The Explosion of Israel’s Formaldehyde Strategy in Gaza

Yves here. With the situation in Gaza rolling relentlessly towards escalation, it is important to look at the history to understand how Israel set about to make the conflict intractable.

By Ramzy Baroud, a journalist and the Editor of the Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books including: “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (2019), “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (2010) and “The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle” (2006). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is Originally published at Common Dreams

Israel had the perfect plan for Gaza – in fact, for all Palestinians, when it decided to redeploy its forces around the Occupied Gaza Strip in 2005.

Despite statements made, back then, by Israeli officials that the ‘disengagement’ plan aimed at severing Israel’s legal and other responsibilities from its role as an Occupier, the actual story was different.

Dov Weisglass, a top adviser to the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, conveyed the real reasons behind the redeployment.

Weisglass knew exactly what he was saying; after all, he was one of the architects of the plan.

But how much of the Israeli plan, as described by Weisglass, was, in fact, implemented? And did the current war in the Strip change those outcomes, as pronounced nearly two decades ago?

“The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process,” Weisglass told Haaretz in 2004.

That part has, indeed, been achieved in full. Not only was the so-called peace process frozen, but Israel has, since then, carried out numerous steps to make sure that there is nothing worth negotiating over.

The exponential growth of illegal Jewish settlements, the killing of Palestinians, the desecration of holy sites and the annexation plans made it unrealistic to even suggest that a two state solution is still practically possible.

But why was Israel keen on freezing a ‘process’ that was futile to begin with?

It was not the peace process that mattered to Israel, but the fact that, so long as such political conversations were still taking place, the Palestinian political agenda remained relevant.

This logic, long argued by Palestinians, was supported by Weisglass himself, when he said that “When you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem.”

“Effectively,” he added, “this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a (US) presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.”

This explains much of what has happened since the senior Israeli officials made those revelations and predictions.

First, is that all Israeli governments, regardless of their ideological or political orientations, remained faithful to the plan, and never engaged in any genuine political conversations on the future of a Palestinian State, the rights of the Palestinians, let alone a just peace.

This indicates that Israel’s intentions were not open for debate within the country’s political establishment. For Tel Aviv, it was the end of peace efforts, and the start of a new phase, that of entrenching the Occupation.

Second, every US administration since then has either invested in the overall Israeli agenda or disowned the very ‘peace process’ that the Americans had, themselves, invented and sustained.

This, too, did not happen by chance. Israel had invested much lobbying efforts and diplomacy in dissuading the Americans from continuing to pursue their own agenda.

Not only did the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu get what he wanted, he even managed to convince the Trump Administration in 2017 to follow Israel’s own agenda on Jerusalem, on the refugees, on settlements and even on annexation.

The Biden administration did not alter that new grim political reality established by President Donald Trump, even if some of its language appeared to suggest otherwise.

Third, although unwittingly, Weisglass indicated that Israel does not see Palestinians and their struggle as fragments, but as a unified whole. By blocking one aspect of that struggle, the political process, all others are meant to fall apart like pieces of dominos.

The division of Palestinians, along with the ability of Mahmoud Abbas to sustain his Palestinian Authority for all these years despite its failure to achieve anything of substance, allowed Israel to advance its original plan unhindered.

Frustrated by the insistence of many countries, including the US, that Israel must engage in a political process, Israel, instead, decided to ‘disengage’ from Gaza.

“The disengagement is actually formaldehyde,” Weisglass said. “It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.”

The Israeli plan, however, was not a complete success. Palestinians continued to lead a massive campaign of resistance, involving all aspects of society in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem.

And, as was always the case, Israel responded with a massive show of force whenever Palestinians seemed ready to challenge their Israeli jailors.

From the frequent raids on Jenin, Nablus, Jericho to the massive and deadly wars on Gaza, Israel has done everything in its power, not only to crush Palestinians but also to send them a message: no resistance of any kind will be tolerated, and no form of resistance will ever be enough to place Palestine back on Israel’s political agenda, or those of its allies.

A feeling of ‘we won, and you lost’ has pervaded official Israeli institutions and society. Israeli election campaigns seemed entirely disinterested in even discussing the settlements, a Palestinian State, the status of Jerusalem and so on.

Palestinians were still useful, however. The PA served as a line of defense for the ever-growing settlements. And every Palestinian attack against Israeli targets was utilized as further proof that Israel has no peace partner, thus solidifying the anti-peace position of every Israeli government.

The discussion in the media following the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7 focused on the attack itself, on Hamas as a group and, later, although selectively, on the bloodbath created by Israel in Gaza.

But that date was not the start of the war; it is a horrific episode of a war that has already started and is sustained by a very violent Israeli military Occupation and apartheid.

Equally important, regardless of Israeli propaganda and distorted western media coverage, there is no question that Israel has failed.

That failure was initiated by Sharon’s wishful thinking in 2005, and maintained through the illusions and arrogance of every Israeli government ever since.

The truth is that Netanyahu is only a cog in a massive Israeli political machine which aims at dismissing the Palestinian cause, forever.

Even those who insist on supporting Israel at any cost, cannot now genuinely pretend that Palestine is not back on the agenda as the Middle East’s most vital issue. Without a free Palestine, there can never be true peace, security or stability.

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  1. Freethinker

    The chosen strategy has been very effective so far & is smart, drawing it seems on 2 usefully appropriate historical experiences of land theft on a massive scale for colonists to form a country from the start.

    The bantustans in South Africa crammed the indigenous people into little reserves that were economically and territorially non-viable, under puppet leaders with budgets guaranteed to keep them destitute enough to be unable to ever mount resistance. These were then risably labelled statelets to the world at large under official apartheid, with the West then accepting the farce as the colonists were their valuable ally in a strategic location for the struggle to control the world vis a vis the Soviet Union. It worked for a while, but the main flaw in this solution was that the colonists couldn’t quietly/invisibly kill millions of the original occupants in time before they were excluded from the vast majority (& obviously the best) of their land. So they’d always be there, grow faster in numbers than the settlers and if the relevant politics ever changed, outvote the thieves in any fair contest. Control of movement was limited & of necessary resources like water or power was absolute, another excellent way of having a permanent choke-chain on the capitves.

    The other lesson was indigenous reserves in the US, where again aboriginals were legally denied rights, shoved onto useless land, kept poor, broken as human beings in an official strategy knowing no limits to cruelty, like confiscating children to be indoctrinated. Physical movement controls were not required to be so strict because the diseases as well as initial military massacres that mainly constituted the tools of genocide, had done the job of rendering these peoples electorally irrelevant. The factor of use to Israel here was the byzantine legal web of laws keeping the victims reliably oppressed forever – this example gives a taste of the methodology:

    1. Altandmain

      The big difference is that today, with modern communications, this type of ethnic cleansing and outright genocide is impossible to conceal. Everyone knows the Israelis are trying to steal the land and eliminate the Palestinians.

      Even the West does as well, hence the culture of censorship and the constant need for propaganda. Of course, outside of the West, people are not fooled.

      The Israelis should have picked a strategy of reconciliation with the Palestinians and their Arbaic neighbours. It’s far too late for that and they seem to be uniting the whole Islamic world against them.

      Concessions may have involved a return to 1967 borders, even sharing of water with the Palestinians, etc. In the long run, although painful for Israel would have been far better for Israel.

      As far as the US, its credibility is gone. It is seen as being the big backer behind Israel. There’s no way for the West to be seen as a good faith actor and peace negotiatior. Notably, Putin for example was very careful to point out that this crisis was due to American diplomacy.

    2. juno mas

      The elimination of Native Americans was a violation of the terms of the Louisiana Purchase. Article III of the treaty gave ALL inhabitants existing on the land the right to maintain their boundaries. The US government has forever been agreement incapable.

    1. kam

      Ben Shapiro,
      always prepared to destroy any pretense of the United States being capable of sorting out the internecine hatred rooted in the Middle East.
      When both Religions teach that all others are not human (animals in human form) where is consensus, meeting-of-the-minds possible.
      Either a 2 state solution or a no state result.

  2. Candide

    This IS the picture and the glue that keeps it going includes the massacres Israeli military and contractors helped with in Guatemala, Argentina and as Nick Corbishley pointed out, the recently exposed Rafi Eitan in Colombia:

    “Rafi Eitan, a former Mossad chief who had courted fame for leading the operation to capture Adolf Eichmann, he was hired by the Colombian President Virgilio Barco (1986-90) to help end the guerrilla conflict in the country. His involvement in Colombia’s civil war was kept secret for 36 years, for obvious reasons: one of Eitan’s recommendations, which was enthusiastically embraced by Barco, was to exterminate the political leaders of the Patriotic Union (UP), the left-wing party that emerged from a peace agreement with the FARC guerrilla.

    What followed was a brutal years-long assassination campaign that took the lives of 3,122 members of UP, including two presidential candidates, five sitting congressmen, 11 deputies, 109 councilors, several former councilors, 8 current mayors, 8 former mayors and thousands of other activists.”

    At the heart of the “mafia” relationship has been to crush an insistence on democracy wherever it arose in “our back yard” with cooperation and mutual coverups between US and Israel.

  3. DJG, Reality Czar

    Yes, what is going on in Israel/Palestine is a frozen conflict that has flared up again spectacularly. I’d add to Ramzy Baroud’s account that Palestine hasn’t had elections since 2006. Those elections were won by Hamas. So the blabbering about “terrorists” always seems to avoid that Hamas is a majority in the formaldehyded legislative council.

    See Wikipedia summary, which is pretty good. See headers Israeli obstruction and then Aftermath.

    Also note the long list of exit polling data and the Palestinian public’s expectations of Hamas.

    As Baroud writes, the peace process is frozen, as is any possibility of a new Palestinian government.

    Yet Biden was speechifying and bloviating about “terrorists.”

    And “dictators”? Because proxy wars are what the U.S. of A. has become best at since the 9/11 (trademark).

    1. Candide

      Thanks for the link, DJG.
      Clarity of analysis is important, and continues with interview with Tareq Baconi currently with Palestine Policy Network, on air at this moment, program and transcript available on demand any time after 9:30 or 10 Eastern.
      PS… The Colombia reference is in Nick Corbishley’s recent post on Gustavo Petro’s government’s caution:

    2. JonnyJames

      Yeah, “Terrorists” are those the US govt./oligarchy don’t like, no evidence needed. The “good terrorists” are those who do as they are told, like the “Contras” or the ones in Syria etc. The psych projections and glaring hypocrisy seem obvious. The US and vassals can mass murder anyone with impunity, but the victims are “terrorists”

  4. Alice X

    Last night (Oct 19) GG interviewed Israeli Lawmaker Ofer who was suspended for denouncing the war on Gaza.

  5. The Rev Kev

    Benny Gantz, a member of the country’s emergency war cabinet and a former defense minister, spilled the eventual aim where he said-

    ‘The war in the south – and if need be also in the north or anywhere else – might take months, and the rebuilding will take years. Only when [the rebuilding] is complete will we be victorious.

    Israel’s goal “is not just to defeat Hamas, but to promise that the south will be 100% paradise.”

    “After we win, on any front that we fight, we will be dedicated to this rebuilding,” he said.’

    You can bet that that rebuilding Gaza into a paradise will not be for the Palestinian people but for those settlers. So what happens to those Gazans? There was an idea floated about a week ago by the US and Israel where the 2.4 million people would be let through the Egyptian border into the Sinai desert where a tent city would be built. And that Qatar would not only pay for this but maintain that refugee camp for, like, forever? I guess that this is still the plan though the Egyptian President suggested to Israel that they be moved to the Negev desert instead.

  6. Synoia

    This is now more open. Wat’s next?

    I have met some Israel first people. There desire for ethnic cleansing is palpable, in the open, with no room for compromise.

    In discussions I noticed no room for compromise, none at all.

  7. Carolinian

    That formaldehyde has also been poured into the United States with many states like my own featuring anti-BDS legislation–which isn’t even constitutional–and wholly owned and controlled politicians like our Nikki Haley. The entire project indicates that history hasn’t “ended” but in fact is rolling backwards to the kind of authoritarian, oligarchic spirit of earlier times. This of course suits the overwhelmingly non Jewish oligarchy just fine.

    I don’t think that’s a conspiracy theory but part of the way power tends to see every crisis as an opportunity and the ME, in my lifetime, has been a continuous crisis very far from we heartlanders who have so little to do with it. Or in other words–per the above article–the lack of peace is a feature, not a bug.

    1. Feral Finster

      Of course anti-BDS legislation is flatly unconstitutional. So what?

      Everyone knows that first, you have to get a court to overturn the law, which will take years and $TEXA$ in legal fees. You will win, but only if you can afford to keep resisting (the state will fight tooth and nail every step of the way and will exhaust all appeals, all of which you also will have to pay to fight) but you will not recover so much as a dime of the money spent. Damages will be piddling, probably lost salary and benefits, nothing more. Expect the state to appeal the damages award too, just for spite.

      Then, assuming you last long enough to win, you can return to your job with a target on your back (antiretaliation laws are a joke, at least when people of influence and authority do not want them to apply) and the state legislature simple enacts a new law with a few cosmetic changes, in case you or those similarly situated hasn’t gotten the message yet.

  8. Matthew G. Saroff

    One of the interesting things about Gaza is that no one discusses that it will be uninhabitable in a few decades, even without conflict.

    Because you have 2 million people in a very small space, the aquifer is oversubscribed, and so you get infiltration of salt water into it. The water is already unhealthily saline, and will become undrinkable in the foreseeable future.

  9. JonnyJames

    …”Not only did the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu get what he wanted, he even managed to convince the Trump Administration in 2017 to follow Israel’s own agenda on Jerusalem, on the refugees, on settlements and even on annexation. The Biden administration did not alter that new grim political reality established by President Donald Trump, even if some of its language appeared to suggest otherwise…”

    It didn’t take much to “convince” DT: Bolton, Pompeo and the crew are hardcore right-wing Zionist authoritarians (“neocon”), just like the JB regime. No change, no significant differences, just the flavor of BS.

    Mr. Baroud’s conclusions remind me of the classic documentary by John Pilger. The original was from 1977 and a newer one came out in 2002. I’m surprised the TechnoFeudal overlords haven’t banned it yet.

  10. sharonsj

    This is a long and complex situation, and I don’t want to waste my time researching every claim. So I will only start with the desecration of holy sites. That link refers to 300 Jews celebrating Yom Kippur by going to the Al-Aqsa complex. Meanwhile, the Palestinians themselves have desecrated the mosque by playing soccer inside and breaking the windows, and also by urinating on the roof. And then there is the holy site of the Tombs of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron. On Yom Kippur eve, 3 October 1976, an Arab mob destroyed several Torah scrolls and prayer books at the tomb. In May 1980, an attack on Jewish worshippers returning from prayers at the tomb left 6 dead and 17 wounded. ‘Nuff said.

    1. curlydan

      Talk about formaldehyde. This is the chicken vs the egg part of Israeli and Palestinian conflict that is just so intractable. Two knowledgeable people on different sides can just go on all day about who did what to whom with the other side quoting an even earlier version of events and injustices. Which came first, the Israeli atrocity or the Palestinian atrocity?

      But since 1948, it’s the Israelis who have held the huge power advantage. And the conflict won’t end until they give up some of that power which will be just about never…

  11. elissa3

    Ian Welsh does a good job of simplifying the issue:

    Two points:

    1) There are a LOT of Palestinians. Perhaps 7 millions, including Israel proper and the West Bank. Even more if the third and fourth generations in refugee camps (in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria) are included. Unlike the indigenous Americans, they cannot be easily wiped out. There are just too many.

    2) Outside of Israel proper, Palestinians generally have the support of Arab populations in the adjacent nation states. (Of the leaders of these states, not so much). And this support is compounded many times by the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians are Moslems (Sunni). It is my impression that religion still counts as an identity factor in the Middle East (versus in other regions of the world).

    Bottom line: formaldehyde or not, the Palestinians will be around for a while.

    1. MtnMan

      Given this quote: “Unlike the indigenous Americans, they cannot be easily wiped out. There are just too many.” Maybe a little look back on history. It took 400 years to complete the Genocide of Indigenous peoples in the western hemisphere.

      For further thought, there are many, many people of Indigenous ancestry still alive and quite well in the Americas. They have not been “Wiped Out.”

      Can’t think of any? Maybe consider the brown skinned people most of whom speak Spanish as a first language right here in the U.S. and throughout the Americas. While it is clear where their language came from, I’m pretty sure their skin color was NOT an ancestral gift from dark skinned Spaniards. That has to be Indigenous blood.

  12. David in Friday Harbor

    All of this commentary appears muted in comparison with the reality: the Israeli leadership have taken the “lessons” of Algeria and South Africa to heart. The only way for an apartheid settler state to survive is by ruthless ethnic cleansing and outright genocide.

    Sadly, the Palestinians of Gaza appear to have taken other “lessons” from the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, and Rwanda to heart. They will resist ethnic cleansing and genocide by ruthless acts of murder against the occupiers — even when these savage rampages are used as justification for the escalation of violence against their own people.

    There can be no end to this so long as the Merchants of Death inside the D.C. Beltway profit from watching the grinding attrition of their “Ukrainian” and Israeli “allies” expending the American-made munitions without which they would soon collapse. Ka-ching!

    After Wednesday’s U.N. Security Council vote, the question in my mind is how long is the rest of the world willing to continue to provide the raw materials and manufactured goods that enable the American Military-Industrial Complex? What will happen in the U.S. if we are cut off?

      1. David in Friday Harbor

        Look no further than the BLM and Jan 6 riots of 2020-21. Haves (elites) vs. Have-nots (deplorables).

        Civil unrest and crack-downs on dissent, accompanied by rogue targeted crimes by police/petty criminals/cranks.

        1. JonnyJames

          We can only hope that political violence and civil unrest don’t happen on a large scale in the US: a desperate, misinformed, and heavily-armed population is not a good combination.

  13. rudi from butte

    Can you also imagine the Matt Orfalea montage in the making of all the calls for Genocide? Wow. Just Wow!!!

  14. James

    “Justice” is not the solution. The Israelis want “justice” for the indiscriminate attacks on civilians. The Palestinians want “justice” for Israeli oppression. Neither governing body (Israel or Hamas) wants peace, or even the survival of the other. Both are hellbent on eliminating the other.

  15. Victor Sciamarelli

    Ramzy Baroud, imo, is perfectly on point with the fundamental issues: the Israeli occupation and apartheid.
    I would only add questions about the role of the US. The US fully supports Israel because it’s said: Israel is a staunch ally, a democracy, and Israel and the US share similar values; is this true?
    The last I checked Israel was reluctant to fully support Ukraine. Instead, Netanyahu has maintained a comfortable relationship with Putin, who Biden claims has no soul. Though Russia is in Syria supporting Al-Assad, Israel wants to bomb Syria at will. Thus, our staunch ally won’t antagonize Putin. In addition, Israel attempted to derail US-Iran foreign policy when Obama was president; and no doubt still does.
    Israel’s democracy is questionable. Israel is a jewish state that prioritizes jewish citizens and treats non-jewish citizens as second class citizens; hardly democratic.
    As for values, the US is clearly not perfect, but we are not an apartheid state that illegally confiscates land in order to build illegal settlements while planning to subjugate another people in perpetuity.
    I think, if Americans took a step back and questioned our unconditional support for Israel, they would realize that today’s Israel is not your grandfather’s Israel and that we have little in common with Israel. In these recent decades, Israel elites and their American supporters have gone off the rails and are a danger to the US and to Israel itself.

    1. Robert Gray

      Good points, Victor, but just about everything you say could be summed up in one acronym: AIPAC.

  16. Rubicon

    Meantime, today there are literally milions of Western, Middle Eastern and even S. Korean’s who are standing up against the brutality of Zionists in Israel and in the US:

    France, Poland- yes, Poland, Iran, Munich, Berlin, Ireland, London, Australia, and many others. Humanity recognizes those evil entities are murdering, maiming, and destroying thousands of Palestinian lives.

    See Twitter: Jackson Hinkle, Megatron, Combat, even Scott Ritter has awakened to the Zionists in Israel and realizes this must stop permanently.

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