It is a common mistake to think that the US Neocons are somehow concered with the welfare of Israel or the of Israelis. In reality, of course, the Neocons are interested in their own power and they simply realize that by mantrically repeating “Israel! existential threat! anti-Semitism! self-hating Jews! Holocaust!” they can get away with murder, literally.
Sadly, there is a Neocon clique in Israel who pretty much uses the same trick.
Thus one cannot be blamed for feeling that “the Israelis” are “behind” the Neocon Imperial nightmare which is unfolding before our eyes.
There is, however, another Israel out there, just as there is a different USA. Today, I wanted to reprint two articles written by two representatives of this “other Israel”: Uri Avnery and Gideon Levy.
Although both Avnery and Levy have made it to the Kahanist website Masada2000 list of “7000+ self-hating Jews list” colorfully, if not tastefully, subtitled “DIRT-list” as in “Defense anti-Israeli Repugnant Traitors” list (and whose URL is even more direct: http://www.masada2000.org/shit-list.html), Avnery and Levy are clearly patriots and love their coutry. One, Avnery, even was a Knesset member and had a rather amazing life dedicated to his country, while the other, Levy, used to be the spokesman for Shimon Peres, the current President of Israel.
Saving President Abbas
by Uri Avnery
EHUD OLMERT is the opposite of Midas, King of Phrygia. Everything the king touched turned into gold, according to Greek legend. Everything Olmert touches turns into lead. And that is no legend.
Now he is touching Mahmoud Abbas. He lauds him to high heaven. He promises to “strengthen” him. He is about to meet him.
If I might offer some advice to Abbas, I would call out to him: Run! Run for your precious life! One touch of Olmert’s hand will seal your fate!
CAN ABBAS be saved? I don’t know. Some of my Palestinian friends are in despair.
They grew up in Fatah, and Fatah is their home. They are secularists. They are nationalists. They definitely do not want a fanatical Islamic regime in their homeland.
But in the present conflict, their heart is with Hamas. Their mind is split. And that is not surprising.
They hear the words of President Bush, of Olmert and of the whole babbling choir of Israeli politicians and pundits. And they draw the inescapable conclusion: the Americans and the Israelis are working hard to turn Abbas into an agent of the occupation and the Fatah movement into a militia of the occupier.
Every word now emanating from Washington and Jerusalem confirms this suspicion. Every word widens the gap between the Palestinian street and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The new “Emergency Government” in Ramallah is headed by a person who received 2% of the votes at the last elections, when the list of Abbas himself was soundly beaten by Hamas, not only in Gaza but in the West Bank, too.
No “easing the restrictions” and no “economic steps” will help. Not the return of the Palestinian tax money that was embezzled by the Israeli government. Not the flow of European and American aid. As early as 80 years ago, Vladimir Jabotinsky, the most extreme Zionist, made fun of the Zionist leaders who tried to buy off the Palestinian people by offering economic inducements. A people cannot be bought.
IF ABBAS can be saved at all, it is in one way only: by the immediate start of rapid and practical negotiations for achieving a peace settlement, with the declared aim of setting up a Palestinian state in all the occupied territories, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Nothing less.
But that is exactly what the government of Israel is not prepared to do. Not Olmert. Not Tzipi Livni. Not Ehud Barak.
If they had been ready to do this, they or their predecessors would have done so long ago. Barak could have arranged it with Yasser Arafat at Camp David. Ariel Sharon could have agreed it with Abbas, after Abbas was elected president with a huge majority. Olmert could have settled it with Abbas after Sharon left the scene. He could have done it with the unity Government that was set up under Saudi auspices.
They didn’t. Not because they were fools and not because they were weak. They did not do it simply because their aim was the exact opposite: annexation of a large part of the West Bank and the enlargement of the settlements. That’s why they did everything to weaken Abbas, who was designated by the Americans as the “partner for peace”. In the eyes of Sharon and his successors, Abbas was more dangerous than Hamas, which was defined by the Americans as a “terrorist organization”.
IT IS impossible to understand the latest developments without going back to the “separation plan”.
This week, some sensational disclosures were published in Israel. They confirm the suspicions that we had from the start: that the “separation” was nothing but a ploy, part of a program with a hidden agenda.
Sharon had a master plan with three main elements: (a) turning the Gaza Strip into a separate and isolated entity, led by Hamas, (b) turning the West Bank into an archipelago of isolated cantons led by Fatah, and (c) leaving both territories under the domination of the Israeli military.
This would explain Sharon’s insistence on a “unilateral” withdrawal. On the face of it, it seems illogical. Why not speak in advance with the Palestinian Authority? Why not ensure the orderly transfer of power to Mahmoud Abbas? Why not transfer to the Authority all the settlements intact, with their buildings and greenhouses? Why not open wide all the border crossings? Indeed, why not enable the Palestinians to open the Gaza airport and build the Gaza sea port?
If the aim had been to achieve a peace settlement, all this would have happened. But since the complete opposite was done, it can be assumed that Sharon wanted things to work out roughly as they did: the collapse of the Authority in Gaza, the take-over of the Strip by Hamas, the split between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
For this end, he cut Gaza off from any land, sea and air contact with the world, kept the border passages closed almost continuously and turned Gaza into the “largest prison in the world”. The supply of food, medicines, water and electricity is completely dependent on the goodwill of Israel, as is the operation of the border crossing to Egypt (with the help of a European monitoring unit controlled by the Israeli army), all imports and exports, and even the registration of inhabitants.
IT MUST be clear: this is not a new policy. The cutting off of the Gaza strip from the West Bank has for many years been a military and political objective of Israeli governments.
Article IV of the 1993 Oslo Declaration of Principles states unequivocally: “The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, whose integrity will be preserved during the interim period.” Without this, Arafat would not have accepted the agreement.
Later on, Shimon Peres invented the slogan “Gaza First”. The Palestinians adamantly refused. In the end, the Israeli government gave in and in 1994 signed the “Agreement Concerning the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area”. The foothold thus given to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank was to ensure the unity of the two territories.
In the same agreement, Israel undertook to open a “safe passage” between the Strip and the West Bank. And not only one, but four, which were marked on a map appended to the agreement. Immediately afterwards, road signs with the Arab inscription “to Gaza” were set up along West Bank roads.
But during the 13 years that have passed since then, the passage has not been opened even for one day. When Ehud Barak settled his frame in the Prime Minister’s chair, he fantasized about building the world’s longest bridge between the Gaza strip and the West Bank (about 40 km). Like many others of Barak’s brilliant flashes, this one died before birth and the passage remained hermetically closed.
The Israeli government has undertaken again and again to fulfill this commitment, and recently gave Condoleezza Rice personally a specific and detailed pledge. Nothing happened.
Why? Why did our government take the risk of a manifest, clear-cut, unambiguous and continuous violation of such an important obligation? Why did they go so far as to spit in the eye of a friend like the good Condoleezza?
There is only one possible answer: the cutting off of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank is a major strategic aim of the government and the army, an important step in the historic effort to break the Palestinian resistance to occupation and annexation.
This week, it seemed that this aim had been achieved.
The official operation to “strengthen” Abbas is a part of this design. In Jerusalem, some feel that their dreams are coming true: the West Bank separated from the Gaza strip, divided into several enclaves cut off from each other and from the world, much like the Bantustans in South Africa in bygone times. Ramallah as the capital of Palestine, designed to make the Palestinians forget about Jerusalem. Abbas receiving arms and reinforcements in order to destroy Hamas in the West Bank. The Israeli army dominating the areas between the towns, and operating at will in the towns, too. The settlements growing without hindrance, the Jordan valley completely cut off from the rest of the West Bank, the Wall continuing to extend and gobble up more Palestinian land, and the Government’s promise to dismantle the settlement “outposts” remaining a long forgotten joke.
President Bush is satisfied with “the spread of democracy” in the Palestinian areas, and the US military subsidy to Israel is growing from year to year.
FROM THE point of view of Olmert, that is an ideal situation. Will it hold?
The answer is an unqualified NO!
Like all the actions of Bush and Olmert, as well as of their predecessors, it is based on contempt for the Arabs. This contempt has proven itself many times as a recipe for disaster.
The Israeli media, which have turned themselves into propaganda organs for Mahmoud Abbas and Mohammed Dahlan, are already gleefully describing how the hungry inhabitants of Gaza will look with green envy at the well-fed, flourishing inhabitants of the West Bank. They are going to rebel against the Hamas leadership, so that a Quisling in the service of Israel can be installed there. The people in the West Bank, growing fat on European and American aid money, will be happy to be rid of Gaza and its troubles.
That is pure fantasy. It is much more probable that the anger of the Gaza people will turn against the Israeli prison wardens who are starving them. And the people of the West Bank will not forsake their compatriots languishing in Gaza.
No Palestinian will agree to the separation of Gaza from the West Bank. A party that agreed to that would be shunned by the Palestinian public, and a leadership that accepted such a situation would be eliminated.
Israeli policy is torn between two conflicting desires: on the one side, to prevent the events in the Gaza Strip repeating themselves in the West Bank, where a Hamas takeover would be immensely more dangerous, and on the other side, to prevent Abbas from succeeding to such an extent that the Americans would oblige Olmert to negotiate seriously with him. As usual, the government is holding the stick by its two ends.
At present, all Olmert’s actions are endangering Abbas. His embrace is a bear’s embrace, and his kiss is the kiss of death.
By Gideon Levy
Here is a success story: Israel and the West imposed a boycott on the Palestinian Authority with the aim of weakening Hamas, and a year and a half later this brilliant policy has yielded its fruits: Hamas has become stronger. If there is a lesson from the fiasco in Gaza, here it is: Starving, drying up and blocking aid do not sear the consciousness and do not weaken political movements. On the contrary.
Reality has refuted the chorus of experts and commentators who preached in behalf of the boycott policy. This daft notion that it is possible to topple an elected government by applying pressure on a helpless population suffered a complete failure. The world boycotted the unity government, which could perhaps have prevented the harsh scenes in Gaza if it had been allowed to rule, and consequently we received the alternative: the complete takeover of Gaza by Hamas in a military coup, tearing Gaza away from the West Bank. This is bad news.
It is possible to make a list of the fateful mistakes committed by Israel, the U.S. and Fatah, which led to what has happened, but the question now facing us is where to go from here.
Will we continue the boycott policy until an even more extreme and dangerous government arises in Gaza, such as the global jihad or Al-Qaida? Or will we internalize the fact that force will not succeed, that it is impossible to return to the status quo ante on the backs of this weak population and that we need to change direction?
Israel and the U.S. are now embracing Mahmoud Abbas. There is a considerable amount of hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness about this. Not long ago he was considered a leader with “plucked feathers.” All of his requests and demands were rejected, one after another, and every effort was made to undermine his government. So what has changed now? There is no basis for claiming that the talk about the need to strengthen Abbas is designed to hurt Hamas. Gaza is lost. Fatah will not mount a comeback anytime soon in Gaza after its leaders fled to Ramallah, abandoning its people to the mercies of Hamas. It is very bad that Hamas took over Gaza, and Abbas should indeed be strengthened, but the limitations of this approach must be recognized: Things will not be as they were before.
We now have two Koreas: the West Bank as South Korea and Gaza as North Korea. Despite the demonization of Hamas and the glorification of Fatah, the two movements are very problematic. Gaza fell like a ripe fruit into the hands of Hamas mainly due to the socioeconomic differences between Gaza and the West Bank. Gaza is poorer, and thus has become more extreme. The thought that exacerbating hunger among its residents will change their minds and make them into lovers of Zion and America is mistaken: It will only make them more and more extreme. There is no alternative to adopting a nearly equal approach to the two new entities that have arisen: We need to help both of them. With or without Hamas, only a prosperous Gaza will change its direction.
Hamas is trying now to stabilize its rule after the brutal coup it conducted. Foreign journalists who visited Gaza in recent days report that there is quiet in the streets, very few armed men and checkpoints, and even a directive that prohibits men from walking around with their faces masked. Even the wars of the clans, which sliced up Gaza in recent months, have subsided a bit. The new Hamas-appointed commander of the police in Jabaliya, Mohammed Abu Sisi, said at the end of the week that his forces are capable, more than others, of putting an end to the anarchy. This is apparently correct.
Now we must also demand that the new leadership put an absolute end to the firing of Qassams on Israel and bring about the release of Alan Johnston and Gilad Shalit. If they do this, Israel and the world should lift the boycott and begin to enable Gaza to live. In the West Bank, of course, a series of broad steps should be initiated without delay: a complete cease-fire, removal of all the internal checkpoints, and a massive release of prisoners. Perhaps nothing sweet will emerge from Gaza, but every effort should be made to sweeten the bitter pill. The Israeli interest is to let Gaza live, even if the leadership is not to our liking.