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Home > Special Topics > Europe Report Last Updated: 15:16 03/09/2007
Europe Report #84: April 30, 2004

Sharon Adviser Claims Unilateral Disengagement Offers Hope to Middle East

J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM)

In the final part of Zalman Shoval's speech, he outlines the reasons why he believes the controversial Israeli unilateral disengagement plan might offer some hope for building Middle East peace. Presumably, these are the same arguments Prime Minister Ariel Sharon presented to President George W. Bush when the two met in mid-April. Bush subsequently backed the plan, causing a storm of international criticism.

The first part of this speech can be found here

Ambassador Zalman Shoval:

On the slightly more positive side, there are Palestinians, including some of whom were at the forefront of the previous Intifada and armed activities against Israel who say today that if there is to be a Palestinian state that it is to be [along the lines of] an Israeli model. It must be more akin to the Israeli model than that of the existing Arab states.

Actually, if it focused exclusively, or too narrowly, on the Arab-Israeli conflict as Bush I did after the Gulf War and of which most Arab leaders and some European leaders have led a repeat performance now the US would let the opportunity for change, as slender as it is, slip away.

Now, all that does not necessarily show a very optimistic picture, but one must look at things in proportion as I said at the beginning. Although the Palestinian-Israeli conflict the Palestinian problem or whatever we prefer to call it was never one of the main reasons, certainly not the sole reason, certainly not the exclusive reason for the lack of stability lack of peace in the Greater Middle East. The problems facing the world today are of a much wider magnitude. Terror facing all of us, facing the way we want to live.

We the Israelis, and I am sure I am speaking for all the Palestinians too, would be very happy if we could reach that kind of modus vivendi, which I mentioned in the beginning. The time may be right. Just think about one thing. In Israel in the parties of basically the centre-right, but also in the centre-left, where most people, if not all, know say to themselves, were taught, were educated that all of the land of Israel by right historically, morally, in international law belongs to the Jewish people. This was something which political parties and others tried to implement over the years.

There is today the feeling, or I would say a recognition, that by right it is ours and if we give something up, we give up something which is ours. We are not giving back something which is not ours, but we have a duty to future generations to try to reach at least some sort of pragmatic peace. That is a sea change, in not just Israeli politics but also in the atmosphere amongst many many people, the majority. That is what I meant when I said when I gave one of the reasons for some sort of optimism there is a real sense of realism.

I would say that the ingredients for some sort of arrangement are there. We also know that in the wrong hands even the best of ingredients can spoil the broth. So, one must be hopeful, not confident, but hopeful. Perhaps, in this new situation, we will soon be soon in the Middle East may mean weeks, months or years making a practical arrangement. Thanks to those factors which I mentioned before, when violence will abate, and as I said, the two peoples could hopefully live in separation, but next to each other as neighbors.

Thank you very much.

The above transcript is based on a presentation given at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London on 1 April 2004.

The first part of this speech can be found here

The second part of this speech can be found here

The third part of this speech can be found here

The fourth part of this speech can be found here

The fifth part of this speech can be found here

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