The Unilateral Road to Peace
In the next three weeks, the Israeli army will do something unprecedented: instead of defending the country against external enemies or terrorism, it will evacuate – by force if necessary – 9,000 Israelis from their homes.
Israel’s unilateral withdrawal is the outcome of a deep political shift that has been caused by two somewhat contradictory convictions that have characterized Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s policies since 2003: first, that the US-initiated “road map” is going nowhere and, second, that the status quo is untenable. Certainly, according to Sharon’s thinking, there is no future for 9,000 Jewish settlers living among 1.2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Hence, in the absence of negotiations, a unilateral withdrawal is the only meaningful step towards de-escalation and stabilization.
This policy has deeply divided Israel: the settlers – mostly, but not exclusively religious – feel betrayed by Sharon, “The Father of the Settlements.” It is now the Israeli left that, however reluctantly, realizes that Sharon’s new pragmatism may be the first step in the right direction. Like de Gaulle in Algeria, Sharon has reshuffled the cards of Israel’s politics.