February 09, 2004

What Drives Arik?

"Latrun is the midway point along Israel's main artery, the highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Its hills -- the site of a ruined Crusader castle, a monastery surrounded by vineyards and a former British police fort -- dominate the passage from the coastal plain to the Judea Mountains. During Israel's War of Independence in 1948, some of the fiercest battles were fought over this strategic ridge. Five times Jewish forces tried and failed to capture it. The area remained under Jordanian control until the Six Day War of 1967, when Israel conquered it along with the rest of the West Bank.

Among those who survived the bloodiest attack on Latrun, on May 25, 1948, was a young platoon commander, Ariel Sharon. Sent into battle unprepared and without enough water, his unit got trapped under enemy fire from the hills above. It was the formative experience of Sharon's life. After losing many of his men, he vowed never again to let the Arabs control the high terrain."

"...For the secular Sharon, the ideology and religious fervor that inspired many settlers have always played a secondary role to military topography. Though he talks about the Bible before Israeli right-wingers or American evangelicals, for him settlements boil down to this: Either you control the high ground or the enemy does. Time and again, Sharon has proposed West Bank partition plans. Under different titles, they all had the same elements: encircling the Palestinian population centers with Israeli "security zones." He clung to the same ideas upon taking office in 2001, proposing a Palestinian state on 42 percent of West Bank territory."

Aluf Benn, writing in the WaPo.

Meanwhile, fence diplomacy plods along, with some Israeli adjustments to the fence's route in the offing.

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