May 4, 2006
More Land, Less PeaceBy Richard Baehr
Caroline Glick, columnist for the Jerusalem Post, �has written a serious paper exposing the risks inherent in Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's 'Convergence ' plan for the West Bank.��That plan calls for an Israeli withdrawal from most (90% or more) of the West Bank (all but the areas encompassed by the new security barrier), with some continued IDF presence in the Jordan Valley (at least in the short term).
Less clear is what Olmert plans to do in Jerusalem.
Glick argues in her paper published by the Center for Security Policy in Washington D.C., that the Gaza withdrawal has�been a security disaster for Israel, and for its ostensibly pro—American neighbors (Egypt and Jordan, in particular).�A terrorist final four of Al Qaeda, Hizbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are now all operating freely in Gaza, and more advanced weaponry is pouring across the Egyptian/Gaza border crossing in Rafah.� The same scenario would almost certainly play out after an Israeli withdrawal from most of the West Bank, putting major Israeli population centers and its international airport within range of enhanced Palestinian rocket capability.
Glick argues that this second Israeli disengagement, from an area almost 20 times the size of Gaza, would be viewed and broadcast by the jihadist forces as a huge victory over both Israel and the United States. It would also serve as a major recruiting tool for their efforts to destroy Israel, overthrow Arab governments in the Middle East,� drive the US from Iraq, and undermine Western nations in Europe, and other continents.
The Gaza withdrawal was carried out in August 2005 by Prime Minister Sharon when the Palestinian Authority was led by Mahmoud Abbas, the hoped for Palestinian moderate who was hailed as� the Israeli peace partner that Yassar Arafat never was. Abbas, while still around, is more of a figurehead today in the Hamas—run Palestinian Authority regime, who can be trotted out to Western nation donors as evidence that the PA is still functional, and deserves new money. Sharon is in an irreversible coma, with Ehud Olmert having replaced him, and now heading a coalition government largely dependent on other parties, (Kadimah won fewer than a quarter of the seats in the recent Knesset election).
Unlike the removal of 8,000 settlers from Gaza, Olmert's plan for a West Bank disengagement would require the destruction of dozens of settlements and the transfer of as many as 65,000 settlers to the area within the Israeli security barrier. The Israeli population had little stomach for the trauma of the Gaza withdrawal, which�it was forced to witness up—close, under what would have to be� considered more benign conditions in the conflict than exist today.� A forced withdrawal of a much larger Israeli population, and a large handover of territory to a Hamas run government, would seem to be a recipe for a major and unnecessary internal Israeli conflict at a time when external security threats to the state (e.g., the Iranian nuclear threat, and Hizbollah's military capability on the northern border) are growing.
While Israel won a small (and short) public relations victory from the Gaza withdrawal, an incomplete disengagement from the West Bank with continued IDF presence in some of the evacuated areas would not receive a similar international seal of approval.
Olmert will be coming to America in the next month, to try to sell his plan to the Bush administration, whose approval matters more than what Kofi Annan thinks of the plan, in any case.
And here is where it gets very tricky. It is difficult, if not impossible, for an American President to stand to the right of the Israeli Prime Minister and tell him not to withdraw from territories that most of the world (including our State Department) views as illegally occupied. American Presidents, prior to Bush, all gratefully acceded to any request for support from an Israeli prime minister (usually, though not always, from the left or center left), who was willing to negotiate with Arab countries, or the Palestinians, or offered to� withdraw from� territory captured in the Six Day War.��
In essence, Glick is hoping that Bush will protect Israel from its own leader's misguided plan.�� Since Olmert is coming to seek significant US financial support, as well as political support from the President, the issue is not as straightforward as the Gaza withdrawal last summer. The Olmert mission also comes at a time when the� issue of the power of the pro—Israel lobby to influence US policy has been very publicly raised by a noxious and dishonest paper prepared by two prominent academics from Harvard and the University of Chicago.�
Glick argues forcefully, that it is also in America's national interest to have the Olmert plan shelved. For one thing, the withdrawal will threaten both Egypt and Jordan, two countries in which the US has invested substantial political support and foreign aid. And behind the scenes, both Egypt and Jordan are trying to kill the Olmert plan. Neither of them wants a more powerful Hamas—run government operating freely in the West Bank, motivating and facilitating the efforts by Islamic radicals and Palestinian terrorists in both countries to step up the pressure on their regimes.
Olmert will try to sell Washington that the Muslim world's ill will directed at America can be reduced by a further separation of the Israeli and Palestinian populations.�This seems na�ve.
There can be no moderation of Hamas, just as there can be no moderation of al Qaeda.� And Glick argues�that another disengagement will be viewed by the enemies of Israel and America as further evidence of the West in retreat, which will inspire the jihadist movement to take on America and the West more broadly. So it will likely encourage more terrorism in more places, rather than serve to placate the jihadists. Hamas and its terror allies, running freely in the West Bank, will certainly not help the American effort to stem the tide of foreign jihadists entering Iraq.
For more than� a decade, the only game in town for solving the Israeli Palestinian conflict has been land for peace.� With Hamas in power and Islamic fundamentalism seemingly on the march in countries around the world, it may be time for some fresh thinking.��
Daniel Pipes has spoken of winning a victory that forces a change in the rejectionist mindset among the Palestinians. Glick has written of an enhanced role for Jordan in Palestinian governance. The land for peace bromide assumed that at some point, the Palestinians would receive an offer of enough land for them to drop their claims and end their hostility to Israel. But the reality is that an offer of all of the West Bank, and Gaza and East Jerusalem would� not have been enough for Arafat, just as half of Palestine was not good enough in 1947.
The existence of Israel and the�corresponding desire to destroy it have always been the focus of Palestinian politics and terror efforts.� Since 1967, the occupation and the settlements have been a sideshow that has masked the underlying and steadfast opposition by Arabs to Israel's existence. The occupation that Palestinians have sought to end has always included Haifa and Tel Aviv.
We are now almost 60 years since the founding of the modern state of Israel, and the Palestinians and their allies are no more reconciled to its existence today than they were at the beginning of the state. Those who speak of needing another generation to come of age before resolution to the conflict is possible, badly misread the younger generation of Palestinians, steeped in the constant incitement to destroy Israel, and kill the Jews, and defeat America� and the fervent attachment to martyrdom.�
The current younger generation of Palestinians, regrettably, is more irreconcilable with Israel than their elders. And unlike Camp David in 2000, the stars are not aligned for substantive progress. The Olmert plan in essence is that after the second disengagement, 'we' (the Israelis) will be here, and 'they' (the Palestinians) will be there, and so the conflict becomes less heated. Glick's paper deconstructs the logic of this optimistic reading and the potential danger of Olmert's plan to both Israel and the US.
The reality is that the Palestinians are not going away, even if they are on the other side of a fence. Their grievance, which is pretty much all they have chosen to hang onto, will remain and intensify, if they think they are being ignored.� Their economy will be more of a basket case after disengagement than before, which is what happened already after the Gaza withdrawal.� I do not believe the conflict is resolvable at the moment (and maybe never), but it does need to be managed. It is hard, however,� to see how the Olmert plan makes managing it any easier.
Richard Baehr is the chief political correspondent of The American Thinker.