Daniel Pipes on Sharon’s speech

Daniel Pipes, in the New York Sun, wonders whether we should take Ariel Sharon’s threatened disengagement from the Palestinians at face value. Pipes thinks that implementation of the policy Sharon outlined last week — redeployment of Israeli troops behind new security lines and the abandonment of some settlements — would be a “major blunder.” It would send three defeatist messages — that Palestinian terrorism works, that Israel is in retreat, and that Israelis are fearful.
Pipes believes, however, that Sharon did not mean what he said “for it too starkly contradicts his known views” such as the need for Israel to control the West Bank. Pipes suggests that Sharon made the speech in order to reverse the Israeli perception that he has nothing to offer except “the achingly long-term policy of deterrence.” In Pipes view, “Sharon has outlined a plan that he has little wish to fulfill.”
There is no doubt that Sharon is a wily customer. And last week’s speech does not absolutely commit him to anything. For example, he can always claim that the Palestinians have shown new willingness to pursue the “road map,” thus meeting the condition he laid down for not disengaging. This would earn some points with the U.S. — which is scurrying about trying to provide that very fig leaf. Sharon could then act as he sees fit, since the road map doesn’t seem to lead anywhere.
However, I am skeptical of Pipes’ skepticism. Sharon is under intense pressure from the voters and from the Israeli military. It is also quite possible that his own thinking has evolved. Recently, he has sounded sincere when he has said, sometimes at a cost in terms of the politics of his party, that Israel can’t occupy the entire West Bank indefinitely. I don’t know what will happen in the coming months with respect to “disengagement,” but now that this concept is on the table, it can’t be wished away as an option.
Courtesy of Real Clear Politics.

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