Thursday, August 04, 2005

Israel and Disengagement

I'll start with the basic stuff here, and then work my way up to the current issues in the next post. So bear with me, for a sec here- I need to lay some foundational groundwork to make this understandable.

Since I am Jewish, and I nominally consider myself a Zionist, I tend to follow stuff that happens in Israel. No, I've never been there (but would love to visit), but I do have family living there. By and large, Israel's a very nice place to live in, despite what the media may have folks think about it being a haven for terrorism. The occupied territories- Gaza, the West Bank, and the Jewish settlements in those regions, are where the majority of the terrorism takes place in (and the Golan Heights, but that's a different story).

Now, the Disengagement plan that Ariel Sharon has is pretty simple- the Israelis would unilaterally leave the Gaza and West Bank areas, including most of their settlements, except for a few military bases and major settlements. The whole purpose behind this is to reduce the risk of Israelis facing terrorism, and reduce the strain on ZAHAL(Israel army) of being constantly under fire from it. Plus, the Israeli gov't is basically doling out money to the Palestinians, as long as they're controlling the territories. And the border wall that the Israelis have built around their demarcation lines with the Palestinian territories have proven to eliminate about 98% of all terrorism.

If Israel leaves the territories, they:
1. Can move significant military units elsewhere (ie; Golan Heights)
2. Reduce the risk Israeli citizens face by terrorism with the wall
3. Reduce gov't expenditures in regards to Palestine dramatically
4. Reduce political pressures from outside of Israel to all but mollycoddle the Palestinians
5. Make the Palestinians become their own problem, and see how they like having to build a society.

Yes, the Disengagement plan is controversial. But I don't think its unpopular, though. There are very, very few Israelis actually living in the Settlements, and most of them are ultra-religious (which, btw, explains why the political fighting over the Disengagement plan has been so contentious. Never mix politics with religion, folks). All told, between the Ultra-religious and the settlers, there are probably no more than 650,000 of them in all of Israel. And that's a country of approx 7-9 million people. So they really don't mean a damn, in the long or short run. They just make for great newsprint for those on the right (Likud Party) who want death to the Palestinians and see the Disengagement plan as a retreat for Israel. They also serve to help those that are from the far left, who hate Sharon as much as the left in the US hates Dubya. That, in a nutshell, is how Parliamentary politics work (no, I am NOT getting into Israeli Knesset internal mechanics. Very annoying). Oh, and the American (and European) media doesn't see what I see, since they don't follow Israeli stuff on a regular basis, so they invariably get things wrong.

Don't get me wrong- I wish there was an easier solution than dismantling the settlements and handing the keys over to the Palestinians- which means handing the keys to Abbas and Hamas in both territories. That, in the short run, IS a bad idea. But in the long run, it's a GOOD idea. Here's why:

#1 Israel no longer has to worry about policing the actual territories. They can just worry about the border security with the wall, and occasional puitive raids to stop terrorists from shelling Israel.
#2 Abbas, the PA, and Hamas will have to actually run their own darn country, and eventually, people will get tired of blaming Israel for everything. They'll realize that the people in power aren't giving them food or jobs, and start to change things
#3 There's an internal civil war already brewing in Palestine, somewhat low key at the moment, but it's basically a fight between Hamas and the PA. The PA controls the West Bank (which, btw, you don't hear anyone in Israeli or foriegn media yapping about), and Hamas effectively controls Gaza. Eventually, one side will cave in to Israeli ovetures, and side with the Israelis in order to defeat the other side. My take is that the PA will eventually go that direction. They're more like a mafia unit than a terror organization, anyways.
#4 Hamas works well as a terror organization, but their abilities have been seriously downgraded with the destruction of much of their leadership being assassinated by the Israelis. They also are a cult of death, rather than a governing body. With Europe slowly changing their views on terrorism as a whole (thanks to the Van Gogh assassination and the Madrid and London bombings) it'll be hard for them to view Hamas as a squeaky clean cutesey leftist organization that's out for the goodwill of the people. Not when their soldiers routinely do the Nazi salute. Not when their children are instructed to appear at rallies with guns. Not when even after becoming their own "nation" they will continue to be bloodthirsty towards Israel (even after getting pretty much what they "want").
#5 With terrorism worldwide on the long-term decline, the Palestinians are in a bind. They're going to have to find money and support from somewhere- and the Saudis, Egyptians, Syrians, and Iranian money trails are drying up. They're all scared shitless of the Global War on Terror, as well as dealing with their own internal problems. The Palestinians are going to quickly get shunted off their "things to do" lists. Which leads back to #2.

In the short run, it'll be a pain in the ass for Israel to deal with the new Palestinian Authority, however they set it up. The greatest fear is that they'll work with Al Quaeda and other terrorist groups. That may happen, but AQ and their sister groups have largely stayed OUT of Israel and the PA. Partially because the constant drone of terror in Israel dilutes itself (as they are finding out in Iraq), and partly because the Palestinian groups are largely secular, with a veneer towards religion. Sharon actually has a very strong majority of the population supporting the Disengagement plan, and the protests that have been arrayed against it have been very limited, at best. It's nice that the protesters can muster a few thousand......but that pales in comparision to what other protests have been like, in Israel and throughout the world. The settlers are such a minority in Israel, that they're not going to dictate national policy at this late stage in the game.


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