Response to "Israel in retreat"
Rachel Neuwirth's article "Israel in Retreat" is, to put it mildly, a bit hysterical. The Gaza disengagement plan was put together by Ariel Sharon, the father of the settlement movement, more than a year ago. He did not prepare it as a result of US pressure, which was nonexistent when it was released. Yassar Arafat, a man President Bush justifiably loathed, was still running the PA at that time, and to use the catchphrase of critics of President Bush's policies, Bush was not actively engaged in the non—existent peace process last year. The idea that American pressure made Sharon do it is absurd and worse than that, a vicious smear of a President who has been the best friend Israel has had.
Americans and Israelis can certainly disagree about the wisdom of the Gaza disengagement. I do not trust Abbas. He has so far proven nothing. I do not believe the Palestinians will have turned any corner until they stop talking about hudnas, and start to disarm the terrorist killers, arrest them, and destroy the infrastructure of the terror groups. It is not even close to sufficient to merely achieve a ceasefire, or try to co—opt the gunmen by making them part of the PA security forces. Arguably, this could be worse than the current chaotic situation that exists. The fox would be guarding the chicken coop. The incitement needs to end. Less frequent exhortations to kill the sons of pigs and monkeys is not sufficient.
That said, Neuwrith shows no comprehension of Sharon's plan and writes as if he were Shimon Peres or Yossi Beilin. I suggest she read Charles Krauthammer's column from this past week. Krauthammer has always been a glass half empty guy on the Israel—Palestinian conflict. He is no cockeyed optimist. His argument, with which I agree, is that Sharon is working to separate the two populations, and make it harder for the terrorists to get from the West Bank into Israel. Neuwirth completely ignores that Israel is committed to completing the West Bank security fence, and quickly. The completed sections have succeeded (along with targeted strikes against terror targets) in greatly reducing the number of terror attacks. Just as suicide bombers have not come from the enclosed Gaza strip into Israel, the fence will also weaken the terrorists' capability to strike across the much longer border between Israel and the West Bank. If the terror weapon is largely taken away, then maybe, repeat maybe, the climate will change. We shall see.
Arguably, for Israel not to have to defend the 8,000 constantly exposed settlers living amidst a million Palestinians in Gaza, will enable the IDF to better deploy to provide security for 5 million Israelis. Neuwirth seems to forget that Israel is a democracy, and the decision to disengage has been reached democratically, not by fiat. It is supported by a large percentage of the Israeli population.
Israel withdrew from all of Sinai, an area 150 times larger than Gaza, a quarter century ago, and relocated the Sinai settlers. The world did not come to an end.
Neuwirth attacks the disengagement plan, but offers nothing in its place. This is because the critics of the plan have only two alternatives — the status quo, or the Elon plan — to forcibly remove millions of Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank. Try that long march, and support from Congress and the White House would disappear overnight. Israel would become a pariah state even for its few friends.
Neuwirth also suggests that Bush and Rice are working from James Baker's playbook. This is insane. The Baker Center has been churning out position papers for years, and Bush has wisely ignored them. Jimmy Carter, James Baker, Zbigniew Brezinsky, and Brent Snowcroft are NOT running Middle East policy at the White House. So too, the idea that what Elliot Abrams said was tantamount to demanding Israel's retreat to the '67 border is also a fantasy. The US Administration has accepted the line of the security fence that Israel's government is now building. Of the 450,000 Israelis living beyond the 67 green line, almost 90% of them are INSIDE the area marked off by the fence.
Israelis are going through an emotional, risky period, and everybody is understandably on edge. That however is not an excuse for misinformation, and maligning our friends.