Between Zambish and Bush
By Ze'ev Schiff
Ha'aretz April 16
[Ha'aretz' long-time military commentator expresses scepticism regarding Sharon's supposedly "new-dovish" turn.]
This past Sunday, the day on which Haaretz published an interview with Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon, the premier met privately with one of the men mentioned in
the article. The meeting was not held at the Prime Minister's Office, where everyone
who enters and exits is registered, but rather at Sharon's Jerusalem home in the
evening with no secretaries or aides present.
The guest was Ze'ev Hever, also known as Zambish, one of the heads of the Yesha
(Judea, Samaria and Gaza) Council, and the man in charge of the settlements, the
outposts (legal and illegal), the appropriation of lands, the paving of roads, secret
In the Haaretz interview, Ari Shavit asked Sharon whom he would choose at the
moment of truth, U.S. President George W. Bush or Zambish. Sharon's answer was,
"Each of the two people you mentioned is a special and impressive person. Each of
them is very impressive in his own field."
These are the two opposing fronts between which Sharon is maneuvering. While his
bureau chief, Dov Weisglass, is making his way to a meeting with Foreign Minister
Silvan Shalom and with U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Sharon is
meeting quietly with Zambish.
What was discussed at that late night meeting? No one knows, but it is easy to
guess, since Zambish came to the meeting armed with a stack of maps of the
territories. What is known is that Sharon evaded one of the questions during his
interview with Shavit. He did not say one word about evacuating the settlements, not
even settlements like Netzarim. The orders Sharon has given thus far to anyone
meeting the Palestinians always included a ban on discussing the settlements.
Sharon notes that he accepts the principles mentioned in Bush's vision of June 24,
2002, but, on the other hand, he does not accept everything mentioned in the road
map. There really are differences between Bush's speech and the road map, but it
would be a deception to claim that there is an essential difference regarding the future
of the settlements.
Bush's speech mentions two clear principles in this matter: one that settlement activity
must be halted, and second that there be an end to the occupation that began in
1967. Using Talmudic debating methods, one could try to claim that the first
principle refers to the establishment of new settlements only, but Bush's words could
also be interpreted to include, as did the Mitchell Commission, the natural growth of
In any event, anyone who holds to principles that include the end of the occupation
that began in 1967, in Bush's words, does not intend for the hundreds of Israeli
settlements to remain in Palestinian territory as if they are a part of the State of Israel.
Sharon understands this just like he understands that Bush and Zambish represent
totally opposing positions. It is impossible to realize both their expectations. That is
why Sharon does not want to answer, even with a veiled hint, questions regarding
the future of settlements like Netzarim. At this point, he does not want a
confrontation with either Bush or Zambish.
Sharon's approach to the opposing ideologies represented by Bush and Zambish
must be placed at the center of Israel's interests, and not only those of Bush. Israel
must not return to the previous ruses (and lies) it used when it built and expanded the
settlements in the midst of peace negotiations.
The expansion of settlements means only one thing: the continuation of the
occupation and the rule over another people, if not over all of it then over most of it.
All the word games will not whitewash this fact. The inevitable result of the continued
occupation, even via settlements and outposts, will be an increase in terror and its
reinforcement by external radical elements. And if the terror attacks resume after the
Iraq War, how has it helped the struggle against terror?
See also Q & A with Aluf Benn on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after Iraq