LETTERS FROM PALESTINE
Clear and Present Ethnic Cleansing
17 December 2004
The following -- an interview with a Palestinian leader in Israel about Sharon's plans, and an article about a new settlement being built illegally on Jayyous land as we speak, even during this so-called window of opportunity for peace -- make it absolutely clear what Sharon's intentions are in the Occupied Territories: leaving behind a battered prison in Gaza, stalling the peace process as long as possible by any means necessary, and annexing as much West Bank land as possible in the meantime.
Sharon doesn't want peace. He wants land that belongs to somebody else. He wants ethnic cleansing.
(Note: A majority of Israelis DO NOT agree with Sharon's position. He is not representing them, he is recklessly endangering them, and he is lying to them. -- Any of this sound familiar, my fellow Americans?)
That was clear when he massacred the villagers at Qibya in 1953. It was clear when he quietly allowed the massacre of more than 800 Palestinian civilians in Sabra and Chatila. It was clear when he stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque in September 2000 and then killed 93 Palestinians in the course of two weeks (including 20 kids 17 and under), which touched off the powder keg of the Second Intifada.
And it's clear now when he has his senior advisor Dov Weisglass proudly proclaim to the Israeli media and the world that the so-called "Disengagement Plan" (which isn't disengagement at all but redeployment -- the word 'disengagement' doesn't even appear in the letter of the plan) is meant to freeze the peace process indefinitely and preclude any possibility of a negotiated settlement or a viable Palestinian state.
Such a position is illegal, immoral, racist, and must not be tolerated by an enlightened, globalized world. Such medieval use of overwhelming force combined with sophisticated modern misuse of media is allowing cruelty on a scale not without precedent (we've always been a savage bunch of monkeys), but certainly outrageous because, well, because it's being carried out against my friends by other people who are also my friends but who are silent and/or ignorant about what's going on.
My educated, charming, gracious, funny Palestinian friends whose families have worked this land for generations don't deserve to be shot "for fun"
or otherwise and certainly don't deserve to be treated like animals, their property stolen in broad daylight, their freedom of movement and rights to education and to use their own land and water resources arbitrarily and violently stolen daily.
Collective punishment -- the targeting of innocent civilians -- is WRONG, whether it's by suicide bombing or by outrageously out-of-proportion invasions into neighborhoods, shooting kids for throwing stones, and imprisoning entire civilian populations of millions of innocent human beings.
I talked to a Christian Palestinian man last night who said he didn't see any future except the Israelis winning. Time is on their side. Force is on their side. The opinion of world leaders, and their geopolitical strategy in the Middle East, are on their side.
No matter what Palestinians do, Sharon can either provoke the Palestinians into last-ditch-effort resistance (nobody on earth can stand around forever while their neighborhood is shelled, their property is stolen, and their family is humiliated if not dismembered or killed -- more than 650 Palestinian children 17 and under have been slaughtered so far because of the Occupation), and tell the world this is evidence that all Palestinians are incurable backwards fundamentalist terrorists... Or he can finish building his Wall and give some Palestinian leader a non-contiguous block of ghettoes and prisons and call it -- like the whites in South Africa called the ghettoes they isolated blacks into before Apartheid was abolished -- the Palestinian "homelands."
Nobody can live like that, so if the Wall is finally finished, Palestinians will have no choice but to move out "voluntarily." Soon Sharon can invoke some law his own government made that says land not farmed for five years can be "legally annexed" (oxymoron if I ever heard one), and then Israel swallows up the last bit of Palestine, the world is a vastly more impoverished place, and racism and cruelty win yet again. Sharon's men have all the time in the world to carry out their Chinese-water-torture method of ethnic cleansing. Time runs out for Palestinians by the day.
The Palestinian Christian man said, "There are two ways we can vote: for Palestinian rights and for the longterm aspirations of the Palestinian people and for East Jerusalem and the refugees [Mustafa]; or for our everyday lives right now, for things to calm down for a while for us [Abu Mazen]."
He said, "We will probably elect Abu Mazen because we are tired. We know he will give up rights that we can't stand to give up, not after all we have been through. [The rights to East Jerusalem and restitution for refugees are also enshrined in international law.] We know there will be a few years of 'peace' while the settlements keep expanding and the Wall keeps being built, we'll be made even more poor and desperate, we'll be given another offer we can't accept, which denies us our most basic rights and gives us nothing in return, and then there will be a Third Intifada. And things will be much worse off than before. But what can we do? We are tired. We want a few years of rest."
He continued, "If Mustafa Barghouthi is elected, it will extend the decline and delay the disappearance of the Palestinian people. But it will make things harder right now. If Abu Mazen wins -- there will be a rest, and then another Intifada, and so on."
He said, "They might leave us the cities, but the villages will be gone." Jayyous will be gone. Some of my friends in Jayyous have said they will die on their land. They will never leave their land. So they will be gone, too. Shot or arrested or both.
(A helpless, wounded, unarmed Palestinian prisoner was recently shot at point blank range by an Israeli soldier.
One more in a long string of war crimes that will never be prosecuted.)
Abu Azzam's organic farm, his guava and lime and mango trees, avocado plants, olive trees and grape vines will be wiped or taken. Abu Azzam has worked tirelessly his whole life not just to farm his land but to KEEP it. No matter what he does, they close the gates on him or try to sell it to settlers or simply show up with bulldozers, as they have this week.
He's more than 60 years old. He's tired. He wants to enjoy his golden year's in his own personal Garden of Eden. Israel wants to deny him that. Not because he's ever done a single thing wrong to any Israeli. Only because his land is desirable, and he is not.
The Palestinian Christian man said, "This doesn't mean a white flag. This doesn't mean I won't keep living here. But our days are numbered."
His days are numbered, that is, if the international community, and the majority of peace and justice supporters in the world, don't intervene. But I can't blame him for not having much faith in that. The yellowbellied governments in Europe and the hardliners in America have barely budged from either quietly allowing or outright supporting Israel's illegal policies in the Territories, and their publics seem to be going along for the ride. If that trend isn't reversed, it will be another dark and horrible stain on history, and it will be our fault.
Questions and Answers about Sharon’s Disengagement Plan that was recently passed in the Israeli Knesset
- by Azmi Bishara - foremost Palestinian thinker and political leader of the Palestinain community in Israel
Jerusalem, October 27, 2004
What is your position with regards to Sharon’s Disengage-ment plan?
Sharon's disengagement plan is part of a comprehensive political plan aimed at continuing the status quo of occupation under conditions more favorable to Israel. The dismantling of Gaza settlements and what is called the unilateral disengagement plan is one step in a larger project aimed at the wholesale freezing of the peace process and putting it on the back burner until Israel finishes imposing its unilateral plan on the ground.
In particular Israel aims to expand and secure settlements in the West Bank, and to consolidate the occupation of parts of the west bank. The logic of the plan is twofold: (a) a political solution of the conflict is an impossibility. (b) the use of military force is vital and instrumental for breaking the will of the Palestinian people. Until then Israel should implement unilateral disengagement from problematic areas that Israel does not want to annex anyway.
We oppose this plan because it is not intended to make a step towards the reaching of a final settlement but rather it is an alternative to one. Moreover, it is an alternative that is favorable to Israel, making it possible to delay a final settlement by decades, as its designers state publicly. The National Democratic Assembly has made this position clear a number of times, among them by way of the comprehensive report published in April 2004 under the title of 'Questions and Answers about the Bush-Sharon Agreement.'
Isn’t it important that the Gaza settlements be dismantled and that Israel pull out of the Gaza Strip?
The Israeli news media focuses on the dismantling of settlements in Gaza when it has been proven that this is in Sharon's interests globally and regionally. However, this is not the most important clause of the Sharon plan. The plan also includes fortification of settlements in the West Bank and the incorporation of a large settlement block and a great deal of land from the West Bank into Israel.
Quoting from the third cause in the first section of the plan: 'It is clear that various regions in the West Bank will remain part of Israel. Israel will annex the central Jewish settlement blocs, towns, security areas, and other lands which Israel has an interest in keeping.' For the first time since the annexation of East Jerusalem, the Knesset will approve in law the annexation of parts of Palestinian occupied lands into Israel.
Likewise, the plan does not constitute a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Rather, one kind of domination will take the place of an older one. It will be a re-distribution of occupation forces such that the Gaza Strip will be transformed into a huge detention camp, under siege from all sides. This is the practical meaning of the third section of Sharonâs plan: 'Israel will honor and guard the external land borders, and will have complete control over the airspace of Gaza. Israel will also continue its military activities on the coast of the Gaza Strip.'
As stipulated in the plan, Israeli forces will maintain control over the Philadelphi road, along the border of the Gaza Strip with Egypt, and Israel will maintain the right to widen the security zone in this area when it chooses to do so.
But won't the people of Gaza enjoy an end to invasions, attacks, killings, and acts of demolition?
The separation plan itself includes the idea that Israel will continue military invasions inside Gaza. The third part of the plan states that Israel will have the right to continue these military operations under the title of self defense: 'among them are the taking of pre-emptive and reactive steps to use force against threats posed from within the Gaza Strip.' This means that killing operations, assassinations, and demolition will continue after the implementation of the separation plan. This is in harmony with Sharon's intentions in leaving burned land behind in Gaza, and with the goal of continuing to destroy the Palestinian national movement, which is Sharon's historical goal since the Lebanese invasion.
Likewise, it is clear that Israel is not pulling out of the Gaza Strip out of weakness. Sharon is trying to secure Israeli omnipotence by way of killings, assassinations, and demolition.
The case of Gaza is not a case of unilateral withdrawal yet, it is still an Israeli redeployment of forces. Unlike the case of the withdrawal from Lebanon one sovereignty is not replacing another.
Why is Sharon in a hurry to dismantle Gazan settlements and to pull his army out of the inside of the Gaza Strip?
In order to present an alternative to the political stagnation under conditions of protracted Israel aggression in Gaza without accepting a just solution. The overwhelming majority of Israeli society and its decision makers want to be done with the Gaza Strip, which has constituted a serious security and demographic burden on Israel.
There are only seven thousand settlers in an ocean of more than one million Palestinians, and there is no future for this settlement project from the Israeli perspective. However, Sharon has tried to steal international political gains for its withdrawal, which also includes plans for strengthening settlements in the West Bank in exchange for what is called disengagement from Gaza.
Isn't the dismantling of settlements an important precedent to set?
The evacuation of Gaza settlements does not establish a precedent. Sharon has dismantled the Sinai settlements in the past, and planted much more of them in the West Bank since then. His current plan includes in no uncertain terms the strengthening, and not the dismantling, of settlements in the West Bank, in exchange for the evacuation of Gaza settlements.
What about the Bush-Sharon agreement?
The letters exchanged between Sharon and Bush in April 2004 have become an integral part of the plan. Israel has obtained from the United States funding for the plan. The United States has supported the erasure of the right of return and the annexation of settlement blocs into Israel. The United States has also committed itself to the consolidation of the state of Israel as a Jewish state. Whoever supports the Sharon plan also supports this consolidation.
What is the relationship between the disengagement plan and the peace process?
Sharon's disengagement plan is not part of the peace process, but rather is part of a long process of establishing a security framework that aims to make occupation of parts of the west bank more sustainable. The only relationship these letters have with the peace process is a negative one. As Sharonâs advisor Dov Weisglass said clearly in an interview with Haaretz, the plan is intended to freeze the peace process and to cut off the path to a national initiative.
Weisglass considered the greatest accomplishment of the plan to be the placing of the political process and the question of a Palestine state on the sidelines for a long time.
To put it in short,
The plan is one package containing the dismantling of settlements in Gaza and four in the northern part of the West Bank, but in exchange for this, the plan:
(1) is intended to freeze the peace process and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza;
A package of this kind is unsupportable, and must be rejected. We decided to reject and to abstain in the vote in the Knesset because we wanted to distinguish our opposition from that of the far right.
(2) stipulates the fortification of settlements in the West Bank;
(3) includes a plan for annexing settlement blocs and large swaths of land from the West Bank into Israel;
(4) secures the siege of the Gaza Strip by land, sea, and air, and preserves Israel's right to continue invasions and attacks in Gaza;
(5) includes the Bush-Sharon correspondence which negates the right of return, certifies that Israel will remain a Jewish state, and acknowledges that settlement blocs will be annexed to Israel.
ABU AZZAM'S STORY
(or a bit of it anyway)
by Pam Olson
13 September 2004
Abu Azzam, an organic farmer from Jayyous, is a leader of non-violent resistance in the northern agricultural districts.
He speaks perfect Hebrew and has countless Israeli friends. Like most Palestinians I know, he just wants them to urge their fellow countrymen to chill out so everyone can live together with a modicum of peace and security. About 200 Israelis will come to Jayyous to help out with the olive harvest in October if things go smoothly.
I've said it a million times, but the conflict is not between Israelis and Palestinians or between Muslims and Jews. It is between ruthless ideological powermongers and normal, kindhearted, openminded folks on both sides (and all over the world, in fact).
Abu Azzam told me the story of his land, maybe 40 acres of it, that was confiscated by Israel for seven years, during which he had no access to it. The claim was that the land was unfit for agriculture.
Sitting in the shade of a lime tree on his land eating fresh watermelons, mangoes, figs, and green grapes, the claim that the land was unfit for agriculture was so absurd as to be comical. But the fact that they got away with it was so serious and dreadful, such an infringement on the most basic freedoms of life, that it felt like strangulation. If they just said so, it would be funny. If they overpowered him and forced him off his land, it became a horribly cynical power play.
He said after seven years of fighting, he was finally given access to his land again, and he worked it furiously to combat the notion that it was not fit for agriculture. Meanwhile, Israelis began dynamiting the land for stones just on the other side of his fence next to his above-ground reservoir (on land confiscated from somebody else). He knew if they came much closer, they would damage it, and he got a court order to stop them from dynamiting. But any time they like they can start again, and the ugly gash in the stolen land has already been made.
Abu Azzam has a lot of big, beautiful stones lying around his land, piled up into walls, and some Israelis offered to buy them from him. He said he would give them up for free if the Israelis would only give him a paper, a signed contract, saying that his land was his incontrovertibly and in perpetuity.
After the Apartheid Wall was built, he had to sleep out on his land for weeks at a time so that he could work his land without the humiliating waits and arbitrary closures at the gates, much to the chagrin of his wife. He laughed and said, "I worked all my life to build a nice house for my wife, and now we couldn't even share it. She was very upset."
It was illegal for farmers to sleep on their land, so he knew that as soon as he left his land, he wouldn't be able to come back for a long time.
Then word came that he was invited to an international forum (I think it was the European Social Forum in Paris, but he’s also been to the World Social Forum in India, and he was a witness at the Hague for its decision to declare the Apartheid Wall illegal).
Before he left, he noticed a wild tree growing out of a crack in a rock that lay between a mango tree and an avocado tree. He tried to water it, help it along, but there was nowhere for the water to go, and it ran straight down the side of the rock. He was mystified. How could a little tree survive with no food or water?
When word came he was invited to Paris, he bade farewell to the tree and cut off its two branches in order to spare it a long, agonizing death from dehydration.
When he got back to Palestine, he had to petition for seven months to get access to his land again.
After all those months it lay in ruins, overgrown, some plants dead, some fruit long-rotten. His wife cried and sang. He went back to the rock with the tree in it, and he was speechless to find that where the tree had had two branches before, now it had half a dozen. It was thriving.
“It was a message,” he confirmed to me. “This tree is a message to Palestinians. If it can survive on nothing, so can we.”
ISRAELIS HASTEN LAND GRAB IN
SHADOW OF WALL
By Chris McGreal
December 14, 2004
Sharif Omar (Abu Azzam) has been waiting two years for the bulldozers, ever since Israel's steel and barbed wire "security fence" carved its way between his village and its land. Last week the excavators and diggers finally arrived on the outskirts of Jayyous to lay the foundations for an expansion of the nearby Jewish settlement of Zufim, fulfilling the fears and warnings of its Palestinian neighbours.
The bulldozers were preparing the ground for hundreds of new homes, despite the Israeli government's claim that it is not expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Like other building work along the route of the barrier, it seems to be an attempt to ensure that the land between the fence and the 1967 border remains in Israeli hands in any final agreement with the Palestinians.
(Map of land being newly bulldozed in Jayyous. Note that 70% of Jayyous land is already on the 'wrong' side of the Wall [Israeli is trying to annex it illegally], the Wall has destroyed 5% of Jayyous' land, and Zufin is also already annexing a good chunk of Jayyous land.)
"When they built the fence, we said they would use it to build a much bigger settlement, and they would take our land to do it," said Mr Omar (Abu Azzam), whose olive and citrus groves are now encircled. "It is very clear to us, they are planning to confiscate all of our land and drive us from here. They came and told us to finish harvesting because they were going to begin building 80 houses. They are beginning with my neighbour's land but if they do it there they will do it on mine."
At least five other sites along the barrier have settlement work in progress. Israeli human rights groups say the government appears to be racing to fill in the gap between the barrier and the Israeli border before a US team arrives next year to mark out the final limits of settlement expansion.
Zufim, where about 200 families live, is built on 136 hectares (336 acres) of land confiscated from Jayyous in 1986. An Israeli rights group, Bimkom, says that developers in Zufim plan to build about 1,200 new homes. Yehezkel Lein, a researcher for another Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, said the military government in the occupied territories had issued permits for the work.
He added: "In the plan for Zufim there is an extension to the north of the settlement that was already approved. There is also another expansion to the east. But there is no territorial contiguity between Zufim and the new construction, so it is really a new settlement."
He said the government's intention became clear when it sited the barrier between Jayyous and Zufim so that most of the land was on the settlers' side. "The fence took an inconvenient route, not one that is best for security. If you ask why, it can only be to take the land."
About 400 more houses are being built around Alfe Menashe settlement, at the heart of an enclave created by a loop in the barrier less than two miles south of Zufim. Trapped inside are five smaller Palestinian communities of about 1,000 people and their land.
A short distance away work has begun on about 50 houses at Nof Sharon on land confiscated from a Palestinian town. In recent months the government has invited tenders to build thousands of houses in big settlements, such as Ariel, and those close to Jerusalem, including Ma'ale Adumim.
The first stage of the peace road map obliges Israel to freeze all settlement construction. Its foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, told the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, in Jerusalem last month that the government was not expanding its settlements.
But a foreign ministry spokesman, Mark Regev, said yesterday that Israel had an agreement with the US that new building was allowed within existing built-up areas. "The word settlement expansion means the outward growth of settlements. From our interpretation, that means building inside existing settlements," he said.
Pressed on why the building near Zufim and other sites was some distance from the settlements, Mr Regev said there was a different view of Jewish colonies close to the 1967 border. "We are talking about places that it's accepted will remain inside Israel whatever the outcome of final status talks. It's possible that in those places the thinking is different."
The Palestinians say there is no such acceptance on their part, and this is an Israeli interpretation of an agreement with Washington.
Settlement expansion between the barrier and the green line has been encouraged by a letter from President Bush to Ariel Sharon in April promising that "population concentrations" in the occupied territories - taken to mean Jewish settlements - would remain in Israeli hands under any peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Last week the US national security council adviser on the Middle East, Elliott Abrams, told a closed meeting of Jewish leaders that Washington saw settlements to the east of the barrier as ultimately intended for removal. But he said Israel would be allowed to hold on those to the west, which include Zufim.
The Palestinian communities trapped in the enclave with Alfe Menashe have gone to the Israeli high court to get the barrier moved, in part because they are afraid that settlement expansion will grab more of their land.
Last week government lawyers told the court that living next to Alfe Menashe gave the Palestinians the opportunity to find jobs in the settlement, and so they "were not only not harmed by building the fence but even benefited from it".
The villagers' lawyer, Michael Sefarad, was astonished by the government's claim. "None of the enclave's residents wants the fence, and is not interested in being at the mercy of the settlers. To suggest that is outrageous," he said.
"It reveals how the justice ministry really regards the Palestinians' lives and wishes. If anyone can even think that a Palestinian would be happy to live in a walled-in enclave because it gives him the opportunity to work in a settlement, it is very sad."
ISRAEL'S WALL HEMS IN LIVELIHOODS - AND DREAMS
Sharif Omar (Abu Azzam)
JAYYOUS, West Bank -- When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon describes the wall Israel is building, he makes it sound harmless. But President Bush deftly cut through that façade when he noted that ''the fence . . . kind of meanders around the West Bank, which makes it awfully hard to develop a contiguous state.'' So did Secretary of State Colin Powell when he recently told the Israeli newspaper, Maariv, that he fears ''the fence is developing in a way that will make it very difficult to reach the next stage of the road map.''
In Jayyous, the Palestinian village on the West Bank that is my home, we began living with this problem last September, when a shepherd found a paper hanging from an olive tree. It was a military order instructing us to meet an Israeli army officer to tour the ''separation'' wall's path.
Hundreds of area Palestinians turned out. Most farmers expected the wall would be near the Green Line, Israel's pre-1967 border with the West Bank. But we learned that the wall would be built almost four miles east of the Green Line, as close as 90 feet from Jayyous' homes, separating our residential area from our farmland.
People burst into tears. Some fainted. With the wall, Israel is taking 75% of Jayyous' most fertile land, including all our irrigated farmland, seven wells and 12,000 olive trees. Jayyous' 3,000 residents depend almost entirely on agricultural income. So this means a loss of our livelihoods, dreams, hopes, future and heritage.
Cut off from land
Jayyous is just one example. The wall is cutting through Palestinian villages all across our fertile Qalqilya region, and causing destruction in dozens of West Bank villages. Thousands of farmers can't reach their land. Gates are supposed to provide access to land, but instead they've become places for Israeli soldiers to harass farmers. Thousands of citrus trees have died from lack of water. Many farmers are simply leaving their crops in the fields because the transportation costs would make them unprofitable to market.
Israeli officials have justified the wall's construction as necessary for security. However, if it were for security, it would follow the Green Line. Building it four miles inside the Green Line means only one thing: The Israelis are confiscating more Palestinian land and water.
The truth is, many Israelis want the land without the people. The wall is an unwritten order for emigration from Palestine, because people who have no income will have no choice but to leave.
To avoid this, I and many other farmers began building sheds and tents so we can live on our farmland. I've planted 150 citrus trees since they started building the wall, to show other farmers we don't have to yield.
Farmers vs. bulldozers
Jayyous farmers, with the assistance of international and Israeli activists, have held many peaceful protests, during which they face the bulldozers destroying their fields as well as armed Israeli soldiers and guards. During one peaceful march, an Israeli military officer explained to me that Sarah, the wife of our common ancestor Abraham, was their mother but not ours, and that because Sarah went to heaven, Jews were entitled to the land. After his lecture, he used tear gas and rubber-coated bullets to break up our protest.
I've chosen peaceful resistance to the wall because, as a father, I feel pain when my children are hurt. I have the same feeling for Israelis. I don't want to cause them pain. Peaceful resistance also avoids giving the Israeli military justifications to kill more Palestinians. I hope peaceful protests will leave a positive impact on Israeli soldiers and strengthen our partnership with Israeli peace groups.
The majority of Palestinians are now completely convinced that non-violent resistance is the best choice. The whole idea of the wall is wrong. It will never lead to a just and real peace.
I don't even want them to build the wall on the Green Line, because it will truly be an ''apartheid wall,'' preventing the development of understanding between our cultures. It's so important for us to find one language -- for peace.
From Jayyous, we call on people from around the world -- Americans, Israelis, Arabs and all others -- to help us stop this unjust wall.
Sharif Omar, a farmer and community leader, is a member of the Land Defense Committee for the region of Qalqilya.
NOT ONE SINGLE SETTLEMENT
17 December 2004
This, perhaps, is the primary reason the Labor Party must enter the government at any price: to keep a close watch on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon so that he does not follow the familiar yearnings of his heart from years gone by and fill the West Bank with new settlements while all the attention is focused on the evacuation of the Gaza Strip.
These words are being written in the wake of the state's reply to the community of Nirit's petition to the High Court of Justice against the establishment of a new Jewish settlement with 1,200 housing units to be called Nof Hasharon, adjacent to Nirit but on the other side of the Green Line, in the West Bank. In his reply to the High Court of Justice, the representative of the State Prosecutor's office said the road map that has been approved by the government, whereby it has undertaken not to set up any new settlements in the territories, does not legally obligate the state.
This amazing legal hairsplitting shows a trend of thought in Sharon's government that portends ill. It is untenable that it will demand of the Palestinians that they stick to their commitment under the road map to fight terror while ignoring its own commitment not to establish settlements.
The wall-to-wall support that Ariel Sharon has been enjoying recently is based on his decision to turn over a new leaf in the diplomatic arena. This is not unconditional support. The suspicions regarding Sharon still exist and have often been expressed on this page. There is still the possibility that the disengagement from Gaza is nothing but a maneuver aimed at strengthening the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The recent silence of the settler leadership makes one wonder whether they have been given promises about which the public does not know.
This feeling is reinforced upon reading the follow-up reports by Peace Now and other organizations to the effect that in Samaria, the Etzion bloc and Ma'aleh Adumim, there is energetic ground-breaking work going on in an attempt to establish new facts on the ground. The suspicion is that the government is trying to draw up a new map strewn with Jewish settlement points before the Americans come to the region to draw their own map of the settlements. In addition to this, about 100 outposts that were slated to be evacuated long ago are thriving undisturbed, have already been hooked up to water and electricity infrastructures and are continuing to expand.
It is to be hoped that the Labor Party, upon joining the government, will not nurture any mistaken illusions about Sharon's new path and will not hesitate to insist upon the total cessation of all investments in new Jewish settlements, or the expansion of existing ones, even if this leads to a crisis and early elections. The disengagement from the Gaza Strip has to be only a first stage in a comprehensive peace plan that will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Anyone who has been following the settlement project since its inception knows that most of it has come about using the method of promises are one thing, winks are another thing and construction is quite another, which is not unfamiliar to Sharon. The time has come to put an end to this. The Jewish settlements are the main obstacle today to an agreement with the Palestinians. To this historical injustice, not one further settlement should be added.