WHAT TO DO NOW?
Its an interesting question for those of us interested in Foreign Policy. Abu Maazan has named his ministers and they will likely be approved by the Plaestinian legislature later this week. Just after that the Road Map (without any adjustments from its late Dec. 2002 version) will be published. Secretary of State Powell is likely coming here over the weekend. Both Abu Maazan and PM Sharon will be invited to visit Washington in mid-May. So, you are Arik Sharon... what is your move?
It is clear that the Americans see now as a window of opportunity to move "something" here. They want to leverage the moment in Iraq to show the Arab world/Europe/etc. that there are other benefits of the quick knock out in Iraq while GWB and his staff continue to pressure Syria and Hizbullah. Other countries in the Arab world may be next. President Bush doesn't want to fight Sharon as he is only 18 months before the elections and the last thing he needs is fights with the various pro-Israel interests. But, here is the opportunity. Israel's greatest (perhaps) existential threat, WMD from Iraq, have been taken out of the mix. Oh, and by the way, Congress just approved
nine billion dollars in loan guarantees for Israel, who needs them desperately to help get its economy going again.Wven the always dour Jerusalem Post offers its immitation of
optimism in an editorial listing tests for Abu Maazan.
So, you are the PM. You have a central right coalition which is fine for domestic issues (economiy, religious-secular, status quo on foreign policy) but will likely fall apart if you grab onto the road map. The Labor party will likely support such a move (in case the right wing parties leave) but then you will only strengthen Mitzna and friends. Your relationship with the White House (perhaps your most important pillar over the last two years) is at risk if you don't accept the plan and make hard decisions such as a settlement freeze, closing illegal outposts, and offering a range of humanitarian steps to ease life for the average Palestinian. But if you do that, more suicide bombers like the one in Kfar Sava last week, might come across and attack.
I think that humanitarian steps such as freeing many of the Palestinians in Israeli prisons, Pick outposts that are least confrontational
domestically to close down, easing IDF presence in some cities - especially in Gaza and setting up meetings with Abu Maazan would be a good start. It empowers Abu Maazan but isn't a big risk until Abu Maazan really shows he is in charge. It shows initiative and willingness to act and seize the moment.