ISRAEL'S RETREAT FROM GAZA
By Daniel Mandel
The idea is "unilateral disengagement," whereby Israel, without a peace agreement, withdraws its military and civilians from the territories administered by Israel since the 1967 war -- in this case, the Gaza Strip. The Labor Party opposition leader, Amram Mitzna, lost badly campaigning on this very platform, coming in for incisive criticism from not a few figures, not just among the governing Likud Party, but from a bevy of informed Israeli observers. To cite just two:
Historian Michael Oren:
Respected Centrist journalist, Yossi Klein Halevi:
Indeed, Ariel Sharon himself could not have been clearer at the time:
If these criticisms are correct, then unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza is a victory for terrorism; bloodshed is likely to flow from it, and Sharon, of all people, must know it.
What, then, is Sharon's rationale? According to his supporters, both Right and Left, the withdrawal represents Israel seizing the initiative, setting its own lines of defense, and preempting noxious diplomatic initiatives from Israel's ill-wishers. But all this looks doubtful. True, the Israeli Defense Forces will be relieved of the onerous duty of defending isolated Jewish communities in a sea of enemies, but its absence from Gaza will also afford Palestinian terrorist groups a freer hand for mounting further attacks. And an initiative that stimulates the aggression of terrorists will not be altered by its originating in Jerusalem, as the terrorists themselves make clear.
Thus, Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, has opined:
A top Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar, concurs:
Add to this that the current cease-fire is giving terrorists a breather from ducking into bunkers and dodging Israeli drones, all the while recouping for another round.
All indications, then, are that the terrorists will be the leading beneficiaries of a unilateral Israeli withdrawal, appearing vindicated in asserting that terrorism, first and foremost, is the way. When the cease-fire collapses, as it must, foreign offices the world over will be clamoring for still more diplomatic motion and will take a dim view of resumed Israeli counter-terrorism measures. If setting the agenda, securing one's own, and preempting dangerous diplomacy is the idea behind the Gaza withdrawal, Israelis are likely to be disappointed.
Indeed, it could be said that Sharon is pursuing this doomed initiative as a result of diplomatic defeat. The "road map" peace plan was always going to serve as a guarantor of Palestinian malfeasance. Devised by the European Union, United Nations, the Russians, and the U.S. State Department, the road map is to lead to a Palestinian state regardless of what Palestinians do.
Ingenious explanations can be offered for Israel's actions, but only one fits all the facts -- the Israelis are punting, grasping for a solution that is all the more enticing for looking like what, in other circumstances, might be sound policy. Instead, it has the savor of panic and defeat, made worse by delusive rationalization.
The Israelis are in the unpleasant position of making do with policies they opposed at the ballot box. But the United States is in no such position. Americans are fighting the same Islamist terrorist groups. The Bush administration, which looks like it's rewarding the unreconstructed Palestinian Authority with levels of aid not even contemplated by Bill Clinton in his more expansive moments, should think twice about supporting policies that weaken its best Middle Eastern ally, while emboldening the terrorists it is also fighting. It is not too late for a dose of good sense.
The Israeli-Arab Conflict
The Middle East & the Arabs
Radical Islam & Islamic Terrorism
War & Peace in the Real World
Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization
Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies
U.S. National Security Strategy
Daniel Mandel is Associate Director of the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia and author of H.V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel: The Undercover Zionist.
The foregoing article by Daniel Mandel was originally published in the Boston Globe, May 2, 2005 and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum.
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