Al-Ahram Weekly Online   15 - 21 December 2005
Issue No. 773
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Disassembling Likud and Gaza

Ariel Sharon's new Kadima Party looks set to win the Israeli elections while his actions augur the future beyond them, writes Graham Usher

In the bloody annals of the Israel-Palestinian conflict the attack in Netanya on 5 December may not register especially high on the carnage scale -- five Israeli civilians dead plus the Palestinian suicide bomber. But it has thrown into relief dynamics that are likely to determine the future far more than the slogans, policies and position papers that will rain like confetti on the Palestinian and Israeli elections next year. For Ariel Sharon's actions in the wake of the blast reveal what he intends not only for Israeli domestic politics but also for Gaza.

A month ago -- before the "dual earthquake" of Sharon's departure from Likud and Amir Peretz's leadership of the Labour Party -- the Netanya blast would have hurt Sharon and strengthened his critics in Likud, particularly those like former finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu who warned that Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza would gust a tailwind for "terror".

Not only did Netanya do nothing to curb Sharon and his new Kadima Party's soaring trajectory in the opinion polls. It weakened Peretz and hastened what one Israeli analyst predicts will be "a total collapse of Likud" at the Israeli elections on 28 March.

On 7 December minister and ultra- nationalist chairman of Likud's Central Committee, Tzahi Hanegbi, left his seat and went over to Kadima because "I, like the rest of Israeli society, have moved to the centre."

Four days later he was joined by Israel's current defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, because "Likud has been taken over by radicals". They had certainly overtaken him. One week before the primaries for Likud leader Mofaz found himself trailing not only Netanyahu but also Moshe Feiglin, a messianic settler who believes Israel should be governed by a religious council of sages.

Sharon's response to the two defectors was instructive. Aides in Kadima urged him to reject both men: Hanegbi because he is currently under police investigation for making "political appointments" while environment minister; and Mofaz because his crass opportunism in changing sides can only add to voter cynicism towards the new party. But Sharon welcomed both with open arms and for one reason, say confidantes: revenge.

"We've disassembled Likud," said one. "After Hanegbi, it is in shock. He was the heart of Likud and in leaving he is basically saying there is no longer a heart in Likud. It is in Sharon".

Polls suggest he is right. The latest not only shows Kadima winning 41 seats in the next parliament as against 21 for Labour and 11 for Likud, but they also show that 62 per cent of traditional Likud voters and 42 per cent of Labour ones now intend to vote for Sharon. The upshot could mean a single party domination of Israeli politics unseen since Labour- Alignment government of 1969-73.

"In Israel today there is one-man rule and it was created because the public is tired of democracy," says former Knesset Speaker and Likud stalwart, Reuven Rivlin.

What this augurs for Israel is a "presidential regime without a constitution", he warns. But it is the regime Sharon appears to seek, which explains his ruthlessness towards Likud and those who stay within its fold.

The same ruthlessness was applied to Gaza after the Netanya, despite the fact that the bomber came from the West Bank and through one of the loopholes in Israel's West Bank wall. Sharon's first response was to close all Gaza border crossings, a move in violation of agreements hammered out between Israel, the World Bank and Condoleezza Rice last month. Under US pressure, he was forced to relent on 12 December, allowing 9,500 Palestinians permits to go to their jobs in Israel.

But he also issued a warning to the US: if the "violations" continue at the Palestinian Authority-Egyptian Rafah crossing into Egypt -- and in particular the PA's "failure" to transmit in real time intelligence on Palestinians passing through the border -- he would re-assign Gaza's Eretz and Karni as an "international border", forcing the PA to pay custom duties on all exports. This would cost the Palestinian treasury millions. Sharon also instructed his officials to end all negotiations on the Palestinian safe passage between Gaza and West Bank (due to be opened on 16 December) "until better security times".

For Palestinians the meaning of these decisions is clear and has been apparent ever since Israel withdrew from Gaza in August. It is to disengage Gaza not only from Israel but also from the West Bank so that it will acquire the status of a separate entity whose only outlet is Egypt.

But Gaza cannot be disengaged, at least not without a safe passage to and economic integration with the West Bank. The result will be increasing penury of a society that has already been dislocated by Israel's closure policies imposed during the Oslo era and even more brutal sanctions inflicted by Israel during the Intifada.

These strictures have been aggravated by Israel's disengagement. According to a UN report to be submitted to a PA donors' conference in London next week, unemployment, poverty, food insecurity, domestic violence and socio-psychological disorders in Gaza have all increased in 2005 against their rates in 2004. All are the causes behind the constant, simmering implosion in Gaza, coupled with sporadic violence against Israel, whether through mortars over the border or, via the West Bank, attacks inside Israel.

None of this seems to perturb Sharon or his appeal in the eyes of his people. On the contrary, it leaves the Palestinians where he wants them to be: fighting useless wars in Gaza while he deepens Israel's colonisation of the West Bank as the head of a populist, presidential and authoritarian regime in Tel Aviv.

The International Schools of Egypt - Alexandria was inaugurated on December 6th 2005 and consists of two schools: International British School of Alexandria and Ecole Molière d'Alexandrie.

Both schools are accommodated in the same building and provide a high quality, international education for the children of Alexandria. International British School of Alexandria and Ecole Molière d'Alexandrie. were founded to provide a British and a French style of education, based upon the British and French curriculums, for the children of Alexandria.

It is an adapted curriculum as our pupils come from both the Egyptian and expatriate families of our city and we wish to provide an education that is broad, international and relevant to the times in which we live. Our vision statement, therefore is: Through adapting both national curriculum, meeting the cultural needs of our students and relating to our environment, we will provide international and Egyptian society with well-balanced members, confident in their own identity, comfortable with themselves and accepting of others. As you can see, we believe education is about the whole person of each student and we value, and develop, all aspects of our pupils characteristics, skills and abilities.

The British and French national curriculums assess progress in skills and understanding against set criteria - levels - and teachers use these levels to guide the next teaching objective, to support children who are struggling and to report to parents. There is a very clear structure, a ladder, of skills in each subject and children are encouraged to make their individual progress up that ladder. The levels achieved are reported in the twice yearly written report to parents.

Arabic is an integral part of our curriculum and here, too, we have levels of assessment, derived from both curriculums, against which student progress is measured. Students are taught the skills of language and they learn to be proficient in their mother tongue, an essential requirement for those who are going to be using another language as their major vehicle of learning. For the British system, the final assessments for students will be through GCSE or IGCSE exams (at the end of year 11) and A levels of International Baccalaureate Diploma (at the end of year 13). As for the French system, final assessments will be through the French Baccalaureate. These assessments equip students to enter universities in Egypt and around the world and our curriculum leading up to these examinations is an excellent preparation and will mean students will achieve to their full potential. Excellence in all areas of the curriculum is our goal. All areas of the curriculum have their own unique character and value. All students are encouraged to experience all areas of the curriculum and develop a balanced approach to learning and study.

Register Office will be open for interviews and registration for the school year 2006/2007 (year groups) from 15 January 2006.

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