Retreat Plan: Ask "If" Not "How"
Aaron Lerner Date: 2 February 2004
Before Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rose to read from his prepared retreat
plan speeches at the Likud Central Committee and then at the Knesset, he had
to sit through presentations of cogent arguments against retreat.
But his presentations never addressed the issues his colleagues raised, just
as to this day he has yet to engage in a serious debate regarding the merits
and consequences of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
And when he confirmed to the Likud Faction today that he wanted to retreat
from the Gaza Strip he told them that he instructed National Security
Council Chairman Brigadier General (Res.) Giora Eiland, to plan the
retreat - not to study the efficacy of retreating.
Prime Minister Sharon promised in his Knesset speech that the retreat plan
"will be undertaken following exhaustive discussions between the coalition
parties", but in truth it would appear that he would prefer to present his
cabinet with a fait accomplis after making various commitments in Washington
based on the detailed retreat plan that Eiland develops.
In the absence of a change in the process, the nation's planners and
decision makers will never seriously consider if Israel should retreat -
only how to retreat.
And this is a pity, because no one has a monopoly on wisdom.
A retreat program isn't a measure that can be readily changed once it is
implemented - regardless of why the plan came into being (observers give a
90% chance that Sharon is doing this in the hope that this will somehow
postpone his indictment). The consequences of bad policy could be grave.
Ironically, in the last days Israel carried out a series of security
measures in both the Gaza Strip, Jericho and Bethlehem that illustrate what
Israel is able to do today with relative ease but would face considerable
difficulties in a post-retreat environment in which Israel faces a sovereign
Palestinian state (recognized by the world and a member of the UN) that
fills the vacuum and is bolstered by the presence of various foreign forces
and observers and armed with weapons to put Israel's second port, Ashdod,
under the missile threat that Haifa already faces from Lebanon.
It should be noted that while it is quite possible that Mr. Sharon has put
some thought into how he could neutralize or circumvent his Israeli
opponents in order to carry out a retreat (most likely in large part by
trying to lock Israel into unauthorized commitments to Washington) there is
no reason to believe that much thought has been given to the morning after.
Just yesterday (Sunday) the Sharon Administration gave a simple example of
its painfully limited planning horizon when the Cabinet decided to postpone
Israel's Independence Day and Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day by one
day so that Remembrance Day would not start on Saturday night. It was known
in 1949 (!!!) that in the year 2004 Remembrance Day would fall on a Saturday
night. This issue, of course, could have been thought about 4, 3, 2 or even
one year ago, before all the calendars were printed that would cover April
2004 - but it wasn't.
It remains to be seen if Mr. Sharon's coalition partners and retreat
opponents in the Likud will have the courage and savvy to stop the retreat
juggernaut by insisting on thought before action.
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730
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