When U.S. President George W. Bush indulged in references about an historic event as he defined the separation plan, he wasn't exaggerating, even if it is not clear that he grasped the implications of his words regarding the future of the Jewish state. Nor did the Palestinians err when they compared his declaration to the Balfour Declaration, even if they perhaps failed to grasp that the statement is liable to have implications yet more grave than the 1917 pledge, and will compel a substantive strategic change in their struggle. And Ariel Sharon - crowned by victory and convinced that he has unveiled a daring new initiative which will foil all schemes - will be surprised to discover that in Washington he was pushed into embracing an accelerated process of founding the State of Israel as a binational state based on Apartheid.
What's the connection between, on the one hand, the end of the conquest in the Gaza Strip and the dismantling of settlements, and the establishment of a binational state, on the other hand? After all, the goal of disengagement is to improve the demographic situation by removing a million and a half Palestinians from Israeli control and thereby reducing the danger that the country will cease to be a Jewish state. The surprising fact is that this "conceptual transfer" is accepted by the Israeli left, which continues to believe in anachronistic slogans about the "end of the conquest" and the "dismantling of settlements."
The report about a tacit agreement being reached between Peace Now and Sharon's aides - Peace Now will suspend the "evacuate settlements, choose life" campaign so as not to harm public relations efforts for Sharon's separation plan - illustrates the profoundly confused state of public discourse. As the left sees it, the confinement of one and a half million persons in a huge holding pen fulfills the ideal of putting an end to the occupation, and furnishes some relief about how "we are not responsible."
Similarly, when, in South Africa, a failed attempt was made to solve demographic problems by creating "homelands for the blacks," liberals originally supported the idea, and even a portion of the international community viewed the measure as a step toward "decolonization." But after a short time it became clear that the ploy was designed to confer legitimacy to the expulsion of blacks, and their uprooting. The Bantustans collapsed, demands for civil equality intensified, and the world mobilized for the defeat of Apartheid.
The Bantustan model for Gaza, as depicted in the disengagement plan, is a model that Sharon plans to copy on the West Bank. His announcement that he will not start to disengage before construction on the fence is completed along a route that will include all settlement blocs (in keeping with Benjamin Netanyahu's demand), underscores the continuity of the Bantustan concept. The fence creates three Bantustans on the West Bank: first, Jenin-Nablus; second, Bethlehem-Hebron; and third, Ramallah. This is the real link between the Gaza and West Bank plans - the link is not what those politicians who will provide a "security net" for Sharon in a Knesset no confidence votes call "the precedent of the dismantling of settlements."
And thus, with breathtaking daring, Sharon submits a plan which appears to promise the existence of a "Jewish democratic state" via "separation," "the end of the conquest," the "dismantling of settlements" - and also the imprisonment of some three million Palestinians in Bantustans. This is an "interim plan" which is meant to last forever. The plan will last, however, only as long as the illusion that "separation" is a means to end the dispute is sustained.
But the day will come when believers in this illusion will realize that "separation" is a means to oppress and dominate, and then they will mobilize to dismantle the Apartheid apparatus. The last ones who will consent to abandon the ideal of "separation" and uphold rights will be the Palestinians; but, to some extent, Sharon's separation plan, and Bush's declaration, will provoke them.
In this way, Sharon's rhetorical victory is sown with the seeds of its own destruction. The Bantustan plan is now in swing; and the scenario which Sharon so badly wanted to avoid will unfold.
By Meron Benvenisti