Photo: AFP
Sharon's starting position was better than Olmert's
Photo: AFP

Unilateralism an empty dream

The West Bank is not Gaza, Olmert is not Sharon, and Kadima is no Likud

It could well be, as many people were quick to explain when the election results came in, that the country very much wants a second disengagement, or a first convergence, or whatever you want to call the next unilateral pullout and dismantling of settlements in the West Bank. There is validity to the claim that had the issue been put to a national referendum, a majority would have approved the plan, under the leadership of Ehud Olmert or someone else.


But a sober analysis of the results shows that the possibility that a unilateral pullout will actually come to pass is no simple matter.


For starters, we are talking about a much more difficult, expensive and complicated process than the Gaza move. The technical and budgetary difficulties are not minor: The Gaza pullout was successful due to Israel's operational forces no less than the leadership of Ariel Sharon.


It also helped that the Gaza Strip is a small piece of land, easily cut off from the rest of the country, with a small number of residents.


Sharon's lessons


Politically, Sharon taught his potential successor a lesson: You need a coalition for disengagement, but not necessarily the one you share the government table with. But Sharon's starting position was excellent: He traded 13 Likud rebels for 15 Shinui MKs who were even more committed to the pullout that Sharon's party.


Together with outside support from Labor, Meretz and the Arab parties, he had little trouble putting together a parliamentary majority to support the move that anti-pullout forces couldn't break.


Ehud Olmert is starting from an entirely different position. True, his diplomatic plans are identical to those of Labor, but Amir Peretz is demanding a heavy economic and personal price to join the government. So are the Pensioners.


Joining the left


It would seem that Meretz and the Arabs bring Olmert to the magic number of 60 Knesset members, but he will not be able to rely on the Arab bloc in the Knesset. Olmert is no Rabin, and he is no Sharon.


The rest of the parties object to unilateral pullouts. Some may be able to be bought off temporarily, but there is no guarantee they will remain in government when push comes to shove.


What does all this mean? That Olmert's election promise to spend the next year to 18 months trying to negotiate has become a life rope for him and for his future government.


He will be forced to do everything possible to find a Palestinian negotiating partner; Mahmoud Abbas is ready and willing, and even, with or without calling it by name, with the Hamas government.


For all Olmert's grand statements about drying up the Palestinian Authority and bringing international pressure to bear on it, Ismail Haniya's position today is no less stable than that of Ehud Olmert.


Empty dream


This is a blow to his empty dream, according to which Israel has the ability to set its future borders alone and to act as if the Palestinians do not exist. It is also a blow to the notion that we can escape reality, a notion that caused many Israelis to ignore both the process and administration of the Gaza pullout and the results of it.


The Palestinians do exist, and there will be no quiet or security here if we ignore them. Unilateralism is nothing more than an election promise – one that failed to survive even to the end of Election Day.


And by the way, the results of a Palestinian-Israeli poll taken jointly by Israeli pollster Yaakov Shamir and Palestinian Dr. Khalil Shikaki on the eve of electiosn shows that most Israelis may continue to hold on to the dream of unilateralism, but don't really believe it can be accomplished: 62 percent of those Israelis asked said Israel should talk to Hamas if need be, in order to reach a compromise with the Palestinians.


That poll didn't dare predict the outcome of Israel's elections, but was far more accurate than most of the predictions we were fed in recent weeks


פרסום ראשון: 03.30.06, 11:52
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