As traumatic as the withdrawal from Gaza may have been for those involved, all who care about Israel can heave a sigh of relief this week that our worst nightmares were not realized.
Yes, the scenes of families being forced out of their homes were heartbreaking. So, too, was the dilemma of Israeli soldiers and police who did their duty in implementing the evacuation while being assaulted with insults, taunts and, in a few instances, paint and other potentially harmful objects.
But while the disagreement over the wisdom of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's scheme will continue, we can all be thankful that, for the most part, both sides of the confrontation exercised restraint. Even the small minority of dissidents who resorted to more aggressive tactics against the army never used lethal violence. They deserve to be punished for injuries caused to several soldiers, but a civil war did not rear its ugly head.
At the same time, the Israeli Defense Forces and the police deserve high praise for the understanding and downright patience they exhibited under such highly stressful conditions.
Far from being the spark that would set off a conflagration, the disengagement showed just how unified the Jewish nation remains.
Let us all be grateful that despite the pain caused by this momentous decision, the notion of Israel as a house divided is still more hyperbole than a harbinger of fratricide.
Another U.N. Fiasco
It is a fact that many Palestinians feel that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza is just the first step toward even more territorial concessions. But where exactly does the United Nations international-development program fit into a scheme of promoting a "Greater Palestine?"
That's the question many people were asking after it was revealed last week that funds from the U.N. Development Program were used to pay for a propaganda campaign in Gaza.
Banners, bumper stickers, mugs and T-shirts with the slogan "Today Gaza, and Tomorrow the West Bank and Jerusalem" were distributed by the Palestinian Authority to celebrate Israel's pullout. The cost of this campaign – which to some Jews echoes ominous German boasts of the 1930s – was borne by the United Nations, which derives a large percentage of its income from the United States. So perhaps the operative question is: How do U.S. taxpayers feel about subsidizing Palestinian propaganda?
The U.N. bureaucracy replied to questions about this issue with their usual obfuscation and disingenuousness. While it's possible that no one at the world body really knows what happens with most of the money that passes through its agencies, there's nothing new about the United Nation allowing itself to be used as a front for Palestinian radicals. The U.N. refugee agency that is specifically tasked to help Palestinians has knowingly employed members of the Hamas terrorist group and shielded killers from Israeli forces.
As it so happens, the news of this latest U.N. gaffe coincided with the arrival in New York of John Bolton, the new American ambassador to the world body. Bolton's nomination to his post was stymied in large measure by charges that he's too critical of the culture of the United Nations and too confrontational in his attitude toward foes of U.S. policy. Appropriately, he began his tenure at Turtle Bay by blasting this instance of bias against Israel.
What we need from Ambassador Bolton is more of the same. Given the unwillingness of U.N. personnel to refrain from such scandalous behavior, more American confrontations with Secretary General Kofi Annan and his staff are definitely needed.