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The Peace Process
Did Sharon Want More Withdrawals?

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?

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  • Thirdsyphon

    Good question! I’d have loved to read some analysis on this point, but since the article stops there, I’ll provide my own.

    The obvious answer, it seems to me, is that Kerry is doing both of these things at once. It is in the interest of the United States that the two sides reach an agreement; but the specific terms of that agreement don’t matter to us.

    To use an analogy, when you’re wrestling to get the zipper closed on an overstuffed suitcase, you don’t worry about being “fair” to each side of it. Instead, you pull on both sides as hard as you can.

    • TommyTwo

      Not a bad analogy, considering that you’ll often find that after a short time, the overstuffed suitcase that you somehow managed to zip shut has burst open, leaving you worse off than before.

  • free_agent

    You write, “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?”

    The implication (but not the statement) is that Israel continues to offer “Israel would keep some of the large settlement blocs, [etc.] and insist on tough security measures.” I haven’t been tracking the situation, so I’m curious whether this is really true.

  • ljgude

    I think Clinton’s attempts to make peace were credible until Arafat made it entirely clear that there would be no peace. Then Sharon, may he rest in peace, demonstrated that land for peace offered absolutely no hope when he withdrew from Gaza. He got land for war with Hamas as a bonus. Now there are two Palestinian governmental entities neither of which wants anything other than a one state solution involving the destruction of Israel. I think the current administration has shown clear signs of being anti Israel enough to try to put Israel into a corner and try to make them look bad, but naturally Israel is not going to agree to it own destruction. Bottom line for me is that Bibi has to try to survive the remaining Obama years. After that anyone from Hilary to Ted Cruz will be an improvement from Israel’s point of view.

  • TommyTwo

    “Mahmoud Abbas was elected Palestinian president the following January [2005]”

    Did I miss news of a re-election?

    • Brad_Brzezinski

      No. His term is long expired as is that of Hamas. It seems that no matter what the condition of the Palestinian “entity,” no adjustments are ever made in the western push to make Israel accomodate it. Then there’s the issue of external factors, viz. the turmoil all around, that must be giving both sides strong reasons to avoid doing a deal for a while.

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