Dec. 17, 2003

December 17, 2003

Continued violence will leave Palestinians fenced off

The Herzliya Conference, which began Tuesday at the Israeli resort for which it is named, is closely watched because it is where the Israeli establishment briefly shows the hand it intends to play. In a speech Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to confirm rumors that he will give the Palestinian Authority one more chance to reduce terrorism and seek peace before taking unilateral action that would preclude a negotiated settlement.

Piecing together comments made recently by Sharon and his allies, analysts predict that Sharon will give newly instated Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia short shrift before dismantling a few isolated Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. Moving quickly, the Sharon government then would quickly complete the security wall that would mean the de facto annexation of much of the West Bank to Israel.

Sharon's strategy, if pursued, would shred President Bush's proposed roadmap for peace. However, continued Palestinian terrorism and Israeli retaliation have so stained the map with blood as to make it unreadable. Unilateral withdrawal would give the Bush administration the back of Sharon's hand, but it would constitute recognition by even the most hard-line elements in Israel that continued occupation of all Palestinian territories and oppression of the Palestinian population is unsupportable and a mortal danger to Israel.

The Palestinian leadership under Yasser Arafat repeatedly has turned down more promising opportunities for a settlement in favor of armed resistance. Ironically, continued violence rather than peace could result in a Palestinian state, but not one to any Palestinian's liking.