The Middle East is in the midst of an historic upheaval. But despite the Arab
street’s clear demands for regime change, there are still those who insist that
a withdrawal from the West Bank is the recipe for regional
They could not be further from the truth.
moves to delegitimize our presence in Judea and Samaria, and ultimately to
hasten our withdrawal to the 1967 armistice lines, would prove catastrophe for
democratic hopes in the region. If there is to be any progress, it must be
grounded in the concept of defensible borders.
As the world waits for
Libya to become the latest tyranny to tumble, it is far from certain that
democracy will follow Muammar Gaddafi’s exit. Similarly, the path to freedom and
truly representative government in Egypt and Tunisia is paved with
Democracy ranks alongside military rule, theocracy and
numerous other shades of autocracy as possible outcomes.
Lebanon is the
most recent reminder, if one were needed, that the Middle East version of
democracy is tenuous at best, forever at the mercy of antidemocratic forces.
Lebanon is a regional rarity, enjoying free elections for a multiparty
Yet in January, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah engineered the
dismantling of prime minister Saad Hariri’s government, replacing him with a
stooge for the Shi’ite terror movement. Abusing the tools of democracy, Iran has
strengthened its stranglehold on the country. Only five years ago, Lebanon
appeared poised for freedom after its “Cedar Revolution” had ousted Syria. It
doesn’t take a vivid imagination to picture the “Jasmine Revolution” and the
“Facebook Revolution” deteriorating in similar fashion.
ISRAEL TOO has
been guilty of placing its faith in half-baked democracies. The unconditional
withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 was heralded as an opportunity for the Palestinian
Authority to institute freedom, prosperity and the rule of law. Instead,
previously thriving industries in Gaza were left to rot, and poverty remained.
Seizing the opportunity, another Iranian proxy, Hamas, seized the reins of
power, violently overthrowing Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah, whose officials fled for
their lives. More than five years later, the Negev still faces Hamas
With Hamas dedicated to our destruction, the international
community urges greater trust to be placed in the hands of Abbas. Yet his regime
is anything but a model of good government. Abbas’s term as PA president expired
more than a year ago, and parliamentary elections are similarly overdue. Abbas,
seemingly terrified his tenuous rule will be the next target of Arab uproar,
scrambled to call elections last week.
And yet this failed democracy is
the regime that so many insist we empower by withdrawing from the West
Even if Abbas were willing to genuinely reform his authority,
introducing genuine checks and balances and democratic principles, the clear
danger remains that Hamas, backed by its Iranian patrons, will repeat its Gaza
With the Middle East at an historic crossroads, a withdrawal to
the indefensible 1967 armistice lines is a risk we simply can’t afford to take,
and which the likes of Hamas are all too eager to exploit. A pullout from the
West Bank would surely only encourage the Iranian- inspired fundamentalists who
hope to add our eastern flank to the trophies of Gaza and Lebanon. Regionally,
other extremist forces such as the Muslim Brotherhood would gain inspiration
from a perceived Israeli capitulation, fuelling their own appetite for power in
Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and other countries whose futures have yet to be
Withdrawal threatens not only Israel, but also Western
illusions of peace and democracy in the Middle East. A pullback to the 1967
lines would leave the region’s only genuine democracy exposed at a time of
In doing so, reconciliation and genuine peace would
become even more unlikely. Any future Israeli-Palestinian talks must therefore
be predicated on the necessity of defensible borders.
If not, the dream
of a democratic triumph will become more distant than ever.The writer
served as bureau chief to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and is currently
president of 3H Global Enterprise.