Monday, August 22, 2005


More on the Gaza Evacuation

A good many people, inside and outside of Israel, have come quite close to losing faith utterly in the Israeli government in general, and in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in particular. Many small factors have played into this -- the never-ending accusations of corruption, the refusal to involve the Israeli people more thoroughly in far-reaching decisions, and so on -- but the evacuation of Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip is what hits the hardest.

For it's hard to escape the short-term consequences of this act. The terrorists -- who, for better or for worse, are the ones calling the shots in Gaza now -- will see this unilateral withdrawal as victory for them and cowardice on the Israeli side, as they always have. Since, by their lights, terror resulted in victory, this will encourage more terror; indeed, it already has.

(Never mind how corrosive and destructive the terror is on Palestinian society. Neo-neocon spoke eloquently to this issue here; I strongly recommend that you read it all. It's a scary snapshot of just how sick Palestinian society has become, thanks to the terror. Factor in that now the terrorists can claim their terror has achieved results, and we can only assume that, should their ever be a formal State of Palestine, it will be a brutal dictatorship of terror to make Saddam's Iraq pale by comparison.)

And yet. Many of us still want to believe in Sharon. In his day, after all, he was one of the most brilliant generals Israel ever had, second only to his mentor Moshe Dayan. As a paratroop officer in the early fifties, he created and commanded the legendary Unit 101, overseeing (and participating in) the midnight lightning cross-border raids for which Israel became famous, finding the terrorists where they live and eliminating them, root and branch. His bravery and daring -- as a reserve major-general -- saved Israel in 1973. And as defense minister, he earned a reputation for toughness with the Palestinians that brought Israel a quiet calm, unknown before or since.

(In the upper-left-hand picture above, by the way, that's Lt.Col. Sharon, standing second from left, between the legendary Lt. Meir Har-Zion and then-Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Dayan. Seated at right, I believe, is a young Rafael Eitan.)

So we ask ourselves: has Arik gone insane? Deafened by his own rhetoric, perhaps? Is he senile, as Yitzhak Rabin was reputed to be in his last days? Is he out of touch with reality, as Shimon Peres has been for decades? Is he so corrupt that he simply doesn't care anymore?

None of the above, opines Gloria Salt. In a lengthy post well worth reading in its entirety, she summarizes Sharon's motives quite simply:
Simple military strategy. Clear your own soft targets out of the way and then do what’s necessary.
Do I believe that? Not necessarily, although I very much want to believe it. We'll know when we see what Sharon -- and Israel -- do next.

By all means, read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn has an interesting take on the Gaza withdrawal and the geopolitical reasons for it. (Briefly, that the Palestinians need an opportunity to show the world just how unprepared they are to run their own affairs... and that Sharon was willing to give them that opportunity.)

Meryl Yourish politely (and grimly) disagrees. (She insists that Israel will always be blamed for anything and everything, which is true enough. On the other hand, her alternate reasoning behind the Gaza withdrawal also invokes the "unpopular in world opinion" phantom.)

Personally, I find a lot to agree with in Steyn's article. (I'm pleased that he said, bluntly, that the Palestinians aren't ready for their own state, and haven't earned one. I've been waiting for a long time for a major columnist to say that.) Or, in his words:
The United States doesn’t exist because the colonists “deserved” a state, but because they went out and fought for one. The same with the Irish Republic. By contrast the world deemed Palestinians “deserving” of a state ten, three, six, eight decades ago, and they’ve absolutely no interest in getting it up and running. Any honest visitor to the Palestinian Authority is struck by the complete absence of any enthusiasm for nation-building – compared with comparable pre-independence trips to, say, Slovenia, Slovakia, or East Timor. Invited to choose between nation-building or Jew-killing, the Palestinians prioritise Jew-killing – every time.
Indeed. One might almost think that Sharon's policy was to pull back from Gaza, seal the Palestinians in there, and watch the civil war start. As Steyn points out, Mubarak's Egypt has already sent in troops to replace the dreaded Israeli troops. And, as Meryl points out, the various Palestinian terror groups are already fighting it out in words, and defying one another's leadership openly.

Let me place a side bet here. Within six months, a Palestinian will publicly claim that "it was better with the Israelis in charge" -- and it'll get quoted in the mainstream press, anti-Israel bias notwithstanding. But nobody will listen.

UPDATE: It may have taken a bit longer than I expected. But within less than two years, the leader of the Palestinian Authority said exactly that.


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