Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Today Gaza, Tomorrow Jerusalem

Daniel Pipes wrote in JWR Are Israel's critics correct? Does the "occupation" of the West Bank and Gaza cause the Palestinians' antisemitism, their suicide factories, and their terrorism? And is it true these horrors will end only when Israeli civilians and troops leave the territories?

No, but the only way to convince those critics is to let the "Palestinians" have their own country, and then when they attack as soon as they do, then Israel needs to really clean their clocks.
The answer is coming soon. Starting on Aug. 15, the Israeli government will evict some 8,000 Israelis from Gaza and turn their land over to the Palestinian Authority. In addition to being a unique event in modern history (no other democracy has forcibly uprooted thousands of its own citizens of one religion from their lawful homes), it also offers a rare, live, social-science experiment. We stand at an interpretive divide. If Israel's critics are right, the Gaza withdrawal will improve Palestinian attitudes toward Israel, leading to an end of incitement and a steep drop in attempted violence, followed by a renewal of negotiations and a full settlement. Logic requires, after all, that if "occupation" is the problem, ending it, even partially, will lead to a solution.
It certainly sounds nice, and I hope they are right, but I fear they are not.
But I forecast a very different outcome. Given that some 80 percent of Palestinians continue to reject Israel's very existence, signs of Israeli weakness, such as the forthcoming Gaza withdrawal, will instead inspire heightened Palestinian irredentism. Absorbing their new gift without gratitude, Palestinians will focus on those territories Israelis have not evacuated. (This is what happened after Israeli forces fled Lebanon.) The retreat will inspire not comity but a new rejectionist exhilaration, a greater frenzy of anti-Zionist anger, and a surge in anti-Israel violence. Palestinians themselves are openly saying as much. Ahmed al-Bahar, a top Hamas figure in Gaza, says that "Israel has never been in such a state of retreat and weakness as it is today following more than four years of the intifada. 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."
He is wrong. Israel is withdrawing, but not retreating, and they certainly are not doing it out of weakness.

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