jueves, 8 de enero de 2009

Gaza Disengagement

"Gaza Disengagement"

Extractos del libro
"Politics and Violence in Israel/Palestine: Democracy vs. Military Rule, 1992-2006"
del profesor Lev Luis Grinberg de próxima aparición.

…"In early February 2004, Sharon formally announced the unilateral disengagement plan and his intent to evacuate seventeen settlements in the Gaza Strip…In response to Sharon’s announcement, the Chief of Staff and the head of the General Security Services declared that if an evacuation would take place under fire, this would give a “tailwind” to terrorism… In the same day fifteen Palestinians were killed by soldiers, and within one week, 27 Palestinians were killed. Escalation during March climaxed with the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin… Despite the concerns that the escalation was intended to sabotage the disengagement plan, the logic was apparently different: If a unilateral withdrawal is anticipated, let it be clear that this is not a defeat or a retreat, but a withdrawal from a position of strength. In military language, the army’s intent was not to sabotage the disengagement, but to “stage a victory.”…After completing the forty days of mourning for Sheikh Yassin fourteen Israeli soldiers were killed. This was not an act of mega-terrorism within Israel carried out by the Palestinians in revenge for the murder of Sheikh Yassin, but a staged victory that would enable their own national narrative, according to which the armed resistance is what expelled the IDF from Gaza. …Opposition to the disengagement came from groups in and outside the Likud, part of them agreed to leave Gaza, but preferred to do so in the framework of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority so as not to strengthen Hamas. But Sharon insisted on the unilateral nature of the move, from his perspective, unilateralism promised control over the event, neutralization of Arafat and the Europeans, and also freedom of action after withdrawal… Unilateralism was made possible thanks to full backing from the US president, who mobilized on Sharon’s behalf because he was also interested in weakening the Quartet and playing down the Road Map.…In light of the resistance within his own party, Sharon agreed to hold a referendum vote on the disengagement plan among members of the Likud… The results were decisive: 60 per cent against the plan and 40 per cent in favor. But Sharon decided to ignore the results and continue with his plan… The question of who decides – Likud members, Knesset members, or all the citizens of Israel – illustrates the tension between democracy and colonialism that was not even raised during the decision-making process. No one suggested that the Palestinians be party to the decision regarding their fate. Unilateralism reflected the unwillingness to recognize Palestinian sovereignty in their own territory… In the absence of negotiations and a withdrawal agreement, the disengagement constituted a military redeployment of the troops: it was not designed to end military control over Gaza, but to improve it.…The neglecting of Palestinian rights is the common basis of dominant Israeli discourse agreed by the “left” and “right”; otherwise, it would have been necessary to address many critical questions on the disengagement plan: how relations should be handled between Israel and the Palestinians after the withdrawal? How the Palestinian economy would operate? What should happen at the borders? How passage between the West Bank and Gaza could be handled? Would the Palestinians be able to import goods without supervision, set the customs rate and collect it independently? Could the Palestinians become sovereign of their own economy? And also the basic “security” questions, such as who would prevent the shooting of Qassam rockets and how? Unilateralism, supported by most of the public, the media, and the parties, rested on the lack of recognition of Palestinian rights, the lack of interest about what would happen to them after the withdrawal, and the lack of desire to end control over them.…From the IDF perspective, very little has changed: It uses control over the external borders to put economic pressure on the entire population by closing the crossings into Israel and the West Bank, but it cannot prevent the introduction of weapons into Gaza. As in the past, these enter Gaza through tunnels. The Israeli government insisted on controlling the entry of goods and this consideration ultimately prevailed, establishing continued Israeli economic control over the Gaza Strip.…After the withdrawal from Gaza, polarization in Palestinian society only became worse: Economic distress grew more severe, the split within Fatah deepened, and the lack of cooperation between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority only reinforced the narrative that it was the armed struggle that had compelled Israel to back down.…The Hamas Movement began to integrate into the Palestinian Authority after the death of Arafat. Fatah’s desire to prevent clashes between the various factions and calm the atmosphere led to the tahadiyeh agreement and the integration of Hamas into the political system through their participation in elections for the municipalities and the Legislative Council…The assassination of Hamas leaders Sheikh Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and the unilateral withdrawal only served to strengthen Hamas among Palestinians. Their victory in the local elections was a clear signal that in the post-Arafat era, the Hamas movement would be powerful enough to replace Fatah in the national leadership. One of the main reasons that Fatah leaders had wanted Israel to leave Gaza by agreement was to signal to the public continuation of the strategy of negotiation and compromise that they had been conducting for 12 years, and which did not end with the withdrawal from Gaza.…Fatah leaders were concerned, elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council were supposed to take place in late January 2006, and considered canceling them. But elections were held and Hamas scored an impressive victory. The most popular Hamas slogan was, “Israel and the United States are supporting Fatah, do you support it too?” Israel again had fallen victim to the discourse it had created, as if Oslo was a process of democratization and not of decolonization. There are few cases in history where the occupying power forces free elections on a liberation movement fighting it, but through this contradiction, Israel managed to wriggle out of responsibility for its military control of the territories.…The close coordination between the Israeli government and the Bush administration became a cornerstone of Israeli policy, which managed to avoid negotiating with the Palestinians about establishment of an independent state. American backing prevented the opening of political space for the Palestinians because it gave legitimacy to Israel’s use of force and its strategy of unilateralism. But America’s global war on terrorism cannot be blamed for all of this. The growing extremism that pushed for escalation was rooted in the militaristic discourse called “unilateralism,” which feeds off a power-orientation that uses military advantage to force its will on others. This is what happened with construction of the wall, the withdrawal from Gaza, the continued economic stranglehold, and the demand to use greater force after three soldiers were taken hostage. …The inability to open political space led to a search for unilateral withdrawals, first from Lebanon, then from the Gaza Strip. The unilateral withdrawals were a continuation of the “war until victory” slogan of the army. In both, there was no opening of political space for negotiation; in both, unilateralism was an attempt by Israel to force its will on the weaker side. The inability of the political echelon since October 2000 to rein in the army, direct its actions, and set political objectives for the use of violence was given dramatic expression in the summer of 2006. Only then did the full meaning become clear of the cycle of bloodshed and unilateralism in which Israel is immersed, the arbitrariness of the use of force, the lack of political purpose, and contempt for the loss of life – soldiers and civilians – on both sides. The series of military operations called the Second Lebanon War uncovered the dismantling of the political system, the disconnection between the internal and external agendas, and the increasing dependence on the American global strategy of war."

(*) Sociólogo y profesor de la Universidad de Beer Sheva, Israel