Bush: The Gaza Withdrawal Intends To Pass Time

by Mamdouh Nofal on 05/04/2004

A lot of questions have been raised by Sharon’s “intention” of dismantling the Gaza settlements and withdrawing the Israeli forces and the unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians. Despite the ambiguity of the plan, public opinion polls in Israel show that the majority of Israelis support Sharon’s plan and demand its quick implementation. Some Israelis consider that the withdrawal from the densely populated Gaza removes part of the demographic danger and reduces Israeli human and economic losses. Conversely, the army, intelligence and security forces seem to oppose the plan especially the issue of control over the borders and checkpoints. The plan remains incomplete and faces extensive opposition from the Likud Party and the rightist governmental coalition.

Despite the American administration’s knowledge of all this, it still considered the plan creative and gave it a lot of attention. Its only reservation was the necessity of the plan’s accordance to the Bush “historic” vision about a final solution within the context of the Roadmap. The Bush administration asked of the Egyptian leadership to find out the details of the Palestinian position and the likely scenarios in case Sharon implemented the plan. So does all this indicate that the American administration thinks that the plan might be implemented prior to the American elections next November? Does Bush think that it will halt the violence? Does he think that Sharon “the man of peace” suggested the plan in pursuit of peace and in order to aid the Bush electoral campaign after his failure in Iraq? I think that Bush and his team are not that naïve.

Sharon refuses to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority because it does not represent a serious partner in the peace process and because such cooperation would give the impression that the plan is a step for the withdrawal from the 1967 boundaries. Everybody knows that the implementation of the plan will weaken the position of the Authority and would lead to more chaos and deterioration in the security situation. This would reflect on the American failure in solving the conflict and thus harm Bush’s electoral campaign instead of giving it a boost. The logical explanation behind the position of the Bush administration is that the plan would pass the time till the elections of next November while avoiding a clash with Sharon and distracting the Palestinians and Arabs. Regardless of the American opinion, Sharon has scored a victory internally and externally, for he met the demands of most Israelis to separate Israel from Gaza due to the human and the economic losses. It also had positive effects on the Israeli deteriorating international relations and it met the army’s desire to get out of the Gaza swamp, which has no strategic value. It also distracted the public opinion from his accusations of corruption.

Amidst the smoke of the plan, Sharon expanded the operations of killing and destruction, succeeded in assassinating Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, continued the building of the wall of separation and destroyed the prospects of a Palestinian State. The plan also gave the Americans a justification for their silence concerning the Roadmap. Sharon hopes that he would convince Bush of the importance of continuing the construction of the wall and funding the expansion of the West Bank settlements to accommodate the evacuated Gaza settlers.

There is no doubt that any Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian land and the dismantling of any settlement is a national achievement especially if it was implemented unconditionally. It also sets a precedent that could be built on whether in Palestine or Syria in dealing with the issue of occupation and settlements in the West Bank and the Golan, but after the American elections.