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Gaza is not enough

Gaza is not enough - by Arik Diamant

Last month, the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s chief advisor, Dov Weissglass, revealed the true purpose of the "Gaza Disengagement Plan" when he said it would ensure the majority of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank stay where they are. In addition, he said it would prevent any chance of a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians in the near future.

The seemingly careless expression is no slip of the tongue but a calculated move meant to sooth the right wing opposition to Sharon’s controversial plan. The resistance to the plan is lead by a fundamental minority who believe casting apartheid on the west bank and Gaza is a reasonable price to pay for having Jewish control over a greater chunk of the Promised Land.

Although they act in the name of religion, their apocalyptic worship of land and their violent ways of expressing it have nothing in common with the Jewish values and traditions we were raised with. Although they are a small minority in Israel, they call the shots. And so for their benefit, Weissglass puts it forward very clearly: the disengagement plan is not intended to save the lives of the Israeli soldiers stationed in Gaza. Nor is it meant to prevent innocent civilian deaths of those caught in the crossfire of Gaza's crowded refugee camps. It was never supposed to "warm up" a peace process. The plan is just about making Israel BIGGER.

Incidentally, Weissglass also revealed what we've been fighting for these past four years. This was no surprise for the members of Courage to Refuse. After years of service in the occupied territories, we were convinced that nothing we were doing there was serving our country’s security. Instead, it was intended to promote the expansion of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, achieved by grabbing of Palestinian land and oppressing the Palestinian resistance.

For years, we followed orders that had us fighting against the better interests of our country. We were fighting so that a handful of fundamental Jews could live like Patrons of the land at the expense of millions of Palestinians. We were fighting women and children. This is not what we were trained to do, not what we've been raised to believe in. For many, many years, our obedience was abused our loyalty made a mockery of. That is until soldiers have had enough, and decided to refuse to serve in the territories.

For the love of their country and respect for the most fundamental Jewish values, hundreds of soldiers refused to cross the 1967 borders and were consequently sent to prison. But their message went through, and today, three years later, Sharon recognizes the refusal movement as one of the reasons for leaving Gaza.

Elected under the slogan of "Peace and Security", he had provided neither, and had to break the deadlock he created himself by declaring that there's no Palestinian partner. Sharon was beginning to understand that soon enough, they'll be no more soldiers willing to kill and die in the name of the settlements.

Looking back, it is surprising to see the role played by the United States as a witness and an accomplice to the expansion of the settlements, the same ones that are to be evacuated in the near future. Since the Oslo peace process was launched, Israel has been presenting a façade of a country determined to end the occupation. Yet since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin nine years ago and under the pretext of "construction needed to accommodate for natural growth," the number of inhabitants in West Bank and Gaza settlements has soared from about 100,000 in 1995 to almost 250,000 today.

The U.S. administration, much like the Israeli Public, reacted to vicious Palestinian terror attacks by granting the Israeli government a "carte blanche", an unlimited permit to do everything and anything in the occupied territories- in order to assure the safety of the citizens of Israel. Sharon succeeded in crushing the Palestinian society but complete safety has not been achieved and peace is no where near.

The death of Yasser Arafat is an opportunity for Washington to reexamine its position on the Israeli-Palestine Conflict. The "No-Negotiation-Under-Terror" policy of the Israeli government has lead to nothing but the empowerment of terrorist groups meaning to destroy any chance of peace, and efforts must be made to restore a diplomatic path.

The plan proposed by Ariel Sharon to retreat from Gaza has the potential of becoming the first step in a negotiated agreement, one that would lead to a peaceful existence of Israel beside Palestine. The evacuation of Jewish Settlements from the Occupied Territories is a taboo needs has to be broken, better sooner than later. But the plan mustn't be overrated: it is not in itself a solution. It will leave over 200,000 Jewish settlers on what is recognized by the majority of the world as well as by most Israelis as Palestinian Land.

As IDF soldiers and their families are growing more and more skeptical about the causes of the fighting in the Occupied Territories, the United States must chose: save Israel as a Jewish, democratic state, or let it slip into an apartheid led by the settlers, a regime that would mean an ongoing violent war between Israel and the Palestinians.

If security and democracy is what we're fighting for, the first step would be to dismantle all settlements and retreat back to the 1967 border. But if the fighting is just intended to further expand the occupation, this war must not be fought. It must be condemned by the Jewish people worldwide, and it must not be supported by the United States.

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