According to a Wikileaked cable from the US embassy in Tel Aviv dated 31 March 2004, high ranking officials in the Israeli government proclaimed that “unilateral disengagement” from Gaza would not necessarily end its legal status as an occupied territory and admitted that Gaza was essentially “a huge concentration camp” that would need more land in order to make it “economically viable” after disengagement.
The cable describes ex-ambassador Ed Djerejian’s visit to Israel in late March 2004 and his meetings with numerous governing Israeli officials. In discussions with Minister of Immigration and Absorption (and later Minister of Foreign Affairs) Tzipi Livni, she “advocated remaining in the northern three settlements in the Gaza Strip, rather than evacuating it entirely” as a way of avoiding the “‘dangerous precedent’ of withdrawing to the 1967 borders.” Additionally, she made it clear that she saw the potential establishment of a Palestinian state as a means of counteracting any type of “right of return” the Palestinians may claim to have. Indeed, the cable notes that Livni herself is a “long-time advocate of an explicit negation of the Palestinian ‘claim of return.’”
Livni also expressed reservations about the “ambiguous legal status” of the territories from which Israel withdraws. On the one hand, she said, Israel must still control the international passages and the airspace over Gaza. Israel would also insist on the ability to veto the presence of any “foreign forces” in Gaza. “So in these senses,” she said, “the occupation will continue,” and the evacuated territories would not constitute a sovereign state. On the other hand, Israel does not want to have responsibility for the economic and humanitarian situation of the Palestinians.
This sentiment is a far cry from a speech made by Livni as Foreign Affairs Minister in January 2008, in which she stated rather unambiguously that:
We left Gaza; the occupation of Gaza is over. Israel can no longer be an excuse the Palestinians use for inflicting terror on Israel. Israel got out of Gaza. It dismantled its settlements there. No Israeli soldiers were left there after the disengagement.
The cable also describes the “personal view” of the then-head of the Israeli National Security Council, Giora Eiland.
Eiland’s view […] was prefaced on the assumption that demographic and other considerations make the prospect for a two-state solution between the Jordan and the Mediterranean unviable. Currently, he said, there are 11 million people in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip, and that number will increase to 36 million in 50 years. The area between Beer Sheva and the northern tip of Israel (including the West Bank and Gaza) has the highest population density in the world. Gaza alone, he said, is already “a huge concentration camp” with 1.3 million Palestinians. Moreover, the land is surrounded on three sides by deserts. Palestinians need more land and Israel can ill-afford to cede it. The solution, he argued, lies in the Sinai desert.
Specifically, Eiland proposed that Egypt be persuaded to contribute a 600 square kilometer parcel of land that would be annexed to a future Palestinian state as compensation for the 11 percent of the West Bank that Israel would seek to annex in a final status agreement. This Sinai block, 20 kms of which would be along the Mediterranean coast, would be adjacent to the Gaza Strip. A land corridor would be constructed connecting Egypt and this block to Jordan. […] In addition, Israel would provide Egypt a 200 square km block of land from further south in the Negev.
Eiland nonetheless admitted that “Egyptian President Mubarak ‘would never agree’ to it” and “that in negotiating the Israel-Egypt peace treaty Israel had foregone the entire Sinai and accepted the Palestinian issue as an ‘Israeli’ problem.”
The candid views described in the cable provide an intriguing look into the mindset of Israel’s most prominent two-state solution advocates and suggest a perverse emphasis on political elites fiddling over border lines as a substitute for acknowledging the Palestinians’ equal rights and human dignity.