PM Sharon has set up a demographic strawman regarding Gaza. The fact is that the 8,000 Jewish settlers do not “live amid 1.2 million Arabs”. There are only 150,000 Arabs in the Rafiah area, the Strip’s least populated district, where most of the Jewish residents are located by strategic design in “Gush Katif”, along the border with Egypt.

If Sharon cannot achieve consensus to relocate all settlements, he can go for the “Rafiah Plan” that will achieve separation without the need for withdrawal.

With a spur southward through Israeli Morag and another through Arab Rafiah, Gush Katif can be linked to the western Negev, “for the duration”, instead of northward through the rest of the Strip.

That area can be evacuated to allow over a million Arabs free movement in all but Rafiah.

Sharon can thus avoid the national trauma of uprooting 8,000 Jewish settlers for the sake of terror, not for peace. He would then finally muster the elusive approval of the Likud.

President Bush would support this plan given his statement that major settlement blocs be considered in any negotiations.

Sharon would encourage this by evacuating one or two Gaza settlements and moving their few hundred settlers into Gush Katif.

The next US administration, however, might realize that Sharon’s withdrawal plans are little more than:

  • an abrogation of the security interest to stop dangerous traffic into and within Gaza,
  • a huge encouragement of Islamic terrorism,
  • a retreat from the US-Israeli commitment to eventual democracy in the Arab world, and
  • a sabotage of the road map so cherished by the U.S., EU, Russia and the UN.It is time for both right and left to reject Sharon’s insincere maneuvers.