Thursday, August 19, 2004
You know, I understand the feelings of the Likudniks who don't want a unity government. I understand why they don't trust Labor. I understand why they feel betrayed.
But they are out of their minds if they think they can stop the withdrawal.
Forget whether withdrawal will work. (I don't think it will, in the sense that I think it will not be so easy to get the IDF out even once the settlers are removed; Israel cannot let a terrorist state spring up in Gaza.) Some time after the next Presidential election, Israel is going to get out of Gaza.
Sharon knows that he's been given all the rope he's going to get. Bush gave Sharon an enormous bit of support by rejecting the idea of a Palestinian "right to return" - this is the one thing that no Israeli government can ever accept, and Bush took it entirely off the table. He needs something in return. Bush needs some kind of positive development on the Israeli-Palestinian front for him to credibly prosecute America's war. Israel's own war on terrorism has got to be divorced from Israel's war to retain the territories. A precondition - necessary but not sufficient - to achieving that divorce is pulling the settlers out of Gaza and, ideally, out of a big chunk of Judea and Samaria, leaving only a few defensible blocs near the 1967 lines that could be incorporated into a sovereign Israel without absorbing a large Arab Palestinian population.
And, of course, if Kerry is the new President things will be even worse. On the one hand, Kerry will probably be reluctant to overtly pressure Israel early in his Administration - if he wins, it'll be because Jews in Florida care more about abortion rights than friendship with Israel, and he won't want to spit in those voters' faces quite so soon after they put him in office. But when Israel comes under further pressure from Europe, Kerry will be no help. And he will, within a year, position himself as a friend of Israel . . . just one who agrees with the Israeli left, not the Israeli right.
The whole point of withdrawal is to get out ahead of the pressure that is going to build, to take the initiative and get back to a defensible position, without granting Arafat renewed legitimacy, without letting the Europeans stick their fingers into everything, without accepting in principle the 1967 lines as a basis for negotiation or any other part of the Palestinian negotiating position.
If Sharon's own party prevents him from delivering, this will be just another instance where the Likud cut off its nose to spite its face. As Tzippi Livni has pointed out, after Shamir rejected Madrid, Israel got Oslo instead, which was much worse. After the right-wing parties torpedoed Netanyahu, they got Barak, Camp David, Taba and the second Intifadah. If the Right torpedos Sharon, they will reap the whirlwind once again.