The left in Israel/Palestine (those, broadly on the left of the peace movement) have expressed a mixed reaction to removal of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip. For some it signalled a little hope. An important taboo over the status of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories has been broken, they said. Maintaining the settlements in the West Bank — they are much more widespread there — might no longer be sacrosanct, in the eyes of broad Israeli public opinion. Those hardliners who fought against the pull-out in Gaza have been shown to be isolated.
For others, the furore over the Gaza pull out was more or less a distraction from what was going on in the West Bank — the expansion of the settlements, a new stage in the building of the “security wall” separating a — much diminished — West Bank territory from Israel.
The withdrawal has caused a huge shake up in Israeli politics. A split in Likud, with the “right” hiving off behind Binyamin Netanyahu looks imminent. An election is likely. The general political situation is very volatile. A lot will depend on whether Hamas will restart its military campaign — either out of its own political concerns or in retaliation for an Israeli state provocation. That will immediately discredit the Gaza withdrawal. However, it remains the case that further withdrawal from the West Bank is inconceivable without serious pressure on Sharon’s government.
That is why the Israeli left are united in their desire to see a hasty resumption of negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinians. As the Gush Shalom advert puts it “If the peace process will be frozen, for whatever reason, another intifada will break out within months.” Both Gaza and the West Bank will become bloody battlefields. Here are some extracts from articles and reports.
Settlements can be dismantled
This was the day on which the settlement enterprise in this country went into reverse for the first time. True, the settlement activity in the West Bank continues at full speed. Ariel Sharon intends to give up the small settlements in the Gaza Strip in order to secure the big settlement blocs in the West Bank.
But this does not diminish the significance of what has happened: it has been proven that settlements can be dismantled and must be dismantled….
True, it is not us who did it. It was done by a man far removed from us.
If I am angry, profoundly sad and frustrated today, it is because of the price we all have paid for this monstrous “enterprise”. The thousands killed because of it, Israelis and Palestinians. The hundreds of billions of Shekels poured down the drain. The moral decline of our state, the creeping brutalisation, the postponement of peace for dozens of years. Anger with the demagogues of all stripes that started and continued this March of Folly, out of stupidity, blindness, greed, intoxication with power or sheer cynicism.
Anger over the suffering and destruction wrought on the Palestinians, whose land and water were stolen, whose houses were destroyed and whose trees were uprooted — all for the “security” of these settlements.
A great opportunity. Because the Israeli democracy has won a resounding victory. Because the Palestinians have a leadership that wants peace. Because it has been proven that even the radical Palestinian organisations hold their fire when Palestinian public opinion demands it.
If we do not progress rapidly from here to a settlement with the Palestinian people, Gaza will indeed turn into a platform for missiles — as Binyamin Netanyahu [leader of opposition within Sharon’s Likud party].
Uri Avnery, 18 August
What is the other hand doing?
On the same day that attention was drawn to Kfar Darom and Sa-Nur, accomplished facts started to be created in Jerusalem. Throughout the entire process of approval and implementation of the Gaza Disengagement Plan, its supporters (in the peace camp) pushed the issue of “the day after” to the margins of their consciousness. It was the opponents who took up that issue obsessively, repeatedly bringing up horror scenarios such as attacks by quassam missiles or katyusha rockets on the towns of Ashkelon in the south and Afula in the south — which most of the public refused to buy into.
Sharon did not bother to present a concrete plan for what would follow the evacuation of Gaza… In fact, he did not at all wait for the Day After. Even while the army and police were busy completing the settlement evacuation, confiscation orders were issued — with the approval of the Attorney General — for Palestinian lands east and south of East Jerusalem. These orders are supposed to facilitate the creation of the Separation Fence on a route surrounding Ma’aleh Adumim by a very wide loop eastwards. This loop would cut East Jerusalem off from the West Bank, and drive a wedge between the southern and the northern sides of the West Bank itself.
It would create a physical separation, making moot most of the ideas about solving the issue of Jerusalem or creating a territorially-contiguous Palestinian state. The next stage would be the construction plans, driving the housing up to the edges of the new Fence and creating a situation which — if not completely irreversible — would be very difficult to reverse.
The United States more than once expressed opposition to unilateral acts in Jerusalem. But these days are opportunate for Sharon, in Washington and the rest of the world. He has implemented the Disengagement, he is swimming against a strong current, the alternative is Netanyahu or somebody even more extreme. In short: “This is not the time to quarrel with Arik”.
Offer Shelach, from Yediot Aharonot, 25 August
Full speed ahead!
If we adopt at once a bold plan and move quickly to carry it out, we can achieve within a year a peace settlement and a normal life.
• The remnants of the occupation of the Gaza Strip must be removed at once.
• The safe passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank must be opened.
• The Palestinians must be enabled to build Gaza harbor and reopen the Gaza airport.
• The border passage between Gaza and Egypt must be opened.
• If both sides agree, international observers might be asked to oversee the border crossings, to make sure no arms will be smuggled into the Gaza Strip.
At the same time, in the West Bank:
• The “outposts” that were established since 2000 must be removed, the same way as Homesh and Sanur.
• The building of the wall and the enlargement of the settlements must be completely stopped.
• The roadblocks that turn life of the Palestinians in West Bank into hell must be removed.
• Palestinian prisoners must be released.
Negotiations with the Palestinian leadership for a permanent peace agreement should start immediately, with the prior understanding that within a reasonable time the occupation will come to an end and the State of Palestine will come into being.
The peace agreement will include:
• The Green Line will be the border between Israel and Palestine. Exchanges of territories may be agreed upon.
• All settlements in the Palestinian territory will be evacuated.
• Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel and Palestine, according to the Clinton formula (“What is Arab will go to Palestine, what is Jewish will go to Israel”.)
• The refugee problem will be solved in agreement with Israel.
Special advert in Haaretz, 26 August by Gush Shalom (the peace bloc)