Posted by: Lister | December 29, 2008

Dov Weisglass

Haaretz, 2004:

Is it Dov Weisglass who brought about Sharon’s reversal of policy? Is he the eminence grise who imposed on the emperor of the settlements the decision to evacuate settlements? The settlers themselves are convinced that he is. They are certain that Weisglass is a devious Rasputin who found some dark way to make the czar do things that the czar himself, by himself, would never do.

However, Weisglass himself shrugs off these contentions. He doesn’t deny that he supported the disengagement from the start. He doesn’t hide the fact that he placed the facts on Sharon’s desk. The political problem, the economic problem, the problem of refusenik soldiers. And he made it clear to the boss that the international community will never let up. That the Americans will not be able to support us for all time. But in the end I wasn’t the one who made the decision, Weisglass says. The prime minister made the decision. While he, the bureau chief, was simply there at his side. He, the faithful advocate, simply sat with his client in the room throughout the entire process.

[…] We begin our conversation at a Tel Aviv cafe and then go on to his run-down office on Lilienblum Street.

[…] If you have American backing and you have the principle of the road map, why go to disengagement?

“Because in the fall of 2003 we understood that everything is stuck. And even though according to the Americans’ reading of the situation, the blame fell on the Palestinians and not on us, Arik grasped that this state of affairs would not last. That they wouldn’t leave us alone, wouldn’t get off our case. Time was not on our side. There was international erosion, internal erosion. Domestically, in the meantime, everything was collapsing. The economy was stagnant, and the Geneva Initiative garnered broad support. And then we were hit with letters of officers and letters of pilots and letters of commandos [letters of refusal to serve in the territories]. These were not weird kids with green ponytails and a ring in their nose who give off a strong odor of grass. These were people like Spector’s group [Yiftah Spector, a renowned Air Force pilot who signed the pilot’s letter]. Really our finest young people.”

[…] What was the major importance of the plan from your point of view?

“The disengagement plan is the preservative of the sequence principle. It is the bottle of formaldehyde within which you place the president’s formula so that it will be preserved for a very lengthy period. The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that’s necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.”

Is what you are saying, then, is that you exchanged the strategy of a long-term interim agreement for a strategy of long-term interim situation?

“The American term is to park conveniently. The disengagement plan makes it possible for Israel to park conveniently in an interim situation that distances us as far as possible from political pressure. It legitimizes our contention that there is no negotiating with the Palestinians. There is a decision here to do the minimum possible in order to maintain our political situation. The decision is proving itself. It is making it possible for the Americans to go to the seething and simmering international community and say to them, `What do you want.’ It also transfers the initiative to our hands. It compels the world to deal with our idea, with the scenario we wrote. It places the Palestinians under tremendous pressure. It forces them into a corner that they hate to be in. It thrusts them into a situation in which they have to prove their seriousness. There are no more excuses. There are no more Israeli soldiers spoiling their day. And for the first time they have a slice of land with total continuity on which they can race from one end to the other in their Ferrari. And the whole world is watching them – them, not us. The whole world is asking what they intend to do with this slice of land.”

[…] From your point of view, then, your major achievement is to have frozen the political process legitimately?

“That is exactly what happened. You know, the term `political process’ is a bundle of concepts and commitments. The political process is the establishment of a Palestinian state with all the security risks that entails. The political process is the evacuation of settlements, it’s the return of refugees, it’s the partition of Jerusalem. And all that has now been frozen.”

So you have carried out the maneuver of the century? And all of it with authority and permission?

“When you say `maneuver,’ it doesn’t sound nice. It sounds like you said one thing and something else came out. But that’s the whole point. After all, what have I been shouting for the past year? That I found a device, in cooperation with the management of the world, to ensure that there will be no stopwatch here. That there will be no timetable to implement the settlers’ nightmare. I have postponed that nightmare indefinitely. Because what I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did. The significance is the freezing of the political process. And when you freeze that process you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress. What more could have been anticipated? What more could have been given to the settlers?”

I return to my previous question: In return for ceding Gaza, you obtained status quo in Judea and Samaria?

“You keep insisting on the wrong definition. The right definition is that we created a status quo vis-a-vis the Palestinians. There was a very difficult package of commitments that Israel was expected to accept. That package is called a political process. It included elements we will never agree to accept and elements we cannot accept at this time. But we succeeded in taking that package and sending it beyond the hills of time. With the proper management we succeeded in removing the issue of the political process from the agenda. And we educated the world to understand that there is no one to talk to. And we received a no-one-to-talk-to certificate. That certificate says: (1) There is no one to talk to. (2) As long as there is no one to talk to, the geographic status quo remains intact. (3) The certificate will be revoked only when this-and-this happens – when Palestine becomes Finland. (4) See you then, and shalom.”

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