For all the attention and hysteria the latest events in Gaza have generated since the Hamas _takeover,_ for Israel they represent nothing but a minor blip in its inexorable drive towards its own unilateral _solution:_ apartheid. Israelas end-game, explicit and unruffled by the recent turmoil on the ground, is clear. It is laid out in detail in the Convergence Plan_ Olmert presented to a joint session of the American Congress in May, 2006, based on Sharonas plan of _cantonization._ With minor adjustments, it constitutes the plan Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is quietly advancing with the help of Condoleezza Rice, and it is accepted in its entirety by Ehud Barak, the newly-elected leader of the Labour Party, who played a key role in its formulation. The Israeli plan for apartheid is as follows:
(1) Creating a truncated Palestinian _state_ comprised of four disconnected cantons, three in the West Bank and Gaza. By annexing its major settlement blocs defined by the Wall, Israel thereby expands onto 85% of the country, leaving the Palestinians confined to impoverished enclaves on the remaining 15% of the land. In such a _two-state solution_ Israel would control the borders, external and internal Palestinian movement, the _Greater_ Jerusalem area, all the water resources, the air space, the communications sphere and even the Palestinian stateas foreign policy. Such a Bantustan would have no genuine sovereignty or viable economy _ but would have to accept all the traumatized and impoverished Palestinian refugees.
(2) If this fails, primarily because Israel cannot find the quisling Palestinian leader who would sign off on a Bantustan, Plan B _ the Livni-Rice plan _ calls for the unilateral declaration by the US of a _provisional_ Palestinian state with no fixed borders, no meaningful sovereignty and no viable economy, squeezed between the Wall, Israelas eastern _demographic_ border incorporating the settlement blocs, and the Jordan Valley, Israelas eastern _security_ border. The Palestinian would thus be left in the limbo of a _provisional_ state indefinitely _ or until they agree to a Bantustan _ all in conformity to the parameters of the _Road Map._
Period. Regardless of the _peace initiative_ of the moment _ the Road Map, the Saudi initiative, the summit at Sharm-e-sheikh, the appointment of a Middle East envoy _ all these plans will have to conform to one of these alternatives or be doomed to irrelevance.
What happens in Gaza, then (tellingly nicknamed _Hamastan,_ the Palestinian cantons of the West Bank now dubbed _Fatahland_), is therefore irrelevant to Israel, since Gaza represents nothing more than a tiny part of the tiny Palestinian Bantustan (about 8%). Whether Gaza would have been _quieted_ after the Israeli disengagement as Sharon had planned, exporting cheap labour into Israel and perhaps enjoying limited economic growth, whether it was merely isolated and impoverished due to US and Israeli sanctions after the Hamas election victory or whether, as happened, it explodes, nothing will hamper Israelas ceaseless process of consolidating its hold on the West Bank. Sooner or later, in the Israeli-American plan, Gaza will fall into place.
Not only are the Palestinians irrelevant, in Israelas view, but the Hamas _takeover_ is actually a positive development, since it furthers the apartheid process. A key reason why Palestinians voted for Hamas was the perception that it would resist pressures to accept a Bantustan better than the weak, vacillating Fatah movement, which was seen as little more than Israelas policeman in the Territories. Israel, the US and a complicit Europe is thus seen as trying to isolate precisely those who truly resist the Occupation while _strengthening_ Abbas and the _moderates_ _ _moderate_ defined as those willing to pacify the Palestinians without securing their fundamental right to a sovereign and viable state of their own. The American-sponsored program of arming Fatah against its own people, complete with _lending_ them an American general (Dayton), only confirms these suspicions, especially if they make Abbas dependent upon outside forces for his survival.
Israel and the US are doing in microcosm in Palestine what the US is doing throughout the Muslim world, forcing the Palestinians to choose between two unacceptable options: either the prospects of an apartheid regime which is all the _moderates_ can deliver or continued resistance to occupation and apartheid under Hamas at the price of international isolation and an unwanted process of Islamization. Where are the true liberators who can deliver a viable Palestinian state while recognizing _ though standing up to _ Israel? Where are the progressive leaders who represent the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people? Where are the _strong_ leaders that Bush claims are lacking on the Palestinian side? Either dead, the victims of a 30-year campaign on the part of Israel to eliminate any effective Palestinian leader, or languishing in refugee camps or in exile, or in prison. If Marwan Bargouti and the prisoners of all the factions who produced the Prisonersa Document, the only viable peace plan that has any chance of success, were free and allowed to lead their people, the Israel/Palestine conflict could be resolved tomorrow.
What is lacking, of course, is good faith. The will among governments to stand up for Palestinian rights and against Israeli apartheid is totally lacking. The Israeli newspaper Haaaretz (21.6.07) noted the cynicism underlying the recent Olmert-Bush meeting. _Olmert reached an understanding witheBush during his visit to Washington that it is necessary to support Abbas, a senior political source in Jerusalem said. The decision to aid Abbas was made despite skepticism about his chances for success, in view of past experience. Olmert and Bush agreed they must not allow the impression that Abbas failed because Israel or the U.S. failed him._
Israel is not going to bolster Abbas _ unless he becomes the collaborator Israel is looking for, which he wonat. Olmert has already announced that there will be no final status negotiations in the foreseeable future. So neither the Saudi Initiative nor the Sharm meeting will lead to genuine negotiations. The US, with its moribund Road Map, will not facilitate the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and Europe will not act independently to do so, even in its own interest. The Palestinians, for their part, are powerless to achieve a viable state on their own and will continue to be beaten and blamed for their own incarceration and resistance.
Our governments have failed us. Unless we, the people worldwide, can mobilize grassroots opposition to the Israeli-US-European Occupation, a new apartheid regime, in the Holy Land no less, will soon emerge before our very eyes. Its only when the people lead that our _leaders_ will even contemplate doing the right thing.
(Jeff Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and a candidate, with the Palestinian peace activist Glasson Adonis, for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)