June 6, 2006
Israelís border realignment and West Bank withdrawal plan sets up a breeding ground for terrorists
Dear Friend of FLAME:
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s recently announced realignment plan sounds attractive on the surface. After all, Israel has failed to find a sincere peace partner among the Palestinians for nearly forty years, and the Palestinians have just elected their most openly and stridently anti-peace government of all time. No wonder so many Israelis and U.S. politicians sympathize with Olmert’s decision to unilaterally define Israel’s borders and withdraw its West Bank settlements.
Certainly the Palestinians’ preternaturally violent and irresponsible behavior---historically and presently---earn them no right to a negotiated settlement. And surely Israel’s patient negotiating over the decades, its many offers of land for peace, and the continued murder of its citizens by suicide jihadists entitle Israel, finally, to secure its borders on its own terms.
But while we wholeheartedly support Israel’s right to self-determination, including at the very least to temporarily defining its own borders, we also have to consider the greater effects of Israel’s West Bank withdrawal---on Israel, on its Middle East neighbors, and on the rest of the world. The outcome, in short, could be disastrous for all concerned, even for the majority of Palestinians.
Israelis themselves will suffer on two important fronts: First, the country simply does not have the resources---housing, jobs, money---to absorb tens of thousands of West Bank residents who would fall outside the proposed new borders. (History proves that the Arabs would instantly attack any Jews left unprotected.) Indeed, Israel still has not fully repatriated the 9,000 Israeli residents that it forced out of Gaza last year. Second, the unilateral abandonment of the West Bank is sure to bolster the military strength of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which in turn will guarantee an increase in the number of suicide and rocket attacks on Israel.
Israel’s Middle East neighbors will also fare poorly with Israel out of the West Bank, allowing Hamas and other jihadists to assume even more power. Secular Jordan opposes Israel’s withdrawal because it fears the effects of radical Islamists on its own majority-Palestinian population. Egypt, too, sees Hamas as a loose cannon at odds with its desire to control its borders, keep domestic Islamists under control, and independently manage its relationship with Israel. Lebanon likewise does not want to see increased influence on the part of Islamic fundamentalists next door---it already has enough problems keeping a lid on the ultra-radical Hizbollah.
Finally, as this week’s powerful article by former CIA director James Woolsey makes clear, a unilateral withdrawal doesn’t serve U.S. interests either. It makes the U.S. look weak, it gives al Qaeda a new wide-open and fertile field for recruiting and operating, and it actually diminishes the chances of a negotiated peace. Indeed, the realignment plan also disadvantages the Palestinian people, setting them up for further economic deterioration, a more restrictive fundamentalist society, and increasing internal strife.
We must remember that Israel is currently at war with the Palestinians---not a war that Israel declared, but one that the Palestinians declare daily in their schools, mosques and political speeches by Hamas leadership. As Winston Churchill reminded his battle-weary British countryman in 1940, wars are not won by evacuations. They are won by winning. As Woolsey forcefully argues below, abandoning the West Bank to Hamas is clearly a step in the wrong direction, and a dangerous one at that.
West Bank terrorist state: The folly of Israeli disengagement
By R. James Woolsey, Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2006
What does one say to a good ally who seems determined to reinforce failure? That the U.S. will pay for the undertaking?
Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in Washington last week, where he asked for advice and assistance in financing the withdrawal of 50,000 to 100,000 Israeli settlers from 90% to 95% of the West Bank and major portions of Jerusalem, and for the Israel Defense Forces to be repositioned largely near the security barrier Israel is constructing. Most Americans are inclined to believe that such disengagement may be a reasonable step toward a two-state solution, even if some territorial disputes remain to be negotiated. It is also widely assumed that Palestinian hostility to Israel is fueled by despair that can only be reduced by Israeli concessions. Both assumptions, however, may be fundamentally flawed.
The approach Israel is preparing to take in the West Bank was tried in Gaza and has failed utterly. The Israeli withdrawal of last year has produced the worst set of results imaginable: a heavy presence by al Qaeda, Hezbollah and even some Iranian Revolutionary Guard units; street fighting between Hamas and Fatah, and now Hamas assassination attempts against Fatah's intelligence chief and Jordan's ambassador; rocket and mortar attacks against nearby towns inside Israel; and a perceived vindication for Hamas, which took credit for the withdrawal. This latter almost certainly contributed substantially to Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections.
The world now needs to figure out how to keep Palestinians from starving without giving funds to a Hamas government in Gaza resolutely focused on destroying Israel. Before his massive stroke last year, Ariel Sharon repeatedly said he would not replay the Gaza retreat in the West Bank. With good reason: Creating a West Bank that looks like today's Gaza would be many times the nightmare. How would one deal with continuing launches of rockets and mortars from the West Bank into virtually all of Israel? (Israel's Arrow missile defense will probably work against Iranian medium-range ballistic missiles but not against the much shorter-range Katyushas.) A security barrier does no good against such bombardment. The experience in Gaza, further, has shown the difficulty of defending against such attacks after the IDF boots on the ground have departed. Effective, prompt retaliation from the air is hard to imagine if the mortar rounds and Katyushas are being launched, as they will be, from schools, hospitals and mosques.
Israel is not the only pro-Western country that would be threatened. How does moderate Jordan, with its Palestinian majority, survive if bordered by a West Bank terrorist state? Israeli concessions will also make the U.S. look weak, because it will be inferred that we have urged them, and will suggest that we are reverting to earlier behavior patterns — fleeing Lebanon in 1983, acquiescing in Saddam's destruction of the Kurdish and Shiite rebels in 1991, fleeing Somalia in 1993, etc.
Three major Israeli efforts at accommodation in the last 13 years have not worked. Oslo and the 1993 handshake in the Rose Garden between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat produced only Arafat's rejection in 2000 of Ehud Barak's extremely generous settlement offer and the beginning of the second intifada. The Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 has enhanced Hezbollah's prestige and control there; and the withdrawal from Gaza has unleashed madness. These three accommodations have been based on the premise that only Israeli concessions can displace Palestinian despair. But it seems increasingly clear that the Palestinian cause is fueled by hatred and contempt.
Israeli concessions indeed enhance Palestinian hope, but not of a reasonable two-state solution — rather a hope that they will actually be able to destroy Israel. The Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah-Hamas axis is quite explicit about a genocidal objective. When they speak of "ending Israeli occupation" they mean of Tel Aviv. Under these circumstances it is time to recognize that, sadly, the Israeli-Palestinian issue will likely not be the first matter settled in the decades-long war that radical Islam has declared on the U.S., Israel, the West and moderate Muslims. It will more likely be one of the last.
Someday a two-state solution may become possible, but it is naive in the extreme to believe that this can occur while the centerpiece of the radical Islamic and Palestinian agendas is maximizing Jewish deaths. A durable compromise will be achievable only when we no longer, to borrow from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "define deviancy down" for the Palestinians.
Today we cannot envision the 250,000 Jewish settlers who live outside Israel's pre-1967 borders being permitted to live at all, much less live free and unmolested, in a West-Bank-Gaza Palestinian state. But some 1.2 million Arabs, almost all Muslim, today live in Israel in peace among some five million Jews — about double the percentage of Jews now in the West Bank as a share of the Muslim population there. Israel's Arab citizens worship freely — one hears muezzins calling the faithful to prayer as one walks around Tel Aviv. They vote in free elections for their own representatives in a real legislature, the Knesset. They give every evidence that they prefer being Arab Israelis to living in the chaos and uncertainty of a West Bank after Israeli withdrawal.
A two-state solution can become a reality when the Palestinians are held to the same standards as Israelis — to the requirement that Jewish settlers in a West Bank-Gaza Palestinian state would be treated with the same decency that Israel treats its Arab citizens. Until then, three failures in 13 years should permit us to evaluate the wisdom of further concessions.