Sharon's point of view it's a done deal. Israel
has won its century-old conflict with the Palestinians.
Surveying the landscape - physical and political
alike - the Israeli Prime Minister has finally fulfilled
the task with which he was charged 38 years ago
by Menachem Begin: ensure permanent Israel control
over the entire Land of Israel while foreclosing
the emergence of a viable Palestinian state.
unlimited resources at his disposal, Sharon set
out to establish irreversible "facts on the
ground" that would preempt any process of negotiations.
Supported by both Likud and Labor governments, he
oversaw the establishment of some 200 settlements
(almost 400 if you include the "outposts")
on land expropriated from Palestinians in the West
Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Today almost a half
million Israelis live across the 1967 border. With
financial backing of the Clinton Administration,
a system of twenty-nine highways was constructed
in the Occupied Territories to incorporate the settlements
into Israel proper. In the meantime 96% of the Palestinians
were locked into what Sharon calls "cantons,"
dozens of tiny enclaves, deprived of the right to
move freely and now being literally imprisoned behind
concrete walls twice as high as the Berlin Wall
and electrified fences. Although comprising half
the population of the country between the Mediterranean
and the Jordan River, the Palestinians - including
those with Israeli citizenship - are confined to
just 15% of the country.
order to secure permanent Israeli control, however,
the "facts on the ground" had to be legitimized
as permanent political facts. International law
defines occupation as a temporary situation resolvable
only through negotiations. It prohibits an Occupying
Power from taking any steps that makes its control
permanent, specifically transferring of one's population
into an occupied territory and building settlements.
Indeed, international law holds an Occupying Power
such as Israel responsible for the well-being of
the civilian population under its control. For help
in by-passing international law and transforming
Israel's Occupation into a permanent reality, Sharon
turned to Israel's one and only patron in such matters,
the US, which promptly obliged. In April, 2004,
the Bush Administration formally recognized Israel's
settlement blocs - euphemistically called "major
population centers" - thus unilaterally removing
from the Palestinians 20-30% of the already truncated
area in which they wished to establish a small state
of their own. It was tantamount to Mexico requesting
that Spain return Bush's Texas. Israel's annexation
of its settlement blocs was subsequently approved
almost unanimously by Congress: in the House by
a vote of 407-9, in the Senate by 95-3.
Israel needs a Palestinian state. Although the annexation
of the settlement blocs gives Israel complete control
over the entire country between the Mediterranean
and the Jordan River, it needs to "get rid
of" the almost four million Palestinian residents
of the Occupied Territories to which it can neither
give citizenship nor keep in a state of permanent
bondage. What Sharon seeks, and what Bush has agreed
to, is a truncated Palestinian mini-state, a Bantustan,
a prison-state on 10-15% of the country that relieves
Israel of the Palestinian population while leaving
it firmly in control of the country and its resources.
Whether or not we like the term, this amounts to
full-blown apartheid, the permanent and institutionalized
domination of one people over another.
created irreversible "facts of the ground"
and gotten American political recognition of an
expanded Israel, Sharon lacks just one last piece
to make Israeli apartheid official: either the signature
of a Palestinian quisling-leader agreeing to a mini-state,
or an excuse to unilaterally impose it. Arafat refused
to play that role. Now it is Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas' turn. When, just this week, Sharon's
advisor on strategy, Eyal Arad, raised the possibility
of turning unilateral disengagement into a strategy
that would allow Israel to draw its own borders,
the message to Abbas was clear: Either you cooperate
or lose any input whatsoever into a political resolution
of the conflict.
in short, is priming Abbas for a set up, another
"generous offer." It worked well for Barak,
why not try it again, this time for the whole pot?
What would Abbas say if Sharon offered Gaza, 70-80%
of the West Bank and a symbolic presence in East
Jerusalem? True, it is not a just or viable solution.
The Palestinians would be confined to five or six
cantons on 15% of the entire country or less, with
no control of their borders, their water, even their
airspace. Jerusalem, now encased in a massive Israeli
"Greater Jerusalem," would be denied them,
thereby removing the political, cultural, religious
and economic heart of any Palestinian state. Israel
would retain its settlement blocs and 80% of its
settlers. But Sharon's "generous offer"
would look good on the map and, he believes, viability
is simply too complicated a concept for most people,
including decision-makers, to grasp. But for Abbas
it sets up a no-win situation. Say "yes"
and you will be the quisling leader Israel has been
looking for all these years, the one who agreed
to a non-viable mini-state, to apartheid. Say "no"
and Sharon will pounce: "See?! The Palestinians
have refused yet another Generous Offer! They obviously
do not want peace!" And Israel, off the hook,
will be free to expand its control of the Occupied
Territories for years to come, protected from criticism
by American-backed annexation of the settlement
unilateralism means only one thing: it has nothing
to offer the Palestinians, nothing worth negotiating
over. The Road Map asserts that only a true end
of the Occupation and the establishment of a viable
Palestinian state will finally see the end of this
conflict with its global implications. A genuine
two-state solution may already be dead, the victim
of Israeli expansionism. A two-state "solution"
based on apartheid cannot be an alternative accepted
by any of us. Yet apartheid is upon us once again.
Sharon must act fast to complete his life's work
before his term of office expires within the next
year. This is the crunch. We cannot afford to have
our attention deflected by any other issue, important
as it may be. It is either a just and viable solution
now or apartheid now. We may well be facing the
prospect of another full-fledged anti-apartheid
struggle just a decade and a half after the fall
of apartheid in South Africa. In my view, the next
three to six months will tell.
Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee
Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached