Middle East: Sharon heading for disaster
The end of 2003 saw a renewal of bloodshed in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel. With no end in sight to the brutal occupation of the Palestinian areas and to Palestinian suicide attacks on Israelis, or to severe economic crisis in Israel which has just led the government to impose yet another austerity package, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is facing growing opposition from the Israeli Jewish people.
By Judy Beishon
While still a minority, an increasing number of Israeli Jews have sympathy with soldiers who refuse to serve in the occupied territories - a recent poll showed 28% support for them. Nearly 1,000 school students and army reservists have signed up against serving in the territories. In an unprecedented development, they have been joined in recent weeks by 28 airforce pilots and an elite commando unit, sections of the military held in high esteem in Israeli society.
Sharon has also come under increasing international pressure, not least due to growing outrage at the annexation of land accompanying the construction of the new 'security' fence in the West Bank.. Two recent 'peace' plans have been concocted by various public and private figureheads in the Middle East and internationally - one of the plans known as the 'Geneva' accord. They have been greeted with opposition demonstrations by Palestinians as they reject the right of return to Israel for Palestinian refugees. They have also enraged Sharon and much of the right in Israel, as they call for concessions that they have never been prepared to make.
To counter these proposals and to try to improve his domestic standing, Sharon announced that if negotiations around the US-backed 'road map' are not resumed, he will decide unilaterally on security borders in the occupied territories in an attempt to seal off the Palestinian areas. But he refuses to resume negotiations unless the Palestinian Authority (PA) arrests and disarms Palestinian militia activists, a demand that the PA is unable to carry out. Even former Israeli intelligence head Efraim Halevy has recently stated that the Palestinians cannot 'confront, dismantle and disarm militant groups as the road map demands'.
Palestinian Prime Minister, Ahmed Qurei, knowing he can't use force to stop the actions of the militias, is desperately trying to secure a new ceasefire from them. But with almost daily ruthless killings of Palestinians by the Israeli Defence Force, of both militia leaders and civilians, the militias are very reluctant to stop their actions. Their attacks on Israeli civilians will never lay the basis for the solving of their aspirations, but in the absence of a method that will - of mass democratically organised defence and action - they at present see no alternative but to resort to their present methods.
If Sharon carries out his threat to go for a 'unilateral separation', as the Financial Times spelt out (23.12.03), it is not a "disengagement plan", but is an "annexation plan" and is in keeping with a strategy he drew up in 1982 to reduce the Palestinians to "unviable reservations amounting to 44% of the West Bank or 9% of colonial Palestine". He bluntly stated that a unilateral decision on borders would mean the Palestinians getting far less land than they would through the road map. Enforced separation will not bring security to Israeli Jews by ending the cycles of bloodshed, as reducing the Palestinians to poverty stricken enclaves will never end their will to struggle.