Avnery on Sharon's balloons
He is at it again, and again it is working. He is launching colorful
balloons, and the whole world is looking on with rapture and wonderment.
Ariel Sharon needs to divert attention. His popularity has dropped in
recent opinion polls. The Geneva initiative has captured the national and
international agenda. The police investigations into his corruption affairs
have reappeared in the headlines. Army and Security Services officers
have criticized him publicly. He has been accused of immobility, foot-
dragging, the lack of a plan.
So he is launching balloons: "Unilateral steps". Sensation! "In the
future we shall not be in all the places we are now". Shock! "We shall be
moving settlements". Uproar!
He has sent Ehud Olmert to exercise his jaw on every talk-show,
warning against the terrible danger of a "bi-national state". His plan,
Olmert declares, will ensure the existence of a "Jewish state", 80% of
whose population will be Jewish. Since already more than 78% of Israel's
citizens are Jewish, this must mean that densely populated Palestinian
territories would not be annexed. Sharon's office has leaked reports that
Olmert is echoing Sharon's own view, and that Sharon himself will make a
sensational statement to this effect next week in Herzlia.
General turmoil! The Geneva Initiative is almost forgotten. All the
pundits are busy with wild speculation: What is Sharon up to? What does
he mean? What is he going to do? Is Bush compelling him to change his
Olmert's conversion from screeching hawk to cooing dove has been all
the more convincing because at the same time, quite by accident, he has
been forced to accede to an European demand to mark the "place of
origin" on all Israeli exports to Europe. This is meant to block preferential
customs treatment for the products of the settlements. The settlers have
started a furious campaign against him. They have plastered the walls of
Jerusalem with posters showing Olmert stamping settlement products with
a Nazi-style yellow star of David, with the word "Jude" on it. (For good
measure, they have put my picture on the poster as well, just to show who
is pulling the strings.)
So now it is clear: Olmert is a dove, a reincarnation of the Prophet Elijah,
announcing (according to Jewish tradition) the coming of Sharon, the
The leaders of the Labor Party are already taking the nylon covers off
their ministerial suits. Any moment now, they believe, Sharon will call on
them to take the places of the extreme right-wing ministers in his
government. Shimon Peres is about to fulfil his dream and become a
Who would have believed it! Sharon is the Israeli de Gaulle, after all!
Peace is on the way!
All this confirms the old American adage: A sucker is born every
I have already warned a dozen times: Don't pay attention to what
Sharon says, pay attention to what Sharon does. His pronouncements can
be ignored, they serve only to fulfil the tactical requirements of the
moment. But his actions are very, very important.
And his actions are quite clear: The Wall is being extended at a frenzied
pace. In the Sharon tradition, it is creating "Facts on the Ground." The
Palestinian territory is being cut into ribbons. Before our eyes, isolated
Palestinian enclaves are appearing, each of them an open air prison. And
while the army is removing one uninhabited mobile home in one "illegal"
hilltop outpost, the government is pushing the enlargement of the
settlements by all available means.
This is a vigorous campaign, employing all arms of the government.
Only a person completely cut off from what's happening in the occupied
territories can claim that things are "frozen". Only a person living in the
virtual world of the media could believe that Sharon has no plan.
He does have a plan, the same one that he has been following for
decades. His and Olmert's statements do not contradict it, quite the
contrary. Here are its basic principles:
- "Unilateral steps": There will be no peace agreement with the
Palestinians. They will be imprisoned behind the walls and the fences, a
continuation of the occupation by other means.
- "A state with an 80% Jewish majority": All sparsely populated
Palestinian territories will be annexed. That will include half the West Bank
(the former Area C), all the major highways, the entire Jordan valley, many
of the olive groves and fields of the Palestinian villages (but not the
- "Painful concessions": Israel will give up the Palestinian population
centers, towns and blocs of Palestinian villages (the former Areas A and
B) and most of the Gaza Strip. All the enclaves together will amount to
some 45% of the West Bank. Together with the Gaza Strip, they will
constitute only some 10-12% of the original territory of Palestine before
- "A Palestinian state": Sharon is ready - indeed, keen - to have these
enclaves called "a Palestinian state". This will free Israel from taking any
responsibility for the population. If they starve or decide to move
elsewhere - so much the better.
- "Moving settlements": The dozens of small settlements built in the
Palestinian population centers will be transferred to the areas that will be
annexed to Israel, enlarging the Jewish component.
- "The terrorism will continue": This will not end the war. Indeed,
Sharon and his people have no interest in ending it. As far as they are
concerned, it can go on forever. The Palestinians will always be blamed.
The redeployment will make life much easier for the army, since there will
no longer be a need to devote substantial forces to the defense of isolated
This is the opposite of the Geneva Initiative, which is based on the
belief that an agreement with the Palestinians can be achieved. It is also
the opposite of the Road Map, to which both sides still pay lip service,
while treating it as a whim of President Bush that has been forsaken by
Bush himself. Sharon "accepted" it at the time - with 14 reservations that
emptied it of all meaning. In practice, he did not take even the first step
along this road (any more than the Palestinians did).
The peace plan of Sharon and Olmert proclaims the continuation of the
war against the Palestinian people. It is a provocation to the United States
and world public opinion.
How will it affect opinion in Israel? Perhaps it will divert into another
channel the growing longing for peace, which found some expression in
the Geneva Initiative. Sharon and Olmert play upon two powerful
tendencies in the Israeli subconscious: (a) racist attitudes towards Arabs,
which undermine belief in the possibility of peace with them, and (b) the
desire for a Jewish state, without Goyim (non-Jews) in general and Arabs
Some say that the Sharon initiative is nothing but media spin. Just
another of Sharon's utterances that have little to do with reality. But
anyone who sees the walls and fences that are now going up, will
recognize the new reality that is being created.