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Sharon Pushes For Annexation
THE END of 2003 saw a renewal of bloodshed in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel. In the final two weeks of 2003 and first week of 2004 Israeli Defence Force (IDF) attacks killed 17 Palestinians, and a Palestinian suicide bombing in Israel killed four Israelis.
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.
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.
Opposition has even extended to four ex-chiefs of the intelligence service, who denounced the escalating bloodshed, saying that Sharon's strategy of brutal force is taking Israel towards catastrophe. These individuals have themselves been involved in vicious repression of the Palestinians in the past and are not shifting to the left politically but they view Sharon's strategy as threatening the future survival of the Israeli Jewish state.
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.
Peace plans and 'unilateralism'
TWO RECENT 'peace' plans have been concocted by various public and private figureheads in the Middle East and internationally - one of the plans is 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 IDF, 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.
Sharon has always pursued a strategy of increasing and bolstering Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and has lately pioneered the building of the new massive system of walls and fences in the name of protecting Israeli settlements, towns and cities from armed attacks.
HOWEVER, IN a seeming change of position, he has now declared that a unilaterally decided separation would mean closing down Jewish settlements that are particularly isolated and hard to protect. Orders to remove five mainly unoccupied outposts have recently been made, though not yet implemented.
In treading this path, Sharon is trying to carry out a balancing act between the right wing layers of society who insist that the occupied territories must be part of Greater Israel and the majority of Israeli people who believe concessions and a Palestinian state are eventually necessary - two-thirds of Israelis believe this.
One means of preparing public opinion for removing some isolated settlements in the territories has been his recent announcement of a plan to increase the number of settlers in the Golan Heights (which were taken from Syria).
If Sharon carries out his threat to go for a 'unilateral separation', as a recent editorial in the Financial Times spelt out (23/12/03), it is not a "disengagement plan", but 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.
NEITHER THE right nor left political leaders in Israel have been capable of offering any route to a secure future for the Israeli people - free of war and with decent living standards. Nor will they ever be able to, as they represent a capitalist class that operates in the interests of its own profits, privileges and prestige.
The present Palestinian leaders are also incapable of ending the nightmare situation faced by the Palestinian people. They are aspiring capitalists themselves and look towards the European ruling classes and Arab elites to come to their aid, and to support aspirations for their own state.
But with capitalism in economic crisis worldwide, foreign aid and investment will not be sufficient to lift the Palestinians' living standards to a decent level. And with the strength of the Israeli army on their doorstep (at present in their midst), backed by US imperialism, the Palestinian elite will not be able to act contrary to the security and economic interests of the Israeli ruling class by developing their own interests.
Only on the basis of a socialist solution can the aspirations of the Palestinian people be satisfied, and likewise those of the Israeli Jews, through the building of a socialist Palestine and a socialist Israel in a voluntary socialist confederation of the Middle East.
In The Socialist 17 January 2004:
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