Sharon's South African strategy (Haaretz)

John M Cox coxj at email.unc.edu
Sat Sep 21 04:02:37 MDT 2002



Haaretz Sept. 18, 2002

By Avi Primor
The writer is vice president of Tel Aviv University and a former Foreign
Ministry deputy director general for Africa, Asia and Oceania.

The prime minister's few opponents claim he has no strategy. That is a grave
charge. In response, Ariel Sharon displays equanimity, and from his
perspective, he's right. On the one hand, he enjoys broad support from the
public, which is mostly unworried by a lack of strategy, believing the time
for visions is somewhere in the future and that meanwhile there is a
consensus on how to fight terrorism. On the other hand, it's convenient for
the prime minister and the ruling security echelons, that they are believed
to have only tactics and to be politically short-sighted. That way they can
implement their strategy without arousing too much attention and criticism.

The prime minister's declarations about readiness for a Palestinian state
and "painful concessions" are not hollow words. They are not meant only to
calm the worried and the critical. An examination of what is taking place on
the ground exposes the consistent implementation of ideas that were not born
yesterday.

Many in the top echelons of the security establishment in the 1970s and
1980s had a warm spot in their hearts for the white apartheid regime in
South Africa that was derived not only from utilitarian interests, but also
from sympathy for the white minority rulers in that country. One of the
elements of the old South African regime that stirred much interest in
Israel remains current to this day: To seemingly solve the demographic
problem that troubled the white South Africans (that is, to hang on to all
of South Africa without granting equal rights, civil rights and the vote to
blacks), the South African regime created a fiction known by the name
Bantustans, later changed to Homelands.

The South African government established small enclaves throughout the
country and called them "independent states." These helpless, unsustainable
enclaves were surrounded by South African territory and run by collaborators
totally subservient to the authority of the larger "neighbor," South Africa.
All the blacks outside these fictitious "states" were arbitrarily assigned
citizenship in those states. In other words, they became foreign residents
in their own land.

For those who desire to keep the West Bank and Gaza, to expand the
settlements without annexing the Palestinian population, and who understand
that transfer is impractical, the original South African model is
particularly tempting. It would be a mistake to use the term "canton" in
this case, since cantons are autonomous areas of a state and its citizens.
Here, the idea is to turn those Palestinians living in areas that would be
annexed to Israel, into foreign citizens.

There are two elements that characterize Sharon's policies toward the
Palestinians: the siege of the Palestinian cities and the subversion of the
central Palestinian authority - with or without Arafat. Clearly, such a
situation requires local authorities in the besieged towns if only to
provide elementary services to the population. Those local authorities
cannot be subordinate to the gradually disappearing Palestinian Authority,
nor can they operate without being subordinate to the Israeli authorities.

Why hasn't this plan reached full fruition yet? It's possible that if not
for American pressure, the PA would be only an historical memory by now. But
even so, when U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refers to the
"so-called" occupied territories, it's clear the U.S. is only slowing down,
not stopping the Sharon strategy.

Without anyone taking notice, a process is underway establishing a
"Palestinian state" limited to the Palestinian cities, a "state" comprised
of a number of separate, sovereign-less enclaves, with no resources for
self-sustenance. The territories of the West Bank and Gaza remain in Israeli
hands, and its Palestinian residents are being turned into "citizens" of
that "foreign country."

In light of the Israeli government's actions in the territories, it is very
difficult to describe the future Palestinian state in any other way, or for
that matter, the "painful concessions" promised by the prime minister.
Another question is whether such a solution can last very long in the 21st
century, and in the heart of the Middle East. And even more difficult is the
thought of what will happen when the solution collapses.

The writer is vice president of Tel Aviv University and a former Foreign
Ministry deputy director general for Africa, Asia and Oceania.



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