Zionists and their neoconservative supporters have always framed Ariel Sharon’s pull-out of the Gaza Strip as some kind of concession to Palestinians that might result in peace for those Israelis who lived under the threat of attack from Palestinians who had been ghettoised within the Strip and were resisting occupation. The pull-out was seen as a precursor to the ‘land for peace’ deals that Israel was pushing as part of the ‘Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan’.
The Zionists figured that, if they pulled out of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians inside would give up attacking Israel on account of having gained a victory. However, what the Zionists hadn’t bargained for was that the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip consider the Gaza as only a part of Palestine which also includes all of the West Bank and which remains occupied.
The Zionist cry was; ‘We gave them land in the Gaza Strip, yet still they attack us’. First off and most obvious was the fact that the Gaza Strip land was never Israel’s to give to the Palestinians.
But moving away from the ins and outs of what happened, the question that has never really been asked is: Was the pull-out really that big a deal in the first place and what was the real reason for it?
There were only around 9,000 Israeli settlers in the Gaza Strip and one of the real reasons Sharon pulled them out as part of his so-called ‘disengagement plan’ was because they were simply absorbing too much of Israel’s military resources to keep them there. The hope that the pull-out might mean peace on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip also had tremendous propaganda appeal – albeit rather misguided as it turned out.
Ariel Sharon wasn’t called ‘Bulldozer’ for nothing; once he had got an idea set in his mind, he was both relentless and ruthless in seeing it through. In pushing for the ‘disengagement plan’, Sharon even sacked two of his cabinet members just to ensure he had the numbers in cabinet when it came to voting on the plan – a plan that had met with strong opposition from Zionists and the settler movement.
Of course, now that Sharon is no more, we shall never really know what he ultimately had in mind for the Gaza Strip.
Like Netanyahu today, Sharon never really envisaged a Palestinian state. To maintain US support, both leaders have always said that they want to see a independent Palestinian state, but both have always set the conditions so high that they know the Palestinians will never accept them and that therefore, there will never be a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu is now simply waiting for an excuse to march in and fully occupy both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He will use an attack against Iran as an opportunity to do that. Re-taking the Gaza Strip would be a comparatively easy task but it would need the cover of a much bigger crisis in order to do that. War against Iran would provide that cover.
From a tactical point of view, the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was never really that big a deal. Its real value was in the propaganda potential the withdrawal had. The Zionists can now always say that the ‘land for peace’ arrangements didn’t work so why give up the settlements in the West Bank? Netanyahu knows that, given the right conditions, he can walk into and completely re-occupy the Gaza Strip at anytime when those conditions are right – just as Ariel Sharon knew that when he pulled out in the first place.
Sharon’s pig-headedness meant that he had to continue the charade of the man seeking peace. He did this by setting up the Kadima Party after being pushed out of the Likud. He couldn’t let on to the Zionists and settlers that it was always his intention to ultimately make the Gaza Strip a part of Israel. What he needed was time to find a way to get it back – time he never got to have.
Netanyahu, however, is now fighting hard to finish the business that Sharon had spent all of his life fighting for; to build a Greater Israel. A final confrontation with Iran may just provide the means by which he thinks he can do it.
Pulling out of the Gaza wasn’t a big deal for peace; it was just a small sacrifice to be made for the bigger prize to come when the opportunity arose.