Veteran Israeli-American analyst and peace advocate Gershon Baskin recalls Ariel Sharon’s 2005 “Disengagement” from Gaza in his latest Jerusalem Post column (“The Birth of the State of Palestine in Gaza“), writing plausibly that Sharon was diverting attention from the unofficial Geneva Accord, which was gaining traction at the time as an exercise proving that Israelis and Palestinians could negotiate peace despite the Second Intifada. Baskin goes on to speculate that Netanyahu is now picking up from Sharon’s initiative toward the annexation of the West Bank into Israel, with an apartheid-like regime officially enforced against West Bank Palestinians denied Israeli citizenship, and with Hamas ruling over the Gaza Strip.
His historical analysis, however, does not explain why Sharon would have also forced the evacuation of some small settlements in the northern West Bank. Nor did Sharon’s successors at the head of his short-lived Kadima party (2005-2015), Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni, follow Sharon’s path in refusing to either coordinate or negotiate with the Palestinian Authority. Still, Baskin’s speculation is reasonable that Netanyahu might want to leave a tiny, isolated “state of Palestine” in Gaza, while incorporating the West Bank into Israel. What follows is from Baskin’s column:
. . . While international and local support for the Geneva Initiative was increasing, prime minister Sharon’s opposition to the accord became more resolved, understanding that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement based on Geneva would mean a Palestinian state in the West Bank. Sharon had to stop the support behind the initiative.
. . . Completely unexpected and out of character, Sharon . . . suddenly announced that Israel would unilaterally withdraw from all of the Gaza Strip, removing every Israeli citizen from there, including some 9,000 settlers and IDF personnel. Suddenly, the entire world was caught up in the new Israeli initiative to disengage from Gaza. Geneva was now forgotten.
. . . [Yet] Sharon refused to coordinate and cooperate with the Palestinian disengagement coordinating mechanism headed by Mohammed Dahlan, . . . Sharon made it very clear that he was not going to cooperate with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas or Dahlan, and stated that Abbas is not a partner. . . .
When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Israel demolished all of the settlements, not leaving anything that could have been used, for example, to resettle Palestinian refugees. . . . Israel shut down the Erez Industrial Zone on the Israeli side of the border and also essentially stopped the work that was being developing in the Karni industrial zone – on the Gaza side of the border.
With the closure of Gaza, the coastal enclave’s economy came to a standstill. Gush Katif’s recently-transferred 4,000 square meters of hothouses went bankrupt quickly as their produce aimed for the Israeli market was left to rot on the border. Israel froze the transfer of taxes collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The PA’s ability to govern Gaza was severely compromised.
Sharon suffered from a stroke on January 4, 2006. Then 24 days later, Hamas won the PA parliamentary elections. Sharon would not have been surprised, . . . Hamas was credited with ousting Israel, and Abbas was punished for negotiating with Israel without achievements. . . .
Netanyahu and his right-wing government will begin their plan for the annexation of the West Bank. Sooner, not later, Israeli control and annexation over the West Bank will become officially a new form of apartheid – a state with two separate legal structures: one for citizens and one for several million non-citizens. . . .