his next big diplomatic move. Moreover, leaked Palestinian documents show that after Yasser Arafat’s death in November 2004, and even more so once Mahmoud Abbas was elected Palestinian president the following January, Sharon made efforts to coordinate the Gaza withdrawal with the Palestinian Authority.
Between offers made by Israeli leaders and the hints—especially on Jerusalem—from Sharon’s thinking, it seems clear that there is an implicit Israeli bottom line for peace. Israel would keep some of the large settlement blocs, hand over some Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem (but not the holy sites), and otherwise turn more than 90 percent of the land taken in 1967 to the Palestinians, with compensation for the rest. It would at most take a handful of symbolic ‘returnees’, perhaps mostly to facilitate family reunions, and insist on tough security measures.This bottom line has been fairly clearly visible since the late 1990s and, despite the increase in settlements since then, doesn’t seem to have changed much. The question for Secretary Kerry’s negotiations is this: is he trying to find a way to get the Palestinians to accept this old formula with a few minor modifications or is he trying to get the Israelis to put more on the table?