Over on Power Line, another of my favorite blogs (along with this here one and Captain’s Quarters), Scott, who used to be Big Trunk, posted a lengthy segment from a Ha’aretz interview with Moshe Ya’alon, outgoing chief of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Scott clearly worries that the unilateral pull-out of Israel from Gaza and the West Bank will be disasterous for that country.
Scott’s argument is serious and deserves response. Since nobody else seems to be willing to look at the other side of it from a pro-Israel perspective, I’ll expend whatever “political capital” my recent election as junior sub-altern of the Politically Non-Euclidean Guild affords me.
The essence of the argument is, as always with Scott, quite intellectually sound, as far as it goes:
The coming Israeli pullout from Gaza seems destined to relegate the area to Hamas. Despite the resurrection of the “road map” to the creation of a Palestinian state, neither the Bush administration nor the Israeli government seems to have a road map to the cessation of the Palestinian war on Israel or the removal of the terror gangs from Palestinian territory.
Scott goes on to quote Ya’alon:
In the interview, Ya’alon said that recent statements by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas show that Abbas “has not given up the right of return. And this is not a symbolic right of return, but the right of return as a claim to be realized. To return to the houses, to return to the villages. The implication of this is that there will not be a Jewish state here.”
Therefore, he said, the establishment of a Palestinian state will lead to war “at some stage,” and such a war could be dangerous for Israel. The idea that a Palestinian state can be established by 2008, and will then produce stability, is “divorced from reality” and “dangerous,” as any such state “will be a state that will try to undermine Israel.”
There is no blinking this, of course. War will probably result; it has several times in Israel’s existence, starting in 1948, hours after the British lowered their flag and even before the Israelis raised theirs.
Théoden: But I would not bring further death to my people. I will not risk open war.
Aragorn: Open war is upon you, whether would risk it or not.
I feel like Aragorn, trying to convince Théoden King. The hidden assumption here is that such open warfare would be worse for Israel than the covert terrorist war they’re already fighting now… and thereby hangs the flaw with this entire line of reasoning.
As far as open war, there is no nation adjacent to Israel that would join today in such a jihad by the Palestinian Authority (if controlled by Hamas), and the war would be an unmitigated disaster for the Palestinians.
The only nearby country that might even consider it would be Iran under the Mad Mullahs; but if they did, the Israeli (and American) response would (a) take care of our fears about an Iranian nuclear program, and (b) almost certainly spark a revolution within Iran itself by the people, who despise the Mullahs. Iran could only attack using missiles, since they obviously could not march through or fly across Iraq, Syria, and Jordan to get to Israel; and missiles can be shot down — by us and by the Israelis, that is; not by Iran when the retaliatory strike is launched.
(There is the possibility that Iran would be able to launch a nuclear attack on Israel; we cannot rule this out. But if the ayatollahs are mad enough to do this in response to a Palestinian war, they would be equally willing to do it following any other provocation… suicide-bombing on a national scale. They do not need Hamas to lead them into such “martyrdom,” if that is what they have decided.)
I’ve argued in support of the pull-out of Israel from Gaza and the West Bank (of the Jordan River) for some time; but my reasoning seems to be lost in the excitement of proving the above (fairly obvious) point over on Power Line, Captain’s Quarters, BeldarBlog, and other sites where I’ve tried to have this discussion. A great deal of energy was expended trying to convince me of one of my own starting positions, that the Palestinian people hate the Jews and have never given up their intention of driving them into the sea, the reconquista of what they see as Greater Palestine. I think the gents at Power Line are still convinced that I dispute this point; in fact, it is exactly why I support the pull-out… that, coupled with two facts on the ground.
Here are my starting premises. Everyone making an argument should always start thus:
1. Israel absolutely has the right to exist as a Jewish state, right where it is now… including in the West Bank and Gaza. They were attacked; they won those territories fair and square; they have the right to keep them and even settle them. It’s just not good policy for Israel to do so.
2. Nearly all Palestinians in the PA hate Jews with a passion nearly unequaled on the planet. They will probably never like the Jews; the best Israel can get is for them to forget that the Jews exist.
3. When Israel pulls out of Gaza, the region will be taken over by Hamas. This is probably also true about the West Bank, although Hamas is not as overwhelmingly strong there. But if Hamas doesn’t take over in the West Bank, then some other terrorist gang will do so, or there will be civil war (say — perhaps they’ll kill each other off!)
4. Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa, Fatah, Hezbollah, and all other terrorist groups in the West Bank and Gaza have every intention of destroying Israel, and they will never give up that dream. They will never be honest brokers of peace.
I don’t think Scott and I disagree on any of these points. This should clear up some of the confusion about my position: I do not believe that land is illegally occupied, nor do I support Bush’s ridiculous “road map to peace,” nor do I imagine that any deal with the Palestinians would be kept, except in one circumstance: if the Palestinians have no choice but to keep it or be annihilated. And thereby hangs my point.
There are three urgent responses to Palestinian intransigence that Israel must undertake; thankfully, they are doing exactly these. First, they must complete work on the wall, or “security fence,” separating them from the Palestinians; second, they must maintain the power of the IDF and Mossad and the willingness to go after the leaders of the various Palestinian terrorist groups directly by assassination; finally, they must remove the settlers from the occupied territories.
I will assume the first two receive widespread agreement here; let’s talk about the third.
Hate is a curious emotion. Although one of the prime movers of Mankind throughout history, it is actually very enervating. Governments have throughout history used hate to channel the energy of people who would otherwise oppose the rule of the regime, a fact recognized by George Orwell, among others: see the chapter “Goldstein Two-Minutes Hate” from Nineteen Eighty-Four.
But because it is so draining, it requires a constant irritant to maintain it, a constant, in-your-face reminder of the object of hatred. Without such irritant, the hate will still exist, but only in theory; it will have none of the energy needed to obsess the mind and be used to distract the hater from all else. Thus, Indonesian Islamists certainly hate the Jews, but only in the abstract; they do not expend a lot of time or effort trying to find a Jew so they can attack him. This is because the Jewish population of Indonesia is considerably less than 1%… most Indonesians do not know any Jews and may never even have met one in their entire lives. Constant propinquity is necessary for active, action-driving hatred — which is why Big Brother staged those Two-Minutes Hate videos: he knew that without them, without constantly “knocking elbows,” so to speak, with the supposed enemy, the people would soon forget Goldstein even existed.
The Jewish settlers in Gaza and the West Bank have become exactly such irritants, alas. They may have some cosmic “right” to be there; but the reality is that those territories are overwhelmingly populated by Arab Moslems. The tiny number of settlers, in their armed and economically successful compounds — little Israeli gardens in the vast sea of sand that is the erstwhile British Mandatory Palestine — are constant reminders not only that Jews exist but that they’re far more powerful than the Moslems… and also better capitalists, in despite of Israel’s socialist beginnings. Because the settlers need constant protection from the IDF, that means that everywhere Palestinians go, they have to pass through checkpoints in the land that, rightly or wrongly, they consider their homeland. They are made to feel weak and powerless; their destiny is beyond their control.
This gives every Palestinian in the West Bank and Gaza his own, personal Two-Minutes Hate, often multiple times per day. And it is exactly that hate that Hamas, et al, feed upon and use to whip the people into a froth of rage and fury such that they will send their own sons and daughters to death, just in order to take some Jews with them.
Remove the settlers, hence the Israeli troops required to defend them, and the only irritant left will be the wall itself. Most Palestinians will not have to suffer the evidently unbearable daily fate of having actually to see a Jew, giving them the vapors. As absurd as this may seem to us, who live in a pluralistic society where “the Faithful” seem, by and large, to get along fairly well surrounded by “Zionists and Crusaders,” it is a very real agony to the Moslems living in the PA. Remove the irritant, remove the agony, and you remove, not the abstract hatred, but its projection into the day-t0-day world of those Palestinians.
It is that projection that gives the hate its power. Remove it, and you begin to starve Hamas and their murderous brethren. “Oh, yes, of course I hate the Zionist entity,” Achmed will say; “but do you not see? They are gone! I can travel from Jenin to Hebron and see not a single Jew!”
Of course, if Achmed wanted to go from Ramallah to Gaza International Airport, he would have to travel through Israel; it’s not a perfect disengagement; still, it reduces the contact to a tiny fraction of what it is today. With that relief, I believe it will be virtually impossible to persuade Achmed to give up his sons just to go off and kill Israelis he cannot even see, over on the other side of the wall.
All of the terror gangs will be crippled; Lebanese Hezbollah will still get support from Syria and Iran, but they’re about to start having problems of their own. Terrorist groups will begin to be resented, even hated themselves, for their vicious bullying of the Palestinian people and their utter incompetence at running a country… revolutionary emotions that are at the very core of the incitement to hatred and violence by Hamas and the PA: they need scapegoats to distract their own people from the natural desire to fight back against such tyranny. Plus, without the ready-made targets in the settlements, to be perfectly blunt about it, all of Gaza and the West Bank will become targets for IDF response to the inevitable terrorist attacks. When such retaliatory strikes come, the Palestinian people — who are not being constantly irritated by the presence of non-Moslems in their neighborhoods — will blame the terrorists for “bringing trouble.”
There is another advantage to the pull-out. Right now, there are still many Israeli Jews harboring the secret belief that they can cut some sort of deal with the Palestinian Authority; “road-map-ism,” I’ll call it. It’s not as bad as in 1999, when Ehud Barak was elected; but it’s still strong. The doves do not understand that the moment the Palestinians get Gaza and the West Bank, they will demand Israel itself… Palestinian maps of the region often do not even include Israel as a separate nation.
Israel gets nothing out of the settlements except illusion: they promote the illusion that the only reason the Palestinians make war on Israel is because Israel “occupies” those territories. Remove the settlements, and when the Palestinians shift seamlessly from demanding Ramallah and Bethlehem to demanding Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, all illusions will be shattered. Even the doves will be forced to accept reality. “Open war is upon you, whether would risk it or not.”
I absolutely believe that even Avram Mitzna would fight to save Israel proper, and Ehud Barak spent his entire military career doing so. Not only will Hamas, PIJ, and Al Aqsa be terribly weakened by an Israeli pull-out from the territories, so too will be the Israeli Left. The Israeli Labor Party will be politically devastated when Ariel Sharon actually implements what they have only agitated for but never achieved. All of this will make Israel safer, not more perilous.
Summing up, the Sharon plan of removing the settlers (disengagement) while maintaining the strength and resolve of the IDF and Mossad and finishing the security fence will achieve three goals, each of which adds to Israel’s security:
1) Weakening the Palestinian terrorists by removing the Two-Minutes Hate that allows them to recruit so-called “martyrs” to kill Jews;
2) Increasing the freedom of action of the IDF by removing unhelpful and difficult-to-defend Israeli targets from the enemy’s territory;
3) Forcing the Israeli Left to face reality and recognize that the two states will always be enemies, living at best in an uneasy calm, shattering the dangerous illusion that the lack of “open war” means they are at peace.
Israel must guard the borders, be vigilant against attack and ruthless in response, and at all times recognize the “facts on the ground;” only then will she be truly safe.