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Am Johal: Sharon and Arafat Should Step Aside

Sharon and Arafat Should Step Aside

By Am Johal

Recently, Dov Weisglass, the Prime Minister Sharon's bureau chief said, ''The significance of our disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process. It supplies the formaldehyde necessary so there is no political process with the Palestinians… effectively this whole package called a Palestinian state has been removed indefinitely from our agenda.''

Mr. Weisglass, as Sharon's chief bureaucrat, who meets regularly with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and other international dignitaries simply confirms what Sharon has been saying publicly within Israel for several months now. The peace is dead, and Israel will continue to act unilaterally in the face of international pressure and with the full support of the U.S.

And so on it goes. As the Gaza massacre by the IDF precipitated by Qassam rocket fire meant over 90 dead, as Israeli tourists were bombed in the Sinai peninsula, and the American Vice Presidential debate confirming that there's no difference between Democrats and Republicans on the issue of Israel and Palestine, this will certainly embolden the Sharon government to continue a unilateral policy until they're voted out of office. Sharon's strategy is similar to the one followed throughout the political career of American Vice President Dick Cheney - never be outflanked by the right.

For the Palestinians, the peace process has given them few benefits. It has structured the Occupation into Areas A, B and C and in fact normalized the process of settlement and infrastructure expansion in a way that any act to respond against this is deemed as "terrorist" activity. The Sharm Al Sheikh Agreement of 1999 formalized the structure of the Occupation into a governing reality. Perhaps Israel will withdraw from Gaza, but no one can be deluded into thinking that this won't mean continued expanion of Jerusalem's borders and even greater expansion of settlements in the West Bank.

Michael Waltzer of Princeton a few years ago wrote in Dissent Magazine that four wars are being fought simultaneously:

"The first is a Palestinian war to destroy Israel

The second is a Palestinian war to create an independent state alongside Israel, ending the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The third is an Israeli war for the security of Israel within the 1967 borders.

The fourth is an Israeli war for Greater Israel, for the settlements and the occupied territories."

The moderates are firmly lined up behind the second and third wars, and the extremists are lined up behind the first and fourth.

For those seeking peace, a two state solution with Palestinian and Jewish majorities side by side is the short term solution and achievable within fifteen years. There are also those who recognize the de facto reality on the ground that Israel and Palestine function as one state, albeit under mostly Israeli control and without equal rights for Palestinians. Some form of sovereignty association, different than the two state solution and not quite the one state solution could also happen in the short term. However, codifying the status quo will bring no one closer to peace. A true one state solution with equal rights is still decades away despite support from some quarters.

So today, as everyone on the ground concedes that the atmosphere isn't right to make peace, that there's a war going on, that the American led Roadmap to Peace is a farce, and that perhaps there's benefits to the Geneva Accords even though it won't stop the violence, the impetus and the leadership to move out of this toxic and deadly stalemate should fall on the leaders.

Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat need to go. Israel and Palestine are not being well served by this leadership. A new generation of leadership that speaks a new language needs to emerge from the wreckage.


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