Monday, April 25, 2005


Unilateral Disengagement Plan and Settlers - some basics

Under the disengagement plan as adopted on 6 June 2004, the IDF will remain on the Gaza-Egypt border and may engage in further house demolitions to widen a 'buffer zone' there (Art 6). Israel will continue to control Gaza's borders, coastline, and airspace, and reserves the right to undertake incursions at will (Art 3.1). Gaza will also remain dependent on Israeli water, communication, electricity, and sewage networks (Art 8); existing customs arrangements with Israel (whereby imports from Israel to Gaza are not taxed, exports from Gaza to Israel are taxed, and Israel collects customs duties on foreign products entering Gaza) will remain in force and the Israeli currency will continue to be used (Art 10). For these reasons, and because Israel will not accept a Palestinian sovereign authority in Gaza at this time, foreign observers have argued that legally speaking, the disengagement will not constitute an end to Israeli control (see, for example, statement by Human Rights Watch and extensive legal analysis by the Harvard International Humanitarian Law Research initiative (free registration required). Read here for more.

What is Sharon’s “Unilateral Disengagement”?
Father Alphonse de Valk, c.s.b., priest of the Congregation of St. Basil and editor Catholic Insight

The plan for Unilateral Disengagement from Gaza (from here on called “U.D.”) envisages the removal of 7500 Jewish settlers in Gaza to be finished by the end of 2005. They are to be resettled on the West Bank. Any violence from Gaza thereafter will be punished by the cutting off of telephones, water, and electricity (April 29). Israel will complete the encirclement of Gaza with a wall. It will maintain a patrol road along the border of Egypt, as well as three settlements in the north of the strip to act as a barrier against attacks on Israel proper. It will continue to control all land, sea and air entrances.

After the completion of the wall around the West Bank, Israel will expel all Palestinians living “illegally” in Israel—tens of thousands of them, according to Sharon. And Israel will also maintain the “right to selfdefence,” i.e., to “hunt terrorists” in both Gaza and the West Bank (Sharon, April 2).

As the title “Unilateral” indicates, there is no question of Israeli dialogue with the Palestinians or, for that matter, with anyone else. Under this plan there is no place for Palestinian sovereignty of any kind other than the administration of a series of semi-destroyed, rundown slums.

Observation: If Sharon’s Unilateral Disengagement is a step forward on the road to a peace settlement and reconciliation, one wonders what a step backwards would mean.

Maia Carter Hallward writes in What does it mean to disengage?

"Disengagement sends a signal. It says we do not want to talk to you or interact with you in any way. This sentiment is echoed in the separation barrier and in the legal restrictions on (non-settler) Israelis entering the Occupied Territories or Palestinian-controlled areas. In Hebrew, the Gaza plan is not called disengagement, but rather “withdrawal” which is another mis-nomenclature. According to the plan, Israel remains in control of the borders, the coast, and airspace. It reserves the right to destroy existing settlement infrastructure and to re-enter Gaza at any time deemed necessary for security reasons. In exchange, it rids itself of the governance headache of 1.5 million restless, poverty-stricken, caged-up Palestinians and receives accolades (and lots of money!) from the international community for the “hard work” of removing a small number of Gaza settlers, most of whom are quality of life (not ideological) settlers and willing to leave for compensation."

Her article is particularly interesting because she expresses deep empathy with the emotional aspects of the settlers who will have to leave. On the one hand, I felt, "Hey, they are getting paid to leave land that was not even their property." But, I must admit that even if my own personal view is that these people are given far too much as it is, and should thank their lucky stars that they were not expelled the way Palestinians have been, and still are being, the matter is of importance in the Israeli view, and has to be at least understood.

In Bitterlemons Roundtable Discussion, dealing with the issue of the settlers who may stay behind, Yossi Alpher says:

"On the other hand, the experiment the settlers are volunteering for (those who would remain ed note) has important potential implications for the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations. Today we are preparing to remove 8,000 settlers in what is liable to be a violent and highly traumatic operation. Yet tomorrow, in order for any sort of Palestinian state to emerge, we will have to remove at least another 50,000. Today, the settlement blocs and East Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods continue to expand. Tomorrow, the prospect of locating territory with which to compensate a Palestinian state for settlement bloc annexation by Israel becomes increasingly daunting."

Hassan Asfour says:

"Despite the fact that the world considers all settlements illegal and illegitimate, there is no doubt that the subject of settlements will be the source of much complication in final status negotiations. Among the different ideas for solving this thorny issue there is one that surfaces from time to time: can settlers be accepted as Palestinian citizens in a future state of Palestine?

The question seems intriguing on the surface, and some may immediately respond in the positive. My answer is an unequivocal no.

My objection is not to individuals or a people; we would not reject any Jew who rejects Israel's aggressive nature and becomes a Palestinian citizen. The objection is to consolidating facts that were established by force and aggression. Accepting any settler to stay in his present abode would be tantamount to a whitewash of this immoral and shameful enterprise.

But in addition to the theoretical and moral considerations there are practical ones. Israel operates on the premise that it has the right to intervene to protect any Jew wherever he may be and whatever his citizenship. Imagine the Israeli interference in a Palestinian state next to Israel, on land Israelis, deep down, consider is rightfully theirs.

We must also consider the reality that if a number of Jewish settlers remain, they must live among their Palestinian neighbors.
In theory, despite different religious and educational practices, this ought not be a problem had the presence of these settlers come about in a framework of coexistence. But it didn't. The settlers are present as a result of Israeli aggression. Let me be clear: my objection is not to the idea of coexistence with Israel or Israelis. My objection is to the idea of rewarding the aggressor. The settler and the racist dimensions of the settlement movement, more than almost anything else in this conflict, epitomize aggression."


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