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Home > Special Topics > Europe Report Last Updated: 15:16 03/09/2007
Europe Report #92: June 11, 2004

Debating Israeli's New Disengagement Plan – Part One

Afif Safieh (Palestinian General Delegate to the United Kingdom and the Holy See)
Mordechay Cristal (Member of the Israeli Delegation to the Permanent Status Peace Talks at Camp David and Taba)
Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM and Asia Times)

Sean Curtin: I would like to ask about the disengagement plan that was approved in principle yesterday [6 June 2004] by the Israeli Cabinet. My perception of this, which may be incorrect, is that a real decision has been postponed until March 2005. This is because it has been agreed in principle, but nothing will happen until March 2005. Then there will about four stages of the withdrawal plan with each stage having to be voted on. So, we have no real idea if it will actually be implemented. It seems in many respects that it is a postponement of the current crisis in the [Sharon] Cabinet without actually resolving the disengagement issue. Is my perception wrong? I feel that there is no guarantee this plan will be implemented. If a week is a long time in politics, then nine months is an eternity.

Mordechay Cristal, Member of the Israeli Delegation to the Permanent Status Peace Talks at Camp David and TabaMordechay Cristal: Thanks Sean, please call me Motte…No, there is no guarantee that the disengagement plan will be implemented unless, unless this process were to be cemented and supported by an active international engagement. Take the hands of the international community and put them into the mud of the pillars. The multi-plans, the settlements, a very active Egyptian support, an Arab support...

Sean Curtin: Yes, indeed.

Mordechay Cristal: I will talk a little about the Palestinians. I assume, and I think I know, that the Palestinians are working towards a cease-fire. A cease-fire involving the different factions in the Gaza strip. If this was supported by an Arab [nation], it would have an Arab legitimacy. If the Israeli public would wake up and support this move [it would be positive]. If all these things were to happen, we will probably see the implementation [of the disengagement plan] by the end of 2005.

Sean Curtin: Are you seeing Egypt as the Arab partner here?

Mordechay Cristal: Egypt has two roles, two hats. One as a direct player, because Egypt is there [next to Israel]. Second because I really believe that Egypt is the leader of the Arab world. So, Egypt in their leadership role and in their neighborhood role should have a very active role in Gaza.

Afif Safieh: I would like to invoke Nachum Goldman not in a nationalistic manner, but a diplomatic one. I believe his definition of diplomacy is relevant on today's equation. Diplomacy is the art of delaying the inevitable and this is precisely the objective of the disengagement plan with all its unconstructive ambiguities. It is that kind of exercise in deceit.

My grievance against key players is that they have accepted and caved in to Israeli domestic pressure determining the pace of progress and the deceit about what is possible. I think peace is too important to be left to only the Israelis. So, this is why I have called for international intervention…on which the pressure and the persuasion should be deployed.

Yes, the Israeli prognosis is that maybe Sharon's durability in power is not for too long. He might have to resign. He might even be prosecuted and taken to court for other matters. He might move to include other parties in a newly reshaped constellation coalition government. He might call for new elections. He might be toppled because of his rivalry with [Finance Minister and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. I am not overly excited to see Sharon toppled because Netanyahu would be the same continuation of policy plus the one-liners and the sound-bites.

Years ago, we took a decision and it was not an easy decision. We took a decision to recognize the State of Israel and Israeli society. I would say that we have been unreasonably reasonable for the last few decades. We don't really care much who is elected Israeli prime minister. The conditions for a solution don't really change depending on who the Israelis choose as their next prime minister.

You might tell me this is unrealistic. I am not resigned to the idea that if Sharon is elected we should be satisfied 42 percent of the West Bank, if [former Prime Minister] Barak makes a successful comeback we might get 80 percent of the West Bank, if it's [Binyamin Ze’ev] Begin, who is an adorable chap I sat next to [recently] in Berlin – but it might also be an optical illusion because he will never get to be prime minister – we might get 95 percent. No, it's the UN resolutions that are our guiding compass and we are ready to make peace with the Israeli state and Israeli society whoever they decide to elect as prime minister.

But I believe there won't be peace unless we have a decisive input by third parties. Left to ourselves, it is obvious to all observers that what is democratically acceptable to the Israelis is unacceptable to the Palestinians and what is acceptable to the Palestinians is unacceptable to the Israelis. If you leave the two belligerent parties to sort it out by themselves, then we are locked into an eternal cycle of violence where the Israeli power and the Palestinian stubbornness will be locked together in eternity. They have power in abundance and we have stubbornness in equal proportions.

The above discussion took place at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London on 7 June 2004

For part two of this discussion can be found here

For part three of this discussion can be found here


Sharon forges on after Gaza vote
BBC News, 7 June 2004

Sharon's banana republics
Afif Safieh, The Guardian, 19 April 2004

Challenges facing the Arab World
J. Sean Curtin, Europe Report #90, 4 June 2004

The People's Voice Initiative and Israeli Settlements
J. Sean Curtin, Europe Report #88, 25 May 2004

Unilateral Disengagement and Reaction to Sharon's Proposals
Europe Report #81, 28 April 2004

Moderate Palestinian Prime Minister Visits London
Europe Report #72, 11 March 2004

Impact of American Middle East Policy on Iran and Iraq
Europe Report #86, 18 May 2004

Japan to Polish its Tarnished Middle East Image
Asia Times, 5 May 2004

Rejoinder to Comments on "Japan to Polish its Tarnished Middle East Image"
J. Sean Curtin, Debates, GLOCOM Platform, 26 May 2004

The Future of Saudi-Japanese Relations and Oil Consumption
Europe Report #89, 1 June 2004

Sharon Administration's View of Europe and the Arab World
Europe Report #83, 30 April 2004

Sharon's View of the Arab World
Europe Report #82, 28 April 2004

Japan Exorcises the Ghosts of Terrorism Past
Asia Times, 19 April 2004

Iraq Hostage Crisis Signals Turning Point for Japan
Asia Times, 14 April 2004

Bush Hails 'Historic' Sharon Plan
BBC News, 14 April 2004

Iraq Hostage Crisis Signals Turning Point for Japan
Asia Times, 14 April 2004

British UN Insider Thinks New UN Mandate in Iraq Likely after June
Europe Report #77, 1 April 2004

British UN Adviser Says Iraq a One-off Event
Europe Report #78, 1 April 2004

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