Is Israel heading for disaster?
I support the disengagement from Gaza, but Daniel Pipes asks whether this will truly be a turning point?
Are Israel's critics correct? Does the "occupation" of the West Bank and Gaza cause the Palestinians' anti-Semitism, their suicide factories and their terrorism? And is it true these horrors will end only when Israeli civilians and troops leave the territories?
The answer is coming soon. Starting on August 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.
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."
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, says likewise that the withdrawal is "due to the Palestinian resistance operations... and we will continue our resistance."
Others are more specific. At a mass rally in Gaza City last Thursday, some 10,000 Palestinians danced, sang and chanted, "Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem." Jamal Abu Samhadaneh, commander of Gaza's Popular Resistance Committees, announced on Sunday, "We will move our cells to the West Bank" and warned that "The withdrawal will not be complete without the West Bank and Jerusalem." The Palestinian Authority's Ahmed Qurei also asserts, "Our march will stop only in Jerusalem."