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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace

 

J. The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California

Gaza Plan, Arafat Death Mark New Era, Says Labor Leader
By Alexandra J. Wall
November 19, 2004

Calling the disengagement plan from Gaza the only game in town, Knesset member Amram Mitzna explained why the Labor Party was throwing its support behind a man it hardly trusts, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Mitzna used the world disaster to describe the man he ran against and lost to in January 2003. He said the Labor Party didnt agree with Sharon on anything. Nevertheless, he said, supporting Sharons plan would show the Israelis, the Palestinians and the world that it is possible to evacuate settlements.

Mitzna, who also served as the mayor of Haifa for almost a decade, was in San Francisco on a visit sponsored by Brit Tzedek VShalom, a national group that supports a two-state solution. One of his local appearances was also co-sponsored by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council.

In an interview on Nov. 11, the day after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had died, Mitzna sounded very hopeful that a new era was dawning in the Middle East.

A wide window of opportunity is reopening, he said. Noting that the Palestinian leaders have already shown a level of maturity not seen during Arafats tenure and are behaving like proper statesmen, he cracked that for the first time, Israelis would have to get used to dealing with clean-shaven Palestinian officials in suits and ties.

Now Israel will have to face reality. We no longer can use the slogan There is no one to talk with. This opens the real question, which is: What are we going to talk about?

Mitzna is certain that Sharon is disengaging from Gaza so he can fortify Israelis stronghold on the West Bank. But at the same time, he said it is vital that the Labor Party support the plan because it will set a precedent.

What matters is not whats in his mind; what matters is what happens on the ground, he said.

After you dismantle 20 settlements, you show that it is possible. This is the reason why extremist settlers are fighting against Sharon.

Mitzna said it would not be easy, with settlers promising a civil war as well as saying that they will refuse orders from the military, but said it was vital that the dismantlement happen.

This has nothing to do with the Palestinians, he said. We need to answer this for ourselves. Once we show ourselves, the Americans and the Europeans that it is possible to dismantle settlements, we will be another nation. Thats why its so important.

Mitzna described a lack of leadership in the Labor Party. While Ehud Barak is preparing to return to politics, and a few other Labor ministers are preparing to run to replace the 82-year-old Shimon Peres, Mitzna said it would be a mistake to hold primaries for a new leader now. Its much more important that the Labor Party commits to supporting Sharon, he said, adding later that Sharon is implementing our policy that we couldnt do because were not in power.

And even though Sharons governing coalition is shaky, holding elections now would deflect energy from dealing with the Palestinians, and the results wouldnt be much different, he said.

Though Mitzna made clear that he would do things very differently in that he would coordinate the withdrawal with the Palestinian leadership he repeatedly referred to the disengagement from Gaza as the only game in town, saying that all energies had to be put toward it.

Comparing the occupation to a Greek tragedy in which every Israeli already knows that the outcome will be some form of the two-state solution, he said, For 37 years we are occupying Gaza and the West Bank.

Will it take another 37 years before a solution is reached that is already well known, he asked rhetorically. Its a necessity for Israeli society to stop being occupiers.

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