During his long career, Ariel Sharon built a lot of roads. As housing minister
in the early 1990s and as national infrastructures minister in the late 1990s,
Sharon played a key role in building everything from the Trans-Israel Highway to
access roads to isolated communities.
Since he passed away on Saturday,
his role in building Israel’s national infrastructures has been widely noted.
But no mention has been made of the final and most important road that he
paved. That is the road to Israeli sovereignty over Judea and
Sharon’s most controversial – and damaging – act was his
decision in late 2003 to surrender the Gaza Strip to Palestinian terrorist
organizations. The action, which involved not only withdrawing Israeli military
personnel and transferring control over the international border with Egypt to
the Palestinian Authority, but also forcibly removing 8,000 law-abiding,
patriotic Israelis from their homes and farms and the bulldozing of their
flourishing communities, was carried out in August 2005.
Sharon was felled by a stroke in January 2006, he was running for reelection on
a platform calling for reenacting the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in large
swathes of Judea and Samaria.
Sharon decided to surrender the Gaza Strip
due to massive pressure from abroad and at home. The Bush administration, which
launched the so-called Middle East Quartet’s road map for peace, was quickly
losing patience with Sharon, who rightly noted that the PLO had no intention of
making peace with the Jewish state.
At home, the leftist-dominated media
and legal system were applying heavy pressure on Sharon, intimating that due to
bribery allegations, Sharon would likely end his career behind bars – and that
his two sons would share his cell.
There are only three options for
dealing with the dispute over Palestinian-majority territory now administered by
Israel. The first option is to negotiate a settlement with the PLO . Israel
adopted that policy in 1993. Sharon owed his rise to power to the abject failure
of the negotiated settlement policy at Camp David in July 2000.
’s refusal to accept statehood and peaceful coexistence, and its subsequent turn
to terrorist warfare in September 2000, demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt
to the vast majority of Israelis that the negotiated settlement policy was a
As US Secretary of State John Kerry’s flailing attempt to
resuscitate the peace process makes clear, 14 years later, the PLO has not
changed. Like Arafat before him, Mahmoud Abbas continues to reject coexistence
and statehood. The PLO remains far more interested in destroying Israel than in
establishing a Palestinian state.
The second possibility for contending
with the disputed territory is for Israel to pick up its marbles and go home; to
simply disengage, and depart with the Jews and the IDF in tow. This is the
policy Sharon adopted in Gaza, and hoped to implement in Judea and Samaria after
the 2006 elections.
Whereas it took seven years for the full dimensions
of the failure of the negotiated solution to become evident to most Israelis, it
took less than six months for the failure of the unilateral withdrawal policy to
become obvious. Hamas’s January 2006 victory in the Palestinian elections
demonstrated that the critics of the unilateral withdrawal policy had been
In the months and years following Israel’s withdrawal, Gaza was
transformed. Hamas terrorists, controlling territory within striking distance of
Israel’s population centers, turned what had been a tactical nuisance into a
In less than a year, the number of Israelis within
range of rockets, missiles and mortars from Gaza rose from 25,000 to a million.
By 2012, the number of Israelis living within range of Gaza’s missiles topped
With control over the border with Egypt, Hamas turned Gaza
into a hub for global jihadists. And according to Egyptian prosecutors, Hamas
played a key role in elevating the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt and
effectively remilitarizing the Sinai, thus undermining the key component of
Israel’s peace deal with Egypt. It was only the swift action of the Egyptian
military in toppling the Brotherhood government that stemmed – for now – the
seemingly inevitable demise of the peace between the two countries.
the time Hezbollah launched its attack on Israel in July 2006, Sharon’s policy
of unilateral withdrawal was dead in the water.
And so we are left with
one last option: for Israel to remain in Judea and Samaria indefinitely, and end
its self-destructive embrace of the PLO .
There are two ways to pursue
this last option. Israel can openly assert authority and apply its laws, as it
has done in formerly Jordanian-occupied parts of Jerusalem.
Or it can
maintain the status quo of partial PLO rule and partial Israeli military
The past 20 years of shared rule with the PLO have shown
that the so-called status quo weakens Israel, to the PLO ’s benefit. With each
passing year, Israel’s failure to assert its legal right to sovereignty over the
areas causes the false Palestinian narrative of indigenous rights to the cradle
of Jewish civilization to become more and more ingrained in the international
The price for Israel of asserting its sovereign rights and
applying its laws to Judea and Samaria is a change of 13 to 14 percent in the
proportion of Palestinian Arabs entitled to the legal status of permanent
residents – citizens and otherwise – in Israel. In particular, the Muslim
population of Israel would rise from about 18% today to roughly 32% if all the
Palestinians in Judea and Samaria are accorded permanent residency status with
the right to apply for Israeli citizenship.
My colleague at The Jerusalem
Post, Martin Sherman, argues that if Israel grants permanent residency status to
the Palestinians of Judea and Samaria, we will be overwhelmed by ungovernable
Muslims who will transform the Jewish state into an incoherent morass of crime
and unsustainable welfare, along the lines of Sweden and Norway.
could happen. But it is far from clear why it would happen.
to grant permanent residency status to the Palestinians of Judea and Samaria –
and offer them the right to apply for citizenship – it would not increase the
Muslim population west of the Jordan.
Israel would only change their
legal status. And along the way, Israel would safeguard its Jewish majority by
preventing the immigration of millions of foreign- born Muslims to a future
In the past, Sherman rightly noted that if Israel
applies its laws to Area C only, as Economy Minister Naftali Bennett recommends,
significant numbers of Palestinians will move to Area C to live under Israeli
jurisdiction, just as thousands of Palestinians have moved to Jerusalem over the
But if everyone in Judea and Samaria enjoys permanent residency
rights, far fewer people will feel motivated to move west. They can stay at home
and enjoy the same status.
Until Sharon adopted the unilateral withdrawal
policy, he always said that two things protect Israel – Jewish settlement and
The failures of both the negotiated settlement policy and the
unilateral withdrawal policy proved him right.
Sharon’s true legacy is
that he left only the path of Israeli sovereignty untried. And so, his last act
on the public stage was to pave the way for Israeli sovereignty over Judea and
Caroline Glick’s new book, The Israeli Solution: A One State
Plan for Peace in the Middle East, is due out on March 4.