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(en) Israel, Medeia*, HOW WE LEFT GAZA

Date Mon, 22 Aug 2005 23:51:23 +0300

We will never know with certainty what took place in the mind of Ariel
Sharon in February 2004, when he first declared, without consulting
anyone, that he is ready to evacuate the Jewish settlements in Gaza. But
if we try to put together the pieces of the disengagement puzzle, the
scenario that makes most sense is that Sharon believed that this time,
as before, he would find a way of evading the plan. This would explain,
for example, why the Gaza settlers have not yet received compensation
money and why, as the Saturday Supplement of Israeli daily Yediot
Ahronot revealed on August 5, almost no steps have been taken to prepare
for their absorption into Israel. (1)

Sharon had good reason to believe that he would succeed in his avoidance
tactics. In the previous round, when confronted with the Bush
administration’s road map, he committed himself to a cease fire, during
which Israel was to revert to the status quo of pre-September 2000,
freeze settlement construction and remove outposts. None of this was
carried out. Sharon and the army claimed that Mahmud Abbas (in the
previous round) was not trustworthy and had failed to rein in Hamas. The
army continued its assassination policy and succeeded in bringing the
Occupied Territories to an unprecedented boiling point, followed by the
inevitable Palestinian terror attacks that shattered the cease fire.
During the entire time, the first-term Bush administration stood by
Sharon’s side and dutifully echoed all his complaints against Abbas.

During the current period of calm, the Israeli army also continued with
incursions into towns, arrests and targeted assassinations. It seemed as
if the next terrorist attack, in the wake of which the calm would
explode, was imminent, and the Israeli press was full of details
outlining the “Fist of Iron” operation, which was expected this summer
in Gaza. But the Bush administration suddenly changed direction. While
Israel continued to declare that Abbas was not fulfilling his task, the
Bush administration insisted repeatedly that Abbas must be given a
chance. What had changed?

Until this turn-around, there was general agreement in Israel that there
had never been a U.S. president who was friendlier towards Israel than
George W. Bush. Presumably no one thought that a love of Jews on the
part of the evangelical Bush was behind this support. But there was a
feeling in Israel that with its superior air force, Israel was a huge
asset in the global war that Bush had declared in the Middle East. With
the euphoria of the power that was felt at the time, it seemed as if
Afghanistan and Iraq were already “in our hands” and now we would
proceed together towards Iran and maybe even Syria.

But in early 2005, the wheels began to turn the other way. The United
States was sinking in the mire of Iraq incurring defeats and
casualties. Iran, which after the war with Iraq was ready for any terms
of surrender, drew encouragement from Iraq’s resistance and from its
ties with the Shiite militia. The oil agreements with China gave a boost
to its economy and its status. Suddenly the possibility of an attack on
Iran didn’t seem as certain. It turned out that even the most advanced
weapons may not suffice to bring to their knees entire regions which the
U.S. was eyeing. In the meantime, support for Bush had sunk to under
forty percent and after each world terrorist attack, one heard the
paired words, Iraq and Palestine. Bush will not give up on Iraq so fast.
But the headache of Palestine, he really doesn't need.

Since the beginning of this year, the U.S. steamroller has been moving
steadily. First the all-powerful Israeli lobby in the U.S. was quietly
neutralized. Two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC) have been indicted on charges of assisting the
transferring of classified information to an Israeli representative. If
convicted, this could spell the end of AIPAC and the entire lobby. In
the meantime, they will have to sit quietly, regardless of Bush’s
actions towards Israel.

The next move was to freeze military support in Israel under cover of
the China arms sales crisis. It would have been possible to handle this
pesky problem with one small blow, as in the past, but the U.S. imposed
real sanctions this time. Contracts for the purchase of military arms
were frozen, and the U.S. suspended cooperation on development
projects. In Washington, the doors were closed on Israeli military

Under these circumstances, the declared date of the disengagement
approached. In light of the open preparations in Israel for a military
operation, suspicions grew in the U.S. administration that Sharon would
not carry out the plan. According to the New York Times of August 7, the
Bush administration exerted pressure to prevent this from happening, and
to prohibit the military operation. On July 21, U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleeza Rice arrived in Jerusalem for an unfriendly, hard-line
visit. The New York Times reported remarks made by Middle East Security
Coordinator General William Ward: "General Ward, a careful man,
confirmed that two weeks ago, American pressure helped stay the Israeli
military when it was poised to go into Gaza... He predicted that there
could be similar pressure should the need arise. 'That scenario is a
scenario that none of us would like to see,' he said. 'There is a deep
realization on the part of the Israeli leadership, including the
military, about the consequences of that type of scenario.' " (2)

Over the years we have become accustomed to the idea that “US. pressure”
means declarations that have no muscle behind them. But suddenly the
words have acquired new meaning. When the U.S. really does exert
pressure, no Israeli leader would dare defy its injunctions (and
certainly not Netanyahu). And so we have pulled out of Gaza. If the U.S.
continues to lose ground in Iraq, maybe we will be forced to pull out of
the West Bank as well.

(1) According to the article, from the very beginning, back in 2004,
“the Prime Minister rebuffed the recommendation of [Major General Giora]
Eiland, [National Security Advisor and Head of the IDF’s disengagement
Planning Branch] and decided that the government will not build
temporary housing.”
(2) Steven Erlanger, The New York Times, August 7, 2005

From: Tanya reinhart <reinhart-A-post.tau.ac.il>
To: mashacamp@yahoogroups.com

* By Tanya Reinhart, anarchist academian, in the main Israeli daily
Yediot Aharonot, August 18, 2005. Translated from Hebrew by Edeet Ravel

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