On 17 August, to deafening media coverage, the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was begun. Despite the widespread portrayal of distressed settlers being forced to leave, this was generally presented as ‘a step towards peace’.
The plan to withdraw from Gaza is the work of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who has been praised by all the world’s leaders, from Bush to Schroeder, from Chirac to Blair. And behind their hypocritical sermons in favour of peace, each one of them was hiding their own imperialist interests. And despite all the criticisms of Sharon by the Israeli right – Sharon’s own Likud party as well as the religious parties – the retreat from Gaza serves Israel’s own imperialist interests very well.
The Israeli withdrawal from this tiny strip of land, home to a million and a half Palestinians, involves a mere 7,000 settlers. The Israeli state has paid a very high price, in both economic and military terms, for maintaining its presence in this tiny morsel of territory, which has no particular strategic value. Now the withdrawal will turn the Gaza Strip into an immense prison. In a context of terrible poverty and social chaos, the different armed Palestinian factions, both those of the Palestinian Authority and of Hamas, will vie to impose their rule. Meanwhile the Israeli army will keep the whole territory under close surveillance, intervening as and when necessary. The population of Gaza will continue to live in an atmosphere of instability, violence and despair, providing more and more new recruits to religious radicalism and terrorism
This fake step towards peace is summed up in the scorched earth policy of the Israeli state – destroy everything before you leave: houses, farms, irrigations, etc.
Israel’s imperialist policy
The essential aim of Sharon’s plan is to give an impression of good will, of peaceful intentions, that masks the Israeli state’s real offensive in the West Bank. Over the last 25 years, the Israeli-Jewish population of the occupied territories has more than tripled, and has now reached around 250,000 people. The number of Israelis installed in neighbourhoods built on the annexed municipal territories around East Jerusalem has risen fivefold in the same period, and now stands at around 200,000. Meanwhile the Sharon government has placed a whole series of settlements and towns on the ‘right’ side of the anti-terror Wall, starting with Gush Etzyon and followed by Kafr Abbuch and Nablus in the north, passing by Jerusalem west and east, and going as far as Hebron and Rahiya in the south. The whole West Bank is now carved up by this wall separating Israeli and Palestinian populations. Presented as a means of protection it is in reality a spearhead for the expansionist policy of the Israeli state. While recognising, on the express demand of the Bush administration, the existence of “Israeli population centres” on the West bank, it enables Sharon to put forward the real aims of his policy: “The government will do all it can to strengthen Israeli control over all the territories destined to be integrated into the State of Israel in the eventuality of a diplomatic accord”. Right now, behind the smokescreen of the withdrawal from Gaza, permission has been granted for around 640 housing units to be built, whereas at Gival Tal, a small colony near Alfei Menaske, no less than 1000 units have started to be constructed (Courrier Internationale 28.7.05). The Israeli bourgeoisie needs to control the West Bank to maintain its imperialist offensive; it is a geo-strategic axis of prime importance. This is the frontal zone with Jordan, but also with Lebanon and Syria (along with the Golan Heights). The permanent imperialist conflict between Israel and Syria makes the West Bank a vital stake in the game, and the sharpening of US/Israeli tensions with Iran can only make the situation worse.
For its part the Palestinian bourgeoisie, even though the Palestinian Authority has been weakened and divided after the death of its historic leader Arafat, can only react with increased violence to defend its own interests. Despite the current softening of tone by the most radical elements of the Palestinian bourgeoisie, such as Hamas, these factions will also be pushed into an increasingly warlike stance. The West Bank threatens to become a vast powder-keg, where both the Israeli and Palestinian populations will be subjected to growing violence and desperation. Such is the reality of peace in decomposing capitalism.