To see Jewish settlers evicted from homes they have lived in for decades, taking weeping wives and children back to Israel, is heart-wrenching. To see Israeli settlers spit in the faces of Israeli soldiers and call them “Nazis” evokes only disgust.

Who do these people think they are? Were it not for the Israeli army, they would not have lasted a week in Gaza. Gratitude isn’t the long suit of the Zionist fanatic, two of whom murdered Palestinians to protest the removal of Jews from lands that do not and have never belonged to Israel.

For his resolve in removing the settlers, despite threats on his life, Ariel Sharon deserves credit. But for the settlers’ being there, where they never belonged, he bears full blame. Both the tragedy and the debacle of this past week are Sharon’s doing.

Gaza was never part of Israel. Its 1.3 million impoverished people are Palestinian refugees from the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, or their children and grandchildren. The Gaza Strip was overrun by Israel in the Six-Day War of June 1967, but never returned to Egypt.

In recent years, Israelis have trickled into Gaza and, though never numbering even 1 percent of the population, came to occupy a third of the land. They are colonizers in every sense of the word.

Israel’s colonization of Gaza, using squatters subsidized by the state, was a violation of international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits military occupiers from moving civilians onto their occupied land. And the Gaza land-grab was carried out in brazen defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions and over the protests of Israel’s great patron, the United States, which once candidly called these Israeli enclaves what they are: “illegal settlements.”

But because the U.S. government lacked the moral courage to tell the Israelis to stop building settlements and start tearing them down – even as we showered Israel with $3 billion in annual aid – the Labor and Likud parties ignored the pathetic peeps of protest from our presidents to please desist.

The rampant animosity against America in the Arab world is but one of the fruits of our outsourcing Middle East policy to Tel Aviv.

What is going to happen now is wearily predictable.

After Sharon has withdrawn the last settler, he will demand $2.2 billion for his heroic achievement. The request, already in, breaks down to $1 million for every family moved out of Gaza. Bush and Congress, who only in May raised the death benefit for families of G.I.s killed in Iraq from $12,000 to $100,000, will fall all over one another expediting the latest tranche of U.S. tax dollars.

Then the scenario will play out as Dov Weisglass, ex-chief of staff to Sharon, mockingly described. Under the deal Weisglass cut with pliant Bush aides in 2004, ratified in Bush’s public letter to Sharon, Israeli disengagement from Gaza and a few outposts on the West Bank “supplies the amount of formaldehyde necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.”

“What I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all,” Weisglass said, “and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns.” The “road map” – the peace plan agreed to by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia – Weisglass merrily told the paper Haaretz, is dead.

If Sharon now informs President Bush that Israel has made a sacrifice of Gaza, and no more progress toward a viable Palestinian state can be made until all violence ends and Hamas and Islamic Jihad are disarmed, what will Bush do?

Nothing. Should Bush press Sharon to negotiate an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and an enclave in Arab East Jerusalem as a future capital of Palestine, Sharon will howl, the Christian right will accuse Bush of selling out Israel, Tom DeLay will sponsor a joint resolution opposing pressure on Israel and Nancy Pelosi will happily endorse. The neoconservatives will cry “Munich!” and, if Condi Rice – who has shown moxie on the Mideast – pushes too hard, she will be instantly dropped from neocon wish lists of future presidents.

“Bibi” Netanyahu, who resigned as finance minister over Gaza, says the forced removal of settlers is a victory for Hamas. He is right. Had Hamas not attacked settlers in Gaza and civilians in Israel, Sharon would never have relinquished a square inch.

Terrorism is an immoral and illegitimate weapon of war. But the original sin that ignited this war was the illegal – indeed, insane – seizure of and settlement on Palestinian land, and the stubborn refusal by Israel to conclude a peace when they held the whip hand, which they will not hold forever.

As Weisglass warns, they will now behave the same way on the West Bank – and with the same result a decade hence.

Where there is no vision, the people perish.

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