Weissglas in Yediot: Get real, the choice is between settlements (incl. E Jerusalem) and pariah status
On the same morning that Maariv’s Ben Caspit relays Israeli diplomatic officials’ cries of ‘gewald’ after the US and UK ditched them on Jerusalem, Attorney Dov Weissglas tells them that it’s time to get real. Weissglas, Sharon’s confidant and liaison to the US administration, is hardly a bleeding heart leftist. One of his major claims to international fame was an Haaretz interview, in which he explained that disengagement was intended to put the Palestinians in “formaldehyde.” Largely quiet during the Olmert government, since Netanyahu’s ascent he has been working hard to position himself as a hard-nosed realist.
A step of sobriety
Op-ed, Dov Weissglas, Yediot, December 7 2009
What is missing in the decision on the construction freeze? It lacks real ability to affect what is happening. It will not lead to a real stop of construction in Judea and Samaria, except for a brief time span, and will not bring about a change in the diplomatic environment. The Palestinians do not view it as a reason to renew negotiations, and the international community, so it would appear, was not overly impressed by the Israeli initiative. The Quartet refused to congratulate it, the US and the other major countries of the world do not intend to declare that in the wake of this initiative the Palestinians are called upon to return to the negotiating table.
The initial, almost automatic suspicion, that the plan encountered around the world, was successfully confirmed by some of the ministers belonging to the forum of seven: They supported it in the discussions, and after it was passed, explained that it was actually meaningless and that within ten months of “delay,” construction would be renewed with full vigor. In this context, there is great sense in the contention of the settlers that the freeze is unnecessarily oppressive: They are being harmed, but [the freeze] is bringing no benefit.
What does the freeze plan have? The government’s forced decision—regardless of its practical value—is evidence of the fact that it is starting to accept the steadily worsening diplomatic reality, which is making the continued Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria (including East Jerusalem) impossible. The dispute surrounding the settlements and their expansion has long since ceased to be a matter between Israel and the Palestinians, it has become the cause of a confrontation between Israel and the world.
Most of the European states traditionally support the Palestinian demand for a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and are opposed to any Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria, and consequently, to any form of construction and development in the settlements. In the past, Palestinian chaos and terror largely prevented attentiveness to the Palestinian demands, including [the demand for] a stop of construction, and real European pressure on Israel was averted. Now, after terror has ceased in Judea and Samaria, the Palestinian Authority has improved its conduct and the chances of diplomatic negotiations appear to have improved, the Europeans have adopted a tougher stance on Israel, which continues to build in the settlements, thereby, in their opinion, deliberately sabotaging the two-state solution.
The continuation of Israeli construction throughout the Judea and Samaria territories erodes Israel’s main diplomatic asset—its special relationship with the United States. President Bush’s letter to Prime Minister Sharon in April 2004 determined that in the final status arrangement, the US would support the Israeli demand for control of the large settlement blocs, and this summed up most of the American consent on the matter of Israel’s future borders. The continuation of construction in areas that the US also believes will be part of the Palestinian state greatly angers every US administration. Especially since the current administration is highly attentive to the European wishes, both as part of its worldview and as a practical need necessitated, among other things, by its busy agenda, laden with the problems of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, the difficulties of the global economy and other matters that are of no less importance than the Israeli construction aspirations.
From the start of its path, the Netanyahu government announced that on the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it intends to act differently from its predecessors and to work towards strengthening the settlements in Judea and Samaria. Its supporters, particularly among the settlers, hoped that now, after the “sins” of the Sharon and Olmert governments, a government had arisen that would be to their liking. The government’s bad luck—or perchance its good luck—is that the issue of the continuation of construction was placed on its desk shortly after it was formed. Apparently (and this is a good thing), what one does not see from over there, in the opposition and the election campaign, one sees (and immediately) at the cabinet table.
What Sharon understood, and Olmert after him, is now becoming apparent to the current government: Good or bad, just or unjust, that is the reality. No one in the world agrees to Israel’s presence in a majority of the Judea and Samaria territories and the continued construction there. Israeli persistence will bring upon it diplomatic isolation, and this is something that Israel cannot afford. The freeze plan is an attempt to avoid this. It is not important in and of itself, but as a first sign of a process of understanding and sobriety, it is highly meaningful.