Gaza Disengagement Deconstructed: What Disengagement Really Means
A recent report released by the Special Envoy for the UN Human Rights Commission, John Dugard, stated that the ‘Gaza disengagement plan’ will not mean an end to the Israeli military occupation of Gaza. The main proof of this is Israel’s insistence on maintaining control over all the borders, including territorial waters off the Gaza coast and supremacy in the airspace above Palestinian territory. So, if Gaza will remain occupied, it is worthwhile exploring what disengagement really means!
With almost complete certainty one can say that Israel will go through with its proposed ‘unilateral disengagement plan.’ The current Israeli cabinet has invested far too much time and energy to scrap this ingenious idea now. The Israeli government has succeeded par excellence in its effort to promote the 'disengagement plan' to the international community, as well as to the international media, to the extent where impartial international officials such as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan actually look forward to the ‘unilateral disengagement’ in an effort to reactivate the peace process. Since its introduction in late 2003, the ‘unilateral disengagement plan’ has gone through an array of legal and political referenda within the Israeli political system, so as to make it palatable to the Israeli public, the most recent example of which was the decision by the Israeli Supreme Court to deem the ‘disengagement plan’ ‘legal.’
In more recent developments, so as to give the ‘Gaza disengagement plan’ a more human and legal touch, the Israeli cabinet agreed to create a 'coordinating committee' with its Palestinian counterparts, however, only eight weeks before the go-ahead. Since the 'unilateral disengagement plan' is a unilateral measure, the coordinating committee will deal exclusively with logistical and civilian matters, which include:
However, what does this ‘disengagement plan’ really mean: for the Palestinian people, the peace process, and for reality?
Well, for the Palestinian people as whole, the disengagement from Gaza comes at a very high human cost, with approximately 2,015 residents of Gaza being killed in only the last 5 years. After 38 consecutive years of illegal military occupation, the State of Israel under the leadership of probably one of the biggest war criminals history has ever come to witness, Gaza today resembles the site of a humanitarian catastrophe, with virtually no sufficient infrastructure, sanitation, social services and most importantly no positive economic prospects left for the inhabitants of Gaza. Once Israel effectively disengages from Gaza, with almost complete certainty one can say Gaza will become yet another open air prison, similar to the one created in the Palestinian city of Qalqilya in the northern West Bank. Frankly, the disengagement plan, no matter how positive it has been portrayed, is a yet another episode in a long list of crimes and tragedies Palestinians have had to face in their modern history.
In terms of the peace process, the ‘Gaza disengagement’ has only one meaning. It is a unilateral measure, not bilateral, and certainly not multilateral. With concerns to peacemaking, the ‘Gaza disengagement plan’ is a most tragic and possibly irreversible setback. By definition, a peace process, involving two conflicting parties, should include; dialogue, negotiations and ultimately concessions. Effectively, as soon as Israel finishes the construction of its illegal Wall, while the world’s attention is solely focused on the ‘unilateral disengagement,’ Palestinians will be left with 12% of historic Palestine, which, knowing Israel, will be subject to further negotiations. The peace process as we know it today, has been so derailed by Israel and the U.S., that it has become a most vague process, lacking clearly defined principles, where nobody except Israel and the U.S. know what this new peace process is based on. The ‘Gaza disengagement plan,’ goes against the land-for-peace formula, the Road Map to peace, UN Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 1397 and international humanitarian law, as well as all other legal foundations on which a viable and just peace must be based.
In reality, the ‘unilateral disengagement plan’ is a measure that is complementary to the Israeli governments’ policy, of being in a mad rush to create new and irreversible facts on the ground, in east Jerusalem and the West Bank at large. In a recent briefing by the Palestinian Legislative Council member and Secretary-General of MIFTAH (The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy), Dr. Hanan Ashrawi commented on the recent decision by the Jerusalem Municipality to demolish 88 homes in the Silwan neighborhood by describing the move as an attempt at “Maximizing geography while minimizing demography.” With all the negative aspects that have been mentioned concerning the ingenious ‘unilateral disengagement plan,’ it is an imperative to uncover what it really means. In actual fact, the Gaza disengagement plan is a smokescreen or PR plot, to divert international attention from Israel’s continued land acquisition policy, pursued with concerns to the status of Jerusalem, and the West Bank. While the world at large focuses on the ‘Gaza disengagement,’ Israel is continuing its theft of Palestinian land, home demolitions at frightening rate, as well the continued construction of the ‘Segregation Wall,’ ultimately aiming to ethnically cleanse and simultaneously Judaize east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Let us not fool ourselves, or be fooled, by the productivity and effectiveness of unilateralism. Unilateral acts and/or measures have a long history in backfiring. Bilateralism might prove to be a miracle cure for those who really yearn for peace in the Middle East. To speak of multilateralism under the current circumstances, would involve Israel taking a leap of faith, which is, frankly, very doubtful.