March 28, 2005

What's The Upside For Israel?

In her weekend Townhall column, Caroline Glick respectfully disagrees with Norman Podhoretz's contention that Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan and U.S. Palestinian policy in general comport with the Bush Doctrine:

The question of how Palestinian statehood fits into the Bush Doctrine of democratization has always been a nagging one. The president's central premise is that the endemic wars and terrorism in the region are the consequence of repressive regimes that prefer their people be raised on a diet of extremism and hatred under tyrannical governments than be educated in moderation and modernity under free governments. Rejection of Israel's right to exist by the Arabs who need Israel (and America) as their external enemy in order to justify the failure of their own leaders to advance their peoples is, by the reasoning of the Bush Doctrine, the central cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict...

...Given the total disconnect between the Bush Doctrine, which places the onus for change on the Arabs by calling for their democratization and eschewal of terrorism, and the Sharon plan, which makes no demands whatsoever on the Palestinians, it was interesting to see an attempt to conflate the two undertaken by as remarkable an intellectual and as heroic a figure as Norman Podhoretz.

In the April issue of Commentary magazine, Podhoretz, who has been a towering intellectual model for me throughout my career, argues that there is a way to view the Sharon plan as part of the Bush Doctrine. He claims that after Israel removes the Jewish communities from Gaza and northern Samaria, the Palestinians will be held to the Bush Doctrine's policy of democratization – and that Israel won't be forced to make any additional concessions until the Palestinians reform. He argues that if the Palestinians continue to attack Israel after the IDF evacuates the Jewish communities and withdraws from the areas, Israel will be free to take any action it deems necessary to secure itself. He claims that because of Bush's commitment to the Bush Doctrine, the Arab world will now be forced to enact reforms that will transform the Palestinians' operating environment in a manner that will force them to give up terror.

While it is possible to debate the merits of each of the points he makes in favor of the plan, what is most interesting about Podhoretz's analysis of Sharon's plan is the point he does not address. Podhoretz never discusses what Israel is actually accomplishing – for itself – by going forward with Sharon's withdrawal and expulsion plan. Again, as is now clear to all Israelis and Palestinians, the reason it is impossible to discuss what Israel is actually gaining from Sharon's plan is because Israel is gaining nothing from it.

One thing they might be gaining is the perception by certain (European?) skeptics that Israel is unilaterally acting in good faith, and that the ball will clearly be back in the Palestinians' court, as Podhoretz suggested. But what outsiders think will matter little it seems, as long as the Gaza withdrawal is seen and/or spun by Palestinian militants as a victory for terrorism. Which is exactly what is happening:

This week, Israeli Arab parliamentarian Azmi Bishara's Web site, www.Arabs1948.com, published an interview with Hamas spokesman Ahmed al-Bahar in which he discussed the significance of Sharon's plan. Bahar claimed, "The painful and qualitative blows which the Palestinian resistance dealt to the Jews and their soldiers over the past four and a half years led to the decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip."

"All indications show that since its establishment, Israel has never been in such a state of retreat and weakness as it is today, following more than four years of the intifada," he continued. "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."

Posted by dan at March 28, 2005 12:50 AM