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Unilateral evacuation - the consequences of the inevitable

02/08/2004

Sooner or later, it was inevitable that Israel would have to get divorced from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and begin the end of the romance or crazy nightmare of Greater Israel. If we would not do it willingly, we would be forced out.

This realization has dawned on Ariel Sharon, and it is the reason for his plan for unilateral evacuation of 17 settlements in Gaza. This is the same plan that was made by PM Barak, and advocated by Amram Mitzna. The same plan that was derided by Sharon as surrender to terror. Nothing is more inevitable than inevitability. Even Ehud Ohlmert and Ariel Sharon now understand that.

Much ink has been spilt in an attempt to understand this surprising initiative, but the truth is simple. Israel has been 'defeated' in the territories by dull reality, the bane of all colonialists - it became too expensive, and too dangerous to defend isolated settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. The policy of settling deep in Palestinian territory, which Sharon himself favored, has proven to be a failure.

Palestinian PM Ahmed Qur'eia welcomed the withdrawal plan last week with cautious optimism, hoping it is really true. The USA greeted the plan with caution too, not wanting unilateral moves to spoil the "roadmap," though the roadmap seems to be largely nonexistent on this side of the Atlantic. The PLO (not the PNA - but it is the same thing apparently) announced that Palestinians will not negotiate with Israel about the withdrawal plan, which they claim is really a plot to annex more Palestinian territory.

Of course, if Israel is withdrawing anyway, you may well ask why the PLO or the PNA should negotiate. The answer is that Israeli withdrawal will have repercussions in Palestinian society, and Israeli withdrawal without the cooperation of the PNA or PLO, can have disastrous repercussions. If Israel really closes itself off from the Gaza strip, Palestinians will lose a source of raw materials as well as a market, meagre as it may be. The effect of a non-negotiated pullback on the popularity of the PLO/PNA/Fatah will be devastating. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who are vying as successors of the PNA, are already gloating over the victory they will claim over the Zionist enemy, who withdrew without exacting any concessions from the PNA.

Perhaps, this is part of Sharon's plan to terminate the peace process, terminate the PNA and make Yasser Arafat irrelevant. However, the plan is also necessary to allow Israel to "get a life." Total Israeli withdrawal will exacerbate the chaos that already rules much of the areas controlled by the PNA, and the Hamas and Islamic Jihad will be glad to fill the role vacated by the now superfluous PNA. Perhaps that is why, despite the PLO announcement, Ahmed Qur'eia already announced his willingness to meet Sharon, after he had repeatedly refused to meet until Israel stopped building the security barrier.

If the withdrawal is part of a diabolical plan, as the PLO claims, then it should be welcomed by right-wing members of the Likud party and the other advocates of Greater Israel, but it is not.

Unilateral withdrawal is not a path to peace. It is regrettable. It may well seal the death warrant of the "peace process" and of the Palestine National Authority that was created by the Oslo process. On the other hand, the Palestine National Authority probably sealed its own death warrant when it opted to instigate and support the violent confrontation that it choses to call the "second Intifada." You cannot violate a treaty and expect that the other side will continue to honor it. In any case, it is becoming clear to Israel that the settlements in Gaza, rather than being useful bargaining chips for peace, or foundation stones for "Greater Israel" are albatrosses around the necks of the Zionist idea. The settlements are threatening to bankrupt Israel, which cannot indefinitely support luxury living for a few thousand families. The settlements are threatening to destroy the IDF, which has important strategic security tasks that cannot be met if scarce manpower and resources are allocated to guard tiny groups of settlers in land that can never be part of Israel. There are limits to power, and there are certainly limits to the power of our tiny state. Israel has to get out of Gaza for the same reasons that Britain had to divest itself of its empire. No obligations to a peace process, or to any foreign government, and certainly no commitment to daydreams of Greater Israel and messianic vision, can force a state to ruin itself by holding on to territories it should not keep.

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 4 comments

If you believe, as I do, that the Arabs do not want peace, and if yoiu believe as I do that Israel's destruction is the Arab goal, then unilateral withdrawal only hurts Israel's bargaining position.

If you believe that the Arabs DO want peace then unilateral action makes sense. Suspposedly upon being presented this final token, the Arabs will then say, "Thank You, Jews. We will now accept you." Well, nothing in Arab rhetoric nor Arab actions lead to me believe that is likely.

To give the Arabs autonomy over territory that will become the bases for missile batteries and heavy artillery in the next war is a mistake...unless it's accompanied by Arab concessions.

Withdrawing to a tighter perimeter does not make Israel any safer.

Posted by oceanguy @ 02/09/2004 03:08 PM CST

I hate this...So boring

Posted by Joe @ 02/09/2004 04:50 PM CST

I dont know what im doing

Posted by Joe @ 02/09/2004 04:52 PM CST

We ran from Lebanon. The result is 12,000 missiles on the border ready to fire into Israel.
When we run from Gaza we can expect the same. Heavy armaments and missiles will come rushing in from Egypt and by sea.
If we are stupid enough to run from the west bank we will have created hostile areas totally surrounding Israel on three land sides ready for a coordinated attack when the rest of the Arab world thinks Israel is weak enough.

Posted by m.levine @ 02/10/2004 12:58 PM CST


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