Barak’s withdrawal ploy

THE ISRAELI establishment is up to new tricks. The statement of Defence Minister Ehud Barak that Tel Aviv should consider unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem is no more than a ploy.

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Published: Thu 27 Sep 2012, 9:04 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 12:56 AM

Rather than strategic consideration, the move seems to be a political stunt by Barak to gain mileage for his little-known Independent Party, which is part of the ruling coalition led by the Likud Party. It is not even known whether Barak had taken the prime minister into confidence over such a sensitive policy issue as the coalition leader has always opposed unilateral withdrawal and considers it as surrender to the Palestinians. But what makes Barak’s stunt laughable is that the so-called withdrawal plan excludes more than 80 per cent of strategic landmass occupied by Israel where illegal settlements have been built. This includes blocs such as Etzion, Maale, Adumim and Anel, where more than 500,000 Jews live in over 100 settlements. Similarly, hills overlooking Jordan and the Tel Aviv international airport are also out of the deal. As rightly stated by a Palestinian official, the proposal puts the two-state solution in a quandary.

It is not clear as to why Barak chose to come up with such a proposal at a time when Israel and the United States have locked horns. US President Barack Obama’s refusal to meet the Israeli prime minister on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, presently in session, is seen as sharpening of swords between the allies. The White House sees Tel Aviv’s adamant stand on Middle East peace talks as a setback to its policy of coexistence and reconciliation. Netanyahu has wasted the entire first term of Obama’s presidency by adopting delaying tactics in getting back to the table. This also prompted the Palestinian leadership to come up with its own counter stand that talks can start only after Israel started withdrawing from the West Bank and declared the 1967 borders to be the de facto international frontiers. Barak has played his cards at a time when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was scheduled to table a new statehood resolution on the floor of the UN General Assembly. The Palestinian Authority should not fall prey to such tactics, as neither Barak has a future in Israeli politics nor can a piecemeal solution make any difference to the dispossessed nation. Israel has no choice but to abide with the Arab League peace plan of unilateral and complete withdrawal to the 1967 borders.

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