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Dont fear Palestinian victory celebrations
June 18th, 2004
One of the main objections you hear to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharons plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip is that the Palestinians will claim that this is a victory for their strategy of terror.
Who cares what the Palestinians say? If Israel made policy based on what the Palestinians said, the country would be paralyzed.
True, the Arab world universally interpreted Israels unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon as a defeat for Israel and a victory for the tactics of Hezbollah. That withdrawal did help provoke the current intifada.
But this doesnt mean the decision was a mistake. On the contrary, it saved Israeli lives; and it all but eliminated one of Israels major border issues and a constant cause of international criticism.
Gaza resembles Lebanon in that Israelis and Palestinians know Israel will withdraw from it eventually. In fact, Israel has been trying to get rid of Gaza for decades.
Ironically, Palestinian terror has kept Israel there, precisely because of the concern over repeating the Lebanon precedent and giving the Palestinians reason to believe they can bomb Israel out of Judea and Samaria as well.
The Palestinians understand, however, that Israel has no claim to Lebanon or Gaza, but does have a very strong political, religious, psychological and historical attachment to Judea and Samaria.
Palestinians may still harbor the illusion that the international community will force Israel back to the 1949 armistice lines (though President Bush should have disabused them of this in his recent statement to Sharon), but they also understand Israel will not be terrorized into that kind of retreat.
When Israel withdraws from Gaza, and parts of the West Bank, it will hardly be a victory for the Palestinians. Two years ago, Israel might have been seen as retreating, but now Israel controls all the territory and is making a strategic redeployment based on its own security needs not the demands of terrorists.
Militarily, Israel could annex the territories tomorrow, and the Palestinians know it. Let them declare victory, just as Arafat flashed the V sign as he was shipped off to Tunis from Lebanon. Israel will be more secure, and the Palestinians will be better off.
This paralysis over Palestinian fantasies has gone on too long. For years, people would contend that Israel cant make territorial compromises or live beside a Palestinian state because the Palestinians wont be satisfied and wont stop their terror campaign until they have Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem.
Again, who cares what Palestinians say or think? Israel is not about to let the Palestinians conquer Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem.
Israel does not have to solve the Palestinian problem. Israel has to solve the Israeli problem, which is how to sustain a democratic Jewish state.
Most people understand that this aim can only be accomplished by withdrawing from Gaza and drawing the border so that it runs approximately along the 1949 armistice line with modifications to accommodate the major cities in the West Bank.
This is the inevitable outcome of either negotiations or unilateral action; and the longer it is delayed, the more unnecessary blood will be spilled.
Once Israel has revised its borders, the Palestinians will claim victory at the same time they scream about the continuing injustice of not getting everything they want. Let them do both.
Israel will have a Jewish majority and a vibrant democracy. It will also have secure and defensible borders and will continue, as it has for 56 years, to use every resource to insure that the Palestinians do not achieve their goal of destroying Israel.
Mitchell G. Bard, Ph.D., is the author of 17 books including The Complete Idiots Guide to Middle East Conflict and Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict.