In his televised address to the Israeli public following another deadly suicide bombing in Haifa, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared that once again Israel has no other choice but to wage war. As the military activated 20,000 army reservists, the largest number since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon–another unnecessary war masterminded by Sharon–the Israeli leader promised that this war will be a widespread, prolonged, and bloody campaign.
Far from being an unavoidable “act of retaliation” designed to end terrorism, the expanding Israeli military assault on Palestinian territories and the seizure of Yasser Arafat’s compound in Ramallah will only further erode Israel’s security. Contrary to public perception, Sharon’s military offensive is far from being spontaneous. Rather, it is part of a broader master plan long in the making. The plan, designed to impose a new political reality on the Palestinians, is now clear: to destroy the Palestinian Authority (PA), militarily reoccupy most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and create small and disconnected Palestinian “Bantustans” forced to make their own separate deals with Israel on Israeli terms. No independent Palestinian state. No Palestinian National Authority. No removal of Israeli settlements. No territorial compromise.
Like others on the far right, Sharon has always opposed any “peace process” with the Palestinians and was the key architect of the settlement colonization plan for the Occupied West Bank and Gaza strip after 1967. He strongly opposed the limited “concessions” that Israel made in order to secure Palestinian compliance for the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993–especially the establishment of Palestinian self-rule in the major cities of the West Bank and most of the Gaza Strip. His provocative visit to Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem in September 2000 triggered the latest round of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians, which all but ended the official diplomatic process between them. Upon his election as Prime Minister in February, 2001, Sharon set into motion his plan for collapsing the Palestinian Authority through systematic assassinations of key political and military leaders, bombarding infrastructure, imprisoning people in their villages, and creating starvation conditions. All this while waiting for domestic and international conditions to “ripen” for the more “advanced” steps of the plan.
The assassination campaign of over one hundred Palestinians in the past eighteen months, which consistently led to retaliatory Palestinian suicide bomb attacks, were designed precisely to create the appropriate justification for this next step. Increasing public criticism of Sharon at home, an impending economic catastrophe, and an unprecedented number of soldiers who are refusing to serve in what they call “the war to protect the settlements” have increased Sharon’s desperation.
To make it clear to Palestinians that he is serious and will not be held back by international public opinion, Sharon executed the first part of his master plan in March by re-occupying large areas previously under Palestinian control, and destroying key centers of the PA’s infrastructure. His compliance with the U.S. request for Israeli military withdrawal to allow General Zinni to negotiate a ceasefire, was little more than a well-orchestrated PR move on Israel’s part. In return, U.S. officials underscored Sharon’s concession and dutifully recited Israel’s mantra that Arafat “must act to stop terror.” In the meantime, Sharon waited for the next suicide bombing to provide him with the green light for the implementation of the next phase of his master plan.
In waging this bloody military campaign, Sharon has destroyed any real chance for a viable peace between Palestinians and Israelis. In an ad published in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz on March 29, 2002, The Israeli peace group Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) stated: “BRAVO, SHARON! Ariel Sharon has succeeded: he has rebuffed the Saudi peace proposal, which has the backing of almost the entire Arab world. He prefers the occupied territories and the settlements to peace and security. Now he is happy to return to his true vocation: waging war on the Arabs. The price will be paid by us. Sharon promised, Sharon fulfils.”
On Saturday, March 30, 2002, hundreds of Israeli Jews and Arabs, representing all segments of the peace movement, demonstrated in Tel-Aviv against Israel’s military campaign in the West Bank. Many Israelis, and not only those associated with the left, understand the painful truth: Sharon’s brutal and callous policy will bring them neither security, nor peace. They fear that it will drive more Palestinians to further despair, which may lead to more suicide bombings.
The security of Israelis and Palestinians is intertwined. Only a complete end of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and a negotiated settlement, which affirms Palestinian rights for self-determination and statehood, will end the current cycle of violence and establish the foundation for a long and lasting peace in Israel and Palestine.