Wednesday, May 31, 2006

If Convergence Will Create a Terrorist State, What is the Alternative?

In 1967, when most Israelis were celebrating their victory in the Six Day War, my father saw nothing to celebrate. His words: "Occupation. Bad business." The last 39 years of history make him, in retrospect, seem prophetic.

Last Tuesday (23 May), an opinion piece by James Woolsey, the former Director of Central Intelligence, titled West Bank Terrorist State was published in the Wall Street Journal. He wrote, in part:
The approach Israel is preparing to take in the West Bank was tried in Gaza and has failed utterly. The Israeli withdrawal of last year has produced the worst set of results imaginable: a heavy presence by al Qaeda, Hezbollah and even some Iranian Revolutionary Guard units; street fighting between Hamas and Fatah, and now Hamas assassination attempts against Fatah's intelligence chief and Jordan's ambassador; rocket and mortar attacks against nearby towns inside Israel; and a perceived vindication for Hamas, which took credit for the withdrawal. This latter almost certainly contributed substantially to Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections.


Israel is not the only pro-Western country that would be threatened. How does moderate Jordan, with its Palestinian majority, survive if bordered by a West Bank terrorist state? Israeli concessions will also make the U.S. look weak, because it will be inferred that we have urged them, and will suggest that we are reverting to earlier behavior patterns--fleeing Lebanon in 1983, acquiescing in Saddam's destruction of the Kurdish and Shiite rebels in 1991, fleeing Somalia in 1993, etc.

Three major Israeli efforts at accommodation in the last 13 years have not worked. Oslo and the 1993 handshake in the Rose Garden between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat produced only Arafat's rejection in 2000 of Ehud Barak's extremely generous settlement offer and the beginning of the second intifada. The Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 has enhanced Hezbollah's prestige and control there; and the withdrawal from Gaza has unleashed madness. These three accommodations have been based on the premise that only Israeli concessions can displace Palestinian despair. But it seems increasingly clear that the Palestinian cause is fueled by hatred and contempt.

I cannot disagree with Mr. Woolsey. I often find myself nodding when reading similar opinions coming from the Israeli right. The one question nobody answers is this: If withdrawal is the wrong answer, what is the right answer? Nobody seems to have one.

Clearly the occupation is not sustainable indefinitely. There is no way Israel can rule over millions of hostile Arabs and remain a majority Jewish state. For all it's failings fewer Jews are dying now in and near Gaza than were before Prime Minister Sharon's disengagement plan was executed.

I see no reasonable alternative to Prime Minister Olmert's convergence plan. Yes, it should be scaled back. There is no way a nation can share its capital with a hostile enemy and any division of Jerusalem under present circumstances would be a serious mistake. Similarly, I think the security fence should be rerouted in southern Judea to include the settlements in the Hebron hills and the Jewish quarter of Hebron itself. The Tomb of the Patriarchs should not be turned over to anyone who will not respect the religious, historical, and cultural significance of the place to the Jewish people and Jewish worship there must always be allowed.

In addition the Palestinians must be made to understand that attacks and terrorism will be met with overwhelming force. The IDF incursion into Gaza is a good start but it is not enough. The Palestinians must be made to understand that the price for attacking Israel is so very high that they are no longer willing to pay it.

Having said all that I still see no alternative to unilateral separation, or, as then Prime Minister Barak put it, "Us over here, them over there."

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