Israel Plans To Use Deadly Force Against Anti-Disengagement Protestors
by Mark Kato
Ariel Sharon's Likud government is in the final stages of its plan to remove some 8,000 Israeli citizens from the illegal settlements in Gaza. It is supposed to begin in mid-August, although unforeseeable circumstances could slow the process even though the Israeli cabinet recently voted down 18-3 a proposal to delay the action for three months. Nonetheless, the government has a plan in place that will eventually remove these settlers for good from what will become part of the Palestinian homeland. Needless to say, the opinions in Israel regarding these expulsions run the gamut from unconditional agreement to vehement opposition. A recent poll - as reported by the Israel Policy Forum, dated July 6, 2005 - shows that 62% of Israelis support the Gaza disengagement plan, up from 53% three weeks ago, while 31% oppose it, down from 38% in the same span of time.
The ongoing disengagement drama in Israel, largely ignored by the U.S. mainstream media, has included a number of demonstrations that were staged by anti-disengagement dissidents, which included some violence resulting in injuries to both IDF and Israeli Police forces and demonstrators. These demonstrations have largely consisted of acts of civil disobedience that caused some disruption of daily life when demonstrators blocked roads and highways with their bodies and burning tires.
Thus far, the violence has been kept to a minimum, but the inflammatory rhetoric being used by the anti-disengagement element does not bode well for a peaceful removal of the settlers when the government decides to act. In the event that anti-disengagement dissidents use life-threatening force against the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in an attempt to resist the disengagement plan, a strong possibility given the level of high emotions the pullout has fostered, a government "team" that included high-ranking IDF officers and academics, has recommended, as reported by Amos Harel in Haaretz on July 12, 2005, "... that security forces be allowed to open fire on evacuation opponents who endanger the lives of the soldiers and police... "
The document in which this drastic measure is spelled out states that IDF soldiers should consider such action as being no different than what they would do when faced with imminent danger by a criminal element. It further states that an IDF soldier should not consider his deadly response to dissident acts of violence against him as, "... those of a soldier in war against an enemy." This caution may be interpreted as an attempt by the team who drew up this rules of engagement document as a way to preempt any notion that the dissidents represent an opposing armed force engaged in a civil war against the IDF and the Israeli Police who will actually carry out the evacuation of the settlers. Nonetheless, if there is violence that results in injuries and deaths on either or both sides, it would be difficult, if not impossible, not to view such an event as tantamount to the outbreak of civil war in Israel.
But it remains to be seen whether the possibility of violence could thwart the efforts of Israel's plan to disengage from Gaza. It doesn't seem likely given what is riding on the success of the pullout in terms of Israel's already tarnished image in the eyes of world opinion, and that includes the disapprobation of the Bush administration, probably Israel's strongest ally, should the road map to peace with the Palestinians be subordinated to "domestic tranquility," whatever that means in Israel these days.
Nothing short of total internal insurrection and/or violent provocation by dissident Israeli extremists against Palestinians, and their equally violent response, could stop the disengagement process now. The Palestinians will have their state, and the Israelis will have to learn to live with them, for better or worse. It should be the hope of all peace-loving people that it will be for the better.