AIPAC Fooled by Sharon?

When PM Sharon told AIPAC this week, "Population centers in [Yesha] will remain an integral part of Israel and be contiguous to Israel in any final status agreement," what exactly did he mean?

, | updated: 15:13

Mr. Sharon's audience of 5,000 cheered this statement, as well as others he made in his speech. But he was being purposefully vague.

The Prime Minister told the Makor Rishon weekly last month that he has purposely not determined which settlement blocs he thinks Israel must retain: "People claim against me that I did not set which blocs, or the sizes of the blocs, and thus I wish to clarify: it is not by chance that I have not set the size of the blocs. No one knows how things will develop."

In addition, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said nearly four months ago that disengagement from Gush Katif and northern Shomron is a welcome move - but only as a first step towards a full-fledged contiguous PLO state.

Sharon is known to be almost perfectly in sync with the Bush-Rice positions on the Road Map plan and final-status negotiations, and has often said that Israeli policy would be coordinated with US policy.

A Likud Cabinet minister, Meir Sheetrit, said this past January: "If someone thinks that the State of Israel will be able to hold on to most of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, he is making a bitter mistake," he said at a seminar at Bar Ilan University.

Furthermore, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (pictured above with Sharon) - who often appears to predict Sharon's left-wing tilts - has stated quite clearly that the planned withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria is just the beginning. Just five months ago, Olmert said that "Disengagement-2" is on the way: "There is no option of sitting and doing nothing. Israel's interest requires a disengagement on a wider scale than what will happen as part of the current disengagement plan."

The 5,000 members of the AIPAC audience reportedly "cheered" Sharon's speech - but others said that the cheering was out of place. For instance, Sharon said, "We are willing to help Chairman Abbas as much as we can, as long as we do not risk our security. That is the red line." But he also said, "Let there be no doubt - the Disengagement Plan will be implemented according to the timetable and the decisions authorized by the Government" - implying that even the recent warnings issued by IDF officers that the retreat will lead to increased terrorism will not stop him in his rush to disengage.

Sharon further said, "Until now, terrorist activities have not yet ceased. The smuggling of weapons and arms production continues, and there is no real prevention of terrorist actions. The progress towards the Roadmap can be achieved only after the terrorist organizations are dismantled."

Yet, just a few sentences earlier, he said, "We have released 500 prisoners. Upon my return to Israel I will present for government approval the release of an additional 400. Israel has transferred the security responsibility over two cities to the control of the Palestinian Authority and is willing to reassign more. We take steps that help the economic and humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian population. We are ready to do more."

Left unanswered was why he continues making gestures and concessions even as he says he will do so only if the PA stops terrorism.

"It's easy to speak up after the evil reign is over. Everywhere there are Holocaust Memorials," writes Evelyn Hayes, a veteran observer of the Israeli political scene. "[But who] is courageous enough to listen to the wise, self-sacrificing, devoted, concerned, empathetic voices trying to stop the self-destruction? ... As Sharon looked downcast and guilty during an interruption of a few minutes at the AIPAC Conference in Washington, the challengers [who protested the disengagement plan] were speaking up for 10,000 possible victims... [yet] nothing registered in the audience...

Click here to read an account of the above.

"Cabinet members have quit, been fired or been bribed. Army personnel are also protesting, resigning, warning of the consequences of the 'appease now' policy... Even the victims of hate cannot bear to acknowledge the fate of their brothers and sisters... I once asked a storekeeper [who had just been] attacked about the damage. I was told that a terrorist's bullet landed in the Bible and didn't go through the name of G-d. I asked where was this book? I was told, 'Gone, we don't want to remember. We have to go on living as if nothing is happening.'"

"When Sharon was interrupted," Hays writes, "the AIPAC audience spewed, 'It is not the time. It is not the time.' Isn't the time usually before and not after? Wouldn't it be better if justice were now and not later?"