Monday, February 02, 2004
And so it begins: Sharon to commence withdrawal from Gaza settlements in June or July.
I honestly don't know what to think about this. On the one hand, no one - no one - in their right mind wants to hold on to Gaza. The entire justification for the settlements there is security-based; everyone assumes that any resolution of the conflict would mean their removal. There were Jewish settlements in Gaza in the pre-state period, and this is the basic justification for the existence of the settlements today, but the real reason for the settlements is to justify an Israeli presence in Gaza (to protect the settlers). If that presence is now detrimental to Israel's security, then to keep the settlements for the sake of never retreating is the height of folly.
And yet: is that presence detrimental to Israel's security? What happens now? Grant that Gaza is not a territory that will ever be incorporated into sovereign Israel; grant that it is more like South Lebanon than like the Golan, or certainly than like Ariel or Efrat. So: what happened when Israel withdrew from South Lebanon? Nothing good as I recall.
What is going to happen now in Gaza, if Sharon really does pull up stakes? What is Israel going to do if it becomes a Hamas state, and starts firing rockets at Sderot, or even Ashkelon (it's not far)? There are clearly some who assume that Israel will get some credit for withdrawing from Gaza. What makes them think that? Clearly, the reaction of much of the world will be to pressure Israel all the harder for a repeat performance in Judea and Samaria.
All this was articulated long ago, back when Chaim Ramon was running to be the head of the Labor Party. He was the big advocate of unilateral withdrawal within Labor, and the idea never got much traction because it smacked too much of fleeing under fire, and we'd all already seen where that led. Labor's voters divided between the candidate of "keep fighting" (Ben-Eliezer) and the candidate of "keep talking" (Avram Mitzna). Very few were happy with a policy of "run away."
So, while my attitude towards Gaza generally is "good riddance" I am skeptical that Israel really will be rid of Gaza so easily.