What kind of state deserves to exist?
by Tanya Reinhart
Originially printed in Yediot Aharonot
Amidst the political storm in Israel regarding the "Gaza
disengagement" plan, only one really meaningful fact emerges:
Sharon received Bush's approval to proceed with his plan for the
wall in the West Bank.
With regard to the Gaza strip, the disengagement plan published
in the Israeli papers on Friday, April 16th specifies that
within a year and a half, the Israeli occupation there should be
declared to be over. In every other aspect, the situation will
remain as is. The Palestinians will be imprisoned from all
sides, with no connection to the world, except through Israel.
Israel also reserves for itself the right to act militarily
inside the Gaza strip. (1) But since the strip will no longer be
defined as an occupied territory, Israel will not be subject to
the fourth Geneva Convention. Clause f of section I in the
published plan states that "the disengagement move will obviate
the claims about Israel with regard to its responsibility for
the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip". In other words, what Israel
does today in violation of international law will become legal:
It would presumably become formally permissible to starve people
and to kill whoever Israel determines - from a child throwing
stones, to the successor of a spiritual leader, himself executed
a month before.
The text of the plan also declares that Israel will evacuate the
settlements and the army posts inside the strip. It is not clear
how this could be accomplished given that the declared intention
is to keep the strip under full Israeli "security control".
After all, the isolated settlement of Netzarim (like the others)
was founded precisely in order to divide the strip into separate
parts, thus enabling control of it from the inside. Those who
want to, may believe that Sharon will eventually dismantle
Netzarim. In the meanwhile, however, Israel invests in its
fortification. On channel 1 TV news on April 15, there was an
interview with a pretty relaxed settler from Netzarim. "If the
defense minister is building right now a new security fence for
us" - he said - "then surely no one intends to evacuate us". In
any case, the position agreed upon by Sharon and Netanyahu, and
which was confirmed in the cabinet meeting of April 18, is that
no settlement in the Gaza strip is to be evacuated before the
wall in the West Bank is completed.
As for the West Bank, the innovation in the Bush-Sharon
agreement is not found at the level of declarations. In the
plans of Clinton and of Beilin-Abu Mazen, as well, it was clear
that Israel was not offering return to the precise line of the
1967 borders, nor a full realization of the right of return.
However, these were plans for negotiation - proposals awaiting
the approval of the Palestinian people. Now the Palestinians are
not even asked. Now it is Israel and the U.S. who are
determining the facts on the ground. Israel marks the land that
it desires, and builds a wall on that route.
In the Clinton plan, the Palestinian territory to be annexed to
Israel consisted of 5-7% of the West Bank. But when the present
route of the plan was first approved by the previous Sharon
government, Shimon Peres, then foreign minister, protested that
it robbed the Palestinians of 22% of their lands. Since then,
the segment of the wall which is already under construction has
been extended much further onto Palestinian land. According to a
UN report from November of 2003, this segment, which did not
include yet the region of Jerusalem, has already appropriated
14.5% of Palestinian land. Along this route, Israel is uprooting
tens of thousands of trees, dispossessing Palestinian farmers of
their land, and pushing them into small enclaves between fences
and walls, until, at the final stage, the wall will surround
them on all sides, as in the Gaza strip.
In 1969, the Israeli philosopher Yesayahu Leibovitz anticipated
that in the areas of the occupation "concentration camps would
be erected by the Israeli rulers... Israel would be a state that
would not deserve to exist, and it will not be worthwhile to
preserve it". How far are we from Leibovitz prophecy in the
fenced Gaza strip?
In the West Bank, the situation is still different. Along the
route of the wall, the internal struggle of the Israeli society
is now taking place - between the self-proclaimed "land
redemptionists" who, no matter how much land they have, will
always want more, and those who want to live in a state that
deserves to exist. Along that route, there are Israelis who,
alongside the Palestinians, are putting their bodies in front of
the bulldozers and the Israeli army.
(1) The published plan is available at:
Here are some of the clauses that the summary in this paragraph
is based on (Italics added):
III: Security reality after the evacuation 1. Israel will
supervise and guard the external envelope on land, will maintain
exclusive control in the air space of Gaza, and will continue to
conduct military activities in the sea space of the Gaza Strip.
3. Israel reserves for itself the basic right of self-defense,
including taking preventative steps as well as responding by
using force against threats that will emerge from the Gaza
VI. The border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt
("Philadelphi Route") During the first stage, Israel will
continue to maintain a military presence along the border line
between the Gaza Strip and Egypt ("Philadelphi Route"). This
presence is an essential security need, and in certain places,
it is possible that there will be a need for the physical
enlargement of the area in which the military activity will be
XII. The international crossing point. 1. The existing
arrangements will remain in force.
Translated from Hebrew by Netta Van Vliet