What this is really all about is leaving the Arab populated areas of Gaza, further encasing the 1 million+ Arabs there in a kind of 'autonomous' concentration camp everywhere surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers; and then moving on with even more American money and backing to further consolidate Israeli control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River -- complete with Palestinian bantustans and the now being finished 'apartheid wall'.
This further commentary from an American Jewish group not supporting Sharon but with a discrediting past record of support for Oslo, Barak, Peres, Geneva...
PM Wants US Approval to Expand Large West Bank settlements (Ha'aretz) Sharon Unveils New Twist to His Plan for a Pullout From Gaza
[Ha'aretz reports today that a new twist on Ariel Sharon's plan to evacuate most of the Gaza Strip has been unveiled. Sharon plans to ask the United States to allow Israel to expand some of the biggest West bank settlements as recompense for pulling out of Gaza. The settlements in question, Ma'aleh Adumim, Ariel and Gush Etzion are among the most important ones to Israel to keep. Ma'aleh Adumim is quite near the Jordan border and sufficiently east of Jerusalem, to practically bisect the West Bank.
This is very much a case of creating facts on the ground. If the US approves this idea, even if it does not actually materialize, it will have given the stamp of approval to the notion that Israel will never go back to the 1967 borders and that a truly viable Palestinian state cannot be created on the West Bank.
This is presented as one of several options Israel is considering to propose. Another surely in the mix is increased aid, which is likely to be proposed with or without this measure, although US refusal to endorse the expansion may mean it will give Israel even more money. But this reveals some of the thinking of the Sharon government--they seek legitimization of annexation of parts of the West Bank, and are more than happy to sacrifice the useless and draining settlements in Gaza to get it. The mixed signals being sent from Washington leave the question open as to whether they will get it. Such approval would mean the Bush Administration is conceding that their ill-conceived "Roadmap" is a total failure.
A few other points to note: Egypt will be in an interesting position in the Gaza pullout, as their peace treaty with Israel requires Israel to provide security in teh small strip of land that separates Gaza from Egypt's border. Also, a reference in this article to "the previous [American] administration" being aware that annexation of these large settlement blocs was always the intent confirms what many keen observers were saying during the Oslo years--that the goal Israel was pursuing was keyed on annexing Ma'aleh Adumim and eventually incorporating that area into "Greater Jerusalem", thus setting the final borders, bifurcating the West Bank and settling the thorny question of Jerusalem by imposing Israel's will. The United States has repeatedly said it opposes unilateral steps, although they have often not enforced this notion on Israeli plans. One can only hope this will be an exception. -- MP]