SPECIAL TO THINK & ASK
The world media has been on a rave this past week to cover Israel's move toward peace with their plan of disengagement from the Gaza Strip. But it is a distraction, a magician's trick. Look at one hand while the magician makes the rabbit disappear from the other.
In this case of Israel, the rabbit is the West Bank and Jerusalem, the OTHER parts of Palestinian Occupied Territories, the part where disengagement is yet to take place. The exact opposite of disengagement is happening in the West Bank as 8,700 Israeli settlers were being removed from Gaza. Behind that curtain of illusion Israel remaps the borders of the West Bank before removing settlers.
|Israel's security wall, about twice the height of the Berlin Wall was, winds through the West Bank and Jerusalem|
More than 500,000 Israeli citizens are living illegally in the Palestinian West Bank among approximately 2.4 million Palestinians. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in 2002 that "the present National Unity Government, under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has officially declared that it will not build any new settlements," but on 21 March 2005, Israel approved plans to build 3,500 new housing units between the Jewish settlements of Ma'ale Adumim and Jerusalem (E-1 Plan.)
The new units, currently under construction, will consolidate Israel's control over East Jerusalem and divide the West Bank in half. Since January of 2005, the Israeli government has issued nearly 200 tenders for new settlements in the Palestinian West Bank. According to a 2004 report by the Israeli group Peace Now, approximately 51 new outposts were established between March 2001 and November 2004. Altogether, approximately 100 new settlements have been established since 1996 in the Palestinian West Bank. These actions call into question the sincerity of Ariel Sharonís administration in this effort and, indeed, of the whole disengagement project.
But there are other reasons to doubt the sincerity of Israelís latest peace initiative. In Jerusalem, where 200,000 Palestinians live, the Israeli security wall is being constructed. The Wall, a cement barrier five meters (roughly 15 feet) taller than the former Berlin Wall, and lined with guard towers manned by Israeli soldiers, is well under construction with more than 90-miles completed. It however has not been built along United Nations established borders.
On 20 February 2005, the Israeli government approved a "new" Wall route. However, 80 percent of the new route still remains inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory, annexing roughly 10 percent of the West Bank and leaving 240,000 Palestinians trapped within the imprisoned confines of the Wall.
The Berlin Wall (photo early 1960s) has been replaced with buildings, parks, and boutiques.
Gaza's withdrawal for Ariel Sharon is merely a tactical sacrifice that Israel must make in order to gain its strategic goal of maintaining majority control over the West Bank. Sharonís adviser Dov Weisglass stated in 2004, "The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians," which enables Israel "to park conveniently in an interim situation that distances us as far as possible from political pressure."
So, while the world sees the magician's empty hand, his other hand is seizing control of the West Bank and Jerusalem, building the Wall around towns and villages, expanding settlements and maintaining hundreds of military checkpoints in every part of the West Bank. Poof! Blink your eyes, and the pullout simultaneously reduces the land of Palestine.
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