For background, I would refer you first to this post on the American Prospect weblog and then to the roundup of international coverage at Peace Now.

The Sasson report is making a big splash internationally for pointing out that not only have over a hundred illegal settlements been constructed over the past few years, and not only have they often been built on land effectively stolen from the local Palestinians, but that the government and military have been intimately involved in making this happen. But as the Prospect rightly points out, that has been common knowledge here for years.

If you've skimmed the links above, read on.

Every day the papers are filled with editorializing over the disengagement; the Sasson report has only had the effect of putting the West Bank settlements more squarely in the mileux as well. On the one side, there's an endless stream of pieces like this one from yesterday, sounding resigned and dripping with bitterness over Sharon's supposed betrayal of Zionism. On the other side we have this congratulatory op-ed emblematic of the Labour attitude that, much as they might hate Sharon, they're pleased as punch that he has -- for whatever, still-unclear reasons of his own -- decided to reign in the settlement movement.

Then again, there are those on the actual, secular Left starting to point out that now that Sharon has broken the settlers and Arafat is conveniently out of the way, it's time to have an election to return power to people with a clear interest in achieving a fair peace. I tend to side with this notion in principle, although the political tactics involved here are complex.

An overarching theme, however, is the sense that something that used to be a central feature of Israel is beginning to unravel. Public opinion has turned against the settlers as the disengagement has forced them to put their most extreme face forward. It appears increasingly likely that the Palestinians will be given some kind of autonomy sooner or later in much of the Territories -- which is why the Right is often as suspicious of the wall as are the Palestinians. The benigted notion of Greater Israel may finally be on its last legs, despite all the religious Zionists and Evangelical Christians can do to prop it up.

Mind you, this doesn't necessarily mean that Sharon is headed for a defeat. Indeed, this wide-ranging analysis suggests that recent events are unfolding pretty much according to what seems to be his long-term vision. He's not given to messianism, and knew 30 years ago that razing the Temple Mount would have been a terrible idea. Sharon has, from the start, been out for a secure Israel that can defend itself from the Arab horde massed on the borders. His increasing willingness to cede the West Bank is likely more thanks to the decreasing military relavence of columns of tanks streaming out of Jordan than it is to international pressure. In the end, the most likely answer is that Sharon doesn't believe that Arabs are capable of living in peace with Israel, so however things shake out, they'll have to be kept at bay forever anyway.

There's a saying in physics: an old theory is never really discarded, but the old generation has to retire sometime. The politics here may be similar. Sharon and Arafat had been at each other's throat for five decades. Perhaps we'll all have to wait for their generation to fade into history before real progress can take root.

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This page contains a single entry by Milligan published on March 16, 2005 12:31 PM.

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