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Symposium: The Gaza Withdrawal (FrontPageMagazine.com) By Jamie Glazov 01/28/05)Source: http://www.frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=16813 Front Page Magazine.com Front Page Magazine.com Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Is Sharon’s pull-out plan shrewd or suicidal? To discuss this issue with us, Frontpage Symposium has assembled a distinguished panel. Our guests goday:

Sol Stern, a contributing editor to City Journal and a Manhattan Institute senior fellow;

Abraham Rabinovich, a former reporter for the Jerusalem Post and a United States Army veteran. He is the author of the new book The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter that Transformed the Middle East;

P. David Hornik, a freelance writer and translator living in Jerusalem who has been contributing recently to FrontPage, American Spectator Online, the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Press, and Israeli news-views sites;


Steven Plaut, a professor of business finance at the University of Haifa in Israel and at Central European University. He holds a PhD in economics from Princeton and is author of The Scout.

FP: Sol Stern, Abraham Rabinovich, David Hornik and Steven Plaut, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.

Prof. Plaut, let me begin with you. Is the withdrawal from Gaza a necessary step for Israel to make?

Plaut: It is a mindless and foolish step for Israel to make. It will result in a massive escalation of violence in the Middle East. What exactly do supporters of the plan think the PLO and its other terror affiliates will be doing once Israeli troops are not on the ground in the Gaza Strip - take up quilting? It is a reward for Palestinian violence. It sets a dangerous precedent. It involves evicting masses of Jews from their homes in the name of "reducing confrontation", while not at the same time demanding an equivalent balancing eviction of any Palestinians from their homes in the name of the same goal, such as removing the population of Jenin and moving it to Gaza.

Gaza is a large complex of terrorist labs, underground bomb factories, and smuggling tunnels even today - when the Israelis are present. Once they are gone, there will be nothing left to stop the Palestinian savages from escalating the terror. Incursions into Israel by Palestinian suicide bombers will increase. The PLO and its sister terrorists have already fired thousands of rockets and mortars into Jewish civilian areas from the Gaza Strip. Once the Israeli military is no longer a force to reckon with inside the Gaza Strip, this bombardment will increase enormously.

Let me emphasize that much of the bombardment to date has been against Israeli civilian homes inside Israel´s pre-1967 Green Line border and not simply against so-called "settlers.

When the inevitable mass bombardment begins, after Sharon´s capitulation is complete, Israel will either have to empty out all of its civilian towns within the ever-increasing firing distance, or it will need to reconquer the Gaza Strip militarily and re-install long- term martial rule there. The latter is more likely. But if all that is going to take place is the restoration of Israeli military control of the Gaza Strip, then what is the point of removing it now? It is a bit like people arguing in early 1945 that because the Japanese are unwilling to make peace after the US has conquered and controls Okinawa, then the solution must be to withdraw from Okinawa in the middle of the war and return to Pearl Harbor.

It is worth noting that Israelis overwhelmingly voted AGAINST the very plan that Sharon is trying to implement. In the last national elections, the proposal for unilateral capitulation to the PLO and withdrawal from the Gaza Strip while evicting its Jewish population was the electoral platform of the opposition Labor Party. Sharon ran AGAINST this plan. But as so often happens in Israel, a month after beating Labor, Sharon adopted its electoral platform. He than called a Likud party referendum to approve the turnabout and Sharon was defeated by his own party there three-to-two.

FP: Ok, fair enough. But Mr. Plaut, surely Sharon is not a traitor to Israel. Surely he sees everything you are saying and has Israel’s best interests in mind. Obviously his hand is being forced here by dire circumstances. Somewhere in this withdrawal a certain Israeli interest is being served. Put yourself into Sharon’s shoes and be fair. Why do you think he is doing this? He is not a conniving sell- out, certainly he has a plan here. . . . .

Plaut: There are two schools of thought about Ariel Sharon. One is that he is having his boxer shorts squeezed upon him by the American Administration and especially the State Department, who are desperate for some temporary pretence of "progress" in resolving the Arab- Israeli conflict because they mistakenly think this will lower the hostility to the US of the Islamofascists. The State Department honchos are indifferent to the conclusion that any temporary "relaxation" of confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian terrorists due to such an appeasement will result in a far worse confrontation shortly down the road, with far worse bloodshed and escalated world terror. They insist that the best way to stamp out the bonfire is to bury it in new kindling so that there will be a temporary drop in the height of the flames.

The second school of thought is that Sharon, and much of the rest of the country, is simply so old, exhausted, and demoralized that there is not the will to resist, combined with an underlying foolishness that is willing to grasp at straws, willing to trade off long term disaster for some short term Kodak moments. This is not the Sharon who heroically led his forces across the Suez Canal in 1973. And. like the joke about the fella who had already been divorced 12 times but remarries, the "Gaza Disengagement Plan" is the victory of hopeful self-delusion over reality. There are lists of statements one should never ever believe that are making the rounds on the web, like "The check is in the mail." One should add to the list the statement, "Maybe now the Palestinians will stop the terrorism." Abu Mazen will yet prove to be even worse than Arafat. Only those who know nothing of his background can mistake him for a moderate or a democrat.

I think there is some truth to each of the above two "schools" but there is also a third school of thought. The Likud has never been a party of vision but rather the "Me-Too Labor Party." While rhetorically opposing the Labor platform in matters of security and economics, every single time it holds power the Likud simply implements the Labor Party´s own platform, even when the Likud has run in the elections in explicit opposition to it. The "Sharon Plan" is in fact the plan of far-Leftist Amram Mitzna, the George McGovern of the Israeli Labor Party, and it was rejected by a landslide of Israel voters last year.

It is a waste of time to search for "hidden benefits" that Israel will derive from the Gaza Disengagement Plan. It is like looking for hidden benefits in the Munich Accord.

FP: Mr. Stern?

Stern: Ariel Sharon is the most powerful friend the Israeli settler movement has ever had. Now, with his uncanny ability to read the changing strategic battlefield, he has concluded that the best chance of ensuring control of the bulk of the West Bank settlements housing several hundred thousand Israelis is to relocate 8000 Israelis living in a few isolated enclaves in Gaza. He has seen the Gaza settlements become a distraction for the Israeli army, thus making it harder to uproot the terrorists from the heart of Gaza. He is supported in this strategic thinking by the Israeli military establishment as well as by the current cabinet representing the parliamentary majority. By all accounts, Sharon also has a solid majority of the Israeli public behind him. Professor Plaut seems to concede this point when he berates the Likud for aping the Labor Party. If Likud isn’t on his side, who is?

Of course there’s nothing dishonorable about being in the minority. In a democracy the minority view of today sometimes turns out to be prophetic and then becomes the majority view of tomorrow. That is what happened in Israel over the Oslo accords. But this isn’t Oslo II. Sharon doesn’t repeat the mistake of offering significant Israeli concessions on the ground in return for mere Palestinian promises. His moves toward separation in Gaza and the West Bank are good for Israeli security whether the Palestinians reciprocate or not. And they have the added advantage of getting an American president to say for the first time ever that many of the settlements will remain part of Israel in any final agreement.

I am not impressed by Plaut’s hysterical prediction that separating from Gaza “will result in a massive escalation of violence in the Middle East.” Where in the Middle East? In Iraq? In Lebanon? Quite the contrary, Sharon’s moves toward separation, including fencing off the Gaza strip and parts of the West Bank, plus a ruthless decapitation campaign against the terrorist leadership, have already paid off by almost eliminating the wave of suicide bombing. Plaut also raises the specter that more rockets will be fired from Gaza at civilian areas inside Israel. Fair enough. But Israel will then retaliate militarily in exactly the same way that it does today. And this time the army will not have to worry about siphoning off part of its strike force to guard settlements that contribute nothing to Israel’s security. While only a handful of Israelis have so far been killed by rockets fired from Gaza, hundreds of civilians and soldiers have died defending the isolated and non strategic Gaza settlements.

Professor Plaut’s military analysis is weak, his comments on Sharon’s motives are speculative and irrelevant, and his use of the Munich analogy is puerile. I thus suspect that he has other, more ideological reasons for fearing an Israeli military pullback from any part of the territories. But this is a much longer and more emotion laden argument.

FP: Mr. Hornik, Prof. Plaut sees another Munich happening here. Mr. Stern sees a shrewd calculated move based on sound strategic objectives. What do you think?

Hornik: Steven Plaut, who, like me, predicted that the "Oslo process" would bring a rain of terror and death upon Israel, is again on the mark. Mr. Stern is like people during 1993-1995 who said, "Prime Minister Rabin is a smart old Israeli security fox. He knows what he´s doing. He wouldn´t harm Israel´s security. This will work out to Israel´s benefit." What Rabin actually wrought, notwithstanding his rich military background, was the worst disaster that has ever befallen Israel, a nightmare of death, maiming, economic damage, and plummeting immigration, turning Israeli civilian life into a battlefield for eleven years with no end in sight.

Let me address some of Mr. Stern´s points specifically. He says evacuating the 8000 Gaza settlers offers the best chance for keeping the bulk of the West Bank settlements. The sole evidence anyone can provide for this claim is a tepid statement by President Bush that when the Palestinian state is established in virtually all of the West Bank (and all of Gaza), certain "demographic realities" will be taken into account, meaning Israel would be able to keep some settlements or settlement blocs. There is nothing new here because also in Barak´s offer to Arafat in 2000, Israel was supposed to keep some settlement blocs in the few percentage points of West Bank land it was supposed to retain (it so happens that about 80 percent of the West Bank settlers are concentrated in some very small pieces of land). This would be small consolation for turning over almost all of the West Bank to the fully sovereign Palestinian state that President Bush says is his goal. Prime Minister Sharon also says he is fully committed both to the road map and to a Palestinian state. Evacuating Gaza and northern Samaria would appear to be a step toward, not away from, this common goal of a Palestinian state.

Shortly after the Six Day War in 1967, the U.S. government asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a professional, nonpolitical assessment of which parts of the newly-conquered land were essential to Israel´s security. The Joint Chiefs´ report states explicitly that Israel can only be defensible if it retains almost all of the West Bank, all of Gaza, and all of the Golan Heights. Nothing has changed since then to alter this assessment--in the era of ballistic missiles, land is even more crucial to Israel. It is still better to have a missile fired from the Lebanese border than from the outskirts of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. What has changed, actually, is that Western democracies like the U.S. and Israel get tired of difficult situations and start looking for quick fixes and easy solutions. In this spirit, Israel has now, with U.S. encouragement, created a situation where it is surrounded by enclaves controlled by Hizbullah/Iran, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the various PLO offshoots, and you can see the consequences on your evening news unless this spectacle of ongoing carnage is "old news" by now. The disengagement plan transfers more land from Israeli control to jihadi terrorist control, and adds momentum for further land giveaways in the future, which will make Israel less and less defensible either tactically or strategically.

Mr. Stern says the Israeli military establishment supports Sharon´s "strategic thinking." Actually, at the time the disengagement plan was announced, the Israeli chief of staff, head of the GSS (analogous to the FBI), head of the IDF intelligence branch, and commander of the Gaza division issued dire warnings about the plan´s security consequences. I don´t know where Mr. Stern has been. In the first week of January the head of the GSS, Avi Dichter, in a presentation to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, again made grave warnings about the security consequences of disengaging from Gaza and northern Samaria, including leaving Israeli communities defenseless against missiles and infiltrations, an unrestricted flow of weapons into the abandoned areas, and proclaiming far and wide to Israel´s enemies that persistently attacking Israel always pays off and leads to Israel retreats and concessions.

Mr. Stern says Sharon has a solid majority of the Israeli public behind him--a claim based solely on opinion polls. There is a long history of Israeli opinion polls that turned out to be ludicrously off the mark. For instance, just last spring the polls said disengagement would win handily in the Likud referendum. In fact, disengagement lost in a landslide. Antidisengagement Israelis want a referendum and we feel confident that we would win. Sharon seeks to avoid one at all costs--and I mean costs, like dangerous, growing internal dissension and strife. Sharon prefers that strife, even the possible dissolution of Israeli society, to a referendum. Why would that be so, if he believes he would win?

Yes, Israel´s tactical war on the terrorist leadership since Labor left the government in spring 2003 has had a measure of success, reducing suicide bombings and terrorism generally. But there are two caveats here. Thanks to Mr. Sharon, the Labor ministers--almost all of them, from the sound of it, far more dovish than Mr. Stern--are back in the government. Will Israel´s relative hawkishness toward terror continue? I sure hope so, but I´m sure not going to bet on it now that the likes of Shimon Peres are stewards of our fate again. Second, Gaza-based terrorism has dramatically escalated since Sharon announced the disengagement plan. So if Mr. Stern wants to credit Sharon since spring 2003 with a reduction in suicide bombings, he should also "credit" him since spring 2004 with making life unlivable for Israelis both within and near Gaza, turning Sderot into a besieged border town, necessitating constant IDF warfare against the Gaza terrorists, and overall gravely worsening the security situation both in Gaza and in the adjacent parts of southern Israel.

Mr. Stern also says that Plaut "raises the specter" of more rockets being fired from Gaza after disengagement, but assures us that the IDF will then be able to take care of the problem handily. An army that has left an area, lost most or all of its intelligence sources, allowed enemy forces to build and fortify themselves there as much and as long as they want, will obviously have a much more difficult time operating in that area than it had while it still had a presence in it. Especially if the area has meanwhile upgraded its political status, possibly to statehood. What can now be achieved by IDF operations and incursions will, after a pullback, require full-scale warfare under much worse military, political, and diplomatic conditions. If the U.S. were to withdraw from Iraq tomorrow and go back there three months from now, it would of course have an even much worse time than it is having now.

Israel´s land withdrawals over the past eleven years, from southern Lebanon and parts of the territories, have proved disastrous. Mr. Stern is apparently encouraged by this spectacle and his conclusion is--more of the same.

FP: Mr. Rabinovich?

Rabinovich: I find myself lingering over the image of Munich and Neville Chamberlain. Somehow, the picture of Ariel Sharon in pinstripe suit and bowler hat holding a folded umbrella is hard to get a focus on. Even less so the idea of him waving a piece of paper and declaring that he has brought peace in our time. If there is anyone less given to blind faith in one’s enemies it is this wily old warrior.

Sharon has proven to be one of the most intriguing political personalities of our time, someone who, in his mid-70s, has undergone a stunning transformation of outlook. One of his former commanders once told me of Sharon’s performance on the battlefield: “Arik can’t execute any plan except his own.” He has certainly confounded his enemies, and his friends, with this one.

I believe his Gaza pullout plan is the right move, maybe even for the right reasons. His game plan is clear enough. By relinquishing Gaza, he has won for the first time an American president’s support for retention by Israel of some settlement blocs on the West Bank. President Bush also declared opposition to Palestinian demands that refugees have the right of return to Israel. By declaring the pullout to be a unilateral move in the absence of a Palestinian peace partner, Sharon was saying Israel would decide where the interim boundaries on the West Bank would be, while indicating that interim could be a very long time.

The planned pullout has shocked the Palestinians out of knee-jerk antagonism and made them begin to think afresh about what might be other than ongoing violence. The debate going on within Palestinian society is intriguing. The death of Yasser Arafat is certainly a major factor in this reassessment but so is Sharon’ move. With Israel gone, who will run the Gaza Strip? Will it become an expanded base for warfare against Israel? Or a model for a future Palestinian state? It is up to the Palestinians to figure this out. If they choose warfare, I have no doubt about their fate. If they choose to build a viable society, new prospects are opened.

As for Prof. Plaut’s point that Israelis who voted Sharon into office were voting for a platform opposite to the one Sharon has in fact adopted, that is a misreading. I would say that most of the center- left voters who gave Sharon his overwhelming majority, and I was one of them, were not voting for his right-wing Likud platform but for a general with pearl-handled Uzis. In the face of the Palestinian uprising, Israel’s citizens wanted to be led by someone who kicked butt. They got someone who not only could do that but proved that he could think anew. The voters, as polls show, have not been disappointed.

As for the security concerns expressed by Mr. Hornik, there is no end to the doomsday scenarios with which we can frighten ourselves. It is clear that Israel will have to maintain vigilance – when didn’t it have to? – but that doesn’t mean that it must give up trying to achieve peace. He says it is better to have a missile fired from Lebanon than from the outskirts of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. I fail to see how it is better – if he means that the missiles would be significantly less accurate, that’s debatable. And we should recall that Jerusalem was indeed heavily shelled from its outskirts for two days in 1967 which did not inhibit Israel’s sensational victory.

The point is that we have to try to prevent missiles from being fired at all. The best way to achieve that, I believe the only way, is to give the Palestinians something to lose. Namely, a Palestinian state. To throw them some territorial bones will not do it. They will need a viable state, and that means the bulk of the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip, in which they can invest their energies, ambitions and pride. Sure, they will continue to pray for Israel’s disappearance but for the bulk of Palestinian society a state of their own, alongside a militarily and economically powerful Israel, will mean a new playing field and a new mindset. For the region, it would mean a new political dynamic.

Plaut: Stern wants Israel to abandon any Jewish land whose defense is a "nuisance" for the army, and it is only a matter of time before there will be calls for Israel to abandon Haifa and Beer Sheba to the terrorists because their defense is draining real resources from social programs. Incredibly, Stern does not realize he is proposing "peace through appeasement". When in history has peace been achieved through this sort of appeasement? It is least likely to be achieved this way in the Middle East, where goodwill gestures are sure to be taken as signs of weakness.

It is not clear that Stern is correct that Israeli opponents of the Gaza "Plan" are in the minority. Voters have repeatedly REJECTED it, and TV polls are not reliable gauges. But even if Stern is correct, opponents to Rabin´s Oslo "Accords" were in the minority in the mid- 90s, yet proved correct on each and every point they raised, while the "majority" was dead wrong across the board. That earlier "plan" endorsed by the majority produced 1600 murdered Israelis, tens of thousands of wounded, and turned Israel into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I have no doubt that Stern dismissed the opponents of Oslo back then as "hysterical" as well.

Rabinovich thinks the Palestinians have now been "shocked out of antagonism" and are ready for peace. I do not see either him or Stern buying up homes in Sderot, which has taken the brunt of the rocket attacks, in order to move their families there. How many times in the past have we been assured that the Palestinians had abandoned terror and genocide as their ambition?

Rabinovich´s plan is to appease the Sudetenized Palestinians, to give them a state and then let´s see. What do we say of those who wanted to give Saddam or Iran weapons of mass destruction and then let´s see? The burden of proof is on those who claim that unilateral withdrawal by Israel will produce peace, not on those who warn it will not. Since when is the resolution of a state of uncertainty found in the agreement of the threatened to place its neck in a hangman´s noose for purposes of testing the intentions of the executioner, standing next to the rope, and waiting to see? The Palestinians were already given "something to lose" (in Rabinovich´s words) by Israel in the 1990s, and it turned out they did not care at all about losing it in the holy cause of murdering Jewish children. There is no reason to claim that giving them more to lose will have different consequences.

Stern takes at face value Sharon´s claim that by giving the PLO free rein in the Gaza Strip, Israel will be able to retain the West Bank under its control. Sharon claims that the unilateral capitulation in Gaza will NOT serve as precedent for the West Bank. I do not believe him, and I am convinced Sharon himself knows the Gaza capitulation will serve as precedent for new pressures on Israel to return to its indefensible 1967 borders in the West Bank as well. The pressures are already evident.

Until someone can prove in a persuasive manner that a Palestinian state will seek peace, the "let´s give it a try" school are like those lemmings suggesting giving leaping off the cliff a try, to see what it is like. Absolutely everything we know about the PLO, Abu Mazen, and the Middle East tells us that this "state" will be nothing but a base of terror from which to launch the final genocidal assault against Israel.

Stern: I accept that serious arguments can be made against the Gaza disengagement plan. But for the most part, Prof. Plaut and Mr. Hornik don’t make them. Instead they once again trot out a long list of imaginary horribles. This is another Munich, they imply. Or, it’s another Oslo. Let me elaborate on what I said in round one: The Munich analogy is so historically absurd and so morally inappropriate when it is directed at a Jewish government with the most powerful military force in the region, that it isn’t even worth debating. It should also be apparent to any reasonable person that none of the destructive elements of the Oslo deal are present here. This time Israel gives the Palestinians nothing of military value they don’t already have. Gaza disengagement doesn’t make it easier for the terrorists to penetrate Israel’s borders; it doesn’t convey new political stature on the Palestinian leadership or raise their international standing. Quite the contrary, by removing a few isolated settlements that contribute nothing to Israel’s security, but are actually a drain on Israel’s military resources, the pressure is clearly on the Palestinian Authority to create order in Gaza and reign in the terrorists.

I grant that the Palestinian leadership doesn’t have much of a track record for rational behavior. The possibility that they will initiate or tolerate an escalation of terrorist rocket attacks on civilian Jewish communities must surely be part of any calculation of risk. But it isn’t as if the current arrangement is risk free. Despite the presence of the Israeli army, the rocket attacks have become so numerous that even prominent Israeli doves are calling for a ruthless response. Yoel Marcus of Haaretz, a fervent supporter of disengagement, and previously of Oslo, has just written that if the attacks continue Israel should respond tit for tat with rocket attacks against civilian Palestinian communities. I’m not sure that I would go that far, but the point is that after a disengagement Israel’s government will still have a powerful military deterrent against attacks coming from Gaza, just as it has a military deterrent against attacks coming from Jenin. Moreover, since the government has staked its reputation on the presumed advantages of a Gaza pullout, it is likely to have even more of an incentive to use overwhelming force against any new rocket attacks. And it is reasonable to believe that the same government that is winning the war against the suicide bombers with the help of a separation fence in the West Bank will also figure out how to stop or neutralize the threat of suicide bomber attacks with a separation fence around Gaza.

Am I expecting peace and serenity? Far from it. I don’t even have any illusion that the Gaza disengagement will lead to a revival of serious peace negotiations, or that after disengagement the Palestinians will be more likely to compromise on Jerusalem, final borders or the right of return. I am much less sanguine than Mr. Rabinovich that offering the Palestinians a state will make them realize they have so much to lose that they will turn rational in pursuing their material self interest. Alas, one of the lessons of Oslo is that there is a deep seated pathology running through Palestinian political culture.

The problem with Prof. Plaut and Mr. Hornik, on the other hand, is that they seem to believe that because they were right in their prophesies about Oslo (a point I conceded in my first response) anyone who disagrees with them about disengagement or the security value of the isolated Israeli settlements in Gaza is simply repeating the mistakes of Oslo all over again. In fact, the Israeli political center – the silent majority if you will – has learned well the lessons of Oslo. Their discovery of the depths of Palestinian pathology is why they elected Arik Sharon in the first place and now helps explain why this majority wants to separate from the Palestinians.

One problem created by the way this debate has been framed is that it has been all about the putative risks of the disengagement policy. Prof. Plaut and Mr. Hornik can then allow their imaginations and dreaded scenarios to run wild. But let’s turn the argument around and ask about the risks inherent in their positions -- no separation, no strategic retreats, no Palestinian state under any circumstances. I can play the same game and draw up a long list of prospective disasters for Israel if it adopted a not-an-inch policy. I will just mention two.

First, it will almost certainly mean blowing off the irreplaceable political and strategic support of the most pro-Israel US administration in history. Does any responsible Israeli government really want to be seen as standing on the side and thumbing its nose at George Bush’s brave crusade for spreading democracy and freedom in the Middle East?

Second, if there is never any disengagement from Gaza or any part of the West Bank what will the government of Israel do if the Palestinians come to the UN and declare: OK, one land, one government, and one man one vote. Do Plaut and Hornik really think that any government in the world, including the Bush administration, will support Israel on this? And even if we discount some of the scarier demographic projections put out by the Israeli left, do Plaut and Hornik really want to live in a “Jewish state” with, at the very least, a 40% Arab minority?

All of Israel’s possible military options in Gaza are fraught with serious risks. None of the possible scenarios Plaut and Hornik have presented convince me that the status quo is less risky than separation.

Hornik: The situation in the Middle East is now extremely fluid and uncertain. Much of the Palestinian anti-Israeli terror is being directed and instigated by outside forces, mainly Iran and Syria (also Egypt). The Bush administration knows that the success of its war on terror mandates dealing with the Iranian regime. The removal or serious weakening of this regime would change the picture in the region considerably. It would leave both Syria and Hizbullah weak and exposed--the latter, perhaps, nonviable. The Palestinians´ genocidal aims toward Israel would not change, but their ability to act on them would decline considerably after losing most of their outside support.

In the midst of this fluid situation, in the midst of this war, Sharon and his supporters like Mr. Stern and Mr. Rabinovich want to be good dhimmis and accept the Muslim dictate that Gaza, with its rich Jewish historical associations, must be made eternally Judenrein, and southern Israel must—at least for the time being--turn into a mortally dangerous border zone. (And it is not just southern Israel. The Gaza terrorists already have shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. Enjoy your next flight to Israel.)

The Israeli communities near Gaza have already been given tax breaks and are now officially recognized as "front-line" communities. The residents of these communities don´t relish the prospective IDF (IDF, Mr. Stern--not just the settlements) withdrawal from Gaza at all. They´ve become "hawkish" like the residents of northern Israel before the Lebanon War of 1982--in other words, they want Israel´s army to protect them and not abandon them. Both Mr. Stern and Mr. Rabinovich acknowledge that attacks on these communities from Gaza may (read: will) continue after the disengagement, but are confident that the IDF will handle the problem and Israel will come out ahead in the cost-benefit analysis. Gentlemen, this is playing with people´s lives. Since when does an army withdraw from a war zone in the middle of the war, leave a population exposed to attack, and say, "Let´s hope for the best, folks--don´t worry, if a lot of you die, we´ll retaliate"?

Mr. Rabinovich is not sure why it´s less bad to have a missile fired from the Lebanese border than from the outskirts of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Why was there a Cuban missile crisis? Why did the U.S. get alarmed in 1962 about Soviet missiles in Cuba when there were already Soviet missiles aimed at the U.S. from more distant locations? Hizbullah missiles fired from the Lebanese border can do a lot of damage to Haifa or Hadera but cannot hit the heartland of Israel´s civilian and military infrastructure. Missiles fired from the West Bank as the first volley of a war could immobilize Israel even before it could muster a military response. Mr. Rabinovich knows that as a direct result of dovish Israeli policy in recent years, there are now about 13,000 Hizbullah missiles along the Lebanese border. His view, apparently, is that if thousands more such missiles are emplaced in evacuated parts of Gaza and the West Bank--so what?

And I emphasize--so far Israel has done nothing about the Hizbullah missiles.

The long-term issues Mr. Stern raises regarding demography and the ultimate political disposition of the territories are real. He wants the issues to be decided now, under a hail of Kassam fire on Israeli communities in and near Gaza. Should we say--"All right, terrorists, four years of missiles on our communities have made their point, we´re getting out of here," or, "We´re going to hold out for an eventual political solution in which everyone´s rights will be respected, no communities will be forcefully evacuated, and no area of land will be declared off limits to any ethnic or religious group"? Mr. Stern, what effect does the first option have on the terrorist mentality? Did Bin Laden attack New York and Washington because America looked strong, or because it looked weak?

Mr. Rabinovich says, "As for the security concerns expressed by Mr. Hornik, there is no end to the doomsday scenarios with which we can frighten ourselves." Mr. Stern says: "Prof. Plaut and Mr. Hornik can then allow their imaginations and dreaded scenarios to run wild." You hear the chuckle, the dismissal. Nothing convinces these gentlemen that the world is dangerous. If people like Steven Plaut and me got it right about Oslo, was it just chance, a lucky call, or did it perhaps have something to do with a deeper grasp of reality? 1600 murdered Israelis later, we still apparently haven´t earned the right to be taken seriously by Mr. Rabinovich and Mr. Stern.

FP: Mr. Rabinovich, you have implied that it is possible that the Palestinians may eventually accept peaceful co-existence with Israel. I know that we must have hope and that, even though it is unrealistic, cautious moves must still be made for peace. And that is why I am not necessarily opposed to what Sharon is doing. But I have to say that, while I support certain peace initiatives as shrewd tactics for Israel for the sake of its own survival, I think it is undeniable that the majority of Palestinians, like the majority of Arabs, live on the oxygen of Jew-hatred. The purpose of their lives is to hate Jews. Without Jew-hatred, they may even cease to exist. The Palestinians have shown, over and over again, that they yearn more for drenching themselves with the blood of Jews and sacrificing their own kids rather than creating their own state and living functional happy lives. Why would you think this situation has changed or may ever change?

Rabinovich: We have to take as a working assumption that this generation of Palestinians, especially refugees who still remember homes in what is now Israel, will never reconcile itself to Israel’s existence. And probably not the next generation. But over time, black and white positions take on shadings. In Amman a few years ago, I spoke to a storekeeper who turned out to be a Palestinian refugee. He assumed I was an American reporter and spoke bitterly about the Israelis, whom he demonized. He said he still had the key to his house in Jaffa where he intended one day to return. When I told him I was from The Jerusalem Post, he asked a boy working there to bring me coffee and gestured me to a chair. “You didn’t understand,” I said. “I’m from Israel.” He said he did understand and asked me again to sit down. We proceeded to have a calm, even friendly, discussion about politics and parted with a handshake. When I spoke with younger Palestinians who had been born in Jordan none of them said he would go back to live in his parents’ former village or town in what is now Israel if that became a possibility. They all had lives to live where they were. Things change. We can look at the French and Germans. Germans and Russians. Chinese and Japanese. They all did worse things to each other than what the Jews and Arabs have done to each other. What is certain is that Israel has to remain vigilant for a long time to come which in itself is not a bad thing.

Plaut: So let me see if I understand what Rabinovich is saying. He thinks Israel should trust that the Palestinian terrorists and Islamofascists have now suddenly decided to forgo war and genocide, this on the basis of the fact that he was offered coffee by a Palestinian in Jordan? Is that what he is thinking?

As for Stern, he needs to make up his mind. Either he thinks the Gaza Disengagement plan at last gives the Palestinians "something to lose", in his words, or he thinks it gives them nothing they do not already have, also in his words. In fact, even if he does not like the historic associations, the "plan" is just the latest in an endless series of attempts to appease the Palestinians and the Arab world, to wean them from terror and Islamofascism through niceness and goodwill concessions. He thinks the analogy with appeasement in the 30s is obscene? Tough!

Stern supports the Gaza Capitulation because he sees no dangers to Israel from implementing it. Never mind that once Israel is out of the Gaza Strip, an ever-widening belt of Israeli territory will be turned into a burnt-earth no-man´s-land by the thousands of Palestinian rockets that will be fired into Israel from Gaza.

There will be no Israeli troops on the ground inside the Gaza Strip to stop them. And the world will exert irresistible pressure that will prevent Israeli troops from entering Gaza to retaliate, even if Stern found a leftist journalist at Israel´s equivalent to "Counterpunch" who claims to believe that Israeli retaliation will follow PLO terror attacks. And never mind the thousands of similar empty assurances that accompanied the original marketing of the Oslo "peace accord" in the 1990s. Sorry, I am not reassured.

Stern seeks to stampede Israel into mindless capitulation by pointing out that the status quo is bad. This is the same tired old argument that rheumatism is bad so why not try arsenic, since - after all - how can we really KNOW arsenic is poisonous. For the past 15 years, Israeli politicians have consistently made things worse, converting the near-tranquility of 1990, following Israel´s defeat and suppression of the "First Palestinians Intifada", into the Oslo Carnage, doing so all the while whining about how awful that status quo is. Poverty of the imagination is a human weakness and often expresses itself in the insistence that things could just not get worse.

Things can ALWAYS get worse. For fifteen years Israeli politicians have made them worse by convincing the public that things are currently so awful that there is nothing to lose. Tell that to the people in Sderot. I doubt they will be reassured by Stern´s pollyanna about how Israel will no doubt figure out how to eliminate the rockets and mortars without military presence inside the Gaza Strip.

Like medical doctors, it is the first responsibility of politicians to prevent things from getting worse. Leaders cannot always resolve real-world problems and make bad situations go away, but morally responsible leaders must resist the populist temptation of "Things are bad so just do something", even when that something produces catastrophe.

Why does not Stern follow his own "logic" to its natural conclusion. Israeli towns in the Galilee and Negev also drain resources. Why not abandon them also to the PLO? Why wait for Israel to be behind its 1967 borders before agreeing to the inevitable PLO demands control of the Galilee and Negev? Stern and Rabinovich are from the genre who want Israel to try any "solution" to the problems of terrorism and Arab fascism except the only one that will work: peace through military victory. The only way to make peace with the "Palestinians" is to impose long-term Israeli military rule over the Palestinian population and implement a program of full-scale comprehensive Denazification, based in part on the Allied programs after World War II.

Stern: This is getting boring. Professor Plaut and Mr. Hornik add nothing new in this round about the risks associated with Gaza disengagement. Rather they repeat their assertion (actually speculation) that southern Israel will be confronted with a massive new missile threat that the IDF will not be able to cope with. And again they conveniently ignore the fact that hundreds of Israelis have already been killed, and many more are likely to be killed in the future, defending the strategically useless settlements.

Let us note, however, that they do introduce a scummy new argumentative technique that I never thought I would hear from a fellow Zionist. I’m used to being called a Nazi by left wing jihadists. Now here in Front Page Magazine, of all places, I am accused of advocating the Nazi like policy of making Gaza “judenrein.” (Jamie, you are also vulnerable to the same charge for even contemplating the removal of settlements.) Of course, the issue of the settlements, which are extensions of Israeli sovereignty, has nothing to do with preventing individual Jews from residing in Palestine. And, just for the record, I want to say that if either Prof. Plaut or Mr. Hornik desire to fulfill their Zionism by renting an apartment in Gaza City I would support their right to do so.

Nevertheless, I want to express my appreciation to my opponents for finally responding to the question I posed earlier: If not disengagement, what policy would they have the government follow? We are now assured by these military analysts -- who I apparently misjudged as implacable hard liners -- that there actually is a better “way to make peace.” And what is this road to peace that is so much more realistic and appealing than the “Munich” of evacuating a handful of isolated settlements? It is “long term military rule over the Palestinian population” and the imposition of “full scale comprehensive Denazification, based in part of the Allied programs after World War II.”

I am left breathless by the sheer audacity and imagination of the Plaut peace plan. I’m even kicking myself for not thinking of this myself. Here we Jews have been bogged down in nasty arguments about what to do about a few inconsequential settlements in Gaza. Some soldiers on the left are refusing to serve in the West Bank or Gaza; a lot more soldiers on the religious right are threatening to refuse any orders to remove the Gaza settlers. Now, thanks to Plaut, we have the perfect way out of this dangerous impasse: Left and right will be reunited in the great new Zionist enterprise of transforming the Palestinians into peace loving democrats, just like the Germans and Japanese after World War II.

I can just see it now. The Israeli army will be mobilized and fight its way back into the territories to establish a new military government. We will stage some exemplary war crimes trials and break up the madrasses. Then we will send our best young people into the Palestinian communities to teach the next generation about democracy, bringing new textbooks for the schools. Maybe we will even help out our Palestinian brothers and write a new constitution for them, ala MacArthur in Japan. Of course, we will also need another Marshall plan. The reconstruction costs will be high (forget about the loss of life; Jews are always willing to sacrifice for a great cause) but since the American people now believe in spreading democracy abroad, who is to say they won´t be willing to foot the bill?

Anyway, why focus on the costs of such Zionist idealism? Just think of the benefits. In another generation or two (or three or four) the Palestinians will be ready for independence and peace. Then we can get back to the current question of the day and finally get out of Gaza peacefully. Do I hear Plaut and Hornik murmuring, “not so fast?” Oh well, the Palestinans can then settle for one man one vote and we can all live together in a great multicultural democracy. Either way, I can’t wait to start down Plaut and Hornik’s yellow brick road to Zionist fulfillment.

Hornik: The reason Mr. Stern finds antidisengagement arguments so boring, apparently, is that he has no answers to them. He hasn´t addressed the fact that the head of the General Security Service and other Israeli security professionals have made dire warnings about the disengagement plan; the fact that a study by the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared almost all of the post-1967 territories to be indispensable to Israel´s security; the fact that the policy of Ariel Sharon, in whose sagacity he has so much faith, has already directly caused a severe worsening of the security situation in both Gaza and the western Negev; the argument that once an army leaves an area, it´s much harder, if at all possible, for it to act effectively there; the possibility (and it´s only a possibility, but a real one) that the Palestinians will lose the support of the Iran-Syria- Hizbullah axis, which could open the door to arrangements that are both safer and fairer for Israel; the argument that leaving the Negev communities completely exposed to attack while assuming—rather baselessly—that Israel always handles security problems well, constitutes gambling with people´s lives; or the argument that unilaterally fleeing from areas that are under military pressure gives terrorists a huge shot in the arm and increases pressures and momentum toward further flights from even more tactically and strategically sensitive areas.

Space is limited and perhaps Mr. Stern couldn´t have addressed all of these arguments, but it seems he could have addressed at least some of them instead of fulminating so much. He keeps repeating his mantra about hundreds of soldiers (not sure where he gets that figure) dying for the few useless Gaza settlements, most of which were established for strategic reasons by Labor governments, then jumps back to assuring us that a Gaza empty of both settlements and the IDF poses no serious threat. Instead of complaining that he´s being called a Nazi, he might explain why the statement "Peace requires that Gaza be cleared of Jews" is morally superior to the statement "Peace requires that the Galilee be cleared of Arabs," but I won´t hold my breath.

For the record, the Jewish connection to Gaza, for which Sol Stern has such boundless derision, goes back to biblical times—much longer than, say, the Muslim connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which everyone considers completely sacrosanct. Israelis, or at least some of us, have learned the hard way in recent years that there is a link between pride and prudence. When we say, "We have no values except peace—take this, take that, take the Temple Mount, whatever, just give us peace"—we don´t gain anything except children being blown to pieces in buses.

Mr. Stern then takes a statement by Prof. Plaut and attributes it, for some reason, to me as well. Also for the record, I´m not sure the U.S.-Israeli alliance could withstand the strain of the assertive approach to the Palestinians and the territories that Prof. Plaut suggests. I believe Israel should retain military control, or at the very least military access, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean and hope for an eventual positive evolution from within the Arab-Muslim world, one that would enable a truly fair solution in which no one, Jew or Arab, would be forced to leave his home and no party would have to make security concessions that could turn out to be disastrous if things went wrong.

Abraham Rabinovich does not seem able to face the extent of Muslim- Arab rejection and hatred of Israel. The fact that he is so impressed by the incident with the Palestinian´s hospitality in Amman is, unfortunately, paradigmatic of a sizable part of the Israeli population that is dying for acceptance by the Arabs and has low standards for what constitutes such acceptance. When Israelis with this mindset got control of our government in 1992, they hugged Yasser Arafat and beamed at him and the result was calamity. Mr. Rabinovich mentions several times the need for Israel to be "vigilant." Vigilance means that, in the tiny space of the fifty miles between the Jordan and the Mediterannean, one does not hand over territory gratis to the likes of Arafat or his longtime lieutenant Abu Mazen and then hope that, for some reason, at that moment the century-long Arab-Muslim extermination war against Zionism and Israel will end.

FP: Mr. Rabinovich?

Rabinovich: I agree with Sol Stern. This discussion has gone on too long. Over and out.

FP: Fair enough, then let´s give Mr. Stern the final word then if he wishes. Mr. Stern?

Stern: I see no need to get into a discussion about what every last Israeli general says about the risks of giving up the Gaza settlements, since I conceded there were risks. I have said that when looked at in totality, and balancing those risks against the potential strategic military and political gains, disengagement in Gaza appears to the military establishment and the present government to be a prudent policy. Of course there will still be threats. But the separation fence is working in the West Bank and there is reason to believe it will work in Gaza. Mr. Hornik can continue comparing this strategic initiative by a right wing Israeli government to Nazi era “judenrein” policies, but then I don’t have to give him much credit as being a morally serious person.

Still, I’m glad that Mr. Hornik disassociates himself from Professor Plaut’s kooky “denazification” peace plan. I also happen to agree that Israel “should retain military control, or at the very least military access, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean” until the Palestinians go through a moral and political transformation about Israel’s right to exist. In my view, withdrawing from the isolated Gaza settlements is consistent with Israel maintaining “military access” to the rest of Gaza.

FP: Sol Stern, Abraham Rabinovich, David Hornik and Steven Plaut, our time is up. Thank you kindly for joining us today. We hope to see you again soon. (©2005 FrontPageMagazine.com 01/28/05)

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