Disillusionment and deterrence

No Israeli leader would be willing to try unilateral evacuation from Judea and Samaria.

disengagement 248.88  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
disengagement 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The disengagement from Gaza opened the door wide for a de facto partition of the land between two states - and failed. The conventional wisdom on the Israeli side - Left and Right, whether they liked the idea or not - was that the Palestinians were being given an entire piece of land, vacated down to the last inch on the basis of the 1967 borders, and they would have a chance to change course for their own good. They would be able to set an example of nation-building, statehood and, most of all, a quiet and safe border that would demonstrate to Israelis the meaning of land for peace. Any territory you withdraw from on the Gaza model becomes a peaceful and safe border, thus putting enormous pressure on the government to continue the process. Before the actual pullout on August 15, 2005, huge international corporations readied development projects that promised great profits. Those businessmen, among them some Israelis, showed what the real expectations were. It's not clear why all this collapsed. The outcome of the Gaza initiative left most Israelis in utter disillusionment about the mere possibility of achieving peace with the Palestinians. If there is any concrete outcome for Israelis, it's a very sad one. Sixteen years ago, no one would have believed that an historic process of reconciliation between two peoples on the land of Israel would eventuate in 100 Israeli warplanes bombing targets within the historic boundaries of Palestine. This alone is a tragedy beyond belief. BUT ONCE this absurd process started, one could say that at the level of narrow national interests Israel registered two major achievements, consolidated in the wake of the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza at the beginning of this year: deterrence and broad national consensus. It was proven that on these two borders where Israel carried out unilateral withdrawal, when the need arose to strike forcefully almost the entire nation supported it. This, it could be argued, is a huge gain compared with the loss of deterrence and some strategic depth. But those unilateral withdrawals committed Israel to a very tough military operational choice. Israel abandoned the failed doctrine of limited conflict, the blabocratic tactics of so-called low-intensity warfare, and returned to an updated doctrine of deterrence wherein, if it chooses, it could opt for decisive victory. Both in Lebanon and in Gaza it chose not do so because it didn't want to create a vacuum and utter destabilization. Recent Tel Aviv University Peace Index polls show that 79 percent of the Israeli public view Operation Cast Lead as a success and 71% view the operation favorably. That means that with all the destruction, Israelis have internalized the process the country went through from disengagement until today. When you withdraw unilaterally, inflicting pain on your own society, and then get in return missiles and mortars and more, there are no inhibitions once a military response is unleashed. Still, it seems that overall, from the Israeli perspective, the negative results outnumber the positive. It now appears that no leader in his right mind, not even Haim Oron from Meretz, will be willing to try unilateral evacuation from territories in Judea and Samaria because the mere thought of rockets on Kfar Saba or Ben-Gurion Airport sends shivers down every Israeli's spine. FEWER AND fewer soldiers are willing to participate again in an operation designed to uproot settlers. And from the settlers' side there is a twisted lesson from Gush Katif not to exclude any kind of resistance should disengagement phase II loom on the horizon. The same dynamic witnessed among fanatic settlers after the Yamit evacuation in 1982 was repeated on a larger scale in 2005: despair, alienation from civil society and from the state in general. There are phenomena of extreme right-wing anarchists preparing for rebellious violence against Palestinians and IDF soldiers alike. Perhaps the most negative result of the disengagement is the creation of an Islamist terrorist duchy inside the boundaries of the country. This Muslim Brotherhood foothold is a strategic threat to Israel and a clear danger to Egypt as well. Because the terrorist ambitions of Hamas have no limits, this could result in an even larger Israeli military response that would cause further suffering on both sides of the border. But to end on an optimistic note, it does seem that the Hamas leadership understands that there are limits to the suffering the Gazan community can absorb as a price for ideological fanaticism. The writer is senior editor and a columnist at Makor Rishon. This article originally appeared in www.bitterlemons.org and is reprinted with permision.