#32: The “Sharon Plan”
(April 15, 2004)
After years of stalemate and bloodshed, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has proposed a bold plan to insure greater peace and security for Israel, to improve the lives of Palestinians, and to make possible the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
As President Bush said on April 14, 2004, the plan is “historic and courageous.” Sharon has called for a withdrawal of Israeli forces and settlements from the Gaza Strip and the eventual dismantlement of virtually all settlements in Judea and Samaria. According to the plan, Israel will complete its security fence along a route that closely approximates the “Green Line,” and minimizes any disruption to the Palestinians, and then withdraw its forces behind the barrier and dismantle most of the settlements on the other side.
It is hoped that after Israel’s disengagement, the Palestinians will realize that terrorism has failed and enter negotiations over where the final borders of Israel and a Palestinian state will be. Even if their leaders fail to react positively, the Palestinian people will still see a great improvement in their lives as the military redeploys and most Jews move inside the borders of the State of Israel.
For Israel, the plan involves grave risks. By withdrawing without an agreement, it is possible that Palestinian extremists will claim that terrorism has achieved its goal of driving out the Jews. Hamas already is making such declarations. Palestinians may be led to believe that continued violence will lead to further withdrawals and that will provoke greater terror. By withdrawing its forces, Israel is sacrificing some of its capability to deter terror, but it would be a mistake for Palestinians to believe that terror has achieved its goals. Israel is actually withdrawing from a point of strength — it controls the territories and is not being forced out — and establishing clear lines from which it will not be pushed. Moreover, as President Bush also acknowledged, Israel will retain its right to self-defense should Yasser Arafat continue to wage war.
Sharon chose to act decisively after it became clear that Palestinian leaders were unable and unwilling to negotiate a peace agreement that recognized the right of Israel to exist even beside a Palestinian state.
The “Sharon Plan” is consistent with the road map. Rather than continue to wait for the Palestinian Authority to fulfill its obligations to cease violence, dismantle terrorist networks, and institute political reforms, Israel is going to unilaterally meet its responsibilities.
The plan does not represent an end to negotiations, rather it dramatically advances progress toward a final settlement that will result in the Palestinians achieving their goal of an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The state will also be contiguous, not some disjointed canton arrangement.
One thing the Palestinians will not get is a complete withdrawal from the West Bank. This was never going to happen, and was not expected even by the framers of UN resolution 242 who understood adjustments would need to be made to create “secure and defensible borders” for all states. As President Bush acknowledged, “in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”
Sharon singled out four specific settlement blocs that, by consensus, will ultimately be incorporated into Israel, and it is evident why when you take into account their populations: Ariel (16,000 in 2001 and now closer to 30,000 when surrounding communities are included), Maale Adumim (25,800 in 2001 and now closer to 40,000), Givat Zeev (10,500 in 2001), and the Etzion Bloc (15 communities with an approximate population of 20,000). These four blocs include more than 40% of the total Jewish population of the West Bank.
Prime Minister Sharon's
Letter to President Bush (4/14/04)