Saturday, August 13, 2005

Pullout Focuses Israel on Its Future

WaPo reports As a young member of Israel's parliament in 1978, Ehud Olmert had the opportunity to vote in favor of the historic Camp David peace accords, which returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and brought Israel peace with its most powerful enemy. Olmert voted against it. "I voted against Menachem Begin," Olmert, now Israel's finance minister, said this week. "I told him it was a historic mistake, how dangerous it would be, and so on and so on. Now I am sorry he is not alive for me to be able to publicly recognize his wisdom and my mistake. He was right and I was wrong. Thank God we pulled out of the Sinai."

That withdrawal was a very good idea, because it was a part of a peace deal with Egypt. The mistake that Israel made is that they did not insist that Egypt also take the Gaza Strip back. Originally it was a part of Egypt, but Egypt did not want it, because that had put most of the Palestinian refugees there, in living conditions that had them always causing problems, and rather than relocating them elsewhere in Egypt they just dumped them on Israel.
In two days, the Israeli military will begin the first evacuation of Jewish settlements since the Sinai pullout, abandoning 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and the network of military installations that protected them for nearly four decades. This time, Israel will not receive anything in return for the land it is leaving. Olmert has been one of the plan's most vocal supporters. The unilateral decision to leave Gaza, pushed for more than a year by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at great political expense, has left Israeli society at odds over the future character and shape of the Jewish state.... But over the past year or so, the dream of settling the territories has collided with Israel's demographic challenge -- how to survive as a democratic Jewish homeland -- convincing most Israelis that the state must give up land to protect its Jewish majority.... Sharon, an architect of the settler movement, has long supported the notion of a Greater Israel stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. But he has scaled back those territorial ambitions. Even though disengagement amounts to the first time outside the framework of peace negotiations that Israel will withdraw from what many Jews consider part of the Land of Israel described in the Bible, Sharon has cast it as a step toward creating a state that has more defensible boundaries with fewer Arabs inside them.
And it is also a good test to see whether the Palestinians will appreciate what Israel has done, or whether it will just make them think that Israel is weak, and make them demand more.
.... Israeli political leaders worry that, unless a two-state solution to the conflict can be reached by that point, the 3.5 million Arabs living under Israeli military law in the West Bank and Gaza will give up the goal of having their own nation. Instead, they could demand the right to vote inside Israel, where 1.3 million Arab citizens already live, forcing Israelis to choose between the state's Jewish character and democracy.
This is a problem Israel faces eventually, even if the Palestinians accepted a separate state immediately, and were willing to live in peace with Israel, because there the Arabs inside of Israel, holding Israeli citizenship, are having many more babies each year than the Jews in Israel are.
"Among the Israelis, there has been a shift in thinking," said Ali Jarbawi, a Palestinian professor at Beir Zeit University near Ramallah. "Now, instead of land for peace, it is land for time.".... "The prime minister has changed and the situation has changed," said Shimon Peres, the deputy prime minister, who has been Sharon's friend since the two were active in Israel's pre-state security organizations. "Zionism was built on geography, but it lives on demography.".... Israel's religious Zionist movement holds a range of opinions on the terms of any future peace agreement with the Palestinians. Ungar said the movement's mainstream consensus is that the Palestinians should accept the Israeli presence in the territories or else move to Jordan or Egypt. Disengagement, he said, rewards Palestinian militancy.... The Palestinian "solution for peace is that we all should die," said Avivit Partush, 24, who arrived from her home near Tel Aviv to join the disengagement opponents. "There are many states where they can live. We are surrounded by countries that are their countries."
Originally (Balfour Declaration) the entire British Mandate of Palestine was to be the Jewish Homeland, but the Arabs living there could not stand so much land being given to the Jews, so they complained, and the land east of the Jordan River (called TransJordan) was to become an Arab homeland for any that wanted to live there, and the land west of the Jordan, was to be for the Jews. TransJordan became the country of Jordon, but they were unwilling to accept Arabs not willing to live in a Jewish state. This just shows how Arabs, and Muslims in general, demand to keep everything they have, and demand even more, and how they are not amenable to reasoned discussions.

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