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What They Are Saying: With Gaza Out of the Picture, What Happens to the Rest of the World?

August 25, 2005
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Max Boot

Columnist Max Bootwrites in the Los Angeles Times (www.latimes.com) on Aug. 17 that the pullout from Gaza is worth the risk to Israel, if not the West:

"For almost 40 years, the conceit has been growing around the world that Palestinian terrorism can be explained and even excused by Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This was always a dubious proposition in light of the fact that Arabs have been fighting Israel since its formation in 1948, not since its conquest of those territories in 1967. The Palestine Liberation Organization began its attacks while the West Bank was still part of Jordan and Gaza was part of Egypt.

"Now the Israeli decision to remove its settlers from the Gaza Strip and a small portion of the West Bank should provide a further test of the belief that Jewish settlements are the root cause of this conflict. If this were in fact the case, you would expect that a partial pullout would lead to at least a partial melting of Arab hostility toward the Jews. Maybe this will occur; and maybe the Gaza Strip will overnight become as peaceful as Switzerland.

"But the early signs are not good - literally. Gaza City is decked out with green Hamas banners proclaiming, 'Resistance wins, so let's go on.' The banners from the supposedly more restrained Palestinian Authority reveal the same mindset: 'Gaza today, the West Bank and Jerusalem tomorrow.' Far from being sated by Israeli concessions, the Palestinians are emboldened to demand more. Many will not be satisfied until - in the words of a 15-year-old would-be suicide bomber quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle - there are no more 'Jews on this world.'

"So does this mean that Ariel Sharon is making a big mistake? It certainly means he is taking a risk - the risk of creating a 'Hamastan' where terrorism will flourish - but, on balance, it is the right decision.

"The Gaza settlements were simply not sustainable. Approximately 8,500 Jews could not live safely among 1.3 million Arabs. That may be a sad commentary on the Arabs, considering that a million Arabs live safely among 5 million Jews in Israel, but that's life. The Gaza settlers had a right to risk their own necks, but not the necks of soldiers who had to protect them. Sooner or later, they would have had to go. If Sharon had waited, like his predecessors, for a comprehensive peace treaty with the Palestinians before the inevitable pullout, he would have waited until kingdom come. In the meantime, the settlements would have remained an easy debating point for Palestinian propagandists.

"Opponents of the withdrawal cite parallels with the 2000 Israeli evacuation of southern Lebanon, which helped spark the second intifada, but the danger now is much less. Even if Palestinians want to attack Israel - and they do - they will be hard-pressed to do so. All of Gaza is fenced in, and so is most of the West Bank, reducing opportunities for suicide bombers to penetrate Israel. If the Palestinians fire rockets from Gaza, Israel will be free to mount a military response - more free, in fact, when the threat comes from a sovereign Palestinian state than when it emanates from Israeli-occupied territory.

"The real danger from Gaza may not be to Israel but to the rest of the West. If, following the Israeli pullout, Gaza becomes another training ground for Islamo-fascist fanatics - a successor to Afghanistan under the Taliban - the resulting terrorists will find the United States and Europe much easier targets than Israel, which is the world's most heavily defended state. Irony of ironies, perhaps in a few years, enlightened Westerners will rue the day when Israel gave up control of Gaza."

Sharon Deserves a Peace Prize for His Plan to Salvage a Sticky Situation

Columnist R. Emmett Tyrrell writes on www. Townhall.com on Aug. 18 that Israel's nobility may not be repaid in kind:

"What we are seeing this week in the withdrawal from Gaza of 8,000 Israeli citizens is as noble an act on behalf of peace as has been recorded in modern history. No peace demonstration on record has involved so much personal sacrifice. Nor has any peace demonstration involved so much trust. The trust, for the most part, comes from Jerusalem, and the Ariel Sharon government, believing as it does, that after Israel vacates Gaza the Palestinian Authority will hold elections, establish a peaceful government and control those terrorists intent on destroying Israel. Sharon is a general of proven prowess. Yet he is now, as the phrase has it, giving peace a chance. This withdrawal is his plan. So much for the claptrap that generals only want war.

"Yet I am skeptical that this withdrawal will lead to peace. Some 80 percent of Palestinian Arabs deny the right of Israel to exist. Most swallow the historically inaccurate line that the Jews 'stole' the lands they now inhabit - and their Gaza settlements, too - from what are now called the Palestinians. Scholars, whether they be historians or archaeologists, have demonstrated that this is hooey.

"Jews have inhabited these lands since the time of Abraham. Writers as diverse as H.L. Mencken and Winston Churchill a century ago when visiting these lands remarked on the peaceful Jewish villagers cultivating their fields and living civilized lives. The land of Israel is rightfully the land of the Jews.

"Arabs live in Israel with full citizenship. Arabs live, too, under the Palestinian Authority outside of Israel and in areas that it is hoped will become a peaceful Palestinian state. What the Sharon government intends is that this withdrawal will lead to peace between these two nations.

"Yet there is plenty of evidence that firebrands from the Islamic Resistance Movement known as Hamas, among others, will be emboldened by Sharon's generosity to see his withdrawal as a sign of weakness, or worse, a sign that Hamas' terrorist violence has caused an Israeli defeat and could cause still more Israeli defeats. Sharon's noble gesture could encourage more violence and legitimatize in the eyes of Palestinian voters the most militant of Israel's enemies.

"What if this withdrawal by the Israelis actually is seen by the Palestinian electorate as a vindication of terror and leads to Hamas' victory at the polls? This whole policy of magnanimity could backfire on Sharon and leave him with a more dangerous situation than before.

"Yet I write as an American, comfortably living thousands of miles from this vexed part of the world. Whether my skepticism is right or wrong, I shall not have to pay any price. It is the Israelis who pay the price. For now, they support Sharon and withdrawal. Thousands of their countrymen who settled Gaza out of religious conviction and the sense that they were fortifying Israeli democracy are now being summarily uprooted and denied the land in which they invested their hearts and their labor. The price they pay is beyond simple calculation.

"All in all, this is an enormous effort on behalf of peace made by a noble leader and a noble nation. If it is repaid by continued terror, let the critics of Israel shut down. On behalf of peace, the Israelis have done all they can - and Sharon's Nobel Prize for Peace should await him either way."

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