According to the report that was published on ynet, there is a plan to populate and expand the West Bank settlements on the same scale as the massive settlement wave of the 1980s (“Plans: preparation of 120 outposts, construction of thousands of houses in the West Bank”, 25 Feb.). The story opened with the sentence “Israel is about to leave Gaza, but is strengthening its hold on the West Bank.” Until a few months ago, very few in Israel claimed that. That was more or less the message in the flyers that Taayush [a joint Jewish-Arab anti-occupation organization] distributed at public events; that its various spokespeople declared in various fora; it was one of the claims in Uri Avnery’s articles, and it was one of the claims that was accepted only by those few thousand Israelis who joined in marches and demonstrations against the separation fences in the past year, and saw with their own eyes how the geography of the West Bank is being changed in order to prepare the ground for the new settlement project.
Now it’s “official”. Now concrete plans have been leaked: numbers, names of settlements and budgets. There would be no point in criticizing the Zionist Left that slept through the long period of the dirty war of “peace for the settlement blocs”, and that in recent months has begun to applaud Sharon, if not for the fact that its response reflects a basic lack of understanding of Sharon’s strategy. This is not a case of “split personality” in Sharon’s government!
The withdrawal from Gaza and certain concessions in the West Bank are intended to buy Sharon the political time he needs to broaden and strengthen the main settlement blocs in the West Bank. So far the Disengagement Plan has enjoyed dizzying success. It has allowed him to get Bush’s support in principle for an American “Kashrut certificate” for the settlement blocs. It has made it possible to create many facts on the ground, facts that will render any future attempt at a permanent-status agreement much more difficult.
In other words, the “Disengagement” and the continuation of settlement behind the protection of separation fences (to which part of the Zionist Left has given its seal of approval) are two sides of the same strategy. Sharon’s approach is most consistent. Politically and socially Sharon is coming from Ben-Gurion’s school; he is not a historical Revisionist and so it is a lot easier for him to reconcile himself with a pragmatic and realistic compromise on the dream of the “completeness” of the Land, in order to realize the old goal of Zionist settlement, to acquire dunam after dunam, maximum land and minimum Arabs. Will this obstruct a final-status agreement with the Palestinians? There is nothing Sharon wants more than a provisional arrangement with a half-crippled Palestinian state, an arrangement like that will guarantee future conflagrations in which it will be possible to expand the zone of military control a little more, to strengthen the Israel’s internal nationalist and racist [social] glue, to embark on new settlement ventures after the crushing of the enemy and to expand the borders of the State [of Israel]. That is what Ben-Gurion wanted to achieve between 1948 and 1967. That is what Sharon is trying to cook for us now, with a great degree of success. If we do not understand this, we will not be able to frustrate a plan that threatens to perpetuate the conflict for coming generations.
The “Peace Now” movement, to its credit, has rigorously and systematically opposed and condemned the erection of the settlement outposts and has waged an important and effective struggle against them. But these activities did not enjoy adequate political support from the movement, not regarding the separation fences and not regarding the unilateral Disengagement plan. Prominent personalities associated with the “Geneva Accord”, who conducted an important propaganda campaign against the separation fence along its old route, are now playing a decisive role in giving legitimacy from the Left to the modified route for the ministers of the Labour Party. The modified route is one of the factors that are making the new settlement project possible. Even parties like Hadash [Israeli Communist Party] and Balad [an Arab party headed by Azmi Bishara], that were supposedly in consistent opposition to Sharon’s policies, are taking pains to pull his chestnuts out of the fire when he gets in trouble with Likud rebels during Knesset votes. Thus Hadash and Balad prefer to advance the immediate and visible achievement of the withdrawal from Gaza without understanding that it is part of as single strategy of “disengagement from Gaza – settlement in the West Bank blocs”, a strategy that must be frustrated.
If anybody is suffering from split personality, it is the “peace camp” partners who are helping Sharon by giving legitimacy to separation fences and walls through their complacency, their support of the budget, their silence and their neglect of the struggle against an ongoing settlement project that is likely to cause Palestinians and Israelis to wallow in blood for many years to come.
Both within the ranks of Hamas and Fatah, there are hot headed trigger happy adventurists ...