This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/978
August 15, 2005
MIM: The bloodbath and terrorism which will result from the Israeli retreat from Gaza was articulated by Dr.Daniel Pipes who calls the Gaza withdrawal a 'recipe for war'. All Gaza residents who were in the army or reservists should don their army uniforms to show their fellow soldiers that a citizen's army cannot be used to deport one's comrades in arms from Jewish land. Another tactic would be for all of the citizens to don army or police uniforms to create mass confusion to hinder the deportations and show the insanity of a country which has suicidally imploded. Radio commentator Tuvia Singer astutely noted that the war against religion. Between the Jews who follow the religion of democracy and prefer to align with their enemies then to see Israel become a Jewish state. If Gaza is made Judenrein the terrorist state with the combined forces of Hamas, Hizbollah, PIJ and Al Qaeda, will unleash a wave of attacks worldwide and the bloody years of the 'Endlosungsfada' seem like a peaceful idyll in contrast.
American born Avi Bieber was one of the first to refuse to take part in the deportation process and was jailed
Wave of Disengagement Refusals Swelling Within IDF Monday, August 15, 2005
The Gaza Withdrawal: A Democracy Killing Itself
Sharon deaf to his own words; Withdrawal 'is a recipe for war'
by Daniel Pipes
August 15, 2005
[This article is presented as an "Opposing View" to USA Today's own editorial, "Gaza pullout begins with extremists poised for trouble."]
The Israeli government's removal of its own citizens from Gaza ranks as one of the worst errors ever made by a democracy.
This step is the worse for being self-imposed, not the result of pressure from Washington. When the Bush administration first heard in December 2003 that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had unilaterally decided to pull all soldiers and civilians from Gaza, it responded coolly. Months of persuasion were needed to get the White House to embrace the initiative.
The harm will be three-fold: within Israel, in relations with the Palestinians, and internationally.
Sharon won the prime ministry in early 2003 by electorally crushing an opponent who espoused unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Sharon declared back then: "A unilateral withdrawal is not a recipe for peace. It is a recipe for war." For unknown reasons, in late 2003 he adopted his opponent's policy of leaving Gaza, thereby reneging on his promises, betraying his supporters, and inflicting lasting damage on Israeli public life.
To Palestinian rejectionists, an Israeli retreat under fire sends an unambiguous signal: Terrorism works. Just as the Israeli departure from Lebanon five years earlier provoked new violence, so too will fleeing Gaza. Palestinians ignore all the verbiage about "disengagement" and see it for what it really is, an Israeli retreat under fire. Indeed, Palestinian leaders have already broadcast their intent to deploy Gaza-like aggression to pry the West Bank and Jerusalem from Israeli control. Should that campaign succeed, Haifa and Tel Aviv are next, after which Israel itself disappears.
The Sharon government has also defaulted on its obligations to its allies in the war on terror. As other states, such as Great Britain, finally show signs of getting more serious about counterterrorism, Israel's politicians release hundreds of convicted terrorists and retreat under fire from Gaza, encouraging more terrorism.
Israel's mistakes are not unique for a democracy – French appeasement of Germany in the 1930s or American incrementalism in Vietnam come to mind – but none other jeopardized the very existence of a people.
MIM: For more on the background and deadly consequences of the Gaza debacle see Dr. Daniel Pipes articles:
Reading Sharon's Mind." New York Sun, 23 December 2003.
Expects that Sharon is more crafty than sincere about the Gaza withdrawal idea.
"Sharon Loses His Way On Israeli ‘Settlements'." New York Sun, 10 February 2004.
Recognizes that Sharon is more sincere than crafty, criticizes him for this.
"Palestinian Responses to an Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza." DanielPipes.org, February 21, 2004.
Documents the Palestinians' claim that they pushed the Israelis out.
"Israel's Wayward Prime Ministers." New York Sun, 29 June 2004.
Attempts to account for Sharon's radical change in policy by placing him the context of his three elected predecessors, all of whom made similar changes toward unilateral concessions.
"There Is No "Daniel Pipes Plan" for the Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza." DanielPipes.org, July 8, 2004.
Suggests a better way for the Israeli government to handle the withdrawal.
"Ariel Sharon, Far-Leftist." DanielPipes.org, March 11, 2005.
Documents Sharon's radical change across the political spectrum.
"Ariel Sharon's Folly." New York Sun, 5 April 2005.
Criticizes the Israeli prime minister for betraying his supporters, dividing Israeli society, handing the Palestinian rejectionists a unique victory, and failing his American ally.
"The Forcible Removal of Israelis From Gaza." FrontPageMag.com, 11 April 2005.
Establishes that what Sharon plans to do in Gaza has no precedent among democracies.
"Sharon's Gaza Withdrawal and the United States." DanielPipes.org, April 11, 2005.
Shows that the withdrawal policy was made in Jerusalem, not Washington.
"Business as Usual in the Palestinian Authority." New York Sun, 17 May 2005.
Argues that "Ariel Sharon [has] neatly arrayed all the elements for a massive train wreck."
"‘Some Congressional Leaders Worry Gaza Pullout Amounts to Appeasement.'" DanielPipes.org, August 2, 2005.
Notes the quiet unease on Capitol Hill about the withdrawal plan.
"‘Today Gaza, Tomorrow Jerusalem'." New York Sun, 9 August 2005.
Assesses aggressive Palestinian responses to the withdrawal plan.
"[The Gaza Withdrawal:] A Democracy Killing Itself." USA Today, 15 August 2005.
Lists the withdrawal's damaging implications
A Jewish settler watches through razor wires as Israeli soldiers arrive to hand out eviction warnings at the gates of the settlement of Sanur in the West Bank yesterday.
MIM: If the Israeli army had employed the same hard handed tactics to stop the rock throwers in Gaza and nip the 'Endlosungsfada' in the bud, their would have been no attacks on Jewish communities. Instead of deporting the Arabs living in the terrorist enclave in Gaza, Sharon's government is pulling out the Jews to make way for an international terrorist headquarters which will become the Waziristan of the Middle East.
|Police in Gush Katif swooped down on youths in the middle of the night, including a Katif resident, and stranded them outside Katif. At least one of them had no shoes or money; another is aged 12.|
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=87854Police Brutally Evict and Strand Youths, Including a Resident
Tuesday, August 16, 2005 / 11 Av 5765
Police in Gush Katif swooped down on youths in the middle of the night, including a Katif resident, and stranded them outside Katif. At least one of them had no shoes or money; another is aged 12.
The group of 11 youths, including a boy aged only 12, were talking to soldiers peacefully outside the community of Gadid, in Gush Katif, at approximately 2:30 AM. A force of Border Guard police fell upon them, grabbed them up, and threw them onto a bus. They took them to a dark junction outside Gush Katif, and stranded them there to fend for themselves - at 3 o'clock in the morning.
One of them, Aryeh, told his story to Arutz-7: "I had no shoes, and they just left me there. It took me four hours to hitch-hike my way home to Hashmonaim [near Modiin]."
"The story began like this," Aryeh said. "I was standing outside the main entrance to N'vei Dekalim, with lots of teenagers speaking with soldiers. We were singing and laughing with them; it was a good atmosphere. After about an hour or so, the soldier I was speaking to saw Yassam police and Border Guard buses coming, and he said that I had better run because 'these guys are beasts.' A few other soldiers also warned me, and I started walking back into the town. But very soon, we saw them coming with fire in their eyes, as if we were the enemy.
"One of them grabbed me from behind and threw me down onto the ground, then a few of them held me down and started running while carrying me to the bus. Around the same time, they also did the same to a 12-year- old boy, who was totally petrified. Others of those who were taken onto the bus the same way took one look at him and begged the soldiers, 'Let him go! Look at him!' They even offered to go with him even at the risk of getting beaten up by the Yassamnikim again, but the soldiers - who were good guys - couldn't do it, because of the Yassamnikim on the bus.
"They took 13 of us, but one of them showed his ID card showing that he lived there, so they let him off. Another one was a boy who lived in Atzmona [in Gush Katif] - he was just walking on the street, and they got him by lying to him. They called to him and said they just want to ask his name, and then they grabbed him.
"Among our group were also three boys studying in the Atzmonah pre-military yeshiva academy, who are permitted to be there. They demanded to see an officer, and the Yassam promised that they would bring one - but at the end, they didn't.
"They took us to Kisufim, where a policeman got on. We said, 'Oh, good, finally there is someone with whom we can talk' - but he screamed, 'What are you talking about? Be quiet or you'll all be under arrest!' Then they took us to a junction called Orim, based on the sign I saw. It was dark, and we said, 'How can we get off here? We don't know where we are, it's the middle of the night, etc.' After about a half-hour of arguing, we finally got off, except for one of us, who they pulled off forcibly. Also, the boy who lived in Atzmonah was taken back; they said they were taking him back to N'vei Dekalim, but I have no idea if that's what happened."
Ironically, several hours after this incident, Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz were asked by reporters why the army does not take steps to remove the non-residents of Gush Katif even before the actual forced expulsion begins tonight. After Mofaz answered, Halutz added, "Many of the 'illegals' live in the homes of official residents, thus that taking them out would involve going into the houses and checking who actually lives there, thus advancing the process."
It thus appears that in order to avoid this "selection" process, the police force is choosing the opposite way - throwing out those who are permitted to stay together with those who are not.
MIM It isn't a collective Jewish death wish behind the deportations, but a wish to destroy all vestiges of Judaism and replace it with democracy as the new state religion. This excerpt says it all.
Protesters clash with Israeli forces
"...Today, police and soldiers at Neve Dekalim dragged away more than 50 youths, some kicking, punching and cursing, and many wearing orange, the colour of the anti-disengagement protest. A few people in the crowd were left with bloodied faces, Reuters reported.
Today at the southern Gaza Palestinian town of Khan Younis, Israeli soldiers fired warning shots as Palestinian children rushed a wall outside the nearby Jewish settlement of Gush Katif and placed a flag from the Hamas militant group on it.
The incident occurred as some 3,000 Hamas supporters marched through the centre of Khan Younis to celebrate Israel's pullout from Gaza. A Hamas spokesman said the group would not mount any attacks..."
Protesters clash with Israeli forces
Staff and agencies
Tuesday August 16, 2005
An Israeli soldier dismantles the main gate of the Gaza Strip settlement of Neve Dekalim. Photo: Ronen Zvulun, Reuters
The clashes at Neve Dekalim, the largest settlement in the Gaza Strip, were the most violent since the Israeli army yesterday issued 48-hour eviction notices at all 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank.
Today, police and soldiers at Neve Dekalim dragged away more than 50 youths, some kicking, punching and cursing, and many wearing orange, the colour of the anti-disengagement protest. A few people in the crowd were left with bloodied faces, Reuters reported.
One police officer was reportedly wounded when protesters threw an unidentified substance in his eyes, the website of the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported. The officer reportedly shouted: "I can't see."
Hundreds of protesters, many of whom are not residents but Israeli hardliners who have infiltrated the area, have constructed burning blockades and were periodically throwing paint-filled balloons at troops and police.
Israeli officials say one-third to a half of Gaza's 8,500 settlers have already left but there are estimates that up to 5,000 Israeli hardliners have infiltrated Gaza.
The army is taking a firmer line against the protesters ahead of tonight's midnight deadline (2200 BST) when forcible evictions are due to begin. An Israeli commander insisted soldiers "will impose law and order".
The scuffles today at Neve Dekalim followed an early morning operation by Israeli police who cut through a main gate with electric saws to allow access for removal trucks.
Later this morning, the crowds of young protesters swelled to hundreds and renewed attempts were made to stop removal vans from entering.
Amid the clashes, protesters shouted at police and soldiers that "Jews do not remove Jews" and urged them to disobey orders. One woman lay down in front of a bulldozer.
Major General Dan Harel, the Israeli army's commander for the Gaza region, had insisted earlier that access for trucks would not be impeded again. Speaking before today's arrests, he told Israel TV: "If there are no problems, then we won't have anything to do here. If there are disruptions, then we will impose law and order."
Overnight, some 500 non-resident protesters in Gaza were detained and dozens arrested as they tried to infiltrate from Israel.
The Guardian's Chris McGreal, who is in Neve Dekalim, said most of the settlers were resigned to leaving and there was tension between them and the protesters. He said many settlers wanted to leave in an orderly way without agitation and some settler leaders had asked for the protesters to be removed.
Any resident who remains behind after tonight's deadline faces losing up to one-third of government compensation - a sum that could total tens of thousands of pounds. Police said about 120 removal trucks were expected to head into Neve Dekalim later in the day. At mid-morning a large convoy of trucks was seen entering Gaza. In the West Bank, two settlements - Ganim and Kadim - became the first to be vacated, an army spokeswoman said. Most of the residents had already left before the eviction order. Israel Radio said three Gaza settlements were totally empty, and five others were quickly thinning out. But residents in a handful of communities appeared to be digging in for a fight.
The Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has described his withdrawal plans as a "painful sacrifice" but said Israel could not hold onto the Gaza Strip when 1 million Palestinians lived there.
Israeli forces began the operation yesterday by attempting to hand out eviction orders to residents of all settlements slated for evacuation. While there were no violent clashes, many settlers refused to cooperate, jeering troops, tearfully confronting them or destroying the evacuation notices.
In the isolated Gaza settlement of Morag in southern Gaza, residents appeared to be heeding calls to leave. About one-third of the settlement's 220 residents had left by early today and many others were packing up. Many houses were empty with even doors and windows taken by their owners. However, the army said an estimated 300 hardline outsiders remained holed up in the settlement.
In central Gaza, residents of the hardline settlement of Netzarim showed no signs of preparing to leave. They spent the night in a communal celebration, singing and dancing and waving orange flags.
Palestinians have backed the withdrawal, but insist it must be the first step toward a peace agreement giving them an independent state that also includes the entire West Bank and east Jerusalem. They fear Mr Sharon is withdrawing from the Gaza Strip to solidify his hold on the West Bank.
Israeli critics have accused Mr Sharon of appeasing Palestinian militants.
Today at the southern Gaza Palestinian town of Khan Younis, Israeli soldiers fired warning shots as Palestinian children rushed a wall outside the nearby Jewish settlement of Gush Katif and placed a flag from the Hamas militant group on it.
The incident occurred as some 3,000 Hamas supporters marched through the centre of Khan Younis to celebrate Israel's pullout from Gaza. A Hamas spokesman said the group would not mount any attacks.
Yesterday in the southern town of Rafah, about 1,000 Islamic Jihad activists rallied, declaring that the Israeli withdrawal was a "victory for the resistance".
by Elyakim Haetzni
August 16, 2005
Who is a Zionist?
Who said, "If the people of Israel will redeem the Land of Israel, then the Land of Israel will redeem the people of Israel"?
Theodor Herzl? Beryl Katzenelson? Rabbi Kook?
No. It was Rabbi Menachem Porush (father of Knesset Member Meir Porush), among the elders of [the Hareidi] Agudat Yisrael.
So who is a Zionist here? Shimon Peres? Ariel Sharon? Tzippi Livni? Or maybe Porush, the aged "non-Zionist", who, before thousands of Zionist activists at the large rally in Ofakim, cried and pleaded against the division of the Land of Israel?
Blue and Orange
A true story.
A car flying a blue, pro-Disengagement ribbon was waiting at a stoplight at a Tel Aviv intersection. A girl offered the driver an orange, anti-Disengagement ribbon and, of course, encountered refusal.
However, the driver also had a question: "How much are you paid an hour?"
"Paid?" the girl asked with great surprise. "This is for the sake of saving the Land of Israel!"
But the woman in the car insisted, "And of all these youths, spread throughout all the intersections in the city - not one of them takes money?"
"Of course not!"
Without another word, the woman removed her blue ribbon and asked the girl for an orange one.
Police arrested a suspect for blocking roads and carried out a search of his home for 'inciting material'.
"Don't bother," the suspect's wife said to them, "I'll give you what you are looking for." And she handed them... a Bible.
A New Lexicon
"Closure" - In the past, it was placed on the cities of Arab terrorism. In the days of Ariel Sharon, on the Jewish towns of the Gaza region.
"Roadblocks" - In the past, to prevent the movement of Arab terrorists. In the days of Sharon, to prevent the entry of Jews into the area of the expulsion.
"Complaints About Treatment at Checkpoints" - In the past, an Arab woman in labor who was unable to make it to the hospital. In the days of Sharon, a Jew on his way to Gush Katif who was stung by a scorpion, whose friends called an ambulance from Ofakim, and it was held up at a checkpoint.
"VIP Pass" - In the past, allowing Arabs with preferential status to pass through checkpoints. In the days of Sharon, as above, but for Jews with such status.
"Infiltrators" - In the past, Arabs of Judea, Samaria and Gaza who sneaked into Green Line Israel. In the days of Sharon, Jews who sneak into Gush Katif to aid their brethren.
"Illegal Aliens" - In the past, Arabs who sneaked into Israel and remained here illegally. In the days of Sharon, Jews who are hiding in the homes of their brethren in the areas of the expulsion.
"Military Against Civilians" - In the past, Israeli soldiers in areas under military administration. In the days of Sharon, Israeli soldiers in the sovereign territory of Israel, in the Negev.
"Expulsion" - In the past, a method of punishment and deterrence employed against Arab terrorists. Sharon pledged to the Americans not to use it anymore. In the days of Sharon, a policy to "cleanse" territories of the Land of Israel of Jews, in order to fulfill the Arab Nazi demand to receive their state Judenrein. In the first stage, 10,000 Jews will be expelled, as an opening to the next stage, which will allow the establishment of a "Palestinian State" in "temporary borders", according to the Road Map, also cleansed of Jews. The estimate of the number of expellees in the next stage is about 80,000 people.
"House Demolitions" - In the past, a method of punishment employed against murderous Arab terrorists. Sharon pledged to the Americans not to use it anymore. In the days of Sharon, the destruction of thousands of homes, synagogues, schools, study halls and yeshivas, institutions, factories and hothouses of expelled Jews, in order to leave the Palestinians a clean and empty land, available for development.
"Detention Camps" - In the past, for imprisoning Arab terrorists. In the days of Sharon, for imprisoning Jews who violate expulsion laws.
"Unmanned Drones" - In the past, an airplane without a pilot deployed against Arab terrorism. In the days of Sharon, deployed in the Negev and over Gush Katif against Jewish patriots.
"The Limits of Force" - In the past, a slogan of the Left intended to cripple the IDF in the face of the Arab enemy. In the days of Sharon, a demand of the Right for the restraint of Sharon's predatory aggressiveness.
"A Diplomatic Solution" - In the past, offered by the Left as an alternative to military victory over Arab aggression. In the days of Sharon, demands by the Jewish Right to carry out a referendum or elections as an alternative to military retreat and the violent expulsion of Jews by the IDF.
"End the Occupation" - In the past, a Leftist slogan. In the days of Sharon, a slogan as yet not adopted, but that is appropriate to the situation of the Jews in the areas of expulsion.
"Let the IDF Win" - In the past, a demand by the Right to put down Arab terrorism. In the days of Sharon, the demand of the Left to put down the Jewish opposition to expulsion and uprooting.
For anyone who was wondering why the IDF needed so much "psychological preparation", the answer lies here. The psychologists, the spokespeople, the spin-doctors and the brain-washers were conscripted not just to crush and uproot human compassion from the hearts of the expellers, but also - and possibly principally - in order to help the IDF reorient itself to the former Arab enemy and the new Jewish opponent; to adjust to a situation in which Arab "predators" become "colleagues", while people of the IDF's own nation are treated as enemies.
"An Historic Event"
That is what Condoleezza Rice calls the Disengagement. And, along with her, the entire Leftist chorus.
Indeed, historic. For what happened on Tisha B'Av - the destruction of the two Temples, the destruction of Beitar, the Spanish expulsion, as well as the Holocaust - were "historic".
All of Gush Katif is 40 square kilometers (out of 360 sq. km. of the territory of the Gaza Strip; not a "third", as the hostile media lies). Throughout the world, there have been progressions and retreats from hundreds, and even thousands, of square kilometers and history was not impressed, nor was it recorded. As a result of wars, millions of people have been expelled and only rarely have such "ethnic cleansings" been noticed. Why, then, are there crowded into Gaza and its environs more than 10,000 journalists and correspondents from all corners of the world, more than one journalist for every Jewish expellee?
Because, indeed, the entire world hears in the word "Disengagement" the winds of history: total victory for the Arabs in the terror war that we have been locked into, including the attainment of a mid-range goal of "erasing the results of the 1967 war"; as well as the disintegration of two of the pillars of Zionism - settlement and security.
For the first time in history, Jews are expelling Jews.
For the first time in history, Jews are being exiled in their own land.
For the first time in history, Jews are blowing up synagogues (prior to this, synagogues were dynamited on December 9, 1938, in Germany, "Kristalnacht", but not by Jews).
For the first time in history, Jews are causing themselves destruction and loss that, were it done by Gentiles, would be thought of as "anti-Semitism".
For the first time in history, Jews are admitting by their actions that they have no right to the Land of Israel; they are acting as if the land is not holy to them.
This last point requires an explanation. Many Christian institutions give decisive historical importance to the dismantling of Jewish towns in the Land of Israel by Jews themselves. This act is interpreted by them as a confirmation of their doctrine, called Replacement Theology, according to which the people of Israel lost their divine right to the Land of Israel as recorded in the Bible ("to your offspring have I given this land"), and the Christian Church has come to replace them. The Crusaders, in their voyage of pillage and massacre to the Holy Land, saw themselves as "the people of Israel".
Christians who saw the expulsion of Jews from their land as punishment for the crucifixion of their Messiah had a very difficult time digesting the return of Israel to its land as promised in the words of the prophets, renewed Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land, especially in Jerusalem, and the renewal of Jewish settlement, as the prophets said. It is for this reason that the Catholic Church hesitated so much in recognizing Israel, and it is why the Pope rejected Herzl's request for support of the Zionist idea.
Only the Christians called "fundamentalists" or "Evangelicals" reject Replacement Theology, and believe that the immigration and settlement of Jews in the Land of Israel is the fulfillment of the visions of the prophets. It is not surprising, therefore, that, as opposed to most of the Christian institutions in the world, they are passionate supporters of renewed Jewish settlement in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
The destruction of Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria, and at the hands of Jews no less, will be, Heaven forbid, an important and joyful event for all Christian enemies of Israel, an historical affirmation of their doctrine that the prophetic promises to the people of Israel have no more validity.
The State Prosecution in a notice to the High Court of Justice: It is our intention to levy from the residents who refuse to evacuate voluntarily, as the law demands, the expenses of their forceful removal.
In Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the families of those executed had to pay the cost of the bullets used to put their loved ones to death.
Do people arrive at such wicked innovations on their own or do they learn from one another?
The Wooden Handle
United Kibbutz Industries will supply the Palestinian Authority know-how for the establishment of agricultural production lines. The CEO, Amos Rabin, told PA officials that his group sees Palestinian economic development - including development of areas vacated by the Jews - as being of supreme importance.
That's it for the socialist Jews.
The capitalist Jews will help the Palestinians establish casinos on the rubble of the synagogues of the Jews of northern Gaza.
And thus, we are personifying the well-known story of the axe blade that is chopping down a tree; but only thanks to the axe-handle, which is supplied by... the tree.
|w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m|
Last update - 06:18 17/08/2005
Metamorphosis of Ariel Sharon
By Aluf Benn
The Hilton Cavalieri hotel is built on a towering hill, offering its guests breathtaking vistas of Rome. Its huge statue garden, Roman-style indoor swimming pool, and elegant interiors radiate Old World splendor. A perfect backdrop for one of the boldest, most astonishing adventures of contemporary Middle Eastern diplomacy.
On Monday, November 17, 2003, the Hilton Cavalieri hosted Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who had come to visit his Italian counterpart and friend, Silvio Berlusconi. That evening, Sharon retired early to his suite after meeting members of the local Jewish community. Most of the Israeli delegation were off exploring Rome's culinary delights. Nobody noticed a lone man walking up the hill toward the hotel lobby. Inside, the man was met by Asi Shariv, a young Sharon aide, who shepherded him through security and past unsuspecting reporters, to the prime minister's suite. Waiting for him, for dinner, were Sharon and his top policy adviser, Dov Weissglas.
The surreptitious guest was Elliott Abrams, the White House official in charge of the Middle East and Israel's main contact in the Bush administration. By Sharon's account, Abrams had been sent by his superior, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, to fathom Israel's response to a peace feeler from Syrian president Bashar Assad. Sharon was unimpressed; he rejected Assad's proposal to renew peace talks, telling Abrams that it was a Syrian trick to fend off American pressure.
As the meeting moved on to the Palestinian issue, Sharon dropped a bombshell. He was considering, he informed Abrams, a unilateral move to break the deadlock after three years of fighting: evacuating Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.
Considering Sharon's political past, such a move was almost unimaginable. Even the most dovish Israeli governments had refrained from removing settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Sharon, more than any other leader, had been the architect and political patron of the settlement enterprise.
There are differing reports on what happened next. According to one version, Abrams was "shocked" and returned the next day to learn more. According to another account, Weissglas had already alerted the Americans to the possibility of unilateral Israeli action, but it was only in Rome that Sharon gave such a move his own stamp of approval.
Back home, three days later, Sharon spoke vaguely in public about "unilateral steps." It took a while before the media and the public detected his dramatic policy change. When it dawned on them, the revelation was shocking: In 2002, Sharon had equated the strategic significance of Netzarim, the most isolated settlement in Gaza, with that of Tel Aviv, pledging to maintain the territorial status quo until the Palestinians effectively surrendered.
In January 2003, Sharon had vanquished his election rival, Labor leader Amram Mitzna, who had proposed leaving Gaza unilaterally if another attempt at peace talks failed. During the campaign, Sharon had derided such an idea. By the end of that year, however, Sharon appeared keen on leaving Gaza. Laying out his agenda in a major policy speech at the Herzliya Conference, on December 18, he unveiled the term "disengagement" - a term coined by Eyal Arad, a PR adviser, who sought to avoid the more sensitive term "separation," with its apartheid-like connotation. Sharon revealed his plan for settlement relocation, aimed "to reduce as much as possible the number of Israelis located in the heart of the Palestinian population."
By February 2004, following discussions with the Americans, he had disclosed the full scope of the plan: leaving all of the 21 Gaza settlements - withdrawing to the pre-1967 lines in the process - and four more in the northern West Bank.
Oslo becomes history
What happened? How did the former builder of settlements turn himself into their destroyer?
Sharon's ascent to power was the Israeli popular reaction to the second Palestinian intifada, which erupted in late September 2000 following the collapse of peace talks at Camp David. Its spark was a controversial visit by Sharon, then opposition leader, to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem - the most hotly contested piece of real estate on the planet. With the battle lines drawn and violence spreading rapidly, the Oslo process that had guided Israeli-Palestinian relations since 1993, became history.
At the time, Sharon was a highly unlikely candidate for national leadership, considered a political has-been. But with Benjamin Netanyahu choosing not to compete for Likud leadership, he prevailed in the party and went on to defeat the incumbent premier, Labor's Ehud Barak, by a landslide in February 2001. His slogan - "only Sharon will bring peace" - surprised many Israelis, for whom Sharon's name was synonymous with war, occupation and battling the Arabs.
During his first year in office, the former "bulldozer" shifted to low gear. His main concerns were preserving domestic consensus and close coordination with the United States. Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli retaliation intensified throughout 2001, but Sharon refused to talk to his life-long nemesis, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The September 11th attacks put Sharon among the "good guys," while Arafat remained on the wrong side of Bush's "war on terror."
During this period, debating the "Sharon riddle" became a favorite pastime for Israelis and interested foreigners. Where was Sharon headed? Some believed he would eventually become Israel's De Gaulle, turning his back on the settlements and using his unrivaled military credentials to do so. His actions, though, convinced the skeptics that Sharon had not changed, that his only aim was to wear down the Palestinians and not give an inch. Sharon had pledged to make "painful concessions," but was ambiguous about their nature or timing.
The tide turned in 2002. In January, Arafat was caught red-handed running an illicit arms shipment from Iran, which was intercepted by the Israel Navy. This led Bush to boycott the Palestinian leader, who was effectively put under house arrest in Ramallah when Israel barred him from leaving the West Bank city. In February, as terror attacks intensified, Sharon gave an "address to the nation" in which he called for the creation of "buffer zones with fences" to achieve "security separation" from the Palestinians.
The remarks, however, were drowned out by Palestinian suicide bombers who blew up more buses and cafes. March was the worst month of the war, with 135 Israelis killed. The deadliest attack, on the eve of Passover - 29 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Park Hotel in Netanya - prompted Sharon to launch Operation Defensive Shield, during which Israel recaptured the main Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
Israel succeeded in moving the war to its enemy's territory, but this victory rapidly slipped away.
Birth of the fence
Faced with growing public despair, economic collapse and pressure from his security chiefs, Sharon agreed in the summer of 2002 to build a physical barrier between Israel and the West Bank. Until then, he had opposed the idea, apparently sensing that no matter what it was called, it would effectively recreate the so-called pre-1967 Green Line border, leaving many settlements on the "other" side.
Initially, Sharon designed the route to include as many settlers as possible on the Israeli, western side of the fence. Most settlements, however, remained outside its perimeter. Under international pressure, the route moved closer to the Green Line, eventually annexing 8-10 percent of West Bank territory - similar in scope to Barak's rejected Camp David proposal of 2000. The fence won overwhelming support from Israelis, who believed it would be effective in stopping suicide bombers.
In retrospect, the separation fence has been the precursor of disengagement. Sharon has tried in vain to describe it as "only another counterterrorism measure." Never-theless, it looks like a border and behaves like one, with barbed wire, electronic devices, concrete walls, watchtowers and checkpoints. Its creation set a crucial precedent in the unilateral division of the land, which came to fit Sharon perfectly. His mistrust of "the Arabs" is deeply embedded in his psyche, rendering him all but incapable of conducting negotiations with them.
The Bush administration had tried at first to avoid Mideast peace-making, wary that it was a quagmire. But, prodded by his Arab and EU allies, who blamed him for neglecting the bloody conflict, President George W. Bush laid out his vision in a major speech on June 24, 2002. He called for the creation of a Palestinian state, living alongside Israel "in peace and security," but demanded a Palestinian leadership change first. On the eve of the Iraq war, Bush presented the Road Map for a two-state solution. Sharon accepted it grudgingly, and quickly focused on the demand for a Palestinian crackdown on terror in the first stage. The quick defeat of Saddam Hussein prompted Bush to "move from Baghdad to Jerusalem" with Clinton-style diplomacy. He forced Arafat to appoint the moderate Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as prime minister.
On June 4, 2003, Bush traveled to Aqaba, Jordan, to chair a peace summit with Sharon and Abbas, where both leaders delivered American-drafted speeches. A fragile cease-fire ensued, accompanied by high-profile visits by Abbas to Sharon's office and the White House. But the Aqaba process collapsed in mid-August, following a Jerusalem bus bombing that killed 23 people.
Trapped between pressure from the terror groups, Arafat's incessant attempts to undermine him and Sharon's timidity in making concessions, Abbas resigned in early September. His successor, Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) was an Arafat confidant, distrusted by Sharon. Diplomacy was left dangling in a void. The Bush administration cut its losses, recalled its small monitoring team from Jerusalem and left the dueling parties to their own devices. They lost no time in resuming full-scale violence.
Meanwhile, against this gloomy backdrop, Weissglas began talking to Sharon about a unilateral move to break the deadlock - on Israel's terms. The plan: removing several settlements in the Gaza Strip. Weissglas argued that with Abbas gone, Israel and the Palestinians would return to the pre-Aqaba stage, with no change in sight. There is no point in waiting in vain for the Palestinians, he told Sharon. In August, the prime minister tested the idea on Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon, who had opposed it before on the grounds that it was "rewarding terror."
It was not a new concept: General Eival Giladi, the head of IDF strategic planning, had been floating it already since October 2001 in internal memos and discussions. Giladi proposed "giving territory for time," removing all Gaza settlements plus seven in the West Bank, thus gaining international support and shortening Israel's defensive lines. Sharon disliked the idea, denying the story when it was published in August 2002.
Just over a year later, Sharon was still hesitating, telling interviewers in late September that any unilateral move, without an agreement, will bring Israel to retreat under terror, and that the terror would continue.
But as the autumn approached, Sharon's domestic standing eroded and his popularity sank. The resumption of the intifada frustrated the public, and for the first time in three years, the consensus over the war began to crack. The Israeli left, devastated by the collapse of the peace process, rose from the ashes. Yossi Beilin, the architect of Oslo, launched the Geneva Initiative, a model for a final-status agreement, signed it with Yasser Abed Rabbo, a PA cabinet minister and Arafat confidant. The initiative proposed an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and almost all the West Bank; from the Palestinian standpoint, it was an "improved Camp David" deal.
Sharon sensed trouble and lost his nerve, for good reason: The Geneva proposal won 30 percent support in the polls, and was applauded worldwide. Later, Sharon would argue that he feared an imposed solution along its lines.
While this may be exaggerated, Geneva exposed the fruitless nature of Sharon's policies, and the domestic and international craving for a way out of the morass. Beilin's initiative was also buffeted by several other developments. A group of reservist pilots signed a petition against flying combat missions in the occupied territories. Most were no longer in active duty, but unlike previous "refuseniks," they came from the heart of the Israeli establishment. Their leader had taken part in the 1981 bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor. A group of former elite fighters followed suit. The protest widened. The chief of staff, Ya'alon, criticized the political leadership for not doing enough to keep Abbas in power. In mid-November 2003, just before the Rome meeting, four former chiefs of Israel's Shin Bet security service gave an unprecedented joint interview - the four were hardly talking to each other in other circumstances -, warning that the country was on the "verge of catastrophe."
This all amounted to one simple conclusion: Sharon had no strategy for ending the war, and Israel was drowning in endless, pointless bloodshed. The protest was further compounded by Sharon's legal problems: The law enforcement agencies were investigating several corruption cases involving the prime minister and his sons, Gilad and Omri, which gained momentum toward the end of the summer of 2003.
Sharon's critics - most of whom also oppose the disengagement - have argued that he desperately needed to divert attention from the investigation, and a spectacular move like leaving Gaza, which had long enjoyed wide public support, was his way out. Sharon's aides deny this accusation, arguing that the bribery case involving the prime minister was weak and had no influence on his policies. Indeed, the case was dropped several months later. However, the change of heart had clearly influenced public opinion regarding the investigations: leading columnists who had called on Sharon to resign due to the suspicions surrounding him, now called on the attorney general to spare him, lest it disturb the historic exit from the occupied territories.
Freedom of movement
It is hard to weigh the factors influencing public opinion, but the combination of Sharon's troubles and loss of direction badly damaged his leadership image. For three years, he had been Israel's most popular prime minister, maintaining a steady approval rating of 55-60 percent in the polls. Now he was losing his points: On November 7, 2003, Sharon's approval rating, in a Maariv newspaper poll, plummeted to 34 percent. Only after he announced his plan for a Gaza withdrawal, did he regain his popularity in the polls.
Sharon has kept his decision-making process over the withdrawal clouded in secrecy and his public explanations changed over time. At first, he emphasized the security advantages of "settlement relocation." Then he argued that keeping the status quo vis-a-vis the Palestinians was bad for Israel. Later he adopted the demographic argument, which had long been a mainstay of the Israeli left. Given the higher birth rate of Arabs, the argument went, Israel would soon have to choose between holding on to the territories with their 3.5 million Palestinians and preserving its Jewish majority. The right, including Sharon, had formerly denied the existence of this problem. "Time is on our side," he had argued. But as the right turned away from him, Sharon appeared to have adopted the left's cause. He told a Jewish audience in Paris in late July: "Disengagement will secure the Jewish majority."
Once disengagement was on the table, Israel enjoyed wider freedom of military action, culminating in the assassinations of Hamas leaders in 2004. From Sharon's perspective, the biggest prize of disengagement has been George Bush's letter of April 14, 2004, in which the president acknowledged: "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." Sharon portrayed this as a pledge to keep the large West Bank settlement blocs "part of Israel forever." His critics argue that this is an empty diplomatic gesture.
Before launching the disengagement, Sharon enjoyed the warm, comfortable environment of a stable, center-right coalition. Following his change of heart, many in his Likud party rebelled against the prime minister, handing him a humiliating defeat in a party members' referendum on his withdrawal plan. His right-wing partners left the government in protest. But he prevailed, slicing the political process into stages, changing coalition partners, until he won the approval of the cabinet and Knesset for his plan. As Sharon won approval for it at home, international support for him grew. The one-time "regional bully" was now hailed for his "courageous leadership." When Arafat died, in November 2004, Mahmoud Abbas returned to the fore, raising hopes for a new peace process. But first, the world expected Sharon to deliver Gaza and the northern West Bank.
Once disengagement is implemented, the "Sharon riddle" will return: How far is he prepared to go? Is a similar move in the West Bank imminent, as many believe, or will "Gaza first" also be "Gaza last," as the Palestinians fear? Sharon has pledged recently that there will be "no second disengagement" and any progress toward Palestinian statehood is dependent on a serious crackdown on terror. Moreover, he has promised to keep large parts of the West Bank in Israeli hands, even beyond the separation fence. Few take him seriously; after all, Sharon pledged not to withdraw before the last election. With the resignation of Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, over his opposition to a unilateral Gaza withdrawal, he is now also facing a tougher contest for leadership of the Likud. He may be forced to leave the party he initiated back in 1973 and find a new political home.
There are three main possible scenarios in the wake of disengagement:
1. Given the precedent of full withdrawal to the Green Line in Gaza, Israel - under any leader - would face unbearable external pressure to follow suit in the West Bank, and would have to cede over 90 percent of the territory to a Palestinian state, plus make some land swaps inside Israel proper. A third Palestinian intifada could speed up the process. A withdrawal of this scope would force Israel to evacuate dozens of West Bank settlements, with the ensuing political difficulties and popular trauma. The West Bank is the heart of the settler movement, and it has deeper historical importance than Gaza. Sharon's loyal deputy, vice premier Ehud Olmert, who promoted unilateral withdrawal before his master did, is now advocating this line, proposing to leave 90 percent of West Bank territory for demographic reasons.
2. Sharon will try to put the peace process in "long-term parking," counting on the Palestinians to avoid dealing with the terrorist groups, thus sparing Israel the pains of further settlement removal. Sharon's recent statements are in line with this assessment, as was a controversial interview given by Weissglas last October, in which he argued that disengagement has put the peace process "in formaldehyde." But it may be too costly for Israel, both militarily and diplomatically, to continue holding on to large chunks of the West Bank for an extended period of time.
3. Further disintegration of the Palestinian Authority under Abbas' weak leadership would turn Gaza into a "Hamastan," ruled by Islamic extremists, and separate it from the West Bank, until eventually Egypt will regain control of Gaza - and Jordan will return to the West Bank. Several Israeli officials advocate this scenario, stressing that an independent Palestinian state is not viable if it does not get more territory from its Arab neighbors. This is the nightmare scenario for the Hashemite rulers of Jordan, who fear the West Bank security barrier will push the Palestinians eastward at their expense.
The Bush administration wants to keep Abbas in power and implement the president's vision of creating a Palestinian state by early 2009. Sharon and Abbas have yet to show they are able to negotiate. For now, they present irreconcilable opening positions, with Abbas opting for a quick final-status deal, and Sharon insisting on a long, gradual process. But both sides will hold elections in 2006, and no serious diplomacy can be expected before then.
The future of the process will be determined by the political realignment inside Israel and in the PA, the fate of the cease-fire, the lessons both sides draw from Sharon's withdrawal - and last, but not least, by the determination of the United States to shape conflict resolution in the Holy Land.n
This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/978