Over the past three years a new political realism has slowly and painfully emerged on the Israeli centre-right. In some ways it is akin to the revolution in consciousness among South African National Party leaders in the final years of apartheid. In the eyes of Israeli right-wingers, nothing has seemed to work for Israel over the past decade: neither negotiation nor repression. Disoriented and frustrated, Mr Sharon, his deputy, Ehud Olmert, and other senior figures have at last begun to internalise reality: Israel, they now understand, faces imminent defeat in its long demographic struggle to secure a Jewish majority between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. The settlement project of the past generation has failed in its central objective. Israel can no longer hope to sustain her position in the occupied territories without a sacrifice of blood and treasure that is simply unacceptable to most of her citizens...Read the whole thing: it's an interesting take on the issue, and implies a more nuanced position on the part of the Israeli right than I (and many others) had often given them credit for.
...His enemies complain that he wants at most to find a way out of Gaza and that he has already exacted his price from the US: recognition of the permanence of many Israeli settlements in the West Bank. A closer look at the wording of the formal agreement between Sharon and Bush (which, by the way, will bind any successor to Sharon, should he fall from power in the coming weeks) suggests a different conclusion. There is no foreclosing of the position on the future border between Israel and a Palestinian state. That remains to be settled by negotiation. The roadmap has been accelerated rather than abandoned. One thing has been foreclosed: any remaining forlorn hope among Israeli ultra-nationalists of pursuing the dream of populating the whole of the West Bank with Jews.
On the other hand, it may still be cover, and negotiation may still be unlikely. The "we're punishing the Palestinians" rhetoric that preceded this move does seem to imply that. The author implies that settlers wouldn't want to shoot at the IDF; at the same time the IDF may not want to dislodge settlers. It's also unlikely that these tactics will decrease tensions in the region much. It's still worth considering, however, and the shouting of base talking points that surrounds this issue rarely affords that leisure.