April 12, 2005
Friend of FLAME:
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has led Israel's right wing for so long
that it's hard to imagine he would in any way sacrifice Israel's vital
interests . . . and get nothing in return. Just as hard to fathom,
given the Bush Administration's tacit (and active) support for virtually
all of Sharon's initiatives to date, would be for Sharon to contradict
the so-called Bush Doctrine, which calls for Arabs to disavow terrorism
and embrace democracy as a condition for American favor. Most surprising
of all would be for Bush to acquiesce quietly if Sharon were to take
steps at odds with Bush's carefully drawn vision for the region. Yet,
according to insightful Mideast commentator Carolyn Glick, that's
exactly what Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan amounts to---a complete
compromise of Israel's self-interest, a disavowal of the Bush Doctrine
and an embrace of the tainted desires of European nations. I think
you'll find Glick's detailed exposition of this bizarre situation
well worth your time. The true facts of the matter may turn your support
for Sharon's plan---as it has mine and, as it appears, that of many
Israelis---into a great, frowning question mark, if not outright opposition.
This is frankly not the shortest piece we've run in the FLAME Hotline,
but it's certainly one of the most articulate, timely and useful.
I think you'll find Glick's analysis edifying, eye-opening . . . and
by Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, March 27,
As we noted last week, FLAME has just begun publishing a new hasbarah---a
clarifying public relations message---on the question of "A
Homeland for the Palestinians: Why they? How about all those others?"
If you haven't seen it yet, I think you'll find this article useful
in deconstructing the mythology surrounding the "need"
or "right" of the Palestinian "people" (not
really a historic people, but an indistinct group of Arabs) to
a new homeland (in addition to all the other homelands already
created in the last century for Arabs). I hope you'll take a look
at this message, print it out, and pass it along to others. Simply
go to http://factsandlogic.org/ad_91.html.
If you would like to support the publication of this important
message in media nationally and internationally, we of course
welcome your tax-deductible donation. Please use our online donation
page at http://www.factsandlogic.org/donation_form.html.
Last June, during a NATO summit in Istanbul, US President
George W. Bush blamed the dictatorial rulers of the Arab world and
their supporters for the culture of extremism that engenders terrorism
and hatred of the West.
Bush said, "In the last 60 years, many in the West have added
to this [state of affairs] by excusing tyranny in the region, hoping
to purchase stability at the price of liberty. But it did not serve
the people of the Middle East to betray their hope of freedom and
it has not made Western nations more secure to ignore the cycle of
dictatorship and extremism."
The fact that, in the midst of a reelection campaign in which he was
being pilloried for alienating Europe and Turkey by invading Iraq,
Bush stood in front of his erstwhile NATO allies and essentially told
them they were advancing the cause of terror, speaks volumes for the
president's seriousness in pursuing his strategy of victory through
the democratization of the Arab world.
The European reactions to Bush's speech were highly suggestive.
French President Jacques Chirac sent his new foreign minister, Michel
Barnier, to pay his first visit to PLO chieftain Yasser Arafat and
spend the night in his Ramallah compound. British Prime Minister Tony
Blair stood next to Bush at a news conference and conflated Bush's
Greater Middle East Initiative of spreading democracy regionally with
establishing a Palestinian state.
The question of how Palestinian statehood fits into the Bush Doctrine
of democratization has always been a nagging one. The president's
central premise is that the endemic wars and terrorism in the region
are the consequence of repressive regimes that prefer their people
be raised on a diet of extremism and hatred under tyrannical governments
than be educated in moderation and modernity under free governments.
Rejection of Israel's right to exist by the Arabs who need Israel
(and America) as their external enemy in order to justify the failure
of their own leaders to advance their peoples is, by the reasoning
of the Bush Doctrine, the central cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
On the other hand, the idea that there must be a "two-state solution"
in which a Palestinian state empty of Jews at its inception
is created in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem comes in response
to a completely different set of operating assumptions. These assumptions
are not American, but European. According to them, the cause of wars
and Arab terrorism is not Arab tyranny and religious extremism but
a lack of Palestinian sovereignty. The Arab conflict with Israel,
according to this view, will be resolved when a "viable and contiguous
Palestinian state" is founded in a Jew-free Judea, Samaria, Gaza
Today the Bush Administration, together with the Sharon-Peres government,
is pushing the view that Sharon's withdrawal and expulsion plan for
Gaza and northern Samaria is aligned with the Bush Doctrine. Among
the Palestinians and the Israelis, however, it is becoming increasingly
clear with each passing day that not only is there no connection between
the two, but that there is a glaring contradiction.
This week, MK Azmi Bishara's Web site, www.Arabs1948.com, published
an interview with Hamas spokesman Ahmed al-Bahar in which he discussed
the significance of Sharon's plan. Bahar claimed, "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."
"All indications show that since its establishment, Israel has
never been in such a state of retreat and weakness as it is today,
following more than four years of the intifada," he continued.
"Hamas's heroic attacks exposed the weakness and volatility of
the impotent Zionist security establishment. 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 is the
only way to pressure the Jews."
There can be no clearer exposition of the Palestinian view
that Israel's plan to hand over strategic assets to its enemy in the
midst of war and receive nothing in return is a victory for terror
than Bahar's statement.
From the political developments of the past couple of weeks inside
of Israel it is clear that the overwhelming majority of Israelis also
view Sharon's plan as a victory for terrorism. So it is that without
exception, the entire left wing of the political spectrum, with the
support of the anti-Zionist Arab MKs and the post-Zionist Yahad faction,
supports Sharon's plan.
And almost without exception, every member of the right wing of the
Israeli political spectrum which does not include Sharon loyalists
like Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni either opposes Sharon's plan
or demands that a national referendum on the plan be held before any
withdrawal of forces or expulsion of Israeli citizens is carried out
in Gaza and northern Samaria.
It took a while for the significance of Sharon's plan to become
clarified for Israelis. As recently as last month, many voices
on the Left were still questioning whether Sharon had something up
his sleeve that they didn't know about. Yet as time passed, and Sharon
became increasingly shrill in his defense of his policies while
demonizing and firing anyone who voiced opposition to or doubt about
the wisdom of his plans its significance sunk in for everyone.
As a result, today it is well nigh impossible to find an Israeli or
a Palestinian who will argue that Sharon's withdrawal plan can in
any way be linked to, or made to agree with, the Bush Doctrine.
Given the total disconnect between the Bush Doctrine, which places
the onus for change on the Arabs by calling for their democratization
and eschewal of terrorism, and the Sharon plan, which makes no demands
whatsoever on the Palestinians, it was interesting to see an attempt
to conflate the two undertaken by as remarkable an intellectual and
as heroic a figure as Norman Podhoretz.
In the April issue of Commentary magazine, Podhoretz, who has
been a towering intellectual model for me throughout my career, argues
that there is a way to view the Sharon plan as part of the Bush Doctrine.
He claims that after Israel removes the Jewish communities from Gaza
and northern Samaria, the Palestinians will be held to the Bush Doctrine's
policy of democratization and that Israel won't be forced to
make any additional concessions until the Palestinians reform. He
argues that if the Palestinians continue to attack Israel after the
IDF evacuates the Jewish communities and withdraws from the areas,
Israel will be free to take any action it deems necessary to secure
itself. He claims that because of Bush's commitment to the Bush Doctrine,
the Arab world will now be forced to enact reforms that will transform
the Palestinians' operating environment in a manner that will force
them to give up terror.
While it is possible to debate the merits of each of the points
he made in favor of the plan, what is most interesting about Podhoretz's
analysis of Sharon's plan is the point he does not address. Podhoretz
never discusses what Israel is actually accomplishing for itself
by going forward with Sharon's withdrawal and expulsion plan.
Again, as is now clear to all Israelis and Palestinians, the reason
it is impossible to discuss what Israel is actually gaining from Sharon's
plan is because Israel is gaining nothing from it.
MK Uzi Landau, who leads Sharon's opposition in Likud, flew to the
US last week to speak to American Jewish audiences. He spoke mainly
to local groups, as he explains that the main Jewish organizations
the United Jewish Communities and AIPAC have refused
to allow any opponents of Sharon's plan to address their audiences.
This, he says, is the result of pressure on the groups by Sharon's
"What I found every time that I spoke," Landau relates,
"is that the American Jews had absolutely no knowledge of the
problems with Sharon's plan. No one has ever discussed them. No one
has ever been afforded the opportunity to discuss what will happen
the day after Israeli forces pull out of Gaza. No one has ever been
able to talk to them about the financial and security and political
costs of the plan. No one has ever been allowed to discuss with them
the ecological consequences of the plan."
Given the fact that in Israel it took time before the significance
of Sharon's plan was fully understood, it makes sense that in the
US it could take a bit longer for the strategic logic or irrationality
of Sharon's plan to become clear.
When the Rabin-Peres government announced the Oslo process 12 years
ago, giving the PLO land, legitimacy and arms in exchange for intangible
promises of peace, American supporters of Israel both Jewish
and non-Jewish were quick to declare either their support for
or opposition to Oslo. The vast majority supported it. Once they had
publicly declared their support for the policy, even when it literally
began blowing up in Israel's face, they refused to countenance that
they were wrong to have done so.
The fact that the current policy of expulsion and retreat is being
enacted by Sharon the great general and right-wing tactician
is a source of confusion for many who are looking for a catch
that will explain and justify his adoption of a radical, left-wing
Hopefully, once the supporters of Israel who, like Podhoretz,
were brave enough to ignore the conformist pressures and oppose Oslo
come to accept the fact that Sharon's policy involves many
risks but provides no opportunities, they will not hesitate to disavow
it. And again, hopefully, at that point they will demand that the
US policy toward the Palestinians be brought into line with the Bush