The Sharon Plan, often described as the “disengagement” process, has become one of the most hotly debated news items in Israel.
What is most newsworthy, given the charged emotions that this debate has created, is the fact that very few people across the political spectrum in Israel, and even in the media and diplomatic corps represented in Israel, have bothered to read the Sharon Plan.
Although the Sharon Plan is posted on the official web site of the Israeli prime minister, www.pmo.gov.il, few people have taken the time to read the Sharon Plan. That includes Knesset members on both sides of the aisle in the Knesset. That includes reporters who cover the Knesset. That includes Israeli government ministers.
As a result, the proponents and opponents to the Sharon Plan speak about it as if it is only about Gaza. Indeed, people throughout Israel and throughout the world thinnk that the singular issue of the Sharon polan concerns whether Israelis should continue to live in the Katif district of Gaza.
Hence the term “disengagement”.
Therefore, the Sharon Plan is officially called the “Disengagement Plan”, because, according to the preamble to clause 1, section 1, “Israel has come to the conclusion that there is currently no reliable Palestinian partner with which it can make progress in a bilateral peace process.”
The preamble goes on to say, “In order to break out of this stalemate, Israel is required to initiate moves not dependent on Palestinian cooperation. Accordingly, it has developed a plan of unilateral disengagement.”
However, the reality of what the Sharon Plan conveys remains otherwise.
What the Sharon Plan really proposes is a PLO empowerment process, with 14 clauses that seek to strengthen every aspect of the PLO administrative infrastructure, to belie the preamble that the PLO is not a “reliable Palestinian partner” by stating that “the hope is that the Palestinians will take advantage of the opportunity created by the disengagement in order to break out of the cycle of violence and to reengage in a process of dialogue.”
Since the majority of the Palestinians in Gaza, who live in the squalor of UN Arab refugee camps, are nurtured by the ideas of the “right of return” to liberate lands where their Arab villages existed in 1948, why would Israel’s dismemberment of Katif communities – established on lands where no Arab villages were lost in 1967 – satisfy their political goals?
Yet another premise of the Sharon Plan is that “the process of disengagement will serve to dispel claims regarding Israel’s responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”
If Israel is to annul its responsibility for the well-being of the Palestinian population, why does the Sharon plan continue to obligate Israel to “provide water pipes, electricity, industrial zones, markets, employment and an industrial zone to sustain the Palestinian Arab economy of Gaza”? The Sharon Plan mandates that “other existing arrangements, such as those relating to water and the electro-magnetic sphere shall remain in force” while “economic arrangements currently in operation between Israel and the Palestinians shall, in the meantime, remain in force.”
According to the Sharon Plan, these arrangements will include:
i. The entry of workers into Israel in accordance with the existing criteria.
ii. The entry and exit of goods between the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Israel and abroad.
iii. The monetary regime.
iv. Tax and customs envelope arrangements.
v. Postal and telecommunications arrangements.
So there you have it. While the Sharon Plan is described as a “disengagement plan”, it does anything but disengage Israel from the Palestinian Arab population.
Meanwhile, the language of the Sharon Plan intimates that the PLO will abandon its terror campaign. The plan says, “When” – and not “if” – “there is evidence from the Palestinian side of its willingness, capability and implementation in practice of the fight against terrorism and the institution of reform as required by the Road Map, it will be possible to return to the track of negotiation and dialogue.” On what basis does Sharon assume that the PLO will “fight against terrorism” or institute any “reform”? There is no answer.
And when it comes to security issues in other areas, the Sharon Plan promises to “evacuate an area in the Northern Samaria Area (the West Bank), including four villages and all military installations, and re-deploy outside the vacated area.” The move will enable territorial contiguity for Palestinians in the Northern Samaria Area “while Israel will improve the transportation infrastructure in the West Bank in order to facilitate the contiguity of Palestinian transportation.” Does this also mean that abandoned villages and military installations will be handed over to a PLO that is “not a reliable peace partner”?
Once more, since the Sharon Plan defines the PLO as maintaining a state of war with Israel, why does the same Sharon Plan provide the PLO with the strategic assistance of “territorial contiguity”? No answer is given.
Meanwhile, the Sharon Plan mandates that the Gaza Strip “be demilitarized and shall be devoid of weaponry, the presence of which does not accord with the Israeli-Palestinian agreements.” However, the Sharon Plan does not even allude to the fact that the PLO violated all previous agreements in this regard and refused to implement the agreement with Israel to have their personnel vetted by Israel.
Did Sharon experience amnesia and forget that the PLO increased, in defiance of the Oslo agreement, the size of the agreed upon security force from 9,000 in 1993 to more than 50,000 by 1995, ignoring protestations of the government of Israel? The Sharon Plan that demilitarizes Gaza provides no process for disarming the PLO armed forces now in Gaza.
And what does the Sharon Plan mandate in terms of Israeli security? The Sharon Plan asserts that “Israel reserves its inherent right of self-defense, both preventive and reactive, including where necessary the use of force, in respect of threats emanating from the Gaza Strip.” Incredibly, Israel’s right to pursue terrorists into Gaza is not mentioned anywhere. As far as the security situation in the West Bank is concerned, the Sharon Plan states that “upon completion of the evacuation of the Northern Samaria Area, no permanent Israeli military presence will remain in this area,” while another section states, “Military installations and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria will be dismantled and removed, with the exception of those which Israel decides to leave and transfer to another party…. “
Does that mean that the PLO security forces, described in clause 1 of the Sharon Plan as “not a reliable peace partner,” will now inherit Israel’s abandoned IDF military bases? Why would Israel cede military installations to an entity with whom it is in a state of war?
The Sharon Plan also states, “In other areas of the West Bank, current security activity will continue” and that “as circumstances permit, Israel will consider reducing such activity in Palestinian cities,” and that “Israel will work to reduce the number of internal checkpoints throughout the West Bank.” So, here we have a situation where Israel moves its forces out of cities and reduces checkpoints and is expected to maintain mobility to respond to the PLO terror war.
Perhaps the most amazing issue of all is that clause five of the Sharon Plan mandates to provide “advice, assistance and training” to “the Palestinian security forces for the implementation of their obligations to combat terrorism and maintain public order, by American, British, Egyptian, Jordanian or other experts, as agreed with Israel.” The Sharon Plan ignores Israel’s decade-long failed experience with security assistance that Israel facilitated for the PLO. The Sharon Plan ignores how military training facilitated by Israel and Western countries for the PLO was abused to conduct a terror campaign against Israel in every part of the country for the past four years. The US State Department trained Palestinian policemen for “security”; those policemen then used that training to kill Israelis.
The Sharon Plan goes on to say that “Israel will be willing to consider the possibility of the establishment of a seaport and airport in the Gaza Strip, in accordance with arrangements to be agreed with Israel.” Did Israel not try that already? And weren’t guns and rockets smuggled in?
In terms of Israel’s border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt (called the Philadelphi Route), the Sharon Plan only states, “Initially, Israel will continue to maintain a military presence along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt,” and that “subsequently, the evacuation of this area will be considered. dependent, inter alia, on the security situation and the extent of cooperation with Egypt in establishing a reliable alternative arrangement.” Why “initially” and “subsequently”? Does Israel expect that situation on the Egyptian border to change? Will Egypt not continue to allow weapons to be smuggled through tunnels on Egypt’s frontier to help the PLO fight Israel?
Finally, The Sharon Plan envisions continued international support for the PLO, “in order to bring the Palestinians to implement in practice their obligations to combat terrorism and effect reforms, thus enabling the parties to return to the path of negotiation.” And if the support for the PLO continues and the terror does not cease? What then? The Sharon Plan provides no answer.
So there you have it. The text of the Sharon Plan speaks for itself: strengthening of the PLO, and no disengagement whatsoever. This is not a disengagement plan. This is a plan of hasty retreat that doesn’t even include a request of the Palestinian Authority to stop endorsing the murder of Jews from their own Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation shows.
What sanctions are listed if the PLO does not comply? Is this not worse than the Oslo Accords?
In early October, the new Palestinian Authority school books were translated and presented to the public and to the Israeli government by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace. Not one office of the Israeli government issued any kind of reaction to the fact that the new curriculum of the Palestinian Authority reads like an indoctrination in the art of how to make war on the state and people of Israel. The Palestinian school system is financed in part from payments received from the Israeli government, because of the tax rebate system that was instituted during the early years of the Oslo process, to refund taxes collected from Palestinians for purchase of Israeli products. Yet, the Sharon government would not file any objection or complaint concerning these school books of the Palestinian Authority, which are also used in the schools in the Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the Mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lopliansky, says that he was overruled by the Sharon government when he wanted to file a complaint about these school books and their blatant anti-Semitism.
And in mid-October, following Israel’s killing of a senior Hamas operative, the IDF web site explained that the IDF had not been able to kill him before, since he had been drafted into the “Preventive Security Force” of the Palestinian Authority security services, the same unit that is slated to take over Gaza in the near future. The IDF web site went on to say that the Hamas terrorist had therefore enjoyed “complete immunity” when he served in the mainstream security services of the Palestinian Authority, while he was carrying out his terrorist attacks against Israel. In other words, the IDF affirms Sharon’s policy of turning a blind eye to terrorists if they are in the employ of the Palestinian Authority.
The official media of Palestinian Authority praised the Knesset approval of the Sharon Plan. In the words of Nabil Shaath, “May this be only one step in the liberation of all of Palestine.” Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman Moshir Al-Masri declared that “the Knesset vote proves that the Hamas has forced the Zionist enemy to retreat.”
To make a long story short, the Sharon Plan, far from being a plan of disengagement from the PLO, evolved into nothing less than a program of empowerment for the PLO. One problem: very few people have even bothered to read the Sharon Plan, leaving the spinmasters in charge, to sell it as a “disengagement from Gaza” program.
President Abe Lincoln once noted that you can “fool some of the people some of the time”, but not “all of the people all of the time.” This time, Prime Minister Sharon may have succeeded where President Lincoln failed. In a world of sound bytes and instant news, even journalists and diplomats have stopped reading documents, preferring one word jingles instead.
“Disengagement”? Gee, it sounded so good.