How would it be possible for a reasonable leader to be ready to assist in implementing a unilateral decision made by his opponent?Ã‚Â
The answer to this question could lead to understanding the wacky politics in the Middle East.
For internal reasons, mostly related to his understanding of the vital national interests of Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decides to unilaterally evacuate Gaza Strip settlements and four isolated West Bank ones, and to redeploy his troops to the borders of both areas.
The final shape of the plan, slated for implementation starting August 15, came through intensive internal debates, and was finalized in Israeli related political and security platforms. Sharon also managed to gain the blessing of the U.S. Administration to his plan together with a letter of assurances, backing Israel’s stand on most of disputed final status issues.
During the whole process, Sharon rejected all calls to coordinate with the Palestinian Authority. Yet as the plan was approved in its final shape, he expressed readiness to coordinate the implementation with the PA.
Sharon’s first priority is to seek every extra effort to ensure that the pullout from the Gaza strip does not take place under Hamas’s fire. He would also be willing to avoid the scene of Palestinian gunmen taking over evacuated settlements claiming victory. In both cases, the PA cooperation is needed.
If PA cooperates, it would save Sharon hundreds of millions of Shekels to demolish and remove the rubble of all evacuated settlements, and the worldwide embarrassment over the scenes of massive destructions.
When issues are decided unilaterally, one does not seek a partner, but rather a collaborator. This is exactly how Sharon has so far preserved the Palestinian Authority.
Having said all of this, the question is what alternatives the Palestinian Authority has available?
The conditional future reward, U.S. George Bush vision of a Palestinian State, is the only dream available for the PA to adhere to. To be offered a state, the PA is told, you should prove that you are able to behave as a state. An uncoordinated withdrawal could trigger a chaotic situation in the Gaza Strip, which could damage the worldwide image of the PA.
U.S. and European policy makers are far more concerned about the growing strength of Hamas, especially in the Gaza Strip, therefore has already started with a diplomatic process to attempt to domesticate Hamas on Pullout eve.
Palestinians are familiar with this process, simply because a similar one that targeted the Palestinian Liberation Organization took place following the 1987 Intifada.
Hamas, being eager to consolidate its past five years’ achievements into legitimate political power, is being bombarded with conditional offers.
‘You need to lay down arms, denounce violence, refrain from attacking Israel, and get ready to recognize Israel………’
In exchange, we will talk to a selected figures affiliated with your organization, we even might remove you from the list of terror organizations.
Some reports, even mentioned that some western circles are weighing the possibility of handing over the Gaza Strip to Hamas rather than the PA.