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Does Sharon Have a Plan?

- Abstract

In the history of modern Palestine, “disengagement”—the name that has been given to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s momentarily stalled plan to withdraw all Israeli forces and inhabitants from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank—has more often been called “partition.” It involves drawing borders and saying, “On this side Arabs, on this side Jews.” In principle, there is nothing new about it.

Of the large number of partition plans for solving the Arab-Jewish conflict in Palestine, the earliest dates to 1937. This was the proposal of the Peel Commission, appointed by the British government following the outbreak of the Palestinian “Arab Revolt” of 1936, to divide Palestine west of the Jordan into two states, of which the Jewish one, located in the Galilee and Mediterranean coastal plain, would occupy 20 percent of the territory. After this plan was rejected outright by the Arabs, a second body, the 1938 Woodhead Commission, recommended scaling down even further the already small area of the Jewish state. Soon afterward, the British concluded that partition was impractical and issued their 1939 White Paper, calling for a gradual transition to a single, bi-national Palestinian state with no Jewish immigration and a permanent Arab majority.

About the Author

Hillel Halkin is a columnist for the New York Sun and a veteran contributor to COMMENTARY. Portions of the present essay were delivered at Northwestern University in March as the Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization.