Sharon’s daring 2005 Gaza pullout backfires
Beirut- In 2005, Ariel Sharon, ostensibly seeking to move the stumbling peace process forward, unilaterally withdrew Israel from the ever-turbulent Gaza Strip, which would supposedly be part of any Palestinian state that may materialise, to fierce opposition from Israel’s right wing.
This powerful clique champions the ever-expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, particularly in the West Bank. These are mainly inhabited by ultra-Orthodox Jewish colonists who claim God ceded the territories to Abraham, and thus the Jewish people, for all time.
Sharon, a war hero who as leader of Jewish commandos in the 1960s killed hundreds of Palestinians during raids, failed to foresee the disastrous aggression of Hamas, the militant Islamist group that emerged in Gaza and the wars that were to follow.
“The consequences of unilateral withdrawal have put back prospects for peace even further,” the Jerusalem Post warned.
For 2,000 years, most Jews had lived outside the Holy Land dispersed throughout Europe and the United States but many were galvanised by the nationalist fervour of Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement that emerged in the late 19th century.
Britain’s opening of a new war front in Palestine against the Ottoman Empire, imperial Germany’s ally, in hopes of breaking out of the military stalemate and massive casualties in the trenches of the Western Front, led to Turkey’s defeat.
That victory and its consequences, however, led to the conflict that has plagued the Middle East to the present day and, as the Balfour Declaration centenary reawakens religious and nationalist passions, shows every sign of raging for years to come.
It is, perhaps, ironic — to say the least — that as Israelis celebrate Balfour’s centenary they are also marking another grim anniversary that underlines the depressing prospect that lies ahead:
On November 4, 1995, Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin, the soldier turned statesman who was one of the pillars of the Oslo Accords of 1993-94 that, for a brief moment, seemed to bring closer the peace envisaged by Balfour, was assassinated.
Rabin was killed in Tel Aviv by a Jewish extremist who represented the hard right bitterly opposed to Israel relinquishing the West Bank as a Palestinian homeland.