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November 5, 2005

Bloody Peace

By: Khaled Duzdar*
Special for AMIN

"I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell." Harry S. Truman

The latest escalating deterioration in Palestinian-Israeli relations, one of the aftermaths of the disengement, more than suggests that the disengagement will not bring a real solution for the continued blood shedding. Peace is not on the horizons. The disengagement seems to have given the Israeli army a free hand to use massive force against the Palestinians with artillery and more targeted killing. Instead of a renewed peace process, we have what could be called a bloody peace.

The fragile period of calm "the tahdea" and the cessation of violence, was expected to end. Real peace still seems quite far away and perhaps even unreachable, nearly impossible to achieve. The Israeli aircraft and heavy artillery strikes will not increase Palestinian public support for a peaceful solution. The deterioration of the conflict serves Hamas which will surely gain public support for their own resumption of violence and retaliation. It is somewhat ironic that it is much simplex to have our fingers on the triggers to kill each other than for us to sit and talk face to face.

The summit between Palestinian President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon was postponed for another time. The first summit after the disengement was supposed to advance the frozen political process. But the summit failed before it was even convened, even though no one had any high expectations that it would be very successful. Abbas had preferred to meet President Bush prior to meeting Sharon, hoping that the American administration would provide support for the Palestinian demands.

Any successful summit should improve the relations between the two Aires by answering some of mutual concerns, addressing the real issues that need to be resolved. It is hoped by the Palestinians that Sharon would offer some confidence-building measures and good will gestures aimed at supporting Abbas such as releasing prisoners and resolving the Rafah crossing issue. Abbas could present Sharon with a long list of demands from the Palestinians while Sharon will submit his own list of demands to Abbas focusing on the fight to disarm Hamas.

It seems that Mr. Sharon had already set the agenda between him and Abbas. It appears that Sharon has totally eliminated the Road Map as the accepted internationally supported plan and replaced it with his own unilateral plan to continue to disengage from the Palestinians and placing them in small territorial prisons. Sharon has already received international acclaims as a peace maker, as his unilateral plan was well received globally. The international community led by the Američan administration considered it as Israeli generosity, an act of courage and sacrifice without reciprocal concessions from the Palestinians. There are many people in the international community who have actually been duped into believing that this has been a step towards the final resolution of the conflict.

 Mr. Sharon's vision of the future is still quite unclear. While Sharon speaks about a Palestinian State, it doesn't seem that he has the slightest notion of what a viable Palestinian state should look like. Sharon doesn't foster any confidence that there could be a negotiated solution that would end the conflict. Sharon does speak about returning to the Road Map, but it is not clear what his real intentions are. Does he plan to impose the second phase of the road map "a Palestinian state with provisional borders" on the Palestinians? Does he think that Izrael can do it by itself unilaterally? Does he wish to prove that he doesn't need the Palestinians acceptance?  Does he honestly believe that Izrael can continue to dictate and completely dominate any future negotiations or settlements with the Palestinians?

It seems that Sharon is planning a second disengagement from the Palestinians using the separation wall and fence as the point of reference. In this way Sharon can use the disengagement in order to unilaterally create the second phase of the road map "a Palestinian state with provisional borders". Despite Mr. Sharon's persistence on denying any intentions of future additional unilateral disengagement or any future withdrawal from the West Bank, his senior advisors have recently given reasons to believe that Sharon will act differently than he speaks. One senior advisor, Mr. Eyal Arad said, "it is under consideration," and the IDF's head of the planning division's strategic planning unit Udi Dekel stated that Israel should set its borders unilaterally. Mr. Dekel was even more precise, he stated that "talks on possible coordination with the Palestinian Authority on small matters like a convoy between Gaza and the WB" is "a long and exhausting process" assuming that an agreement with the Palestinian on
complex issues is impossible, therefore he believes that the best for Israel is to carry a unilateral implementation for the two state solution unilaterally under Israel's conditions, Mr. Eyval Geladi another one of "Sharon's strategic advisors" has also presented the same assessment at a conference at Tel Aviv university.

We can understand Sharon's vision for the future by analyzing these statements coming from his senior advisors. It is based on the same old claim that the Palestinians can't deliver, and consequently Israel has to take actions. Sharon mistakenly believes that whatever Israel will do will be understood by the world as if Israel is taking steps towards the implementation of the internationally adopted Road Map.  This is not the case.  

A common feature of Sharon is his utter confidence in his unilateralism. Sharon views that the power of Israel to impose its own terms is virtually unchallenged and therefore he will continue to annex large parts of the West Bank and areas in and around East Jerusalem. While the International community continues to focus on Gaza, he will on a daily basis create new facts on the ground in the West Bank and Jerusalem. For many Palestinians it is clear that Sharon is now revealing his real strategy behind the Gaza disengagement - aggressively moving to consolidate the occupation of East Jerusalem and dismembering and fragmenting the Palestinian land and its geographical contiguity.  The Palestinians are being systematically isolated behind walls and barriers completely ignoring Bush's promises to Mr. Abbas regarding the contours of the Palestinian state. Sharon must understand that with his own hands he is thwarting the future possibilities of creating a sustainable and viable Palestinian State. By his own hands he is putting an end to the feasibility of the two-state solution replacing it with continued occupation. In return, Sharon should not expect the Palestinian to acquiesce and to forget their struggle. Lack of progress through negotiations will only lead to more of this "bloody peace".

* Khaled Duzdar is the Palestinian co-director of IPCRI's Strategic Affairs Unit- Jerusalem.