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September 3, 2004

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PAGE 14 HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS year-m By Leslie Susser JERUSALEM (JTA)--lf the year 5764 could be summed up in one word, it would be disengagement. After more than three years of inability to make progress on third-party proposals to end Palestinian violence or advance the "road map" peace plan, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seized the initiative, announcing that Israel would withdraw unilaterally from the GazaStripandpartsoftheWest But the plan, which entails Bank in order to "disengage" the evacuation of 21 Jewish from the Palestinians. settlements in Gaza and four Sharon's plan, first mooted in the West Bank, ran into last December and officially fierce opposition from the set- launched April 14, redefined tier movement and the Israeli theinternationalagendaonthe right, and Israel's security ser- Israeli-Palestinian conflict, vices warned of the possibility Despite his refusal to coot- of violent resistance. dinate the plan with the Pales- In what threatened to be a tinianAuthority, whichhedoes serious debacle, Sharon's own not consider a credible negoti- Likud Party rejectedthe plan in ating partner, Sharon secured apartyreferendum.SharonstiU widespread international and managed to push it through regional support, his Cabinet on June 7--but WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE NEXT Overnight Camp Teen Camp School/US & Abroad Cross Country Trip Wilderness Trip LET US POINT YOU IN THE RIGHT STUDENT CAMP & TRIP ADVISORS Susan Schwartz 770-951-8747 800-522-5883 Fax: 770-955-1497 email: " SUMMER? 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B.N. - RESIDENT Seeing is believing, but tasting is even better[ Join us for lunch and a tour[ 407-767-6600 160 Islander Court Longwood, FL 32750 Assisted Living Facility #05753 , only after firing two hawkish ministers from the National Union bloc and winning over three Senior ministers from his own Likud Party by ostensibly watering down the plan. The amended plan provided for evacuation of settlements in four separate stages, with a fresh vote before each stage. The first vote was scheduled to be held by March I, 2005, and Sharon said he intended to evacuate all settlements and army installations in Gaza by the end of 2005. After initial skepticism, the Bush administration warmly welcomed Sharon's plan as a potentially historic turn- ing point. At a White House meeting April 14, Sharon and President Bush exchanged let- ters endorsing the plan. In his letter, Bush also en- dorsed two key Israeli positions for a final peace deal with the Palestinians: that it is "unreal- istic" to expect Israel to return to the pre-1967 "Green Line" boundary with the West Bank, and that Palestinian refugees would have the right to return to a future State of Palestine, not to Israel. In return for Israel's offer to withdraw from most of the areas conquered in 1967, Bush's letter seemed to guarantee American support on two of the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: that Israel would be able to retain large settlement blocs in the West Bank and that Israel s Jewish character would notbe undermined by an influx of Arab refugees. In late June, after the as- surances were approved over- whelmingly by Congress, Sha- ron described the Bush letter as "one of the most important diplomatic achievements," in Israeli history. The members of the interna- tional Quartet who formulated the road map--the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia--also ex- pressed support for the disen- gagement plan, and offered to help rehabilitate the Gaza Strip after an Israeli withdrawal. But after a July 5 meeting in Jerusalemwith PalestinianAu- thority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, Quartet representatives made it clear that the offer of aid was conditional on the Palestin- ians carrying out security and other reforms they had agreed to in the road map. Concerned a post-with- drawal Gaza could become a hotbed of fundamentalist terrorism that could spill over into its territory, Egypt offered to play a stabilizing role. But the Egyptians, too, laid down conditions, insisting that the Palestinians unify their security forces under a single command, as envisaged in the road map. That demand, together with unprecedented Palestinian ri- ots over the summer against the corrupt regimeofP.A. President YasserArafat, ledtospeculation thatArafat mightsoonbe forced to hand power to a new genera- tion of Palestinians willing to make peace with Israel. Sharon's determination to carry out a major unilateral move came in the wake of the collapse of P.A. Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas' government in September 2003. The Israeli leader despaired ofreachingany kind ofagreementwith the Pal- estinians and feared that Israel might be sucked into an indefi- nite occupation, leading to de- pinpoint mands for the establishment of erection abinationalIsraeli-Palestinian rity fence state that soon would have an the West Arab majority. By moving unilaterally to along fewer, separate Israelis and Palestin- easil ians, Sharon hoped to create Despite conditions for the two-state solution envisaged in the road map. outside Israel. ( The plan, however, ran into United fierce rlght-wing opposition, Court of Settlers and hawks in Sharon's the fence own Likud Party described the it intruded proposedwithdrawal--without the West a cease-fire or any other Pal- court deemed estinian quid pro quo--as a "prize for terrorism." To head dismantle it. off the opposition and secure Denouncingtt Likud backing in the Knesset ased and and Cabinet, Sharon initiated Israel argued a referendum of the full Likud failed to take Party membership, the basic But the move backfired: the fence: On May 2, the party voted 60 percent to 40 percent against mereb the disengagement plan. ing, The vote did not stop Sha- it as a si ron from"amending" the plan cam slightly and going ahead with it, but right-wing opponents ac- Indeed, cusedhimofridingroughshod they had over a democratic party deci- sion, citing the party vote in an Assembly attempt to discredit the prime dismantle minister and his plan. the resolution The Shin Bet security binding, the service suggested that right- nature of the wing extremists were gearing the up to use violence to foil the expanded evacuation, possibly by strik- ing against Sharon or other Cabinet ministers. Politicians on both the left to further and rightconcurred thatdefiant state settler statements and provoca- Israel's tive rabbinical rulings against evacuation recalled the situa- the American tion in the months preceding the 1995assassinationofPrime tion with the Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Dec. 1 . On June 15, as his amended disengagement plan started taking shape, Sharon was announced his cleared by Menachem Mazuz, Israel's new attorney general, destruction ofwrongdoingin the so-called many "Greek Island Affair," in which primarily David Appel, a Likud activist At and billionaire developer, was suspected of paying Sharon's terrorism ledtO! son, Gilad, huge sums for work on the project in return Turkey. for Sharon's help with Greek and Israeli authorities, state terrorism, ! Sharon still faces possible and militar criminal charges in an unre- mediateb lated matter, over money his In sons raised to pay back illegal terrorism campaign funding. Still, ex- oneration in the Greek Island fromathree- Affair strengthened him politi- first( cally at a crucial time. by an Throughout theyear, Pales- the tinian terrorism continued to 7.2 percent, take Israeli lives, but thevolume tion rose 4.3 seemed to be decreasing. This was the case in Gaza, where. 25.6 Israel struck powerful blows up b] against the leadership of the But the fundamentalist Hamas move- trickle down tot ment, assassinating its leader, cioeconomic SheikAhmedYassin, onMarch the growth, 22, and his successor, Abdel reached a AzizRantissi, lessthanamonth 11 percent. later. Hamas threatened rivers of blood in retaliation, but the hi attacks never materialized, and it appeared that Israel's vigor- the ous anti-terrorist moves had Israeli paid dividends, an economy This was even truer on the The most West Bank. Figures released gument by the Israel Defense Forces was in the showed that in the first six Despite the monthsof2004,therehadbeen .1.3 million only four "successful" suicide five attacks emanating from the a t West Bank, compared to 17 were living in the same period in 2003. line in 5764. The IDF's Central Command Leslie Susser ascribed the decline to army matic activities in West Bank cities, Jerusalem