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The Present As History
The Great ‘Unilateral Disengagement’ Swindle and What it Tells about US-Israeli Relations

by Samantha Criscione
European Editor, Emperor’s Clothes

Edited by Jared Israel

[18 July 2006]

===============================================

At the end of August 2005, the Israeli government completed the expulsion of all Jewish civilians living in the Gaza strip and in Northern Samaria, part of the West Bank of the Jordan River.

In September it pulled out the military forces deployed in defense of those civilians and turned control of the Gaza-Sinai border over to the Palestinian Authority and the Egyptian military, in violation of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, and arguably jeopardizing Israel’s existence.
[1]

This operation, designated the “Disengagement Plan”, has been portrayed in Israel and around the world as a step toward peace, supposedly taken by Israel of its own initiative, without even consulting its ally, the US government. Indeed some have portrayed the “Disengagement Plan” as having been imposed upon the US government by a Machiavellian Ariel Sharon, who, we are told, blackmailed Washington into giving him “exactly want he wanted.”
[2]

Even opponents of the “Disengagement Plan” have uncritically accepted this line, for example Yaakov Amidror:

“For the first time in the history of Zionism the Israeli government has shattered a taboo and is uprooting settlements without external pressure and without receiving anything in return”. [my emphasis -- SC] [3]

But is this picture accurate?


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Words Are Stones

=======================================

People customarily think of words as neutral instruments for expressing ideas that might or might not become actions, which alone are considered dangerous. The children’s rhyme says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me!” But in fact, words can be and are used as weapons, for example in political propaganda. In this sense, words are stones.

From the start, ‘unilateral’ was the key word in the presentation of the “Disengagement Plan”.

‘Unilateral’ means “done or undertaken by one person or party.”
[4]

Thus a unilateral plan is, by definition, one-sided, i.e., undertaken without consultation of the other side. In hostile negotiations, unilateral steps are justified if they advance your interests and injure your opponent. So on December 18, 2003, when Ariel Sharon announced a “Disengagement Plan,” even though for four months he didn’t explain in detail what was involved in the Plan, by calling it “unilateral” he was suggesting it would serve Israel’s interests while harming the Arabs. He magnified that impression by posing the plan as a threat, saying:

“…if in a few months the Palestinians still continue to disregard their part in implementing the Roadmap [i.e., President Bush's Middle East peace plan] then Israel will initiate the unilateral security step of disengagement from the Palestinians.”

and:

“Obviously, through the Disengagement Plan the Palestinians will receive much less than they would have received through direct negotiations as set out in the Roadmap.” [5]

The US government, Arab leaders and the world media also talked about disengagement as dangerously one-sided. For example, immediately after Sharon announced the plan, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan held a press briefing. Answering a question about Sharon’s speech, he claimed the US government knew nothing about what Sharon had in mind and warned:

“The United States believes that a settlement must be negotiated, and we would oppose any effort -- any Israeli effort to impose a settlement.”
-- Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, Dec. 18, 2003
[6]

For the next four month, the US and Israeli governments replayed this script, time and again, with Israel repeatedly threatening “unilateral” action and the US professing to be worried about what Israel might do, until, finally, in April of 2004, President Bush professed to give in to Israeli pressure and accept the plan.

A study of the record shows this was pure doubletalk.

First, the contents of Israel’s supposedly unilateral “Disengagement Plan” have been implicit in US policy at least since the Mitchell Report, which was commissioned by President Clinton in October 2000 and released by George Bush in 2001, and which formed the basis of the US government’s ‘Road Map for Peace’, launched in April 2003.

Second, the “Disengagement Plan” changed (indeed, reversed) the Israeli government’s stance on vital questions:

a) From referring to the West Bank and Gaza strip as ‘disputed territories’, meaning Israel has arguable claims --

-- to referring to them as ‘occupied territories’, meaning any Israeli presence is illegitimate;

b) From defending the right of Jews to live anywhere they want --

-- to accepting the Arab demand that all Jews be evicted from “Palestinian” lands;

c) From demanding that the Arabs dismantle and destroy terrorist organizations, i.e., stop murdering Israeli citizens, before negotiations --

-- to accepting that Israel must dissolve some or even all settlements without the Arabs doing anything except taking over the functions Israel abandons.

Third: the contents of the “Disengagement Plan” benefited Israel’s historic enemies (the Arab League and Egypt first of all), rendering Israel militarily less defensible. [7]

All these dramatic reversals, involved in the “Disengagement Plan”, were already being pushed by US officials starting April 30, 2003, when the Road Map was officially issued; indeed before that time. For example, the Mitchell Report of April 30, 2001 spoke of:

“the humiliation and frustration that Palestinians must endure every day as a result of living with the continuing effects of occupation, sustained by the presence of Israeli military forces and settlements in their midst”

and ‘suggested’ that:

“The GOI [Government of Israel] may wish to make it clear to the PA [Palestinian Authority] that a future peace would pose no threat to the territorial contiguity of a Palestinian State to be established in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip”. [9]

As I will prove, the specific elements of the “Disengagement Plan” were explicitly demanded of Israel in visits and statements by US officials in May of 2003. Ariel Sharon publicly accepted most of these US demands by late May. Thus seven months later, when Sharon made his speech announcing Israel's “unilateral” “Disengagement Plan” on 18th December 2003, he was merely confirming Israel's capitulation to clearly stated -- and indeed publicly, repeatedly stated -- US demands.

The performance by US, Israeli and Arab officials, aimed at portraying disengagement as “unilateral” and possibly threatening to the Arab leadership, has been a contrived farce.

The US insistence on the condemnation of Israel’s “unilateral” action, the perpetual repetition in the media - from November-December 2003 to April 2004 - of the word “unilateral” in connection with Israel’s plan, these were crucial in order to establish as an indisputable fact that the “Disengagement Plan” was solely Israel’s initiative, imposed by Israel on a ‘helpless’ US government.

The insistence that the plan was Sharon’s unilateral and indeed personal creation had two very important effects :

1) The neutralization of possible opposition to the utterly self-destructive – from Israel’s point of view – “Disengagement Plan”. If Sharon, ‘the settlers’ hero’, was forcing disengagement on unwilling partners, then it must be good for Israel.

2) The reinforcement of the old antisemitic slander (and widespread public misperception) that ‘the Jews’ control world policy – i.e., Israel is the puppeteer, the mighty US only the puppet.

For Israel this capitulation to US demands was anything but
a farce: it was a tragedy. Tragedy for the entire country, since Israel’s resistance prior to capitulation had cost many Israeli lives. And personal tragedy for Ariel Sharon, the war hero, the man of independent action, degraded, perhaps through blackmail, or perhaps through other means, to the imposed role of fall guy, who said, as he actually did say the day Israeli troops started to evict Jews from Gaza, 'Blame me!'

“The prime minister repeatedly called on the settlers to spare the soldiers and police from harm, insults, and blame. ‘Blame me,’ he said raising his voice, ‘this was my decision.’ ” [10]
-- Website of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“Blame me” -- when in fact he had been reduced to a proxy for the Bush administration.

The Bush administration was forcing Israel to adopt a plan that was a) noxious to its own interests and b) contrary to Israel’s long-established policy.

This plan involved a disorderly retreat from territories that were perceived -- and in fact were -- vital for Israel's security.  It involved dragging thousands of people from homes and work places that they had built literally under the gun, at the risk of their lives, for which Israel had in the past presented them as heroes, with their eviction and the subsequent destruction of their communities led by the man who had said Israel would always stand with them.  This was so internally destabilizing that in order to push it through, the Israeli government and media launched a campaign of vilification against those opposing “Disengagement”. The climax of that campaign was the lynching and subsequent vilification of Eden Natan-Zada, the AWOL Israeli serviceman accused of murdering four Arabs on a bus in the town of Shfaram on August 4, 2005, and whom the media, the Israeli government and the US State Department claimed was a member of a group of anti-disengagement terrorists.
[11]

That the Bush administration managed to force Israel to do all this while at the same time selling it as Israel’s own initiative, forced on an unwilling US government, thus perpetuating the antisemitic slander of the Jewish puppeteer acting behind the scenes, is a masterpiece of propaganda -- horribly brilliant, tragic in its consequences -- and therefore deserving our utmost attention.

Samantha Criscione
Emperor’s Clothes


[Footnotes follow the fundraising appeal]

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Footnotes

==============================================

[1] See “Egypt: Elephant in the Living Room of Gaza ‘Disengagement’”, by Jared Israel, at
http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/eleph1.htm

[2] The Observer
; April 18, 2004; [Sunday], Section: Observer News Pages, Pg. 19; Length: 1766 words; Headline: “ ‘Good job, Prime Minister’ -- and Bush campaign is back on track: Downing Street is pleased with the Rose Garden double act but only Ariel Sharon left the White House with a broad smile”. Byline: Paul Harris and Kamal Ahmed.

[3] Yaakov Amidror, “The Unilateral Withdrawal: A Security Error of Historical magnitude”, in Strategic Assessment, Vol. 7, No. 3, December 2004.

[4] See for example the definition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary. “Unilateral” derives from the Latin nouns unus, ‘one’, and latus, ‘side’.

[5]
Address by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Fourth Herzliya Conference, December 18, 2003. Posted on the website of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs at
http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Speeches+by+Israeli+lea...
or http://tinyurl.com/ps682

[6] The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, December 18, 2003, Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, The James S. Brady Briefing Room. Originally posted on the website of the White house at http://whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/12/20031218-2.html#3
Now at
http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/...

[7] Putting Gaza in the hands of the Palestinian Arab leadership, with Israel turning over control of the Sinai-Egypt border to Egypt, negates the limited protections included in the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979, as discussed in Jared Israel’s “Egypt: Elephant in the Living Room of Gaza ‘Disengagement’”, at
http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/eleph1.htm

The need for Israel to control Gaza for basic defense purposes is discussed in a memorandum describing Israel’s minimal border requirements for national defense, prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for Secretary of Defense McNamara in 1967, following the Six Days War.  The relevant excerpt is quoted below.  The full text can be read at
http://emperor.vwh.net/israel/pentagon.pdf



[8] Sharm El-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee Report [Mitchell Report], April 30, 2001. Originally posted on the website of the US State Department at http://www.state.gov/p/nea/rls/rpt/3060.htm
Now at http://2001-2009.state.gov/p/nea/rls/rpt/3060.htm

[9] Sharm El-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee Report [Mitchell Report], April 30, 2001. Originally posted on the website of the US State Department at http://www.state.gov/p/nea/rls/rpt/3060.htm
Now at http://2001-2009.state.gov/p/nea/rls/rpt/3060.htm

[10] “Sharon to settlers: Blame me”, Israel Line, 17 August 2005, posted on the website of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs at
http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Archive/Israel+Line/2005/Israel+Line...
or http://tinyurl.com/okkqb

According to other news reports, Ariel Sharon’s words were “Hurt me”. See Xinhua News Agency quoting Haaretz: “Sharon urges settlers to avoid clash over pullout”, Xinhua News Agency, 2005-08-17, 21:01:00. Posted at
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-08/17/content_3370074.htm

[11] Regarding the Israeli, indeed worldwide, media campaign of vilification following the lynching of Eden Natan-Zada, see Jared Israel's Arutz Sheva articles, “Trial by Lynching in Israel”, at
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/article.php3?id=5430

and “Are the Natan-Zada Lynching Arrests a Cover-Up?” at
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/article.php3?id=6348

* * *

Please forward this text or send the link to a friend.
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