"There was never the slightest reason for Israel to send in the army to remove these settlers. The entire operation could have been managed, without the melodrama necessary for a media frenzy, by providing them with a fixed date on which the IDF would withdraw from inside the Gaza Strip. A week before, all the settlers will quietly have left with no TV cameras, no weeping girls, no anguished soldiers, no commentators asking cloying questions of how Jews could remove other Jews from their homes, and no more trauma about their terrible suffering, the world's victims, who therefore have to be helped to kick the Palestinians out of the West Bank."
The settlers are like astronauts on a space walk, completely dependent on the lifelines from Israel proper, and the severing of any of these lines would have had them scurrying back to safety. The whole withdrawal was a made-for-television movie as part of the ongoing Israeli propaganda war to ethnically cleanse the West Bank (and go back for Gaza later on). Under cover of favorable, and silly, coverage of the withdrawal, Sharon is stealing as much more land in the West Bank as he possibly can.
Here are a few things I've heard in reference to the withdrawal:
- Jews don't do this to Jews. Is this finally the confirmation that Judaism is indeed some secret society which treats other members of the secret society in a privileged way?
- Moving the settlers is just like the Holocaust. And yet if I were to say that the Pol Pot massacres in Cambodia were a 'holocaust'. I'd be labeled an 'anti-Semite' for, as we all should know now, nothing can be compared to the Holocaust, which is a morally unique event. Well, except for moving some people out of a government-supplied house into another government-supplied house, from one piece of illegally-settled land to another piece of illegally-settled land, all lubricated with the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars of hush money thoughtfully provided by American taxpayers. That's a Holocaust!
- The movement out of Gaza will solve the Israeli demographic problem. For you see, the Arab occupants of Gaza were less than human before, and count for absolutely nothing now. Of course, Israel can't get off the hook through such attempts at legal niceties. Gaza was occupied territory before the settler withdrawal, and remains occupied territory now. Since it maintains the right to intervene militarily in Gaza at its own discretion, Israel has no (or here) right to claim that the occupied status of the area has changed, and no right to claim that it is off the hook for its legal obligations as an occupying power. The Policy Brief entitled "Legal Aspects of Israel's Disengagement Plan under International Humanitarian Law (IHL)" by the International Humanitarian Law Research Initiative states:
"Despite the military significance of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the limited control of the Palestinian Authority over key functions of government, its lack of control over international borders, sea and airspace, as well as the continued Israeli control of key security and welfare aspects of life in the Gaza Strip are likely to be major obstacles for recognition by the Security Council of an eventual end of occupation that would relieve Israel of its obligations toward the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip.
To successfully bring the occupation of the Gaza Strip to an end, one may argue that Israel will need at a minimum to withdraw the entirety of its troops and installations from the Gaza Strip, in particular from the 'Philadelphi Road', transferring full and sovereign control of the border of the Gaza Strip with Egypt to the Palestinian Authority. Every arrangement short of that withdrawal and transfer of sovereignty is likely to fail to bring an end to the occupation of the Gaza Strip."
All the Arab occupants of Gaza still count as inhabitants of Historic Palestine, and still make up the majority of the population of Historic Palestine.
- The withdrawal was an excellent trick by Sharon as the certain failure of the Palestinian 'state' in Gaza will prove that the Palestinians can never be allowed to have a state. They are like children who will always need someone to rule over them. Of course, the failure of the Palestinian 'state' in Gaza will just prove that such a state cannot survive without its counterpart in the West Bank. In other words, the failure of the Palestinian 'state' in Gaza will prove that the Israelis have to withdraw completely from the West Bank.
- On the general hypocrisy of coverage of the withdrawal, see here and here.
Despite all the hoopla, there was never any doubt that the withdrawal was going to be peaceful, and Sharon must have had the secret agreement of settler leaders in his pocket to ensure that there would be only token violence (besides killing a few innocent Palestinians, which of course doesn't count). The first reason for the threats by the settlers was to increase the amount of 'compensation' they will get from American taxpayers for moving from one free and illegal house to another. For some of them, this is an ongoing racket, having moved to Gaza from illegal houses in the Sinai with lots of compensation, now moving to the West Bank and looking forward to more moves and more compensation in the future (it reminds me of the punchline to the joke attributed to Oscar Wilde: 'We already know what you are my dear. I'm only trying to establish the price.'). There was even the hint of a slight 'legitimacy crisis' in Israel, where the settlers, long revered as representing the historic roots of Israel (I guess because they carry on the tradition of living on stolen land!), were beginning to be seen as threatening the security of the whole state for their own selfish purposes.
The second reason for the threats of violence was to make it appear to be politically impossible for Israel to withdraw from any more of the West Bank, other than the few settlements the Israelis intend to turn into police stations. After all, if it took that much trouble to move a few thousand settlers, how can Israel ever hope to move hundreds of thousands? Needless to say, with enough compensation, the withdrawal is completely 'scalable', and could cover as many settlers as would take free homes and hundreds of thousands of dollars of blackmail money to move to Israel. Israel has proved that a complete withdrawal is possible, and it is up to the rest of the world to insist on it.