Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Sharon and The Gaza Settlements: Who Are The Good Guys in This Fight?

I'm on a business trip today so can't blog much. The new Pope is all over the blogosphere and the MSM, so I'll toss out something else just for variety's sake: Thomas Friedman's column today in the New York Times. Friedman's always interesting and I agree with him about half the time. This column, misleadingly entitled "Rooting for The Good Guys in The Middle East," focuses on Ariel Sharon's "360" on the Israeli Gaza settlements, so it is by definition controversial. These paragraphs caught my eye:

The Jewish settler movement in Israel has always been a minority. The
Israeli majority went along with it - as long as there was no price. But now the
price has become inescapable.

"There is something quite stunning when you think about it," the
Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi remarked. "Three Israeli prime
ministers, [Yitzhak] Rabin, [Ehud] Barak and Sharon - all of them army generals,
two from Labor one from Likud - all came to the same conclusion: that the
occupation was unsustainable [from the point of view of] Israel's national
defense." As a result, they all shifted from focusing on "wars of necessity to
focusing on a peace of necessity," Mr. Ezrahi added. Mr. Sharon doesn't want to
explain this about-face publicly, in part, I assume, because it suggests
weakness - that Israel can't keep doing what it has been doing, and knows it.

But this withdrawal is a threat to the Jewish religious nationalists. Their
goal is not peace, but to conquer Israeli society with their messianic vision
and biblical map. They killed Mr. Rabin for getting in their way and have
threatened to do the same to Mr. Sharon. Some of these settlers will not go down

I am no expert on this subject, but Friedman's statements above (including the zinger about "Jewish religious nationalists") are striking to me for their blithe acceptance of certain "articles of faith" of the anti-settlement view. I'd be interested in reader's comments.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my opinion they all realized that unless they pull back, there's going to be serious demographic problems. Even if they do pull back, they've still got problems in Israel proper, but this'll buy them some time.

The settlements were a device to put leverage on the Palestinians, changing facts on the ground while the Arabs continued their unending war. At the same time it also placated their own expansionist citizens. Sharon now has to fight those same people, but he really has no choice, unless Israel is prepared to occupy the area indefinitely. It can't annex it, because they'd have to admit the Palestinian Arabs as citizens and give them voting rights, or face the face of South Africa. Of course giving them voting rights is just as much suicide.

So it is either pull back, set up a defensible border (the wall), or annex the territories and forcibly remove all the Arabs, something they probably can't get away with in this modern day. Well, unless there's an open war going on, but even that's iffy.

Nice blog.


Posted by Cutler

Friday, April 22, 2005 11:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom Friedman has stooped to slander in his attack on the Israeli settlers and their supporters who oppose unilateral disengagement in Gaza. Are there extremists among the settlers and their supporters, who might attempt violence against Prime Minister Sharon? Very possibly, but those extremists number more than a few hundred amongst the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of opponents of Sharon's policy. Indeed, Ariel Sharon himself won his office by expressly opposing the policy of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza advocated by his Labor Party opponent, Amram Mitzna. The leaders of the settler movement, including the rabbis whom Friedman would have us believe are a bunch of Jewish Al Qeda mullahs, have responsibly called for only non-violent civil disobedience in opposing the removal of the Gaza settlements.

Friedman has imported into Israeli politics the same tactics used by abortion rights advocates against the pro-life movement, whom they portray as a league of clinic bombers and doctor murderers. Have there been incidents where abortion clinics have been bombed, and abortionists threatened or even murdered? Tragically, yes. But no one can fairly argue that those crimes are representative of the pro-choice movement as a whole. In short, this is another example of the left-wing McCarthyism.

There is one huge group of religious fanatics involved in the debate over removal of settlements, but that group consists of the supporters of Sharon's policy, not its opponents. They display unquestioning, quasi-religious support of settlement removal, despite the disastrous experience of the Oslo Accords, and all of the evidence that Israel is setting itself up for a repetition of the Oslo fiasco.

In the case of Oslo, like the present situation, opponents of Prime Minister Rabin's policies were portrayed by Rabin's government, the U.S. State Department, and the liberal Jewish elites in Israel and the United States, as enemies of peace and religious fanatics. All of the evidence--and it was unrelenting--that Yassir Arafat and the PLO were only using Oslo as a tactic toward the ultimate goal of the destruction of Israel--was ignored in favor of blind faith that all would come out well if Israel only gave peace a chance.

Arafat would advocate peace in his English speeches, but then call for the end of Israel in his Arabic ones. The Palestinian broadcasting system and the Palestinian school curriculum, established under the auspices of the Oslo Accords, spewed forth anti-Israel provocation, including the crudest, boldest anti-Semitism since the end of World War II put Joseph Goebbels out of business. When opponents of Oslo (including such "religious fanatics" as Natan Sharansky and Benjamin Netanyahu) would point to these phenomena and urge caution, the pro-Oslo fanatics would insist that Israel must make even more concessions to the Palestinian Authority, in order to prop up Arafat and appease the "Arab street."

This attitude only ended after the eruption of the second intifada following Clinton's failed Camp David conference, at which Prime Minister Barak offered Arafat a Palestinian State on upwards of 90% of Gaza and the West Bank and sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. Arafat 's response was to flatly reject the offer and insist on the Palestinian Arab right of return, a code phrase for the end of Israel as a Jewish State.

Then the scales fell from the eyes of the Oslo supporters, including even Tom Friedman, who wrote that henceforth he would only give credence to speeches that Arafat made in Arabic.

Perhaps the best epitaph to Oslo was given by the late Faisal Husseini, a member of Arafat's governing council, in a May 2001 interview with an Egyptian newspaper, just before his death from a heart attack. Husseini, who the Israeli Left had always held up a a model of Palestinian moderation, explained that the entire Oslo peace process, from the PLO perspective, had been a "wooden horse" (his words) like that used by the Greek Army to conquer Troy. It was designed to allow the PLO to return from exile and establish a military force inside Gaza and the West Bank. The ultimate and only acceptable objective, he stated, was Palestinian sovereignty from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Interested readers may find a translation of the entire Husseini interview at">.

Has anything changed? Palestinians are already portraying the Israeli withdrawal as a Palestinian military triumph, proving the efficacy of violent resistance to Israel. The commander of the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli intelligence are warning that the Palestinian militias are smuggling huge quantities of arms, including rockets and mortars, not only into the Gaza, but also into the West Bank. They are predicting that immediately after the proposed withdrawal the Palestinians will renew warfare against Israel. Only this time, the terroists will be launching their rockets and mortars from the heights of the West Bank at the thickly populated urban heartland of Israel, and from northern Gaza at the Israel's strategically critical port facilities and oil terminals in the cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon.

And what is the reaction of the Sharon government, the State Department and the liberal Jewish elites in the U.S. and Israel to these warnings? When they do not simply ignore them, they respond that these far-reaching concessions, and even more, are necessary in order to prop up the government of PLA President Mahmoud Abbas and placate the Arab street. Who are the blind religious fanatics?

Note to Cutler: Recent demographic research has indicated that the so-called demographic argument for withdrawal may well be bogus--the population increase among Palestinian Arabs has been greatly overstated and the relative percentages of Jews and Palestinians in Israel, including "occupied" Gaza and the West Bank, has in fact remained constant over the past 15 years.  

Posted by Ralph Kostant

Friday, April 29, 2005 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ralph, how do you explain Ariels change of heart vis à vis this withdrawal? I mean, who would have thought, just a year ago, that Ariel Sharon and any grouping with the prefix "liberal" would be on the same side of any issue? 

Posted by Fancis Ezeu

Thursday, June 30, 2005 5:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fancis, I will give you 2 explanations, one charitable to Prime Minister Sharon, and one cynical:

First the charitable view: Sharon believes that the stress of governing a hostile Arab population in Gaza and the Northern Shomron is placing great stress on Israel politically and economically. Politically, it has alienated Europe and even at times put Israel at odds with its only friend in the world, the United States. It has split Israeli society. It is incredibly expensive in money and in blood. Sharon sees no meaningful negotiating partner on the other side, and does not see even the prospect of one appearing for years. Therefore, like a general (and Sharon was a general) who finds that his lines are overextended, he is conducting a tactical withdrawal that he believes will strenghten his defensive lines. He believes that this move will buy him goodwill with Europe (and he is wrong). He believes that it will unite Israeli society. (Wrong again--he is splitting Israel like never before.)

The cynical view: Two left-wing writers have published a book documenting that Sharon conceived of the withdrawal in order to avoid a criminal indictment of him and his son Omri for political corruption charges. In Israel, the courts and the Ministry of Justice, like the media, are controlled by the Labor left. By pushing withdrawal, he is gambling that the left will prefer winning the concessions to the Arabs that they advocate to destroying Sharon. Predictably, this book has relatively received little publicity inside Israel, because the main newspapers, television and radio media are controlled by the Labor left, who are backing Sharon against his own Likud party. 

Posted by Ralph B. Kostant

Friday, July 01, 2005 12:29:00 AM  

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