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READING BETWEEN THE LINES
Israel gains from Gaza withdrawal

By Lance Selfa | August 19, 2005 | Page 7

FOR A brief few days this month, it was suddenly acceptable for the U.S. media to talk about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Even the New York Times, Israel's most reliable supporter in the mainstream media, ran stories discussing the repression and squalor that Palestinians endure.

The occasion for this brief bout of truth was the "historic" (a word used in seemingly every report) withdrawal of Israeli settlers from Gaza.

Because Israel appeared to be acknowledging what its critics have said for years--that the Israeli settlements in occupied Gaza were illegal and should be removed--it was suddenly all right for the media to report this without being tagged as "anti-Israel," or, worse, "supporters of terrorism." Israel never admitted its settlements were illegal, but it was willing to bask in praise from world leaders.

One has to lay aside the rhetoric and look at what Israel is actually doing to see that it is gaining far more than it is losing. The "disengagement plan" proposed by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and passed by the Israeli Knesset allows Israel to keep control of the land, sea and air in and around Gaza.

In allowing "pre-emptive and reactive steps to use force against threats posed from within the Gaza Strip," it preserves the right of Israel to intervene whenever it wants. So Israel's policies of military strikes and assassinations of Palestinian leaders will continue after the settlers leave. In other words, the occupation of Gaza won't end. It has simply been redesigned.

In many ways, the Gaza pullout is a major misdirection play. While the world's media focus on tearful scenes of Israeli soldiers embracing settlers--emphasizing how "difficult" all this has been for the 9,000 Israelis whose swimming pools stole water from the orchards and homes of 1.4 million Palestinians--they are ignoring far more significant developments in the West Bank.

There, Israel will complete the building of the apartheid wall that will permanently cut off 55,000 Palestinians from their jobs, schools and hospitals within their own city of Jerusalem. Written into the Gaza disengagement law is a provision that states: "Israel will annex the central Jewish settlement blocs, towns, security areas and other lands which Israel has an interest in keeping."

Israel will continue with plans to build more than 3,500 new housing units for Jewish settlers--and continue carrying out the more than 10,000 outstanding orders for the demolition of Palestinian houses. When all this is completed, occupied East Jerusalem will be completely surrounded by Jewish settlements.

While this is taking place in the West Bank and Jerusalem, substantial amounts of the $2.2 billion in U.S. aid being used to finance the disengagement plan will be spent relocating Israeli settlers from Gaza to the Negev and Galilee--two areas within the border of Israeli with high concentrations of Palestinian citizens. With this plan, Israel is utilizing inside the Green Line the same tactics of encircling Palestinian towns with Jewish settlements that it used in the West Bank and Gaza.

The ultimate intention of this annexation and settlement policy is to slice up the West Bank into a series of non-contiguous reservations for Palestinians that will prevent the emergence of even the symbolic statelet envisioned under the 1993 Oslo Accords.

The imposition of new Israeli settlements and military outposts dotted throughout the West Bank will further fragment and divide the Palestinian population. And Israel has no intention of allowing Palestinians in the newly "free" Gaza to be able to travel to the West Bank or vice versa.

So while world leaders line up to praise Sharon for his "courage" in facing down extremists who believe that God granted them the right to live in Gaza, Sharon's government is dealing the "peace process" its coup de grace. As Sharon adviser Dov Weisglass put it, the disengagement plan allows Israel "to park conveniently in an interim situation that distances us as far as possible from political pressure."

Sharon will turn from forcing a few thousand settlers from Gaza to removing an entire people from their homeland.

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