Right-wing Israeli march towards Gaza Strip on Monday; a month until Gaza pullout

Lots of stuff going down in Israel: Haaretz editorializes that with the Gaza closure, "The evacuation has begun" in earnest.

People like Nadia Matar, Moshe Feiglin, Noam Livnat, Uri Ariel and Effi Eitam, all of whom recently moved to Gush Katif, did not come to contribute to the routine of daily life, but to stir up the residents and organize resistance activities. The prime minister correctly assessed the risks inherent in this development and did what was necessary.

The settlers cannot continue to play a double game and expect empathy. They cannot build a tent city for opponents of the disengagement near the Strip, organize a march of thousands of people to Gush Katif, incite soldiers to disobey orders, and bring thousands of new residents, whom the IDF will then have to evacuate, into Gaza and then expect the government to sit with folded hands. The army and the police must focus on the main task, not waste their strength on nuisances. The complaints of the opposition's leadership, including the comparison of the Strip's closure to the siege of Jerusalem, to ghettoes and to concentration camps, are hardly unexpected.

These are exceptionally difficult days, with a high potential for violence and a constant fear of bloodshed.

I thought that this column by Akiva Eldar, "Impressions from the mid-Jerusalem roadblock," about Sharon's sudden, bizarre plan to build a huge wall through the middle of the city was really quite interesting. Also it shows Israeli polls showing wide support for peace negotiations and withdrawals from the territories. But it is an incredibly weird portrait of life in Jerusalem. This look by Meron Benvenisti how life will get messed up by a new Jerusalem fence, including the idea of a "soft transfer", strengthening the Jewish element of Jerusalem while dissolving its Arab element.

Analysis: Timing of Gaza closure was defined by Yesha leadership

The timing of the Gaza Strip's closure was determined by the chief of staff of the Yesha Council of settlements, Bentzi Lieberman, rather than the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Dan Halutz. The minute the council announced its plans for a mass march to Gush Katif, it was clear that the IDF would advance the closure of Gaza and block access to Gush Katif before the marchers reached it. The question of why the council scheduled the march for next week, rather than allowing Gush Katif residents to enjoy a normal life for as long as possible, as many residents had requested, has two answers.

The first is that the march was scheduled to coincide with the Knesset debate on a bill to postpone the disengagement. The Yesha Council, unlike the militant right, believes that the battle will be won or lost in the Knesset, not in the streets. The council's hope is that a mass march will influence some MKs to vote for postponement. How? The council has no real answer, but it hopes that by creating an atmosphere of crisis, of a country on the verge of an explosion, some MKs will be persuaded that postponement is preferable.

More below the fold.....

"It is all Israel," Fragmentation of Palestinian agricultural land behind the West Bank fence by Amira Hass:

Listen to the soldier in the field. He says what his commanders were trained to cover up and embellish. Listen to the red-headed soldier, who prevented residents of Qafin from passing through the gate in the separation fence last month to get to their lands. These are 5,000 out of 8,200 dunams of agricultural land in a village in the northwestern West Bank. These are lands belonging to the families of these residents for several generations, and for so-called security reasons they were separated from the village - as has happened, and will happen, with hundreds of other Palestinian villages.


But the red-headed soldier didn't discuss only the gate. He didn't hide the geopolitical worldview in whose name he is commanded to safeguard the gate's welfare. "There is no entry to Israel from here," he said. When he was told that the farmers don't want to enter Israel, but to walk 200 meters to get to their age-old lands, a few kilometers away from the Green Line, he responded: "To be politically correct, it is all Israel."

How right the soldier is. From his standpoint, on the security road that links up with bypass roads for Jews only, which in turn link up with settlements and Israel proper, this is what he and his colleagues watch every day: The space called "Israel," from the river to the sea, containing all kinds of "crowded population concentrations" surrounded by fences and imprisoned behind locked gates.


The residents of Qafin have come to one conclusion: The goal is to bring about the neglect of their green agricultural lands until they become wilderness. Then Israel can rely on an old Ottoman law that allows neglected and abandoned land to become public property, in order to make the wilderness bloom. In Israel, as every soldier knows, the "public" is the same as the "Jews." And so will the mistake of 1948 be rectified. At that time, some 18,000 dunams from Qafin became part of Israel, became Jewish land. Now it will happen to an additional 5,000 dunams.

Noam Livnat is the brother of the Israeli education minister, and he was just arrested for violating a restraining order barring him from entering Gaza after a violent confrontation:

Noam Livnat, brother of Education Minister Limor Livnat, was arrested yesterday in the Gaza settlement of Shirat Hayam, following a violent confrontation between his supporters and police. Livnat, a resident of Yitzhar in the West Bank, had violated a restraining order barring him from entering Gaza. Livnat is a leader of the Defensive Shield and Jewish Heart movements, which encourage soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate settlements. Over the past two years, the organizations have collected more than 20,000 signatures from soldiers saying they would refuse such orders.


After his arrest yesterday, Livnat said, "The government is nervous because of the success of the Jewish Heart campaign to spread the word about refusal of orders. The arrest is an attempt to shut us up, but it won't help, and on the day of reckoning thousands will refuse orders."

Haaretz editorializes that they wish that the Israeli government won't knock down the houses in the settlements they are going to abandon in just over 30 days. "IDF chief denies link between London attack and Mike's Place [Tel Aviv] bombing". After this bombing, "Israel may renew policy of assassinations."

A leftist MK comments about how the settler movement has succeeded in blurring the Green Line in the perceptions of Israelis:

Despite the settlement project's failure to establish the territories and the settlements as a legitimate part of the State of Israel, it appears it did succeed in one thing: With the encouragement or tacit agreement of all the governments, it blurred the Green Line (pre-Six-Day War border) - which is, in fact, the one and only clear border that can be drawn, and the only border on the basis of which it is possible to arrive at an agreement that will be acceptable to the two sides and also win international recognition.

Even now it is clear that at least in certain areas of the West Bank - Ma'aleh Adumim, the neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the Etzion Bloc - the Green Line will not go back to being an agreed-upon border. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to evacuate these areas, and Israel will have to give other territories in exchange for them. In the rest of the areas of the West Bank, the only chance for a peace agreement is based on the distinction in the consciousness of the Israeli and Palestinian publics between sovereign and legitimate Israeli territory and occupied territory, the status of which has yet to be determined. It is possible only to imagine what would happen to this mental distinction between Israel and the territories if settlements had not been erected in them. Returning from these imaginings to the reality reveals a surprising and worrisome success on the part of the settlement project - undermining the Israeli public's perception of the Green Line as an agreed-upon peace border between Israel and its Palestinian neighbor. It is no accident that at the behest of all of the education ministers, the Green Line vanished from the maps that are displayed in Israeli schools.


We are now at a historic crossroads. Never before has a single Jewish settlement been evacuated. The disengagement plan is the first test of the dismantling of imposed settlements that are stuck like a bone in the throat in the midst of a foreign Palestinian territory. Therefore, the disengagement must be carried out to the letter, completely and at the designated time, before a new generation arises that did not know 1967, and before our children and our grandchildren are condemned to live by the sword forever, without even understanding why.

Despite all the nasty business about how criticism of Israel supposedly equates to antisemitism, as Mr Ledeen has resorted to lately, I think what's really antisemitic is how the American media never bothers to air the opinions of the Israeli left at all -- they are virtually invisible here. Yoel Marcus, unfortunately, also labels Blair an antisemite:

When Tony Blair cites the conflict in the Middle East ("the Israeli occupation," of course) as one of the three reasons for Islamic terror, he is no different from your common anti-Semite.

Other than that its an interesting column. Adjustments have to be constructed with the Egyptians. It seems that Egyptian border police will guard the Gaza-Egypt border after the withdrawal, instead of the regular Egyptian police. An interesting Anti-Defamation League poll about Israel, conducted in the US and Europe, shows that

71 percent of those polled expressed support for the disengagement plan, 52 percent believed Israel was working harder for peace than the Palestinians, and 43 percent said they sympathized with Israel.

"It is apparent from the survey that Israel's bold initiatives to bring security and peace to its people resonate with the American people," said Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL's national director, at a Jerusalem press conference.


Support for Palestinians among Americans also increased: 68 percent said they thought Palestinians were serious about peace negotiations, up from 62 percent in the previous survey.


Foxman said yesterday that "light years" separate European and American public opinion in relation to Israel. Foxman estimated that if more terror attacks occur in Europe, the tendency to blame Israel indirectly for them will increase. 

Among the 500 respondents in the 12 major states of the European Union, including Hungary and Poland, only 13 percent sympathized with the State of Israel, compared to 25 percent who sympathized with the Palestinians. Only 19 percent of the respondents said they saw Ariel Sharon as a positive figure, compared to 39 percent who saw him as a negative figure. In 2004, 8 percent saw him in a positive light, compared to 39 percent who viewed him negatively.

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