The Flip Side of Disengagement
For Americans who happen to be paying attention, Israel’s planned withdrawal, or unilateral disengagement, from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank is a foggy issue. How much will Israel concede? Will it meet the West’s two-state, Road Map to peace prescription? Will Palestinians at last accept Israel’s good-faith retreat, stop the terror, and live in peace? Are Israelis happy or unhappy with the plan? Will withdrawal be the forerunner of civil war?
My Jewish friends tell me there’s a saying, “Ask eight rabbis a question, and you’ll get 10 opinions.” Regarding the pullout, one might say, “Ask 10 Americans about disengagement, and you’ll get 10 blank stares.”
One reason is that the vast majority of U.S. citizens are not interested. Another is the abysmally inadequate or distorted media coverage, not only of events in Israel but also the entire Middle East. Why should Americans or other Westerners care about what is happening halfway around the world? Because halfway around the world is no longer half a world away. It’s your backyard and mine. And the way events play out in the only successful bastion of democracy and freedom in the Middle East will either enhance or destroy American credibility and may bring the war on terror over the fence and into our yards.
Who Wants Disengagement?
Frustrated with the stalemate in peace “negotiations” with the duplicitous career terrorist, Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon submitted a controversial plan to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza and a limited number of unauthorized settlements in Judea-Samaria (West Bank).
Getting rid of the poverty-ridden, terrorist-torn slum that is the Gaza Strip seemed like an excellent idea for Israel. The down side was the need to relocate approximately 8,000 Jewish residents of Gaza. As expected, this became an extremely traumatic, divisive issue.
But the die was cast; and before withdrawal was to begin, it had the blessing of the prime minister, the vast majority of Knesset members, and the polled approval of 60 to 65 percent of Israelis. The plan was music to the ears of the administrations in Washington, London, the European Union (EU), and UN.
A Laundry List of Good-Faith Gestures
According to information obtained by The Jerusalem Post, when Ariel Sharon and his entourage met in April with president George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas, and Washington, they brought a list of perks for the Palestinians to pick up. Below are a few of them.
- Israel offered to build a rail link between the West Bank and Gaza, enabling the free flow of people and goods between the two areas.
- Israel offered to construct a rail link from Erez in northern Gaza to the port of Ashdod for palestinian exports to Europe and elsewhere.
- Israel offered to coordinate the operation of the Erez Crossing from Gaza to Israel to facilitate passage of Palestinians to jobs in Israel and their merchandise to Israeli markets.
- Israel offered to discuss with the palestinian Authority (PA) the admission into Israel daily of tens of thousands of Palestinian workers from Gaza and the West Bank after disengagement is completed.
- Israel offered to discuss the building of new roads for the use of Palestinians in the West Bank.
- Israel proposed the coordination of economic aspects of postdisengagement Gaza that would turn over hothouses and other agricultural and industrial assets intact and ready to operate.
Thus far, the Palestinians have either rejected or refused to respond to Israel’s offers.
You’ve probably heard it said, “Ask a multimillionaire how much money is enough, and his answer will be ‘more.’” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his cronies, to their way of thinking, have Israel on the run. Washington, the EU, and UN are turning up the heat on the Israelis, and all Abbas has to do is wait.
On its own initiative, and with minimal nudging from the West, Israel conceded land it won fairly in response to military aggression. Everywhere in the world, the victors, not the vanquished, are in the driver’s seat. But the current situation is reversed. It is the stateless, Palestinian terrorist leaders (former and current) who make the demands and put Israel under unrelenting pressure to surrender land that, by every rule of international conduct, should be Israeli.
With the single exception of the intifadas, the wars of aggression against Israel were launched by foreign governments: Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. And though elements of Palestinian factions fight to destroy Israel, they are not part of a legitimate country. It has been repeated ad nauseam that the palestinians have never had a country, borders, or central government anywhere in the world and certainly not near Jerusalem or areas now known as the “occupied territories.”
Contrary to popular hype, the Palestinians did not own all of the land they and their Arab bedfellows refused in the UN partition plan of 1947. Instead of accepting the plan, they chose war in the unfounded belief they could kill the fledgling State of Israel at birth. They gambled and lost. Israel did not violate Palestine’s borders in order to “steal their land.” In fact, there were no borders, as there are none today. There was no Arab State of Palestine. In fact, the Arabs stole Jewish land, as is thoroughly and meticulously documented in Joan Peters’ book, From Time Immemorial. It’s as simple as that.
Since Israel’s enemies can’t, at least for the foreseeable future, destroy Israel militarily, they are letting Israel’s friends do it for them.
The Shrinking State of Israel
With “peace” being imposed on Israel, there are some facts to bear in mind. First, the word reciprocity has been swept off the negotiating table and onto the scrap heap. Second, the once firmly espoused notion that no free nation would ever negotiate with terrorists, especially while the shooting was still going on, has become a joke—at least to the Palestinians. To their way of thinking, terror has paid big dividends.
Also, we have no clear definition of what the Palestinian leadership actually has in mind for its end game. What kind of state are we in the process of consorting to establish? Will it be a friendly neighbor or a launching pad for Mideast terror? The coin is still in the air, and only time will tell which side will be facing up when it hits the ground.
Using the 1949 armistice lines as the final disposition of borders (an idea heard increasingly) would be a leap into potential catastrophe. One would be hard-pressed to believe that true allies of Israel and the Jewish people would countenance the breath of a hint of such borders.
Despite all the well-intentioned declarations guaranteeing Israel’s security by friends from abroad, in the end Israelis can look to no one but themselves when hostile armies and missile launchers begin to roll across their land.
The Flip Side of Disengagement
Even if we grant that Mahmoud Abbas is ready to act in good faith out of concern for his people and a desire for peace, such cannot be said of others in his circle who flatly reject peace with Israel, at any time, under any conditions. And international diplomats trying to slice and dice the process into acceptable proposals had better be listening.
On March 24, 2005, a senior Hamas official, Ahmed al-Bahar, was quoted in The Jerusalem Post as saying,
The painful and qualitative blows which the Palestinian resistance dealt to the Jews and their soldiers over the past four-and-a-half years led to the decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip….The suicide attacks…have taken their tolls on the Jews, both psychologically and economically, in addition to the high number of casualties….All indications show that since its establishment, Israel has never been in such a state of retreat and weakness as it is today….The withdrawal marks the end of the Zionist dream and is a sign of the moral and psychological decline of the Jewish state. We believe that the resistance [terrorism] is the only way to pressure the Jews.
This terror-driven tirade is not the ranting of an insignificant, minor figure. Al-Bahar’s voice echoes the heart of the Islamist obsession of the Hamas organization, whose stated objective is to annihilate Israel and her people.
Given the fact that Hamas and its terrorist kinfolk are key players in the political and military affairs of a future palestinian state, Mr. al-Bahar’s words could be prophetic, articulating the nightmare that terror mongers are planning when the allies depart and Israel is deemed sufficiently vulnerable.
With Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Fatah, and like organizations operating, any good-faith overtures from Israel, including territorial concessions, will be doomed to fail. An incremental peace must be prefaced by the total elimination of these groups. And under no circumstances should they be allowed to intrude into the political process. Terror, incitement, and attacks of all types must stop. No hudnas (temporary cease-fires) tolerated. Only total disarmament.
peace through strength is the only path to survival. And the time to demonstrate that strength is now, before it is too late.
But What If?
But what if disengagement is a success? What if the Jewish residents of Gaza and those living in a few communities in northern Samaria evacuate and look to the future in other parts of the nation? In the eyes of some, their departure would constitute the beginning of the end for Israel—the termination of the Zionist dream. Before endorsing that notion, we must stop and think.
A short time ago, I stood atop a small hill in the old port of Jaffa and looked northward along the beautiful coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. There at my feet was Tel Aviv. It is a sprawling metropolis with wide shoulders, a huge heart, and designs on the future.
Had I stood there nearly 100 years ago, I would have been looking at a barren, lifeless sandscape—a stretch of seafront American writer Mark Twain could well have included in his dreary assessment of the Holy Land as a “forlorn and forsaken” place, fit only for the “habitation of owls and jackals.” Sixty families in 1909 decided that it would be a good place to start a new life. So they did, and one can only imagine what they would say to one another were they to walk down Dizengoff Street today and see what they started.
We must never sell the people of Israel short. They are a nation of right-stuff pioneers. With water and time, the Negev will blossom and the Galilee will resemble a preview of Eden. You can count on it.