It is happening more quickly even than the doomsayers had predicted. The soldiers had barely departed from the Strip of Death, with the world still cheering the disengagers, and already the Israel Defense Forces carried out an assassination in Tul Karm and terrorists struck at Be'er Sheva. As if nothing had happened a week earlier. The only difference is that the right is accusing Ariel Sharon of giving "them" Gush Katif instead of Shimon Peres for giving "them" guns - and the left is accusing the Palestinians of once again not missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity, what else?
Everyone has forgotten that the disengagement plan was, and still is, a unilateral move aimed at shortening Israel's lines of defense on its southern border and subtracting 1.3 million Arabs from the demographic balance.
Sharon himself once again is reiterating that he has no intention in the foreseeable future of opening the much more complex and important debate on Israel's eastern border, about the fate of 97 percent of the country's settlers and Jerusalem.
The pessimistic predictions about the way the Palestinians would behave during the pullout were proved wrong. The only victims who lost their lives as a result of the disengagement plan were the four residents of Shfaram who were murdered by Jewish terrorist Eden Natan Zada, and the four Palestinian laborers who lost their lives at the hands of Jewish settler Asher Weissgan. The restraint shown by the residents of Gaza during the week when the Israel Defense Forces had to invest all its determination and sensitivity in the struggle against Jewish lawbreakers took the Israeli government and defense establishment by surprise. They refuse to see the close connection between the scope of the Israeli occupation and the level of Palestinian violence.
The lessening of the burden of occupation in the Gaza Strip (Israel still maintains control from the outside) improves the chances of lowering the level of violence emanating from this area to the same extent as continuing the occupation of the West Bank perpetuates the violence that will come from the eastern sector. The prime minister's declarations that he has no intention of evacuating additional settlements in the West Bank give validity to Hamas' claims that the security apparatus of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is serving Israeli interests. If, from Sharon's point of view, Gaza first is Gaza last, for the residents of the West Bank, the end of the occupation in the Strip is a model to be copied.
The intention of annexing Area E1 to Jerusalem immediately dashes the hope that the West Bank's turn will come after the Strip. This time we are not referring to another few illegal caravans but rather to a plan to expropriate 1,600 dunams (400 acres) for the sake of setting up a fence that will envelope Ma'aleh Adumim and a new neighborhood where 15,000 people will live (almost the same number as in Ariel).
The moderates among the Palestinians recognize this as a plot to cut off Jerusalem from the West Bank and to thwart the possibility of setting up a contiguous and viable Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.
When it comes to a struggle between Muslims and Jews over the fate of Al-Quds (the Holy City) and the control of Haram al-Sharif (the Temple Mount), there will be no force that can get Abbas' policemen to leave their houses in order to attack the heroes of Al-Aqsa.
It is possible to achieve security, to say nothing of peace, either by a unilateral withdrawal from all of the West Bank, like the pullout from the Gaza Strip, or by reaching agreement on borders with our neighbor as we did in Sinai. Sharon does not have the faintest intention of withdrawing unilaterally to the Green Line and steadfastly refuses to begin negotiations with Abbas on a permanent arrangement in the West Bank. To say nothing of Jerusalem.
The disengagement from Gaza was a necessary but insufficient remedy for the prevention of a binational reality, if not a binationalist-religious one. A state where 40 percent of the residents under its control are not Jewish cannot be called a Jewish state.
The disengagement plan justifiably gave Sharon parliamentary immunity against initiatives of the extreme right to foil the pullout of the civilians and the soldiers who risked their lives needlessly. The time for indulging him is now over. Sharon's good deeds will be counted in his favor, while his bad deeds will be chalked up against him.
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