August 22, 2005
The Guardian

For Sharon, Gaza Was Just the Latest Act of a Long War

The US backing of the pullout has loaded the dice in Israel's favour

by David Clark

Israel's successful withdrawal from Gaza represents the fulfilment of a longstanding international obligation and meets a key demand of those who wish to see a viable Palestinian state. But it would be a mistake to see it as the first step towards a settlement based on the principle of "land for peace" agreed in the Oslo accords 21 years ago. The idea of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side "in peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity" was just about the furthest thing from Ariel Sharon's mind when he announced his disengagement plan last year. In the psychology of this professional soldier, politics can only ever be the continuation of war by other means.

In this respect his unilateral approach is less of a departure than many seem to suppose. . . . Sharon's predecessor, Ehud Barak, believed he could bounce the Palestinians into accepting a rump entity that failed to meet the basic requirements of viability or statehood.

Although nominally sovereign, the Palestinian state he had in mind was intended to be economically, politically and militarily subordinate to Israel. Large chunks of its most fertile territory were to be annexed to Israel; it was to have no control over its own external borders and limited control only over airspace and water supplies; and its territorial integrity would have been compromised by Israeli settlements, roads and military facilities. The idea that these proposals constituted a "generous offer" makes sense only if we see them as terms of surrender rather than a negotiated peace.

. . . The big difference now is that Israel's territorial acquisitiveness - its desire to hold on to what it is not entitled to in either morality or law - has now been officially sanctioned by the United States. In defiance of UN resolutions, and even his own road map, George Bush has pre-empted a final status agreement by accepting that Israel can hold on to its West Bank settlements and refuse the right of return to Palestinian refugees. . . .

It must be understood that there can be no possibility of real peace without justice.

. . . and if a just and workable settlement is to become possible, it will be necessary for others to combine and act self- consciously as a strategic counterbalance to American influence in the region. The most obvious vehicle for this would be the European Union's common foreign policy, but there are many other countries that could form part of a powerful international coalition. . . .


[David Clark is a former Labour government adviser]

Enver Masud, "Abu Mazen: Israel's New 'Security Subcontractor'?," The Wisdom Fund, January 16, 2005

Jennifer Lowenstein, "Watching the Gazan Fiasco," CounterPunch, August 17, 2005

[This was the day on which the settlement enterprise in this country went into reverse for the first time.--Uri Avnery, "This Was The Day," Gush Shalom, August 20, 2005]

Megan K. Stack, "Arab World Sees Gaza as a Frustratingly Small Step," Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2005

[The startling assertion that Mr Sharon repudiates not only the Oslo accords but the concept of "land for peace" that underpinned them will fuel Palestinian fears that he is seeking to redraw the internationally agreed road map to peace,--Donald Macintyre, "Fears for peace plan as Sharon rejects territorial concessions," Independent, November 23, 2005]

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