Middle East Roundtable /
A Palestinian View:
Absolutely out of the question
an interview with Eyad El Sarraj
bitterlemons: The possibility has been raised that the
Israeli army might leave settlers behind rather than confront them under
Sharon's disengagement plan. How do you think such a scenario might play
Sarraj: Well I don't think this would ever happen. It's absolutely out of
the question for the Israelis to ever leave anybody behind. Of course, they
could be using this tactic to force the settlers out. Without mutual
guarantees for the safety of these settlers it is absolutely impossible for
any Israeli government to risk the lives of any Israeli citizens. So I think
it's a tactic to scare the settlers.
bitterlemons: It does seems that Sharon is in a bind here. He appears to
want to leave Gaza and the settlers are putting up strong opposition. If
that is true and the settlers are not going for compensation, he is left
with two options: either to confront them with the army or leave them
Sarraj: As I say, I think Sharon is using this as a scare tactic. I don't
believe any Israeli government will leave Israeli citizens behind, they are
sacred, you know. But it is perhaps used as a tactic to say that "if you
want to stay behind you can stay, but then you will be at the mercy of the
Palestinians who will probably eat you because they are cannibals."
There is some talk about an exchange of populations between Israelis and
Palestinians under a final status agreement in which some Jewish settlers
who wish to stay behind, become Israeli citizens under the jurisdiction of
the Palestinian state, and some Palestinians become Palestinian citizens
under the jurisdiction of the Israeli state. But, if this happens is has to
be by mutual agreement and with safety and security measures.
But at this stage, after four years of an intifada that has been so violent,
it is impossible to think that any responsible Israeli government would even
bitterlemons: What would happen?
Sarraj: They would be killed for sure. There is so much hatred, particularly
in Gaza, against the settlements and the settlers. The whole resistance
movement in Gaza is actually focused on the settlements.
bitterlemons: The PA would then be put in a very difficult situation?
Sarraj: The Authority would not be in any position to protect these
settlers. It would risk its own security. People would attack the
Palestinian security officers. I don't think anyone could guarantee their
bitterlemons: On the one hand, the Israeli government is reluctant to
confront its settlers, yet on the other, it is asking the PA to clamp down
on Hamas and other groups. What's going on here?
Sarraj: I think there are some elements within Israeli society and the
government that understand that any kind of peace agreement would damage
Israel's chances of expansion, and they don't want this to happen. The risk
of civil war in Israel is quite real. So in a way, some extremist Israeli
elements fearing the possibility of civil war in Israel are exporting the
possibility of civil war to the Palestinians themselves. Sharon has cut off
talks with the Palestinian side and has started to unleash his army against
Gaza, because he wants Palestinians to fight each other. He is exporting the
danger of civil war. He is showing his people that he is a strong man and he
is forcing the Palestinian side into action, hoping perhaps that this will
help him secure his disengagement plan without risking a civil war.
bitterlemons: From the perspective of the international community isn't
there a consistency problem here? On the one hand you have a clear demand on
Palestinians that they confront the armed groups, and on the other hand you
have settlers who under international law are living where they are
illegally. If the international community was to be consistent shouldn't
they demand that both be confronted?
Sarraj: Absolutely. There is no way, to my mind, that in Gaza even one
settler will be tolerated. There will be continuous war if any settlers are
left and no one from the Palestinian security forces could protect them.
But I think that Sharon is simply giving settlers an ultimatum, to make them
think they might be left at the mercy of the Palestinians. When we talk
about the hardcore of these settlers, these are basically racist people.
This hardcore might stay and fight, they might be affected by the Masada
complex, but they would not want to be left at the mercy of the
Palestinians, because basically they look down upon us. We are not equal to
them. They are the chosen people on their promised land. We don't deserve to
be even breathe the same air.- Published 17/1/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Eyad El Sarraj is Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program in
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