|Beyond Images - Briefing 15
||Perspectives on the Arab-Israeli Conflict
WITHDRAWAL FROM PALESTINIAN TOWNS: how terror forced Israel
|London - published Friday 30 August 2002
"Israel has occupied the West Bank and the
Gaza Strip for 35 years, controlling every aspect of life
of the Palestinian people. The intifada broke out so that
the Palestinians could get Israel's army of occupation
out of their lives for good".
Summary of Response
- This is a myth. By September
2000, when the intifada broke out, Israel had already
withdrawn from all Palestinian towns, leaving over 90%
of West Bank Palestinians under Palestinian self-rule.
Israeli soldiers never entered them.
- The violence of the past two
years has forced Israel to re-enter these towns in order
to quell the sustained wave of terrorism originating
- Palestinian violence has been
completely self-defeating. Far from ending the Israeli
occupation, it has caused Israel to reoccupy - temporarily.
How Israel wound down the occupation of the West Bank
and Gaza in the 1990s
Ever since the intifada broke out in September
2000, Palestinian spokesmen have given the impression that
the whole of West Bank life had been under an Israeli stranglehold
at that time - and that the intifada was an explosion of frustration
with that situation.
In fact, this was not the case. Throughout
the mid-1990s, Israel took steps to wind down its occupation
of the West Bank and Gaza, and to transfer to the Palestinians
the day-to-day running of their lives. These steps took place
as a result of the Oslo peace negotiations. The key stages
of Israel's withdrawal were the following:-
• Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank
town of Jericho as long ago as 1994
• The Palestinians elected a self-rule authority, the
Palestinian Authority, in 1995, which subsequently built up
a large and well-armed security force, and received hundreds
of millions of dollars in foreign aid to build up Palestinian
• Israel withdrew from most other Palestinian towns
during 1995-6 (four years before the intifada began), including
Nablus, Ramallah, Jenin, Bethlehem, Qalkilya, and Tulkarem;
• Israel withdrew from Hebron under a separately negotiated
agreement in 1997.
By 1997 over 95% of Palestinians were living
under Palestinian, not Israeli, rule. Of course, the self-rule
fell short of independence. Restrictions on movement were
regularly imposed by the Israelis, for "security reasons",
and Israel's existing settlements expanded.
Nonetheless, it is a myth to suggest that
the Palestinian people were under Israeli military occupation
of the West Bank when the intifada broke out. Not only had
the occupation been very substantially wound down, but Israeli
proposals were on the negotiating table, at Camp David and
at Taba, to end the West Bank occupation altogether (proposals
which the Palestinian leadership rejected) (see Beyond
Images Briefing - What Actually Happened At Camp David and
The consequences of Palestinian violence on Palestinian
How has the intifada changed this since
For the first 18 months of the Palestinian
violence, Israel did not re-enter any of the Palestinian towns,
despite the fact that terror groups operated there freely
and openly declared their intention to launch further strikes
against Israeli civilians.
However, following the wave of attacks
of March 2002, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield,
and then Operation Determined Path (in June 2002). For the
first time in many years, Israeli soldiers re-entered these
Palestinian towns, in order to disrupt the "infrastructure"
of the terrorist groups, curb the attacks and seize the ringleaders.
The Israeli Government has repeatedly declared
that it does not wish to re-occupy permanently, and that as
soon as the terror abates it will withdraw from the towns.
The self-rule enjoyed by the citizens of
Nablus, Tulkarem, Bethlehem, Jenin and the other West Bank
towns has been ended, not because Israel wished to re-enter
these towns, but because its Government felt that it was left
with no choice but to do so.
Beyond Images conclusions
Far from ending Israel's occupation, the
Palestinian groups caused Israel's re-occupation of its major
population centres. Palestinian "resistance to occupation"
has been completely self-defeating. Their self-rule gains
have been thrown away for the time being, and the occupation,
which Israel had agreed to wind down, has now temporarily