Friday, August 19. 2005
Tanya Reinhardt has an interesting piece called How We Left Gaza. She argues that Sharon never actually intended to leave the settlements, but boxed himself into a corner, and ultimately had to follow through because the U.S. held him to the promise. If you look back over the two years from announcement to implementation, you can find lots of evidence to back this view. She quotes a NY Times piece on Middle East Security Coordinator General William Ward: "General Ward, a careful man, confirmed that two weeks ago, American pressure helped stay the Israeli military when it was poised to go into Gaza . . . He predicted that there could be similar pressure should the need arise. 'That scenario is a scenario that none of us would like to see,' he said. 'There is a deep realization on the part of the Israeli leadership, including the military, about the consequences of that type of scenario.'" She doesn't talk about the reasons Israel wanted to send the military in, but obviously had they done so the effect would have been to stir things up, leading to more bloodshed. Neve Gordon, at Counterpunch, cites figure from B'tselem: "in the first ten months after the official decision to dismantle the settlements, Israeli forces killed 563 Palestinians in Gaza, whereas during the previous ten months period 264 were killed."
Reinhardt attributes the change in U.S. tactics to the disaster in Iraq. Bush's initial attitude toward Israel was one of malign neglect: give Sharon a free hand to do things his way. Bush wiggled a bit here and there in the run up to the Iraq war when he was trying to line up allies like the U.K. and Saudi Arabia that had concerns about Israel, but in the wake of what looked like victory the U.S. applauded an unprovoked Israeli air attack on Syria. Since then the U.S. position in Iraq has gone to hell in a handbasket. And while Israel may be America's staunchest ally, it's also America's most helpless and hopeless ally. Reinhardt concludes: "Over the years we have become accustomed to the idea that 'U.S. pressure' means declarations that have no muscle behind them. But suddenly the words have acquired new meaning. When the U.S. really does exert pressure, no Israeli leader would dare defy its injunctions (and certainly not Netanyahu). And so we have pulled out of Gaza. If the U.S. continues to lose ground in Iraq, maybe we will be forced to pull out of the West Bank as well."
Just yesterday, when I posted my peace plan, the idea that the U.S. might support something like that seemed like a pipe dream. But today I find an article from a totally independent source that suggests it may make sense after all.