Column One: The trap that Arik built
The millions of Israelis who opposed the withdrawal from Gaza do not seek personal vindication for being right.
Gazans celebrate after cease-fire Photo: Reuters
The cease-fire agreement that Israel accepted Wednesday night to end the current
round of Palestinian rocket and missile attacks is not a good deal for Israel by
any stretch of the imagination.
At best, Israel and Hamas are placed on
the same moral plane. The cease-fire erases the distinction between Israel, a
peace-seeking liberal democracy that wants simply to defend its citizens, and
Hamas, a genocidal jihadist terrorist outfit that seeks the eradication of the
Jewish people and the destruction of Israel.
Under international law,
Israel is not just within its rights to defend itself from Hamas. It is required
to. International law requires all states to treat Hamas terrorists as criminals
and deny them safe haven and financing. But the cease-fire agreement requires
both the Israeli policeman and the Hamas criminal to hold their fire.
worst, the cease-fire places Israel beneath Hamas. The first two clauses require
both sides to end hostilities. The third suggests Israel is expected to make
further concessions to Hamas after the firing stops.
Then there is the
cease-fire’s elevation of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government to the role of
responsible adult. Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egyptian President Muhamad Morsi openly supports Hamas. Morsi sent his Prime
Minister Hesham Kandil to Gaza to personally express the Egyptian government’s
support for Hamas’s criminal assault against Israeli civilians.
weekend, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood held what the media claimed was a stormy
meeting. Its members were split over what to do about Israel. Half wanted to go
to war with Israel immediately. The other half called for waiting until the
Egyptian military is prepared for war. In the end, the voices calling for
patient preparation for war won the day.
And for their patience, the
Muslim Brothers received the plaudits of the US government. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and her boss President Barack Obama were effusive in their
praise of the Egyptian government, and joined Egypt in placing Israel on the
same moral plane as a terrorist group.
Moreover, Obama and Clinton
compelled Israel to accept wording in the cease-fire that arguably makes Egypt
the arbiter of Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the
Aside from the administration’s de facto support for the Hamas
regime in Gaza, it is hard to think of a greater humiliation than Israel being
forced to submit complaints to its sworn enemy about the actions of the sworn
enemy’s terrorist client.
And yet, for all of that, it isn’t clear that
Israel had a better option than to sign on the dotted line. Israel might have
gotten better results if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister
Ehud Barak had ordered the ground forces poised at the border to take out a few
Hamas ground installations. It certainly would make sense for Israel to end
Gaza’s electricity supply.
But as it stands today, a full-blown ground
invasion in the mold of the 2002 Defensive Shield Operation, where Israel seized
control of Judea and Samaria from Palestinian terror groups and reasserted its
security control over the Palestinian areas, so ending the Palestinian terror
onslaught against Jerusalem and central Israel, was not in the
Israel is in a strategic trap. And it is one of its own making.
Starting with the Rabin-Peres government’s decision to embrace the PLO terrorist
organization as a peace partner in 1993, Israel has been in strategic retreat.
Each incremental retreat by Israel has empowered its worst enemies both
militarily and diplomatically and weakened the Jewish state militarily and
In May 2000, following years of political agitation by
the radical Left, then-premier Ehud Barak ordered the IDF to retreat from
Israel’s security zone in south Lebanon. Hezbollah immediately seized control
over the border area. Within months it kidnapped and killed three IDF soldiers
and held them for ransom – hiding the fact that they had been murdered. The same
Barak-led government that withdrew the IDF from south Lebanon was loath to
acknowledge the failure of its policy and so did nothing when the three soldiers
Within six years, Hezbollah was strong enough to launch
an all-out missile war against Israel.
Facing them was the government
that had just carried out the withdrawal from Gaza. The governing strategy of
Ariel Sharon’s heirs, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni, was based on surrendering
land and demonizing as warmongers those who opposed surrendering land. When
Hezbollah attacked Israel in July 2006, Olmert and Livni were in no position to
order a serious ground invasion of Lebanon. And since that was the only way to
win the war, Israel lost the war, paving the way for Hezbollah’s subsequent
takeover of the Lebanese government.
As for that withdrawal from Gaza,
just like the phony peace process with the PLO and the strategically demented
withdrawal from south Lebanon, the withdrawal from Gaza was a self-evidently
insane policy. It was obvious that it would lead to the strengthening of
Palestinian terrorist groups and so put Israel’s population centers in striking
range of their missiles.
After both the Oslo process and the withdrawal
from Lebanon left Israel strategically and diplomatically weakened, with its
politicians, generals and its very existence brought before international
tribunals and targeted by diplomatic pogroms, there was no basis for the empty
claim that by withdrawing from Gaza, Israel would gain international legitimacy
to defend itself.
By leaving Gaza, Israel was saying – as it had in
Lebanon – that it had no right to be there. And if it had no right to be there,
it had no right to return.
To force this mad initiative through, Sharon
had to explicitly disavow the platform he was elected to implement. Sharon won
the 2003 elections by pledging never to surrender Gaza.
After he betrayed
his voters, Sharon demonized and, when possible, fired everyone in positions of
power and influence who opposed him.
He called a referendum of Likud
members to vote on his plan, and when his opponents won the vote overwhelmingly,
he ignored it. He fired Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, then IDF chief of General Staff.
He fired his cabinet ministers. He castigated as “rebels” his party members who
opposed his plan.
Moreover, with the active collusion of the legal
system, Sharon violently repressed his political opponents. Young girls were
thrown into jail without trial for months for participating in anti-withdrawal
demonstrations. Privately chartered buses en route to lawful demonstrations were
interdicted by police and prevented from traveling.
were arrested in their homes at 3 a.m. And with the active collusion of the
media, all debate on the merits of the withdrawal plan was stifled.
bad as it was in Israel, the situation in the US was arguably even more
devastating. Since Oslo, Israeli opponents of the Left’s strategic insanity were
intellectually and politically buoyed by their conservative counterparts in
The latter helped legitimize political opposition and enabled
the conceptualization and maintenance of alternative policies as viable
Despite government repression, some 45 percent of Israel’s
Jewish population actively participated in anti-withdrawal protests. In the US,
virtually no one supported them. The absence of opposition owed to the fact that
in America withdrawal opponents were boycotted, demonized and blacklisted by the
American Jewish community and the previously supportive conservative
During the years of the fake peace process, conservative US Jewish
groups and conservative publications led by Commentary, The Weekly Standard and
The Wall Street Journal forcefully opposed it. But when Sharon joined the
radical Left by adopting its plan to withdraw from Gaza, these formidable
outlets and institutions enthusiastically followed him.
like former Jerusalem Post editor and Wall Street Journal editorial board member
Bret Stephens, Commentary editors Norman Podhoretz and Neil Kozodoy, commentator
Charles Krauthammer and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol not only lined up to
support the dangerous planned withdrawal. They barred all voices of opposition
from the pages of their publications.
To greater and lesser degrees,
their shunning of voices that warned against the Gaza withdrawal continues to
So, too, with the exception of the Zionist Organization of
America, every major American Jewish organization supported the
Like the editors of Commentary, the Weekly Standard and the
Wall Street Journal, they barred voices of opposition from speaking to their
All commentators who warned of the strategic calamity that would
befall Israel in the aftermath of a withdrawal from Gaza were marginalized and
demonized as extremists.
In a notable gesture, this week, Stephens along
with Commentary’s Max Boot, acknowledged their error in supporting the
withdrawal from Gaza. Their recantations are noteworthy because most of their
colleagues who joined them in pushing Israel down the garden path and cheered
Sharon’s “democracy” as 8,500 Israelis were thrown out of their homes and off
their land in order to free it up for a terrorist takeover, continue to deny
that they were wrong to do so.
But Stephens’s and Boot’s belated
intellectual integrity on Gaza is not enough to make a difference for Israel
Israel has only two options for dealing with the ever-escalating
threat from Gaza. It can try to coexist with Hamas. This option is doomed to
failure since Hamas seeks the annihilation of the Jewish people and the
eradication of Israel. Recognizing this state of affairs, in a public opinion
survey taken on Wednesday for Channel 2, 88% of Israelis said that a cease-fire
with Hamas will either not hold at all or hold for only a short time.
of Israelis opposed accepting a cease-fire.
The other choice is to
destroy Hamas. To accomplish this Israel will need to invade Gaza and remain in
place. It will have to kill or imprison thousands of terrorists, send thousands
more packing for Sinai, and then spend years patrolling the streets of Gaza and
arresting terrorists just as it does today in Judea and Samaria.
the first option is impossible, the latter option is not currently viable. It
isn’t viable because not enough people making the argument have the opportunity
to publish their thoughts in leading publications. Most of those who might have
the courage to voice this view fear that if they do, they will be denied an
audience, or discredited as warmongers or extremists.
So they remain
silent or impotently say that Israel shouldn’t agree to a cease-fire without
mentioning what Israel’s other option is.
The millions of Israelis who
opposed the withdrawal from Gaza do not seek personal vindication for being
right. They didn’t warn against the withdrawal to advance their careers or make
their lives easier. Indeed, their careers were uniformly harmed.
it because they were patriots. They felt it was their duty to warn their
countrymen of the danger, hoping to avert the disaster we now face. They should
be listened to now. And their voices should be empowered by those who shunned
them, because only by listening to them will we develop the arguments and the
legitimacy to do what needs to be done and stop fighting to lose, again and
again and again.