The Experiment is Underway — Two Perspectives

Thursday, August 18th, 2005 6:25 pm by Neal

As everyone is now aware, Israel is forcibly pulling settlers out of the Gaza Strip as they evacuate the area and turn it over to the Palestinians. I recently wrote about this Great Experiment, referencing an essay on the subject by Daniel Pipes, a Mideastern expert and author.

Western opinion is divided on how this experiment will turn out. Some (like Pipes) think it is a huge mistake by Sharon that will further the perception that Israel is trying to appease terrorists, while others believe that Gaza is fundamentally indefensible and a lost cause where you have 10,000 troops defending 8500 settlers. Here are two essays, one from each perspective.

First up is The Withdrawal by Emmett Tyrrell who writes,

Yet I am skeptical that this withdrawal will lead to peace. 80 percent of the Palestinian Arabs deny the right of Israel to exist. Most swallow the historically inaccurate line that the Jews “stole” the lands they now inhabit — and their Gaza settlements too — from what are now called the Palestinians. Scholars, whether they be historians or archaeologists, have demonstrated that this is hooey.

As I say, it is a noble gesture and one that places great trust in the Palestinians. Yet there is plenty of evidence that firebrands from the Islamic Resistance Movement known as Hamas, among others, will be emboldened by Sharon’s generosity to see his withdrawal as a sign of weakness or worse a sign that Hamas’ terrorist violence has caused an Israeli defeat and could cause still more Israeli defeats. Already the Washington Post is reporting the head of a Gaza branch of Hamas as saying that “Without jihad, without attacking the settlements, digging the tunnels, launching the rockets, the Israelis wouldn’t have moved.” Thus Sharon’s noble gesture could encourage more violence and legitimatize in the eyes of Palestinian voters the most militant of Israel’s enemies.

Countering this argument is Max Boot’s essay, Hamastan? Gaza pullout is worth the risk in which Boot notes that “the early signs are not good”, but that “on balance, it is the right decision.” He writes,

The Gaza settlements were simply not sustainable. Approximately 8,500 Jews could not live safely among 1.3 million Arabs. That may be a sad commentary on the Arabs, considering that a million Arabs live safely among 5 million Jews in Israel, but that’s life. The Gaza settlers had a right to risk their own necks but not the necks of soldiers who had to protect them. Sooner or later they would have had to go. If Sharon had waited, like his predecessors, for a comprehensive peace treaty with the Palestinians before the inevitable pullout, he would have waited until kingdom come. In the meantime the settlements would have remained an easy debating point for Palestinian propagandists.

Opponents of the withdrawal cite parallels with the 2000 Israeli evacuation of southern Lebanon, which helped spark the second intifada, but the danger now is much less. Even if Palestinians want to attack Israel — and they do — they will be hard-pressed to do so. All of Gaza is fenced in and so is most of the West Bank, reducing opportunities for suicide bombers to penetrate Israel. If the Palestinians fire rockets from Gaza, Israel will be free to mount a military response — more free, in fact, when the threat comes from a sovereign Palestinian state than when it emanates from Israeli-occupied territory. The Palestinians will no doubt stockpile heavy weapons in Gaza but, as is the case with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, they can be deterred from using them.

Boot makes a final point that this pullout could be beneficial for Israel but, in an ironic twist, a disaster for the Western countries who have criticized Israel for holding onto the territory:

The real danger from Gaza may not be to Israel but to the rest of the West. The Israeli army has battled terrorist groups in a way that the Palestinian Authority has neither the power nor, in all likelihood, the desire to do. If, following the Israeli pullout, Gaza becomes another training ground for Islamo-fascist fanatics — a successor to Afghanistan under the Taliban — the resulting terrorists will find the U.S. and Europe much easier targets than Israel, which is the world’s most heavily defended state. Irony of ironies, perhaps in a few years enlightened Westerners will rue the day when Israel gave up control of Gaza.

Stay tuned as we watch this experiment unfold.

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