|Challenging myths and presenting facts about
unwilling to compromise….?
|London - published on 5 May 2003
Beyond Images Ref: 32
“Ariel Sharon wants to maintain permanent occupation
of the West Bank and Gaza and crush the Palestinian nation.
He is unwilling to compromise.”
RESPONSE – hatred of Ariel Sharon is blinding
Ariel Sharon is widely disliked and vilified across the world.
His intentions are routinely portrayed in the most negative
possible light, and any indications of moderation are either
ignored, or dismissed cynically as “public relations”.
Yet, in a series of public statements in Israel since 2001,
Mr Sharon has outlined a political position which confounds
his critics. The two most significant recent statements were
his speech to a conference on Israeli national security in December
2002 (known as the Herzliya speech), and his interview with
left-of-centre Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on 15 April
2003. Mr Sharon reiterated his commitment to defending Israel’s
security, and that Palestinian terrorism must cease before diplomacy
can resume. However, here are extracts:-
…..on the pursuit of peace and a two-state solution
“We all want peace. It is not a competition over who
wants peace more. We also know that entering into political
negotiations for peace is the true path which will bring about
an acceleration of economic growth and prosperity. I have said
it before and will say it again today: Israel is prepared to
make painful concessions for a true peace…. in the present
regional and international reality Israel must act with courage
to accept the political plan [based on Mr Bush’s vision
for a two-state solution]. There are risks involved, but also
enormous opportunities…Mr Bush’s peace plan [which
calls for a viable Palestinian state coexisting side-by-side
with Israel] is a reasonable, pragmatic and practicable one…”
(from Herzliya speech)
…..Palestinian statehood and enabling them run
their own lives
Question: Have you accepted the idea of two states
for two peoples?
Ariel Sharon: I believe that this is what will happen.
One has to view things realistically. Eventually there will
be a Palestinian state. I view things first and foremost from
our perspective. I do not think that we have to rule over another
people and run their lives. I do not think that we have the
strength for that. It is a very heavy burden on the public and
it raises ethical problems and heavy economic problems…”
(from Haaretz interview)
…. on Israel’s reoccupation of Palestinian
cities since June 2002
“… our stay in Jenin and Nablus is temporary. Our
presence in those cities was created in order to protect Israeli
citizens from terrorist activities. It is not a situation that
can persist…” (from Haaretz interview)
“Political concessions which will be made [by Israel]
in the future - as those made in the past - are irreversible….
Israel will not re-control the territories from which it withdrew
as a result of political agreements….” (Herzliya
…. on dismantling West Bank settlements and withdrawing
from parts of the biblical Land of Israel
“…If it turns out that we have someone to talk
to [on the Palestinian side], that they understand that peace
is neither terrorism nor subversion against Israel, then I would
definitely say that we will have to take steps that are painful
for every Jew and painful for me personally….
… We are talking about the cradle of the Jewish people.
Our whole history is bound up with these places. Bethlehem,
Shiloh, Beit El. And I know that we will have to part from some
of these places….
“… There will be a parting from places that are
connected to the whole course of our history. As a Jew, this
agonises me. But I have decided to make every effort to reach
a settlement. I feel that the rational necessity to reach a
settlement is overcoming my feelings….” (Haaretz
What Israel will do once Palestinian terror ceases
“…..[once terror ceases], Israel will act to lift
the military pressure, create territorial continuity between
Palestinian population centres and ease daily life for the Palestinian
population….” (from Herzliya speech)
Moving towards peace - Mr Sharon’s final ambition
“…I am determined to make a real effort to reach
a real agreement….. I am 75 years old. I have no political
ambitions beyond the position I now hold. I feel that my goal
and my purpose is to bring this nation to peace and security.
That is why I am making tremendous efforts. I think that this
is something I have to leave behind me – to try to reach
“… I will make every effort to make [the dark and
violent period of the last three years] end. I do not intend
to be passive. The moment a Palestinian state forms I plan to
begin working with it. I will not wait for the telephone to
ring….” (Haaretz interview)
Conclusion: challenging, not scorning, Mr Sharon
Critics of Israel often appear more comfortable with the image
of Mr Sharon the extremist than Mr Sharon the potential peace
partner. But the statements above would have been unimaginable
from Mr Sharon only a few years ago. They have been made away
from the international media spotlight, to domestic Israeli
audiences, and cannot be cynically dismissed as public relations.
The Herzliya speech is being routinely referred back to, by
his own advisers, as a defining statement of Mr Sharon’s
views, and the Ha’aretz interview may have a similar impact.
Rather than scorning Mr Sharon’s statements, Israel’s
critics should be urging the Palestinians to challenge Mr Sharon
in a diplomatic process to fulfil the principles he has outlined.
Another argument used is that Mr Sharon cannot be serious because
his government includes coalition partners which will never
permit a Palestinian state. This argument ignores the fact,
firstly, that Mr Sharon has other coalition options, and secondly
that Israeli public opinion continues to support a two-state
solution, despite the current violence, provided that Israel’s
security is assured.
By curbing Palestinian violence, the Palestinian leadership
can create the political conditions to enable Mr Sharon to achieve
the historic, painful compromises to which he has committed
the Israeli people.