Sharon's Gaza Plan Moves Ahead

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon scored a major political victory on October 26, with the Knesset's passage (by 67 votes to 45) of his controversial Gaza withdrawal plan. An earlier post on the subject can be found here: Disengagement.

I haven't blogged a lot on Israel/Palestine issues, mostly because Iraq and Iran have been occupying the geopolitical center stage at Dreams Into Lightning. Also, I don't believe the Palestinian/Israeli issue will be resolved in Jerusalem or Ramallah, because the problem really lies in Tehran, Damascus, and Cairo. As long as these foreign regimes are in power, they will do everything they can to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians impossible.

Also, my opinions on Palestine and Israel are not quite as clear-cut as they are on Iran and Iraq. But I feel I can say a few things with confidence, so I'll say them here.

I think President Bush is on the right track. People who see Sharon and Bush as being ideological twins, and those who see Sharon as Bush's "lapdog" (or, depending on how anti-Semitic they are, who see Bush as Sharon's lapdog), simply don't know what they are talking about. Sharon is traditionally a hardliner, and he has come toward an accommodation with the Palestinians after a long, hard struggle. President Bush - the first US President to explicitly call for the recognition of a Palestinian state - has also been leaning very hard on Sharon to plan for a withdrawal from Gaza, and to evacuate unauthorized Jewish settlements.

Both Sharon and Bush have been facing stiff opposition from hardliners on the Right. By pursuing his disengagement plan, Ariel Sharon is risking his political career - and, as the ninth anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination reminds us, perhaps more than that. Sharon cannot act without his government's consent, which often has not been forthcoming. President Bush, too, faces opposition from conservatives who accuse him of being "soft on the Palestinians".

Bush isn't going to get everything he wants from Sharon, and Sharon isn't going to get everything he wants from his government. There are no lapdogs in this picture - just a collectioin of factions with different goals and occasionally overlapping interests.

The folks at Debka have made no secret of their opposition to Gaza withdrawal and settlement evacuation. Now I don't claim to be a Mideast expert and I don't have to worry about Qassam missiles hitting Oregon, but I do understand the Israelis' concerns about a militarized Palestinian state in either the West Bank or Gaza.

Still, Israel can only be Israel. The goal of statehood - and I mean Israeli statehood - must be to secure borders: In here, it is our land; out there, it is your land. Any Palestinian-Israeli agreement must work concretely toward that end.

Danny at The Head Heeb offers some helpful comments. I'll quote the central paragraph of his reflection on Rabin:
On Rabin’s Jahrzeit, one talks a lot of “Rabin’s legacy” which usually means the Oslo agreements. How do those agreements look from retrospect? Overall the outcome cannot be positive. It was a bold gamble, and it was largely unsuccessful. The agreements attempted to reverse drastically the way in which Israel, and beforehand the Zionist movement, approached the Arabs since the 1920s; reverse the logic of Jabotinsky’s “Iron Wall”, which though serving Israel well in the past, was now proving harmful. This change has been very hard to implement. It turns out that certain elements of “Iron Wall” thinking has remained sound; as I mentioned above, the jury is still out about whether ‘land-for-peace’ is a workable formula (the jury should always be out on this issue as long as Israel is in the OT. What else is there?). What Oslo did make clear is that the “Iron Wall” which controlled the lives of millions of Palestinians, could simply not be maintained (indeed another way of looking at Oslo is as an acknowledgement of defeat in the first Intifada posing as a peace agreement – it was a shame that it relied on Arafat). The moderate Right has also come around to this point of view, which is why Sharon is promoting disengagement.

Go read the whole post at The Head Heeb: Rabin's Legacy.