For the past decade, U.S. demands for Israel to dismantle Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and the Gaza strip were sweetened with talk of a “ peace process” and economic benefits that would accrue for the Israeli people from such a move.
Now, gone are any such promises of peace when the U.S. calls for Israel to dismantle Jewish communities. Undersecretary of State David Satterfield recently told the media at the State Department that the U.S. simply demanded that Israel dismantle its Jewish communities in areas that Israel acquired in a defensive war in 1967. Period.
As a matter of policy, Israel had offered to trade some of these areas for bona fide peace agreements, and that is precisely what Israel did in 1982, when Israel handed over the Sinai and dismantled 16 Northern Sinai Jewish communities as a part of the formal peace agreement between Israel and Egypt brokered by the U.S.
This is not the first time that the State Department brought pressure to bear against Israel. On September 1, 1982, President Reagan issued a plan that also mandated unilateral Israeli withdrawal from vast areas that Israel had acquired after the 1967 war.
Yet nothing happened at the time. In February 1993, I interviewed the man who was Israel's Prime Minister back in 1982, Yitzhak Shamir. I asked him how it was that the U.S. made demands and nothing happened? Shamir's answer was that "we said no, and they understood the we meant it, and they backed off.”
Today, however, the State Department pressure seems to be working.
That is not because Israel has any peace partner or any peace agreement in the offing. It is because the U.S. has new leverage on Israel, which has asked the U.S. for billions of dollars of loans to enable the Jewish state to cope with the loss of foreign investment during the four year guerrilla war of attrition that has wreaked economic havoc.
Ariel Sharon, Israel's current Prime Minister, has announced that he will succumb to State Department policy dictates and dismember the Jewish communities in the Katif district of Gaza.
The question, however, is whether the U.S. and the sycophantic Israeli Prime Minister will now transform a democratic ally like Israel into a banana republic.
Israel is often referred to as the only democracy in the Middle East. Let us hope and pray that it stays that way. After all, it is surrounded by hostile dictatorships where totalitarian rule is the norm and that constantly seek Israel’s destruction.
With a system of proportional representative democracy, much like the United Kingdom, the Israeli Knesset parliamentary elections can often produce as many as twenty political parties out of only 120 seats.
The Israeli Prime Minister therefore always presides over a coalition government that consists of a diverse amount of political parties to which he is accountable. Those parties are also accountable to the Israeli Prime Minister.
That is Israel's system of checks and balances which has kept Israel’s democracy working through the continual state of war that the Jewish state has coped with since its inception in 1948.
Yet on March 9, 2004, Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ignored Israel’s parliamentary system of democracy and behaved like a dictator.
On that day, our news agency learned that the Israeli Prime Minister had unilaterally informed officials of U.S. intelligence that he would begin to dismantle the 21 thriving Israeli farming communities and evict 1200 Israeli families of the Katif district of Gaza as early as May 1, 2004.
Prior to his Pentagon leak, Sharon held no cabinet discussion or decision, no Knesset parliamentary discussion or decision and no Israel National Security Council discussion or decision. He acted alone.
And only last week, a member of the Knesset revealed yet another secret plan documented by Sharon to brutally evacuate the Jewish communities of Katif by ordering the cutoff of all their water, electricity and police or military protection.
Sharon’s foreign press spokesman would not deny the veracity of that document.
This is not the first time that Sharon has ignored the decision-making process of Israel’s democracy. After trying an earlier unilateral move on his own, Sharon in May, 2003, was forced to deal with the Israeli cabinet that ultimately approved the “The Road Map” prepared by the “quartet”-- the U.S., the UN, the EU and Russia-- all of them foreign powers.
The cabinet added fourteen clear reservations, designed to protect Israel’s absolute autonomy and security, which include reasonable demands that “The Palestine Authority (PA) dismantle all terror organizations,” and that the “end of the process will lead to the end of all claims and end the conflict.”
The U.S., however, has ignored Israel’s reservations, and Sharon has followed suit by making it a policy of saying and reiterating that “Israel accepts the Road Map,” as if it does so without any qualms.
Following Sharon’s meeting with three top U.S. officials on Thursday, I asked Sharon’s official spokesman if the Prime Minister had brought up Israel’s reservations to the Road Map. The spokesman whispered “yes”. I then asked if the reservations would be mentioned in the press release following the meeting. The PM spokesman said, “no”, giving “space consideration” as the reason, and saying that the press release would be very short.
Sharon has therefore formally relinquished Israel's independence, placing it instead under the thumb of outside powers and financial interests that may not have Israel's best interests in mind.
In the words of Dr. Uzi Arad, the head of the Herzlia Interdisciplinary Center of Strategic Studies, "It was predictable that the concept of a 'unilateral' withdrawal would never work...The result is that Israel has fallen prey to strange bedfellows."
Indeed, the French and British governments, the European Union and the government of Egypt have all been discussing the possibility of deploying troops to Gaza to fill the void that would be created by a pullout of Israeli communities from the area.
Hence, the comparison to a banana republic.
The question has been asked: Can Sharon implement such a radical policy without the approval of the Israeli Government, Knesset or Israel National Security Council? Remember he is a democratically elected leader of a robust democracy on par with the United States and Great Britain.
The answer is that he just might be able to get away with it:
Both the Arabs and the Jews of Gaza still live under military rule. Thus it would be no problem to make life so uncomfortable for the Jews in Katif that they could not survive there for one day.
At this point, that means that Ariel Sharon challenges Israel’s democratic system, for only in a totalitarian country would we normally witness a regime that would force its citizens out of land and homes that they have lawfully bought and farmed.
Katif's 21 Jewish farming communities represent one of the most prosperous and productive contributions to Israel's free market economy. These competitive farming communities often beat out the Israel Labor Party's socialist Kibbutz collective farms for produce contracts for export abroad. Indeed, 65 percent of Israel's tomatoes for export abroad emanate from Katif. Within domestic Israeli society, a conflict of interest exists for farming concerns within Israel’s 1948 green
line who stand to benefit from such a removal. Most Americans and Europeans are unaware of this.
The Israel Labor Party, instead of fulfilling its responsibility as the leading opposition party to the imperious way in which Sharon is handling his role as Prime Minister, is waiting in the wings to join the new government if and when the National Religious Party and National Union Party decide to leave his control. Those parties are not where he normally draws his support. A survey of Sharons's ruling Likud party shows that a majority of the 41 Likud Party members now oppose Sharon’s policy.
Thus the only effective option against Sharon’s plan centers on his own Likud
party members and cabinet ministers opposing him.
And only when Likud members and their staffers are literally swamped with telephone calls to their cell phones and their Knesset offices or forced to stand in line at the post office to sign for hundreds of registered letters each day can things be turned around.
The Free World can and should make its voice heard.
Katif should be understood by the entire free world community as being under the threat and the black cloud of eradication as a sop to the Arab world.
At a time when the Prime Minister of a democracy has announced his intention to oppress some of his own citizens, those citizens need to know that the free world has not forgotten them. Katif is no different than the Sudetenland of Czechoslavakia at the start of World War Two that was given away by Neville Chamberlain.
History is repeating itself in the War On Terror.
Members of Israel's Knesset can be reached by writing the name of the Knesset member c/o Knesset, Jerusalem, Israel.
All members of the Knesset are listed at www.knesset.gov.il.