Apr 19, 2004
When President Bush formally endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new plan for the Palestinian Occupied Territories, he called it "historic" and "courageous." It was supposed to be a step toward peace, as though the Israeli government was magnanimously making certain concessions to the Palestinians, withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and dismantling some Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
In fact, this "step toward peace" is nothing but an outright land grab by the Israeli government. It intends to begin formally incorporating big parts of the Occupied Territories, starting with East Jerusalem, which had been Palestinian, and six big settlement blocs in the West Bank. And, this land grab won't stop there. Just as it has done since its establishment in the late 1940s, Israel will no doubt try to take over more and more of the Palestinian Territories.
In the news conference, Bush justified his support for Sharon's plan by saying that he was only taking into account the changing "realities on the ground" such as "existing major Israeli population centers."
But what Bush and Sharon did not bother to mention was that in one stroke, the Sharon government had torn up all its agreements and promises to one day return the Occupied Territories to the control of a Palestinian government. Moreover, the Sharon government did it unilaterally, backed up by brute force – a clear message to the peoples of the rest of the Middle East that the Israeli government intended to do what it wanted – and to hell with everyone else.
The Israeli assassination of Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the head of Hamas, a few days afterwards, underlined this. It was one more way for the Israeli government to say that it was ready to murder and kill as many Palestinians as it wanted in order to impose its complete and utter domination. And Bush had to be in on the decision for Israel to go ahead with the assassination, even as he cynically praised Sharon for "courageously" working for peace.
Of course, this has been nothing but a continuation of the entire history of Israel's existence, which has been based on violently pushing the Palestinians off their land and out of their homes, often condemning them to live in squalor, misery and malnutrition, making them foreigners in their own land. The Israeli government has maintained this oppression through imprisonment, torture and murder.
The Israeli plan to pull out their settlements from the 16-mile long Gaza Strip was hardly a surprise. The Israeli settlements in Gaza had never worked. Only a small handful of settlers lived there, even though the Israeli government had taken over almost half of Gaza for these settlements and offered the settlers extremely generous subsidies and aid. Not even the most fanatic, religious fundamentalist Israelis wanted to live in settlements literally surrounded by millions of densely packed, angry and seething Palestinians, who had been forced to live in some of the most miserable slums in the world.
Under Sharon's plan, the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian population in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will continue. Israeli troops will remain stationed in bases inside Gaza, as well as around its borders. At the same time, Israeli troops will keep the Palestinians in the West Bank cooped up in a series of ever smaller and more disjointed cantons or ghettoes, with the Palestinians hemmed in by the heavily fortified so-called "security fence" that the Israeli government is building.
Bush's announcement that he had decided to support Sharon's plan was merely a formality. The Israeli government would never have been able to carry out its occupation and war against the Palestinians without massive U.S. support, both financial and military, throughout this time period. The Israeli military, the settlements in the occupied territories, the massive government subsidies to attract the settlers – much of the bill was paid for by the U.S.
The U.S. pays – through the teeth – because Israel serves as U.S. imperialism's most important, powerful and loyal guard dog in the Middle East. And, obviously, with the U.S. bogged down in its own worsening war and occupation in Iraq, Bush is looking for ways to reinforce Sharon, his loyal ally, in his own war.
In fact, the Sharon plan is a sure prescription for further wars and violence, and a growing divide of blood and hatred between the peoples of the region, just like the U.S. war in Iraq. Sharon and Bush are partners in turning the whole Middle East into a bloody field of never-ending carnage.