How we left Gaza

Gast artikel van Tanya Reinhart

How we left Gaza

Tanya Reinhart
Yediot Aharonot, August 18, 2005. Translated from Hebrew by Edeet Ravel

We will never know with certainty what took place in the mind of Ariel Sharon in February 2004, when he first declared, without consulting anyone, that he is ready to evacuate the Jewish settlements in Gaza. But if we try to put together the pieces of the disengagement puzzle, the scenario that makes most sense is that Sharon believed that this time, as before, he would find a way of evading the plan. This would explain, for example, why the Gaza settlers have not yet received compensation money and why, as the Saturday Supplement of Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot revealed on August 5, almost no steps have been taken to prepare for their absorption into Israel. (1)

Sharon had good reason to believe that he would succeed in his avoidance tactics. In the previous round, when confronted with the Bush administration’s road map, he committed himself to a cease fire, during which Israel was to revert to the status quo of pre-September 2000, freeze settlement construction and remove outposts. None of this was carried out. Sharon and the army claimed that Mahmud Abbas (in the previous round) was not trustworthy and had failed to rein in Hamas. The army continued its assassination policy and succeeded in bringing the Occupied Territories to an unprecedented boiling point, followed by the inevitable Palestinian terror attacks that shattered the cease fire. During the entire time, the first-term Bush administration stood by Sharon’s side and dutifully echoed all his complaints against Abbas.

During the current period of calm, the Israeli army also continued with incursions into towns, arrests and targeted assassinations. It seemed as if the next terrorist attack, in the wake of which the calm would explode, was imminent, and the Israeli press was full of details outlining the “Fist of Iron” operation, which was expected this summer in Gaza. But the Bush administration suddenly changed direction. While Israel continued to declare that Abbas was not fulfilling his task, the Bush administration insisted repeatedly that Abbas must be given a chance. What had changed?

Until this turn-around, there was general agreement in Israel that there had never been a U.S. president who was friendlier towards Israel than George W. Bush. Presumably no one thought that a love of Jews on the part of the evangelical Bush was behind this support. But there was a feeling in Israel that with its superior air force, Israel was a huge asset in the global war that Bush had declared in the Middle East. With the euphoria of the power that was felt at the time, it seemed as if Afghanistan and Iraq were already “in our hands” and now we would proceed together towards Iran and maybe even Syria.

But in early 2005, the wheels began to turn the other way. The United States was sinking in the mire of Iraq incurring defeats and casualties. Iran, which after the war with Iraq was ready for any terms of surrender, drew encouragement from Iraq’s resistance and from its ties with the Shiite militia. The oil agreements with China gave a boost to its economy and its status. Suddenly the possibility of an attack on Iran didn’t seem as certain. It turned out that even the most advanced weapons may not suffice to bring to their knees entire regions which the U.S. was eyeing. In the meantime, support for Bush had sunk to under forty percent and after each world terrorist attack, one heard the paired words, Iraq and Palestine. Bush will not give up on Iraq so fast. But the headache of Palestine, he really doesn’t need.

Since the beginning of this year, the U.S. steamroller has been moving steadily. First the all-powerful Israeli lobby in the U.S. was quietly neutralized. Two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have been indicted on charges of assisting the transferring of classified information to an Israeli representative. If convicted, this could spell the end of AIPAC and the entire lobby. In the meantime, they will have to sit quietly, regardless of Bush’s actions towards Israel.

The next move was to freeze military support in Israel under cover of the China arms sales crisis. It would have been possible to handle this pesky problem with one small blow, as in the past, but the U.S. imposed real sanctions this time. Contracts for the purchase of military arms were frozen, and the U.S. suspended cooperation on development projects. In Washington, the doors were closed on Israeli military officers.

Under these circumstances, the declared date of the disengagement approached. In light of the open preparations in Israel for a military operation, suspicions grew in the U.S. administration that Sharon would not carry out the plan. According to the New York Times of August 7, the Bush administration exerted pressure to prevent this from happening, and to prohibit the military operation. On July 21, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice arrived in Jerusalem for an unfriendly, hard-line visit. The New York Times reported remarks made by Middle East Security Coordinator General William Ward: “General Ward, a careful man, confirmed that two weeks ago, American pressure helped stay the Israeli military when it was poised to go into Gaza… He predicted that there could be similar pressure should the need arise. ‘That scenario is a scenario that none of us would like to see,’ he said. ‘There is a deep realization on the part of the Israeli leadership, including the military, about the consequences of that type of scenario.’ ” (2)

Over the years we have become accustomed to the idea that “US. pressure” means declarations that have no muscle behind them. But suddenly the words have acquired new meaning. When the U.S. really does exert pressure, no Israeli leader would dare defy its injunctions (and certainly not Netanyahu). And so we have pulled out of Gaza. If the U.S. continues to lose ground in Iraq, maybe we will be forced to pull out of the West Bank as well.

(1) According to the article, from the very beginning, back in 2004, “the Prime Minister rebuffed the recommendation of [Major General Giora] Eiland, [National Security Advisor and Head of the IDF’s disengagement Planning Branch] and decided that the government will not build temporary housing.”
(2) Steven Erlanger, The New York Times, August 7, 2005

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4 gedachten over “How we left Gaza

  1. Dit is bijzonder interessant alhoewel misschien wat optimistisch – vooral wat betreft de suggestie dat de pro-Israel lobby in de VS kan worden uitgeschakeld door die spionagezaken.

    Maar de idee dat de Amerikaanse buitenlandse politiek van koers is veranderd, en dat er vooral in Rice’s ‘State Department’een nieuw realisme heerst, werd ook verkondigd in een bijdrage aan de New York Times van gisteren door de hoofdredacteur van ‘Foreign Affairs’. Naar zijn mening wordt de Amerikaanse buitenlandse politiek gekenmerkt door een afwisseling van bevlogenheid (hij noemt het ‘idealisme’) en realisme. Na een periode van bevlogenheid moet een meer realistische administratie vaak de brokken opvegen die zijn veroorzaakt door bevlogen voorgangers.

    Naar zijn mening is Washington over het laatste half jaar een meer realistische koers ingeslagen en de reden waarom dat nog niet erg is opgevallen is dat Bush het type ‘bevlogen’ President is wiens rhetoriek niet is veranderd hoewel op nivoos beneden hem stilzwijgend de bakens worden verzet.

    Arie Brand

  2. Merkwaardig genoeg was mij toch wel opgevallen dat Codoleeza Rice bij haar bezoek aan Israel een paar maanden geleden een andere toon gebruikte dan Powel deed in het verleden. Ik denk dat zij minder snel geïmponeerd is door Sharon en zich niet laat afbrengen van het standpunt dat zij (toch in overleg met Bush) heeft ingenomen. Het voordeel van een (sterke) vrouw in het beleid ?

    Dat echter Sharon in 2004 er van uitging dat zijn hele disengagementplan uiteindelijk niet zou doorgaan lijkt mij uiterst onwaarschijnlijk gezien de vele tactische manoeuvres die hij moest uithalen om een meerderheid achter zijn besluit te krijgen?

    Ik denk dat hij wel degelijk heeft ingezien dat de kosten van de settlements in Gaza een zo onevenredig groot deel van het regeringsbudget opslorpen dat zelfs Netanyahu dit niet meer aan de Amerikanen kon blijven verkopen.

    Want is het niet de Amerikaanse belastingbetaler die uiteindelijk opdraait voor het grootste deel van die kosten ?

  3. Ik denk dat Israel een grote vergissing maakt, zich te richten tot Amerika in plaats van tot zijn buren en zijn burgers. Ja, Amerika is een sterke bondgenoot, maar ik denk dat t beter is dat iemand een goede buur heeft dan een verre vriend. Uiteindelijk zal het geweld alleen ophouden als Israel in reine komt met de palestijnse vluchtelingen in Gaza en de westoever, en met zijn arabische buren. Er is een hoop onrecht dat weer recht gemaakt moet worden. Persoonlijk denk ik dat Israel dit niet alleen kan opknappen, er is echt hulp nodig, wereldwijd, vanuit Europa (die nu doet alsof ze niks met het conflict te maken heeft) maar vooral de Joodse (spirituele) leiders moeten echt hun achterban duidelijk maken dat t zo echt niet verder kan met de bezetting. En tenslotte de arabische landen, moeten ook hun verantwoordelijkheid nemen, vergeet niet dat er meer arabisch joodse vluchtelingen zijn gevlucht uit arabische landen dan dat er aan palestijnse vluchtelingen is ontstaan met de stichting van Israel.

  4. Hopen dat er geen kalamiteiten gebeuren die de neo-cons in de VS weer voluit de wind in de zeilen geven. Op m’n weblog heb ik een stukje gezet waarin ik er op wijs dat er in de VS voorbereidingen voor een luchtoffensief tegen Iran worden getroffen “voor in het geval van een herhaling van 9/11”.

    De bron die ik erin aanhaal is redelijk onverdacht: “The American Conservative”. Nou niet bepaald de ‘agit-prop squad’ van een linkse club.

    Zoiets zou ook consequenties kunnen hebben rond Israel & de Palestijnen.

    Mazzel & broge, Evert

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