Sharon's Strategic Legacy for Israel: Competing Perspectives

(Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)Dan Diker - * Some Israeli opinion-makers, seeking to define Sharon's political legacy, are determined to transform him into a political dove due to his unilateral disengagement plan that pulled Israel out of Gaza. They claim that the "new" Sharon was willing to lead Israel in another major pullback - this time from at least 90 percent of the West Bank. This interpretation assumed the West Bank security fence would constitute Israel's eastern border. * However, a careful examination of Sharon's major speeches and interviews since he first proposed disengagement suggests the very opposite. Indeed, on January 6, 2006, Israel Channel 2 television's chief diplomatic correspondent, Udi Segal, disclosed that Sharon told him privately that it was his policy to hold onto eight settlement blocs in the West Bank and not only the three blocs usually mentioned - Ariel, Maale Adumim, and Gush Etzion. Segal added that Sharon did not want to evacuate the Jordan Valley. * Explaining to the Knesset the significance of the U.S. Letter of Assurances he received from President Bush on April 14, 2004, Sharon said: "There is American acknowledgment that in any final status agreement there will be no Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines....This acknowledgment appears in two ways: understanding the facts determined by the large Israeli settlement blocs such as making it impossible to return to the 1967 lines, and implementation of the concept of 'defensible borders.'" * Thus, Sharon saw the disengagement plan as a mechanism for trading land with a dense Palestinian population, like the Gaza Strip, in exchange for land that was critical for Israel's future security: "I am firmly convinced and truly believe that this disengagement will strengthen Israel's hold over territory which is essential to our existence." * In private conversations with close friends, Sharon has repeated the traditional "defensible borders" position, and has reiterated in various interviews and public statements since the Gaza disengagement that Israel would retain close to half of the West Bank, as opposed to the single digit percentages that his advisors appear to be advancing.

2006-01-13 00:00:00

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