Unilateral withdrawal: Gaza disengagement
Rather than follow the Roadmap, Sharon produced a unilateral disengagement plan in coordination with the US in 2004. The plan was unilateral because, in Sharon’s view, there was no Palestinian partner for peace. It involved the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from all settlements and military installations in Gaza, and from four settlements in the West Bank. In a letter to Bush, Sharon declared that the plan could ‘stimulate positive changes within the Palestinian Authority that might create the necessary conditions for the resumption of direct negotiations’. While unilateral withdrawal was presented as a contribution to peacemaking, in reality it was anything but. Rather, the intention behind it was to deflect US and domestic pressure for talks with the Palestinians. In an interview with the Haaretz newspaper, Dov Weisglass, one of Sharon’s closest advisers, made it clear that the objective of the disengagement plan was to ‘freeze’ the peace process.
For their part, the PA’s leaders (while naturally not opposing the idea of Israeli withdrawal) complained of a lack of coordination. They took the view that, had there been coordination with the PA or, better still, some negotiation over the terms of the withdrawal, the outcome could have been a positive one. The lesson here is that unilateral steps may or may not be helpful in principle, but are much more likely to be effective if there is some coordination with the other side.