Sunday, August 07, 2005

Israel, Pt 4

Ariel Sharon's cabinet has gone ahead with the first stage of the Gaza pullout, and Finance Minister Netanyahu resigned in protest,2933,164977,00.html. That would seem like a big deal, right? parliamtentary politics, yes and no. Firstly, the loss of Netanyahu from Sharon's cabinet will hurt, since he really was an effective Finance Minister. But before I get into more details, I'll say something about the actual pullout plan.

9,000 Israelis will be moved out of Gaza settlements. 21 settlements in Gaza, and 4 more in the West Bank. That averages out to about 360 settlers per town, if you include all 25 of the Gaza and West Bank settlements (or about 429 per if you just work with the Gaza settlements). That's it. Now, ask yourselves why a disproportionate number of Israeli soldiers should be needed to protect those tiny hamlets? And let's be realistic here- these ARE hamlets, in the middle of territory that is at least passively hostile to them. And they're NOT dismantling the largest Israelis settlements in the West Bank (those have well over a few thousand settlers in them, and actually have good relations with their Palestinian neighbors). And in Israel itself, the settlements were never seen as anything more than a political bone thrown to the ultra-orthodox (who don't have to fight in the Israeli army, to boot [although some do]) way back after the 1967 and 1973 wars. They're not economically viable, they're a drain on military resources, and they are really politically useless.

So, the hubbub about the pullout basically comes from two directions: one, it's pure political grandstanding, and the other, is a cautionary tale against giving the Palestinians- a people who are largely living a lie of victimization and a cult of death- anything that seems like a victory. And the reality is, is that the majority of the commotion surrounding the pullout is politically motivated. Netanyahu has pulled this stunt before, and he'll do it again. In fact, it's fairly common in Israeli politics. It amounts to having a temper tantrum when you don't get what you want in parliamentary politics. However, it's something of a shrewd move by Netanyahu. He remains loyal to the core base of the Likud party, and he emerges once again as the strongest rival and probable successor to Sharon, when he either steps down, or is forced into elections.

The other contentious issue, that the pullout will give the Palestinians a false sense of "we won! nyah nyah nyah!" is definitely a serious issue, but Sharon's made it clear- and has acted on it- that the Israelis are doing this for their own reasons, and really just want the Palestinians to go away. This is effectively a fighting withdrawal, and the Israeli army has been allowed to use whatever force is necessary to punish the Palestinians who either get in their way, or try to do terrorist attacks. In effect, it's basically a permanent restructuring of the Israeli border, which has never really been solid. And it's the exact opposite of Ehud Barak's rather shameful withdrawal from southern Lebanon, which was a pell mell retreat in which the Israelis had to leave behind equipment, munitions, and supplies. The IAF was even called upon to take out Israeli weaponry that they'd left behind so that the Lebanese (and Syrians) wouldn't get ahold of it. Not so in Gaza and the West Bank. Sharon's also had very limited contact with the PA over the pullout, signaling that his policy is going to be one of isolating the Palestinians, and thus, completely ripping up the flawed "road map" plans. The Palestinians have no cards to play at this game of poker, and the Israelis are making it very clear to the PA that they know this.

UPDATE: An added piece of news, is that Netanyahu actually voted last week for the pullout, and this week he resigns. It does sound Kerryesque (, but it's really just how Israeli politics plays itself out. Thus, I'm not listening to much of Netanyahu's commentary on why he resigned, since it's pretty much superfluous. But that he supported- and then withdrew his support for- the disengagement plan tells me that he's really playing the usual political shell game, and not really worried about long-term problems.


Blogger Katsvenland said...

I'm posting a comment because I love you.

Anyway as I mentioned to you yesterday, this changes everything I thought originally about the Israelis leaving Gaza and the West Bank settlements and also supports my theory that a good military historian breaks things down well for the common man to understand.

4:49 PM  

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