view every withdrawal from our land as a step toward liberation. With
Sharon's plan to get out of Gaza, though, the situation is more
complex. In putting it forward, Sharon got the world's only superpower
to approve illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Even the
Palestinian Authority [PA] seems willing to accept the existence of
certain settlement blocs as an immutable reality.
This is by no means the
first such plan. In my view, the so-called Oslo Agreement was a
unilateral Israeli program for disengagement. It's wrong to call it an
agreement. Oslo was an Israeli plan, in which the Palestinian
leadership cooperated. In 1995, [then Israeli Prime Minister] Yitzhak
Rabin called for separation between the two peoples. He established a
committee under Moshe Shahal, Minister of Police, which issued
recommendations that were very close to what's happening now. The
committee proposed a separation fence like the one being built today.
It would follow a line that would keep the major settlements on the
"Israeli" side, separating them from the rest of the West Bank. This
plan was proposed at a time when the PA was acting in full cooperation
When the new Intifada
broke out in September 2000, Israelis discovered that the Palestinian
side had demands they could not accept. That's when they started
saying, "There is no partner for negotiations." Ehud Barak started
saying it when he was Prime Minister, and now we have Ariel Sharon
with his unilateral plan.
Sharon's Broader Concept
At first glance, it
would seem that no Palestinian can object to this plan. After all, it
would remove all the Israeli settlements from Gaza as well as four
from the northern West Bank. But we must regard the Sharon plan as
part of a larger whole, and we need to view it in the light of
American domination, especially after what's happened in Iraq. A month
ago Giora Eiland, head of Israel's National Security Council,
presented the broader plan to [US National Security Advisor]
Condoleezza Rice and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. This
broader plan calls on Egypt to give the Palestinians 600 square
kilometers of the Sinai Peninsula next to Gaza, tripling the size of
the Strip. In exchange, Israel will give Egypt 200 sq. km. of land in
the southern Negev. Here a tunnel will be built linking Egypt with
Jordan. Through this tunnel Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq will get
direct access to the Mediterranean. The
Palestinians will also get
89% of the West Bank. They will not get any part of Jerusalem, which
is not on the agenda as far as Israel is concerned.
This broader plan does
not provide for a Palestinian state. Instead, it anticipates American,
Egyptian and Jordanian cooperation in controlling the West Bank and
Gaza. But every proposal that is unilateral, without letting the
Palestinian people have the same right of self-determination as other
peoples, can lead at most to a temporary respite. This is the case
even if there are people on the Palestinian side who are willing to
There are such people
today. There are contacts between Israeli and Palestinian officials,
despite all the talk of no partner. In Jordan and Egypt there are
Palestinian??? trainees who have just completed a course in putting
down terrorism. They are preparing the apparatus that will crush the
Palestinian people when it resists such a program.
Palestinians, more land
A major part of the
Sharon concept is to withdraw from areas with large Palestinian
populations. Israel wants to take as much land as it can while
excluding as many
Palestinians as possible. Reality is
forcing the hand of Sharon himself, father of the settlements. Reality
here takes the form of the demographic threat: Israel cannot continue
as a Jewish state ruling over millions of
Palestinians and still
maintain its democratic image in the world.
We feel this demographic
factor in Jerusalem. Israel has put its fence right down the middle of
the Jerusalem-Ramallah road. The large Palestinian population east of
this fence is pushed out of the city. There are 250,000
in Jerusalem. Of these, the fence is pushing out 65,000 who have
Israeli identity cards, plus many more who do not. Here is the basic
principle of the existing program: fewer Palestinians and more land.
situation is complicated not just by the Occupation, but also by the
internal situation of the PA. There is a vacuum in the Territories.
Israel isn't willing to take responsibility for them, but it
undermines any other authority that attempts to do so. On top of that,
there is now the fence, separating people from their sources of
livelihood and their metropolitan centres. We're in a situation of
anarchy and chaos.
The PA as a cover for evasion of
It is not clear that
today's Palestinians want the PA, because the existence of any such
authority gives Israel a pretext to shirk responsibility. If Israel
was an official occupying power, it couldn't do what it is doing in
these Territories. Because the PA exists in name at least, Israel can
slough off responsibility for health, education, jobs, and
infrastructure. In a word, it can do what it wants. Instead of
relating to this area as one that is under its governance in
accordance with the Geneva conventions, Israel treats it as enemy
territory. The existence of a Palestinian Authority gives Israel
enormous room for manoeuvre, without its having to take account of
"The biggest Palestinian catastrophe
since 1948" Sharon
When we look at Sharon's
so-called disengagement plan in this context, it is clear that we must
oppose it. The plan does not entail true disengagement. What would
true disengagement mean? It would mean that Palestinians would have
the right to come from and go to Gaza as they wish, just as the French
can cross the borders of France and Israelis the borders of Israel. It
would mean that Gaza would have a port, an airfield and an open border
to Egypt all without Israeli control. In this sense, Sharon will
never leave Gaza. On the contrary, Gaza is about to become a prison.
Not only that, but what
will be the sources of livelihood? How will 1.3 million people make a
living? What will they eat? Who will provide work? This question is
From Israel's point of
view, the withdrawal from Gaza is a historical compromise with
messianic religious Zionism: in exchange for the pullback, Israel will
annex settlement blocs in the West Bank. This is not a historical
retreat as people say, and such a program cannot have a negotiating
partner, Palestinian or other. No partner in the world would agree to
such a thing. Sharon sees his plan and he's said this as the
biggest catastrophe to befall the Palestinian people since 1948. He
made the point back in April, while trying to persuade the Likud
membership that the program is good for the Jews and bad for the
Palestinians. The Likudniks didn't buy it, but he's managed to drag
the Labor Party with him, along with most of the Israeli Left.
Irrelevance or death
Sharon is leading the
people of Israel into an even deeper entanglement than their present
one. He says, in effect, there will be no partner; that from now on
we'll have to live with fences and walls, behind which the
Palestinians will be mewed up in Bantustans or Gaza. That will be the
situation for the next 20, 30, 40 years, until they're ready to accept
their lot, as determined by Israel.
They will never accept
it. History teaches something quite different: repeated oppression
does not persuade the Palestinians. Instead, they become more radical.
Now things have reached a point where all clear-sighted people have
become irrelevant, while the fanatics have become targets of Israeli
The two-state solution is no longer
By now the situation has
deteriorated to such an extent that the idea of two states for two
peoples is no longer viable. The attempt to partition the land cannot
succeed because 1) Palestinians don't believe they can reach an
agreement with Israelis, and 2) Israel lacks a political force that
can bring about a true disengagement from the Palestinians.
On the first point, when
Arafat went to Camp David in July 2000, the Palestinians had lost all
faith in Israeli intentions. Oslo had done nothing for them. On the
contrary, they were poorer, Israel was hemming them in with closure,
and the settlements had doubled in size. There was an enormous crisis
of credibility. Arafat went to Camp David against his will Clinton
and Barak had to twist his arm because he knew that the street no
longer believed in agreements with Israel.
On the second reason why
partition won't work today: Sharon's 'disengagement plan,' as I've
said, is a sham. We recall how Barak went to Camp David without a
Knesset majority. Right now Sharon is in same situation. He has no
Knesset majority. He has 59 MK's out of 120. Oslo led to the
assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and every program since then has led
to the fall of an Israeli government. Wye did Bibi in. Camp David did
Barak in. Now we have the disengagement plan, which threatens to do
Sharon in. There is no solid majority in Israel to back any plan that
could conceivably lead to a solution. Israel goes to the polls almost
every two years because the leadership has not found an answer to this
basic question of existence.
We are very far today
from any form of consensus with sufficient political power to confront
the settlers. What Israeli government will get them out of Kiryat Arba
or Hebron? Who can even get close to it?
Within the current
political framework in the Middle East, where the Americans rule and
Israel is their chief ally, there is no chance of reaching an
arrangement that will satisfy the Palestinian and Arab sides. Israel
will always try to keep its superiority, and the Americans will try to
impose their conditions on the Arabs.
has a photo of Bush with the new Middle East. To his left stands the
Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, whom the Americans put into office
after conquering his country. On his left stands the current Iraqi
president, also imposed by American force. The president of Algeria is
there, and King Abdullah of Jordan, and beside him a new star, the
President of Yemen, the symbol of Arab tribalism. His tribe (like
Qadhafi's in Libya) has decided that it's better today to go with
Bush. Only a Palestinian representative is missing for this puzzle to
be complete, and then there's a new Middle East. In it, as long as
America rules, we have no hope. We can erect fences and walls, we can
agree on the Mitchell Plan and the Tenet Plan and the Road Map and the
disengagement plan and another Road Map, no matter what you call it.
In the present American framework, there is no chance for an
arrangement that would give justice and equal status to the
Palestinian side while reducing Israel to its normal dimensions.
Meanwhile, the conflict
will continue to boil. Israel will not be rescued from its
responsibility to the Palestinian people. Because Israel was not ready
to go to a true historical compromise, it will live from now on under
an ever-growing demographic threat.
Israel has lost its claim to a Jewish
We don't favour imposing
a one-state solution. We claim only that the historical process leads
to it. Eleven years ago we favoured partition. That's why we opposed
the Oslo agreement: because we saw it wouldn't lead to an independent
Palestinian state. When the
Palestinian leaders signed it in 1993,
they forfeited their state. The agreement included no deal on the
settlements, Jerusalem, and the refugees. They didn't control their
gateways to the world. There were restrictions on imports and exports.
All those hard issues were pushed off to the future. But the
had already recognized Israel. They had nothing else to offer in
future negotiations. They'd put themselves at Israel's mercy, which
was not forthcoming.
If Arafat had still been
interested in an independent Palestinian state, there wouldn't have
been an Oslo agreement.
That's why Netanyahu,
when he was Prime Minister, didn't cancel Oslo. It's why Sharon hasn't
cancelled it now. Oslo gives Israel legitimacy to do what it wants,
and the Palestinian state is gone.
But here's the catch. By
blocking the rise of a Palestinian state, the Jewish people lost the
right to a state of its own. What do I mean by this? The establishment
of a Palestinian state was the guarantee for the existence of a Jewish
state. The moment Israel prevented the
Palestinians from having a
state, it lost the Jewish state. And no matter what the Israelis do
now, no matter how many fences they erect, the historical process is
going the opposite way. It won't happen today or tomorrow, but the
Jews will lose their majority, their state, their economy, their
conscience, all. In blocking the Palestinian state, they committed
suicide. That's the historical process.
There is one territory
here and two peoples will have to live in it. They will never live
together as long as America rules, insisting on Israeli supremacy.
When we see the protest movements against globalization and the war in
Iraq, when we see all those who cannot bear the American yoke, cannot
bear to live in this reality, then we understand that we are not
alone. If we were alone, we'd never achieve anything. It doesn't
matter how many Jews and Arabs sit together and sign Geneva Accords.
If the wider world remains under American dominance, this conflict
will not be resolved.
The solution, if it
comes, will occur within a new global framework. There are conflicts
elsewhere too: in Iraq, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, Haiti,
the world is full of conflicts. This world lives in poverty,
and as long as America is the superpower, poverty is unsolvable. This
world lives in AIDS, and AIDS is unsolvable. This world lives in
violence, and the violence is unsolvable. No one is an island. We
won't reach a solution outside the general problem. Until the global
balance of forces changes, no problem in the world will be solved. As
long as the Americans impose their will everywhere by force, the world
will remain in its current situation, and we will continue to bleed as
part of its bleeding. Yet we have a task here: to fight this
Occupation and to build an alternative.
On the Palestinian side,
unfortunately, no political opposition has arisen as an alternative to
the PA. There is Hamas, an extreme religious alternative, but there is
no serious, secular, leftist one.
The people of Israel and
the Palestinian people can no longer be separated. They have become
Siamese twins. The Oslo agreement ended the possibility of separation.
Israel dictated the terms to the Palestinian side. After it
established these terms, the Palestinians learned that they cannot
reach a true peace agreement with the strong, as long as the strong
I say that the moment
the weak become strong, as strong as the strong, there won't be any
need to partition the land. There is no reason to partition it. If we
insist on the principle of equality for all, if we decide that there
should be a common society here, I don't see why the Jews have to live
in their ghetto and in their apartheid. The essence of this separation
concept, the notion that we must establish our own state with walls
and ghettoes, leads in the long run only to deeper conflict. We must
rid ourselves of Zionism and make a switch, change the diskette. We
must understand that the world proceeds otherwise. If we want a
society of equals, all must have their share. If we don't do this,
then the conflict will keep drawing blood.
Extracts from the discussion
want the settlements removed, and the disengagement
plan will remove some of them, so the
difficulty opposing it. How does a Palestinian define his opposition
to the plan?
Hani: It's even harder
to explain why the Israeli left accepts the plan. Look at the opinion
polls, where it gets so much support. Look at the big demonstration in
Tel Aviv a few weeks ago, where the left supported Sharon.
observe what takes place on the ground. If the
were free to demonstrate, we might see a big
demonstration against this plan, because they know where it's
leading. The plan, as Yacov said, turns Gaza into a prison surrounded
by an army.
Question: On the
Palestinian street there is talk that the PA should resign and Arafat
should hand the keys back to Israel. Hani, what is your view on this?
Hani: Ever since the
re-entry of Israeli forces into Area A, Arafat should have left the
country. There was nothing more for him to do here. By staying in the
region, he has given Israel the excuse to commit all the crimes it
Palestinians are fed up with the PA and
want to deal with the Israeli army in the way we know how not in
such a way that every stone gets answered by a rocket from a tank.
Yacov: There is no
argument with Hani here. The struggle must go on. The trouble is, the
Palestinian left is frozen in nationalist concepts. I don't call for a
bi-national state. That's nonsense. Little by little these national
units will disappear not just Jews and Arabs. Our position is that
there are no longer any national solutions. In the past, national
liberation movements arose and survived because they had the backing
of a socialist regime, the Soviet Union. Alone, they were weak. Today
none of them, including the Palestinian movement, has the slightest
connection to any wider struggle, social or political.
The national Palestinian
movement did not arise in the air, but in connection with the
socialist camp. Today there is no ideology. No more socialism. Only
the Palestinian idea remains. This idea can take two forms. In a
capitalistic context, as reflected in the Oslo agreements, it takes
the form of globalization, developing the "private sector". Or the
Palestinian idea can take a socialist form. There is no other way. But
if the Palestinian regime follows a capitalist line, as it has since
Oslo, then it faces a much stronger capitalist country, Israel the
high-tech titan, which can dictate terms to it. As long as the context
is capitalist, the proposed solution will be determined by America's
interests in oil and other resources, including cheap labour.
Our claim is that we
must connect the struggle for liberation everywhere, not just here
to socialism. We must present an alternative to the capitalist system.
There is today a movement against globalization and the war in Iraq.
We have seen regimes fall in India, where people voted against
globalization, and Spain, where the capitalist government had
supported the war in Iraq. These movements have begun to arise in
response to the fascistic leanings of the capitalist regime. Israel is
part of that regime.
I don't see national
solutions Jews here, Arabs there. We [in ODA] have to be part of a
global movement. Clearly, national struggles will remain, but they
won't be central. There are people who try to banish the socialist
aspect, the class character of the conflict, turning it into a
national matter. Fatah does this when it says, "The bourgeoisie, the
workers, the students, the shopkeepers, we're all
there are no classes." Oslo was a bourgeois solution, intended to
serve the Palestinian bourgeoisie at the expense of Palestinian
workers. It had a class character. The real solution will also have a
class character. The ideology will be socialism, a different society
living according to different standards.
I don't speak of today
or tomorrow, but quite possibly this whole topic of bi-nationalism
will disappear. Israeli society, if it keeps going as it is, will
become history. If it continues to insist on its nationality Jewish,
always Jewish there will be no need to fight it. It will disappear,
because it goes against the tide of history.
A "solution for now" we
don't have. We have a way of struggle, but no quick fix. There aren't
the preconditions for a solution now. We have a way, a strategy, a
goal. If you detach the national question from the broader ideological
aspect from socialism you lose the way, you fall into despair, you
disappear. You become the prey of the forces around you.
Hani: Concerning Oslo,
there are people even in the PA who realize it has brought us to the
present situation, but they don't want to go back to what there was
before. All the leadership that came from outside, even those who
campaigned against Oslo, live under what Oslo has dictated to them,
and they cannot depart from this umbrella. They can't demand that the
PA withdraw from Oslo. If they were to demand such a thing, they would
lose their right to be here.
Yacov: Suppose Sharon
leaps all the hurdles and goes through with the disengagement. As soon
as he says, "I disengage, but I keep the Oslo agreement," he falls
into contradiction. One of Oslo's goals was to create a channel of
communication. As soon as Israel disengages on the basis of the notion
that there's no one to talk to, automatically Oslo becomes a dead
letter. That is the paradox facing Sharon. Therefore he tries to bring
the Palestinian side into the plan somehow and make it mutual.
After all, what is the
function of the PA? It can't have an army, it can't have an economy,
it can't supply the needs of its people. The PA has only one function:
to make agreements. As soon as you stop talking and do something
unilateral, you've cancelled the PA. And since it doesn't have a
state, an economy, or an army, with this cancellation you've killed
In order to keep Oslo,
the Israelis want to bring the Palestinian side into this story.
That's what the Egyptians are trying to do. The Arab world and the
curse Egypt for this attempt.
Let's go another step.
Suppose the Egyptians succeed and the
responsibility, with someone like Muhammad Dahlan in charge of Gaza.
The end of this process will be so bitter, for the reasons I've
stated, that the agreement will collapse. There is no need for a great
deal of opposition. Either Arafat will die a natural death or this
process will bring about his political disappearance. Already, he has
almost vanished politically. A light touch and the king will fall.
Israel will then be in a situation beyond its worst nightmares. The
Egyptians won't come to take over, nor the Jordanians, Arafat won't
exist, so who will be there? Who will be the authority to take
responsibility for these Territories? OK, the Israelis will have their
big wall, but what will happen on its other side? It's a big question.
If the Israelis want an authority that will take responsibility, they
will have to accept a strong one. If not, they'll be forced to
enter with their army every day. All these questions remain
unanswered. "We're pulling out!" says Sharon. Excellent! But what
happens on the other side? Who takes over?
disengagement plan is meant to punish the Palestinian people for
saying No to Oslo at Camp David. It's absurd that the
should have to fit themselves into their punishment. There is no need
for them to do this. Why can't they say "No!"
don't need to accept a unilateral program. We won't tell Israel not to
leave Gaza. If they decide to, we can't tell them not to. Here we have
the problem of the vacuum: the
Palestinians don't have a
program for responding to this situation. They aren't organized to
receive this area. They are in disorder. The lack of organization
gives Israel the possibility of continuing to rule over them, even
after withdrawal, through the appointment of people to supervise the
Yacov: On April 14, Bush
backed Sharon's disengagement plan, and immediately the
refused it. The Americans and Israelis understand that without
Palestinian cooperation, it can't be implemented. Israel had to start
talking with the Palestinian side Abu Ala, Jibril Rajoub, Muhammad
The Palestinian side
could say, "These terms are not acceptable to us, because they don't
give us freedom of movement or make it possible for people to earn a
living. We're not willing to take responsibility. We are willing only
if conditions are created that enable us to rule in Gaza: a port, an
airfield, an open border, freedom of movement, freedom of commerce.
Under such terms, I can be an authority, but who will be crazy enough
to accept the authority to guard a prison what's more, a prison
without minimal conditions of existence?" They have the right to say,
"I won't take this responsibility. You want to leave? Do as you
please. Let the UN come or whatever it's your problem." They could
say this. But they won't, because they're always looking for ways to
go back into the game, they are looking for a way to get Arafat out of
the Muqata'a, or a way to get Bush to invite Abu Ala to the White
House. They play along, not because they have to. It's not a problem
to say, "On these terms, no." But they prefer the old game for the
little that they gain from it personally.
I want to thank Hani for
his courage in stating his views. I learned from him and I hope you
Hani: Thank you all.