No wonder that the disarray in the Palestinian security forces, as manifested by last week clashes between various Palestinian armed groups and gangs in Gaza Strip, evoked great satisfaction within the Israeli official circles. The general context is that since the present right-wing government was established, its only major, though undeclared, goal has been to dismantle the Palestinian Authority, and in fact nullify de facto the Oslo Accords and undermine any mutually agreed-upon arrangement.
To this end, Ariel Sharon very effectively exploited the Palestinians' brutal and undiscriminating forms of resistance to the occupation, mainly the suicide bombers, to instigate a chain of mutually escalating responses that would recruit domestic and international public opinion to promote the goal of dismantling the PA and to demonstrate the political impotency of the Palestinian leadership. Under the cover of "fighting terrorism" the intention is to intersperse the West Bank and Gaza Strip with small Jewish enclaves, to be ruled by local strongmen. The ultimate aim is to advance the process of Jewish colonization until exclusive Jewish control over the Territories reaches the point of no return within the fenced area.
This policy is implemented by means of the military, but must avoid incurring excessively high numbers of Jewish military casualties (a lesson Sharon learned from the Lebanon fiasco), in order to prevent any last minute change in the Israeli or international public's state of mind that might lead to opposition. In order to minimize Jewish casualties, massive forces must be activated and savage means of combat adopted-such as razing whole communities and unleashing vast amounts of firepower-as was the case in the Jenin refugee camp and the different incursions into the Gaza Strip during the last two years.
The immediate aim of the incursions into Palestinians cities and refugee camps was to disarm as much of the "terrorism infrastructure" as possible by capturing firearms and explosives, destroying the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza and capturing or "liquidating" persons suspected of direct involvement in the Palestinian armed resistance and their commanders. In other words, the objective was to dismember any organized Palestinian security forces, but not only in order to decrease the Palestinians' capability of fighting the Israelis, but mainly to obliterate the main internal foundation of Arafat's regime's authority and create anarchy.
An additional aim of the frequent and deep incursions into and siege of Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps – and of the extra-judicial executions – was to demonstrate to the Palestinians not only Israel's military might, but also its readiness and political ability to use it, to prove to the Palestinians that they are vulnerable and defenseless against any wanton act of Israel's, including the build of he fence in depth of Palestinian territory. When it comes to Israel , international NGOs, too, seem helpless to provide even minimal protection to the Palestinians. Under the umbrella of the Bush administration – whose spirit lies pretty close to Christian fundamentalism – today, Israel is considered (as never before) a moral and political extension of the United States . In this capacity, it enjoys, for the time being, the almost unconditional political and military support of the world's only superpower.
The unprecedented isolation of the US in the United Nations General Assembly in the issue of ICJ decision is perhaps the first sign that the US has to reconsider its policy for the sake and real interest of all the three parties – the Palestinian, the Americans and the Israelis. However, a realistic assessment leads to the conclusion this will happen only after the election - no matter who will be the President of the US Mr. Kerry or Mr. Bush.
Baruch Kimmerling is a professor of sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Among his recent books are Politicide: Ariel Sharon's War Against the Palestinians (Verso, 2003), Immigrants, Settlers and Natives (Alma and Am Oved, Hebrew, 2003), and The Palestinian People (Harvard University Press, 2003) with Joel S. Migdal.