Thursday, December 16, 2004

 

"Poison laced with honey"

Amnon Kapeliouk has an article in Le Monde Diplomatique about Sharon's unilateral Gaza withdrawal plan. Subscribers can read the entire article here. For the rest, here is an excerpt:
ARIEL SHARON'S plan to evacuate all 7,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip has won him widespread accolades. In Israel the opposition Labour party, the Peace Now movement and even the Yahad party - responsible for the 2003 Geneva Initiative which requires that Israel return to its 1967 borders bar a few mutually agreed changes - have all congratulated the Israeli prime minister on his "courage" and "far-sightedness".

There is plenty of approval outside Israel as well. Western leaders have praised Sharon extravagantly, thrilled to hear him use the words "dismantling settlements". The evacuation of a single settlement in the occupied territories would indeed be a major first, an unprecedented step in 37 years of occupation. But does that make the Gaza disengagement plan a peace plan?

The settlements would all have been evacuated in a few weeks, three months maximum, if Sharon were serious about disengagement. Instead, a year has gone by since the withdrawal was announced and not a single settler has left Gaza. Sharon is dragging his feet. He talks up the "painful sacrifices" involved in agreeing to dismantle these settlements, but does nothing. By focusing all the attention on Gaza, he is putting off crucial negotiations on the real issue: the creation of a Palestinian state.

It is clear that the settlement of the Gaza Strip has been a failure. Barely 7,000 settlers have moved in, although there are 250,000 in the West Bank (and 200,000 in the occupied part of Jerusalem). Though they have taken over 40% of Gaza's land and use half its water, they are nothing compared with the million-and-a-half Palestinians crowded into the area. Providing security for settlers costs a huge amount of money and needs many soldiers, some of whom die doing this terrible job. Withdrawing from Gaza should be as much a relief for Israel as a sacrifice.

But the Israeli government is at pains to present the disengagement, especially abroad, as painful and deeply problematic. It exploits the extremist fanatics who have been demonstrating angrily against the plan, along with pseudo-fascist threats to assassinate Sharon as punishment for his "treason", to exaggerate its difficulties. So Israel can claim that withdrawing from Gaza is so traumatic that further disengagement - evacuating settlers from the West Bank - cannot be envisaged soon.

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