Gaza and Victory?

Joey Tartakovsky writes in about Gaza. He finds that disengagement was the act of a statesman and explains why:

Q: Israelis fear that Gaza could become “Hamasland” after the withdrawal.
A: Let Israel die.

—Hamas spokesman, in an interview with the Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat, on August 18th.

The heartbreaking scenes in Gaza show us what the managed exodus of hundreds of families looks like. It means tearing down synagogues and kindergartens, exhuming graves, and ordering an armed force to resettle its own civilians against their will — at a cost of billions of dollars and what seems like as many tears. But Ariel Sharon’s abandonment of Gaza is the act of a statesman.

For disengagement is in Israel’s interests. Israel has no partner for peace among the Palestinians, nor any interest in waiting for one. Sharon began arguing in recent years that his country had better options than the continued occupation of lands crowded with 3.5 million Palestinians, the price for which Israel paid in terms of military, economic, and moral well-being. He observed, too, that if Israel didn’t act to exclude Arabs, whose birthrate is fourfold that of Israeli Jews, Jews would, within decades, become a minority in lands under Israeli control. Sharon will withdraw settlers and soldiers from the conquered territories — Gaza first and parts of the West Bank (much) later — while finishing a fence to seal a favorable border.

It is, or should be, in Israel’s diplomatic interests. The commitment to peace on the part of the “international community” is being tested: as Israel accedes to the decades-long demand of the United Nations and European and Arab states, will these groups pressure the Palestinians, too, to act for the sake of peace, as demanded by every Middle East peace text since Middle East peace texts began? We will see.

And disengagement is in the interests of Palestinians, who will soon have their chance to build a state. Theoretically, that is. There is little to suggest that Palestine will avoid the fate of its Arab neighbors: poverty, misrule, nepotism, and violence. But they won’t have occupation to blame. The impending disaster of Palestine belongs to them, not Israel.

While he makes a compelling argument, the disruption of the lives of Jewish settlers who lived there for nearly 40 years, the possibility of Gaza turning into a terrorist training camp and the proximity of Hamas to populated cities of Israel now, make one wonder if it really is in Israel’s best interest. Perhaps, in the long run it will turn out to be. We shall see.

He continues….

The Israeli sin is occupation and the Palestinian sin is terrorism. But now Israel makes redress. What have the Palestinians done? Nothing. Actually, that’s not true: they’ve been busy partying. And praising themselves: “This pullout is the result of our sacrifice, of our patience,” said President Mahmoud Abbas. In another speech: “The credit [for the withdrawal] goes to the martyrs.” Abbas has no plans to confront the terrorists under his dominion. (Nor has a single terrorist been arrested during his tenure.) On the contrary, the martyrs are gearing up for a new round of holy war. Critics of the withdrawal warned that its greatest peril was that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah would interpret Israel’s sacrifice as their victory.

The critics were right. As Palestinian groups celebrate carnival-style, basking in praise from across the Arab world, one doubts that many of them actually believed that the end of occupation meant the end of fighting. Were that true, last week’s events would be cause to lay down their rifles; instead, they seem readier than ever to discharge them. Unless, of course, occupation referred not to the ’67 ceasefire borders, but to Israel proper. A newly-bold Hamas spokesman explains: “We do not and will not recognize a state called Israel. Israel has no right to any inch of Palestinian land.”

The cutthroats of Hamas, like Jack the Ripper in his infamous letter to a London paper, have informed their pursuers that they shan’t quit ripping till they do get buckled. Islamic Jihad took potshots at departing settlers, and even attempted a suicide bombing on the first day of evacuations, which Israel intercepted. But another bomber did make it through on the Sunday after withdrawal, maiming 10 in the city of Be’er Sheva. With these groups there is no “peace process.” There is a war process. Israel must meet the next wave of Palestinian shootings, stabbings, rocket attacks, and suicide bombings with retaliation swift and fierce.

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