Palestine in formaldehyde

Dov Weisglass, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's key advisor, went public today saying that his administration's plan was to use the Gaza withdrawal to shelf the peace process and the creation of a Palestinian state. The headline of the Reuters story on this, Israel: Palestinian State Shelved with U.S. Blessing, is telling.

Here is the Weisglass quote from Haaretz:

"The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process," Weisglass, one of the initiators of the disengagement plan, said in an interview for the Friday Magazine.


"And when you freeze that process," Weisglass added, "you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem.


"Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress."


"The disengagement is actually formaldehyde," he said. "It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.


Remember that this is taking place in the midst of a large offensive by Israel into Gaza. An Arab attempt to get the UN to condemn this was, as usual, vetoed by the US because it was considered "lopsided and unbalanced" and "absolves terrorists in the Middle East." All of which is another way of saying that the US once again puts its credibility on the line to damage Israel, especially when you could easily have separate resolutions condemning Israel's offensive and the use of terror by Palestinian groups.

I am also curious about the timing of this announcement in the middle of the last stretch of the US presidential election campaigns. The US has now asked for "clarifications" -- which sounds like they might end up pulling out the old chestnut that Israel is "not helpful." But it would be nice to hear strong condemnations from both presidential candidates, and indeed an attack from the Kerry campaign on Bush's ineffectual Middle East peacemaking. Elections however make all this unlikely.

It may be that this is really for domestic consumption, a throwaway phrase to placate the extreme Israeli right. But at this point it makes more sense to believe that Sharon, Weisglass and company are the Israeli extreme right -- the difference being that while in power they have to try to appear more moderate. Which is why there can never be a peace process while Likud is in power -- if Menachem Begin ignored the Palestinian parts of Camp David and Benyamin Netanyahu buried Oslo, Sharon will also kill the roadmap. That his top adviser is willing to say so publicly says a lot about their cynicism -- and that they know they'll get away with it.
1 Comment

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.