WikiLeaks: Sharon Planned Further Withdrawals After Gaza

YERUSHALAYIM -

A series of State Department cables leaked to WikiLeaks show that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had planned to make further unilateral withdrawals after the evacuation of Gaza, Haaretz reports.

According to a cable transmitted from the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to the State Department, Sharon told then-U.S. Senators Chuck Hagel and Joe Biden that if disengagement went off successfully, the Road Map could then be implemented in stages, as had been envisioned by then-President George W. Bush.

The meeting took place on November 30, 2004, just a month after the disengagement plan was approved by the Knesset, after a stormy debate.

In another cable written by then-U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer, Sharon was quoted as saying that he planned to take far-reaching steps in Yehudah and Shomron and Yerushalayim. Sharon stressed, however, that the major Jewish population blocs would remain part of Israel. But he implied he would concede other parts of Yehudah and Shomron, and that while he would not even discuss dividing Yerushalayim, he would consider handing over some Arab neighborhoods, “but not the Temple Mount, Mount of Olives or the City of David.”

According to the diplomatic messages, Sharon confided to Biden and Hagel that he was committed to making peace with the Palestinians despite major domestic resistance “from a left that has no power, and a right which was totally opposed to his initiative.”

In addition, leaked Palestinian documents show that after Yasser Arafat’s death in November 2004, and even more so once Mahmoud Abbas became Palestinian Authority president the following January, Sharon tried to coordinate the Gaza withdrawal with the Palestinian Authority.

Palestine Liberation Organization leaks reveal that on February 8, 2005, Sharon and Abbas held a summit at Sharm al-Sheikh that was meant to mark the end of the second intifada and a new start between Israelis and Palestinians. The six-page Arabic protocol of the meeting describes the encounter was positive and the atmosphere almost playful at times.

Abbas assured Sharon that he was determined to bring the security situation under control, reduce smuggling through Gaza tunnels and stop incitement against Israel in the Palestinian media. He also asked Sharon to release the pre-Oslo security prisoners, the same prisoners whom Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would finally release over eight years later.

Sharon, in turn, offered to withdraw the Israeli army from several Palestinian cities and dismantle roadblocks. He did not agree to release the prisoners Abbas wanted, but agreed to free 900 others.

He also stipulated that unless the Palestinians cracked down on terror, there could be no diplomatic progress. “I’m determined to carry out the disengagement and I want it to be coordinated with you, particularly with regard to security and property,” Sharon said. “We must tighten our security cooperation. I want to do big things but I cannot accept terror.”