The Palestinians are worse off...
than ever before. Despite vainglorious talk about Condi's achievement of the "passage to Egypt" deal and the erroneous belief that Sharon-the-man-of-peace intended the Gaza withdrawal to be the renaissance of the peace process, the Palestinians' position is more hopeless than ever, a fact that is largely obscured by that other pandemonium in the Middle East, Iraq.
The withdrawal from Gaza was nothing more than a tactical move, a cost-saver and public relations exercise. Gaza remains under tight Israeli control from the ground, air and sea, a small mass prison as it were.
And as the world's media beamed images around the globe of screaming, crying settlers being dragged out of their homes by the IDF, Israel found itself once more at the receiving end of ill-deserved sympathy.
Shortly after the withdrawal we were treated to images of Palestinians setting fire to abandoned synagogues, further proof to some of the "barbaric nature" of these "filthy Arabs". Israelis were quick to comment that Jews can't destroy synagogues, which is why they were left there, abandoned. What exactly constitutes the difference between destroying and abandoning? The difference lies in the fact that it provided a great photo-op to see these structures demolished by their arch enemies. Of course the Jews could also have dismantled these places of worship and moved them brick by brick, but they chose not to.
As regards Sharon's latest move to "go it alone", we need to wait to see what this will mean for the peace process. Sharon is the ultimate political survivor and opportunist and what direction this new party will take him, will depend largely on the direction of the political wind in Israel. Personally, I believe this man is entirely capable of creating a legacy of peace but whether that's going to be the direction he will choose to take remains entirely to be seen.
If the 1947 UN partition plan had been implemented, there would be two states: a Palestinian state on 45 per cent of the land of historic Palestine, and an Israeli state on 55 per cent. In 1967, the Israeli state constituted 78 per cent of this land.
What remained was the West Bank and Gaza Strip; what Palestinians came to terms with in 1988 when the Palestinian National Council accepted a two-state solution.
This represented an unprecedented compromise for Palestinians as it effectively gave up more than half of what was assigned to them by the UN.
What was offered to Arafat by Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000 was no different from Sharon's plan, in that he wanted to retain the Jordan Valley, Jerusalem and big parts of the settlements.
Having brought the Palestinians to their worst ever economic and humanitarian condition, Sharon has created a situation whereby he can act independently to decide the shape any future "peace process" will take.
And then there is the wall which according to Hillary Clinton "is not against the Palestinian People":
The construction of his ignominious wall and the expansion of settlements will eventually result in the total annexation of no less than 50 per cent of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the destruction of any potential for a coherent, contiguous, and viable Palestinian state.
The wall cuts as deep as 35 kilometres into the West Bank. Its construction has already resulted in the annexation of 9.5 per cent of the land of the West Bank.
The area expropriated for settlement adds another eight per cent to this figure, while the building of the eastern wall in the Jordan Valley will allow Israel to annex a further 28.5 per cent of the West Bank.
The wall is being built at very high speed, regardless of the ICJ advisory opinion. It will be around 750 kilometres in length: three times as long and twice as high as the Berlin Wall.
The Palestinians are expected to stay calmer than ever before and refrain entirely from violence. Whilst I agree with the need to cease all violence on tactical grounds (this is a war that cannot be won and therefore should not be fought), controlling an entire desperate population is not easy to achieve. Meanwhile Israel will use any attacks, no matter how futile and insignificant some actually are, as a further excuse to build the wall and to refuse negotiations.
No, the Palestinians really are completely cornered. Only massive International pressure can bring this road map back to life again. Mr Blair promised before the invasion in Iraq that this would be one of the conditions he would impose on President Bush in return for UK support for the war. We're still waiting...
If the International community doesn't act, the extremist Zionists will indeed try and realise their dream of Eretz Israel. Do we want to be complicit in this crime?
Hat tip to Mustafa Barghouti via Ed Strong.
Keywords: Israel, Palestine, settlements, peace, terror