Nov 8, 2004
On October 26, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, passed Ariel Sharon's plan for the withdrawal from Gaza by a small majority. The settlers demonstrated in the streets, and all the religious parties and half of his own Likud party were opposed to the measure. He only got it passed with the help of the Labor Party deputies in the Knesset.
Thus Israel is supposed to start the process of withdrawing the 8,000 settlers established in the Gaza Strip and in four small settlements in the West Bank. But this isn't a true step toward Israeli-Palestinian peace, not even a small one. The reason for the withdrawal from Gaza is that the Israeli politicians think they can no longer support the 8,000 Jewish settlers there surrounded by a million and a half Palestinians. Recent especially murderous Israeli military operations in Gaza show that the Israeli leaders are withdrawing only after terrorizing the Palestinians and then keeping an ongoing military threat against them.
The settlements won't be dismantled right away – not until the end of 2005. Once the settlers are gone and their houses destroyed, the Israeli military will pull out of its bases, except in the south on the border with Egypt. In other words, a lot could occur between now and then which could serve as a pretext to prevent the withdrawal.
A part of the plan for withdrawing from Gaza calls for strengthening the settlements in the West Bank, where the building of the so-called "security wall" is a perfect symbol. It is clear that the politicians who sided with Sharon did so for the reason given by a Labor Party deputy who wrote in the daily paper Haaretz (The Land): "... the objective of the wall is to perpetuate Israeli control over the major part of the West Bank and to repel all internal or external pressure in favor of a different political solution."
The leaders of the Israeli left don't reject Sharon's policy. They want to see the settlements continue in the West Bank, with all this means for the future of the five million Israeli Jews and the three million Palestinians. Right now, 4,000 new settler homes are being built in the West Bank, which increases the number of settlers by 10%.
The settlers are very small in proportion to the Palestinian population, but they are highly determined to stay. They are often motivated by anti-Arab racism and think they are pioneers of a religious and anti-Arab state. The ultra-religious and extreme right groups in Israel use them to put pressure on the government. If these settlers ever leave Gaza and return to Israel, this will only strengthen their weight. Not only the Palestinians but also the Israeli population will pay the price for it, with the reinforcement of this reactionary pressure group. Already certain observers say that there is the risk of a civil war inside Israel.
As they have done in the past, the Labor Party leaders abdicated before the right-wing Sharon, using the excuse of a still worse extreme right. They then turn against the Palestinians and warn them that the success of Sharon's plan will depend on their "responsible" attitude and ability to "stop terrorism." As if the policy of successive Israeli governments for 37 years of occupation hasn't itself been the main cause of the movement of a number of Palestinians and their organizations toward this desperate and dead-end policy of terrorism!
It is in the interest of the Palestinians and also of the Israeli population to put an end to this state of permanent war. The Israelis have no other choice but to accept to live in peace beside a Palestinian state. If they are going to find the way to coexistence, the Israeli population can't trust either Sharon or the Labor Party politicians, who carry a large part of the responsibility for the current situation that leaves the Israeli population the hostage of the right and the extreme right.