Surprise surprise: having said for almost four
decades that no Jewish settlement should ever be dismantled, Sharon's plan to
dismantle Jewish settlements in Gaza was rejected by his own Likud party members.
You can fool all the people all the time – but don't sell them a new folly every
week. Sharon was defeated by an effective campaign launched by settlers, and
generously sponsored by fundamentalist Jewish anti-peace magnates abroad – the
Gutniks, the Moskowitzs,
As Meron Benvenisti writes in an excellent analysis
(Ha'aretz, 6.5.04), "The state has given a small group of skilled and
fanatic activists immense bureaucratic might and economic resources, which have
been invested in a sophisticated manner and transformed the settlements into
one of the strongest power bases in Israel" – in spite of being less than 4%
of the Israeli population.
Sharon should thank President Bush as well for his humiliating defeat: Likud
members understood very well that Israel had nothing to lose by rejecting the
Plan. A long list of extremist Jewish-American organizations (ZOA and their ilk) published
huge ads in the Israeli press, explaining that the US would not change its Pavlovian
pro-Israel anti-Palestinian policy, no matter the results.
In return for the Disengagement Plan, President Bush endorsed the route of
the Apartheid Wall, recognized Israel's bigger illegal settlements as irreversible
"demographic facts," and dismissed the Palestinian Right of Return. The Disengagement
Plan was rejected – but don't hold your breath to hear President Bush renouncing
the Apartheid Wall, condemning the "demographic facts" of the settlements, or
suddenly supporting the Right of Return. When Sharon and Bush make colonialist
deals over Palestinian land and freedom, the name of the game is "heads we win,
tails they lose."
A.B. Yehoshua Has a Dream
The Disengagement Plan was no peace plan. There
was very little to support in a redeployment of the Israeli occupation forces
from the heart of Gaza to a strangulating siege on its borders. Especially not
when done in order to strengthen Israel's hold on the Palestinian West Bank,
and when prominent figures in the Israeli "Peace Camp" already air their genocidal
fantasies for the day after – listen to the "peacenik" writer AB Yehoshua:
"After we take out the settlements ... all the rules of war would change.
We would exercise our full power … We won't have to run after this or that terrorist:
we would use force against an entire population, use force in a total manner
… We would cut off the electricity in Gaza. We would cut off communications
in Gaza. We would stop fuel supply to Gaza … It won't be a desirable war, but
definitely a purifying one." (Ha'aretz, 19.3.04)
Engage in Order to Disengage
So now that it is dead – what was the Disengagement
Plan good for? Let's see its actual functions, on the ground and in the Israeli
public discourse (all quotes from Ha'aretz).
The Plan was announced on February the 3rd. Just a week later, Israel killed
15 Palestinians in Gaza. Analyst Ze'ev Schiff set the tone by making the connection
(12.2): "Precisely because of the PM's decision on a future eviction of most
of the settlements in Gaza, Israel will probably try to show its 'military muscles'
in the near future – as a preparation for the future." So now that we "disengage,"
expect even more killing in Gaza. This is precisely what was going to happen.
Two weeks later, Israel assassinated three Jihad activists in Gaza: Sharon
"decided to boost the assassinations policy … towards the realization of the
Disengagement Plan" (29.2).
So February, when the "Disengagement Plan" was announced, ended with 43
Palestinians killed, compared to 29 casualties in January.
One week later, 15 Palestinians were killed in
Gaza, 4 of them children, and 80 injured (8.3). The offensive of "Israel's Defense
Forces" was described as "stimulus-response": incursions aimed at provoking
Palestinians to use their ineffective weapons and expose themselves to Israel's
lethal fire. Military reporter Amos Harel wondered: "Why does the Israeli army
continue its operations, when the withdrawal is apparently near?" The operation,
he concluded, was either simply part of a long-term policy of "a big offensive
operation in Gaza about once a month," or reflected the resolution of the Israeli
army not to let the political echelon portray the withdrawal from Gaza as a
result of military failure, like the withdrawal from Lebanon. The latter option
blames the Israeli army for the escalation. Don't worry: the army will shake
off the accusation in no time (guess who it would blame instead). At any rate,
Hamas and Jihad called the operation "a massacre," and promised revenge.
A week later, the Palestinians kept their promise. 10 Israeli workers were
killed in an attack on Ashdod's sea port. But the Israeli army gave a more useful
explanation for the bombing: "As soon as the Disengagement Plan and the unilateral
withdrawal were announced, the Palestinian organizations have been making great
efforts to prove that Israel is withdrawing under military pressure" (15.3).
So, first, forget the bloodbath in Gaza a week before: the Palestinians kill
us not because we kill them, but because we want to withdraw and make peace.
And, second, the escalation is not Israel's fault: expectedly, the blame is
given to the Palestinians.
The next day, the cabinet ordered a series of large-scale operations against
Hamas in Gaza. Echoing the army's position, Defense Minister Mofaz explained
that Hamas wished to capitalize on the Israeli withdrawal and was planning a
big wave of terror, so the escalation initiated by Israel was the Palestinians'
fault. As for its scale, military sources were outspoken: "We return to the
days before the Hudna (cease-fire truce)" of July 2003 (17.3).
The atrocities reached a peak on 22.3, when Israel assassinated Sheikh
Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas in Gaza. 7 other Palestinians were killed
with him – along with 5 Palestinians killed on separate occasions the same day,
and 7 killed in Gaza the day before. At this stage, no matter what war crimes
were going on, everything was overshadowed by the "Disengagement" festival:
"We'll weaken Hamas towards the Disengagement" (Defense Minister Mofaz,
"Israel hopes to stop the Hamas attack, which started with the
announcement of the Disengagement Plan" (Ze'ev Schiff, 23.2).
"The assassination might make the Disengagement more difficult" (Amos
"While Sharon is coordinating with President Bush the withdrawal from Gaza
and the eviction of all its settlements – is this the right time to drown Gaza
in a wave of hatred?" (Yoel Marcus, 26.3)
The idea that escalation and killing could to be seen as War, rather than as
Peace, was off limits.
And so, March ended with a record of 79 Palestinians killed.
The next prominent victim of the premeditated
Israeli escalation was Yassin's successor Dr Rantissi, killed just three days
after the Bush-Sharon "Disengagement Summit." Amir Oren automatically echoed:
"The main context of the continued targeting of the Hamas leadership is Sharon's
plan to evacuate Gaza, now with American backing" (18.4).
April ended with 55 Palestinians killed. In just three months, while Israel
was busy making peace by "Disengagement," 177 Palestinians were killed. And 25
Israelis. An excellent ratio of 7 to 1.
Not Just Killing
Killing may be the better recorded part of the
Israeli occupation, but occupation is much more than just killing. Thus, less
than two weeks after the Disengagement Plan was announced, Gaza settlers launched
a plan for 3 new settlements and absorbing 500 new families within a year; they
had an excellent argument: "The plans were boosted as a reaction to the Disengagement
Plan" (15.2). Indeed, one of the new settlements has been established by now
– a day after the settlers' victory in the referendum.
Furthermore, making an old dream come true, the Israeli army used the
occasion to announce a long trench to be dug along the route separating Gaza
from Egypt – "towards the implementation of the Disengagement Plan," of
"The distance from the route to the houses of Rafah is now about 150
metres, since the army has demolished the first blocks of houses during the past
3,5 years of fighting […] The army has been trying for long to expand the open
area east of the route […] Within the various operations in the area, hundreds
of Palestinian houses have been destroyed" (Ha'aretz, 28.4).
Lessons for the Next "Plan"
On May the 2nd, the Disengagement Plan
was rejected by 60% of the Likud members. The next day, Sharon said he would
prepare a new plan. His copyrighters already toy with names: "Reduced Disengagement"?
"Gradual Disengagement"? Once a name is found, we can start the dupery all over
Indeed, Israel is willing to consider every Peace Plan – as long as it is
unacceptable to the Palestinians (therefore NOT the Saudi/Arab Peace Plan); as
long as it gives it more time to entrench the occupation; and as long as it can
serve as pretext to kill hundreds of Palestinians. That's what Sharon's "Plans"