May 4, 2006

Caroline's Glitch

Hatched by Dafydd

Power Line highlights a paper by Caroline Glick of the Center for Security Policy that purports to demonstrate -- weakly and not very convincingly, I believe -- that Israel's pull out from Gaza and especially its pending pullout from the West Bank damage both Israeli and world security, vis-a-vis the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). (Hat tip to Scott at Power Line, who buys Glick's argument hook and crook.)

Her paper relies in large part upon a fundamental fallacy: Glick believes that, were it not for the pullout from Gaza and the proposed pullout from the West Bank, Hamas would never have won election in the Palestinian Authority.

Glick draws extensively from a paper by LG Moshe Yaalon, former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Force; but Yaalon's paper is entirely about the dangers posed by Hamas's victory. Since Glick points to those various problems to denounce the pullout, she can only be assuming that absent the pullout, Fatah would still control the PA.

But that assumption is not only highly speculative, it actually flies in the face of the electoral and polling history prior to Sharon's pullout: Hamas had already won a number of by-elections, beating Fatah; and poll after poll showed that the Palestinians saw Fatah post-Arafat as a spent force, unable to expel the Jews, unable to stand up to Israel or the Great Satan, unable to govern.

Glick (and Yaalon) are absolutely correct that the Palestinians voted for Hamas in large part because they like terrorism, they think terrorism helps their cause, and Hamas promised to stick it to the Jews good and hard. But they thought that before the Israeli pullout just as strongly as they thought it afterwards; it wasn't Sharon's policy of disengagement that caused the Palestinians to hate Jews more than they love their own children.

The election result was a foregone conclusion, unless Fatah successfully rigged the vote. In which case, Hamas would have come to power in a coup d'etat, instead of by overwhelming vote.

When one knocks that plank out of Glick's platform, the entire edifice begins to crumble... because so much of her dire description of disaster flows from Hamas's victory, not directly from the pullout itself. For example, Yaalon says (and Glick writes) that the election elated Iran, encouraged terrorist movements worldwide, and set up a political situation that elevated a terrorist group to the status of "government" -- though of course, Iran already did that back in 1979, when the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini drove out the Shah and installed himself as Supreme Leader.

All true: but all this would have happened after a Hamas electoral victory even absent the Israeli pullout. It was the election, not the pullout, and the evidence indicates Hamas was destined to win no matter what.

Some claims of hers survive the loss of that indirect connection, of course; but they, too, are awfully "iffy." For example, she relies upon another paper by Yaalon -- which, alas, is entirely in Hebrew with no English translation and appears to be on a blog or some other online source (complete with comments) -- to argue that the Gaza pullout did not in any way reduce the engagement between Israel and the PA:

Israel is constrained in its military operations against terrorist forces due to international pressure for it to protect the lives of Gazans, just as was the case when Israel retained its military control over Gaza. Because Israel remains the party that the Palestinian Authority and the U.S.-led international community views as responsible for the welfare of Gaza’s population, it has failed to disengage.

Thus, she argues, the "disengagement" from Gaza bought Israel nothing.

But even if this is true, it's a paralogical argument. If one says one is going to disengage but then does not really do so, it's absurd to argue that therefore, disengagement doesn't work. The proper solution in this case is not to consign disengagement to the dustbin of history, but rather to actually do what you said you were going to do!

  • Cut off the Israeli tax revenues that historically were sent to the Palestinians; Israel sent the money because they were ruling over the Palestinians. Now that they're not, there is no reason to continue, is there?
  • Stop all trade between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. This may be rough on some Israelis, but it will be a lot harder on Gazans.
  • Prevent all civilian border crossings except for medical emergencies or some forms of humanitarian relief, if the Palestinians actually begin starving to death.

Once Israel has done that, it can decide whether real disengagement works. Until then, we really don't know, do we?

One whole branch of Glick's argument is that, with Hamas in control of that territory, al-Qaeda has moved in; and even long-standing terrorist groups in the area (Hezbollah, al-Aqsa, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and of course Hamas itself) are pumping heavy weapons and more jihadis into Gaza. She reports that they flow across the Egyptian border -- I have no reason to doubt her -- and that the Egyptians do nothing to stop them:

Israeli withdrawals also adversely impact the stability of its peace treaty with Egypt. Egyptian security forces in the Sinai refuse to control their border area with Israel.17 Israeli military commanders and defense officials believe that Egypt hopes to use the instability of the Sinai and the Sinai-Gaza border to induce Israel to abrogate the demilitarization clauses of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty. This would allow the Egyptian military unlimited deployment rights in the Sinai. Such remilitarization of the Sinai will cause an immediate destabilization of the region by making the specter of regional war with Israel all the more tangible.

The only footnote to back up this claim is to two of her own articles in the Jerusalem Post, “Arik and the tooth fairy” and “Irrelevant visions,” which (one presumes) make this same argument; since both have faulty URLs, it's impossible to say for sure. But let's take it as read: lots of weapons being imported into Gaza.

This is Glick's strongest argument, that the actual physical presence of Israeli troops in Gaza prevented heavy weapons (Kassam rockets, artillery, and suchlike) from being brought into the region; when Israel withdrew, terrorist groups began to militarize Gaza. Thus, she argues, the same thing will happen in the West Bank if Israel leaves:

Before the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the three Israeli communities in northern Gaza provided a buffer zone that protected the adjacent Israeli city of Ashkelon from Palestinian rocket attack by keeping the city out of range of these munitions. Additionally, IDF forces operating in Gaza used their bases adjacent to these communities to launch operations in Palestinian populated areas next to them like Beit Hanoun, to prevent the terror forces from amassing significant arsenals of such weapons systems and from extending their range. Similarly, IDF forces operated within Gaza to limit terror forces’ ability to freely attack other Israeli communities that border Gaza.

Today, IDF forces are deployed inside of Israeli communities in the Western Negev adjacent to Gaza where they work to protect these communities from the constant barrage of rockets and mortar shells that terrorists lob at them from Gaza every day. The terror forces – both Palestinian and foreign – have exploited the absence of Israeli ground forces in Gaza to amass arsenals whose sophistication and size present would have been unimaginable before Israel’s withdrawal from the area. They have also succeeded in extending the range of their rockets.

The IDF’s post-withdrawal attempts to prevent these attacks through artillery fire, and aerial attacks has met with failure. Tthe IDF’s attempt to mitigate the damage caused by these rocket and mortar attacks by installing early-warning systems in the communities and towns bordering Gaza has also been ineffective. The IDF currently has no means of neutralizing the projectile threat to southern Israel aside from a land invasion of Gaza.

There is probably some truth in this -- though once again, Glick relies upon very tendentious sources: Moshe Arens, for example, Benjamin Netanyahu's mentor and the ideological purist of Likud... and a bitter antagonist of the pullout from the very beginning. Arens may well be right, but he is certainly not unbiased.

But let's assume the claim is true. What is the obvious conclusion? That Israel, despite saying it is disengaging from the PA and treating it as a separate country, is really not yet doing so. If Jordan, Egypt, or Syria were to begin doing what Gaza is doing -- firing rockets, mortars, and artillery into Israel -- then Israel would respond by striking at military, political, economic, and infrastructure targets anywhere within the aggressor country.

They would not confine themselves just to striking back at the rocketeers themselves; they would hit targets of opportunity wherever they could. Why isn't the IDF doing this now in Gaza? Without such attacks, there is no incentive for the Palestinians to cease their attacks on Israel. Like, duh.

All right, we know what Glick is arguing against -- the Gaza and West Bank pullouts; but what, then, is she arguing for?

Bluntly put, there are only three possibilities for Israel anent the occupied territories:

  1. Disengagement -- pulling out completely, letting the Palestinians take over their own areas (Israel has never formally laid claim to either Gaza or the West Bank as part of Israel), and dealing with the inevitable terrorist attacks on a nation-against-nation basis (war) rather than as a nation against a population that it, itself controls;
  2. Status quo -- letting everything continue more or less the way it had since the 1967 war;
  3. Annexation -- formally seizing both territories and declaring them part of "Greater Israel."

Number 2 is really just annexation-lite: it constitutes de-facto annexation but without the formal declaration. So let's just lump 2 and 3 together.

If Israel were to annex the West Bank and Gaza, again, there are only a couple of choices: to attempt to permanently control a captive and increasingly hostile population; or to engage in a massive campaign of "ethnic cleansing," deporting all of the Palestinians out of the territories (to where?).

There is not now, nor has there ever been any political will within Israel to carry out either of these programs. Nobody in Israel wants to see the IDF impose increasingly draconian restrictions on the Palestinians (which would inevitably lead to a mass revolt and the spectacle of Israeli soldiers having to gun down civilians by the thousands)... but the idea of mass expulsions smacks so strongly of an earlier experience of the Jews in Europe that Israelis would never stand for that, either.

That means that there is, in a very real sense, no alternative to Sharon's policy of disengagement. There is no other realistic option.

Some of Glick's sources (including Arens) openly call for the "recapture" of Gaza, so Israel could go back to ruling over it as colonial governor. But the pullout happened in the first place (and was and is very popular within Israel) precisely because of the terrible problems that such occupation generated -- for all thirty-nine years since Israel imposed it.

Israel won the 1967 war, where numerous Arab states attacked Israel (some staging from those very territories), and Israel clearly had the moral right to occupy that land. But as a practical matter, such occupation was never expected to be permanent... and indeed, it could not be. It was always meant to be a staging ground towards either disengagement or annexation.

Conveniently, Glick does not tell us what she is for, what remedy she envisions for the gross error she perceives:

In light of all this, the Bush Administration and the congressional leadership would be well-advised to refuse Olmert’s requests for U.S. support for his convergence plan while backing alternative policy options that will serve to strengthen U.S. allies in the Global War on Terror, while weakening those opposed to U.S. efforts. Such alternative policies will be the subject of an additional Center for Security Policy report that will be released in the near future.

Thanks very large, Ms. Glick. But judging from her sources, I assume she, like Moshe Arens, wants the West-Bank pullout cancelled and Gaza re-occupied. She has not suggested why this would succeed any better than last time; so presumably, she just thinks the situation status-quo ante was better than now, and she wants to go back to it.

But that doesn't solve the problems. What are her solutions? Aside from the wall, which everyone supports (everyone except the terrorists and their supporters throughout Gaza and the West Bank), does she even see any problems with permanent occupation? Or is she content to see Israel recapitulate the British Empire in India and Hong Kong?

I have a final point: in addition to the other problems here (she loves straw men, but that's a subject for an additional Big Lizards post that will be released in the near future), it's also a bit thick to expect dramatic changes in the sociology and politics of Gaza just a few months after the Israeli pullout.

It's just like the Democrats in Fall of 2003, railing that Bush's entire "democratization" scheme was an obvious failure because Iraq was still in turmoil and there were still terrorist attacks: three years after the war, and there is still turmoil and terrorism in Iraq... but clearly there is also progress.

Instead of flying off in a panic and sending the IDF racing back into Gaza to reconquer the joint (in a bloody battle that would result in thousands of dead), let's give disengagement some time to work; and let's push hard on the government of Ehud Olmert to actually carry through with real disengagement: no money from Israel, no trade with Israel, no contact with Israel (or any other Western, democratic nation), no border crossings -- until Hamas begins acting like a government, not a terrorist gang... or until the Palestinians kick them out and elect someone else who will.

Let the stew in their own juices for a while. A long while. Enforce a boycott by other nations, by force if necessary; and let's see if real disengagement actually works better than the catastrophe of permanent occupation.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 4, 2006, at the time of 7:26 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Papa Ray

Well if you ask the guy on the street why they voted for Hamas they would tell you its because they were tired of the corruption of the last several years. They are not stupid, even if most have little education, they are aware of all of the millions upon millions into the billions of money given to them by the world and that was gobbled up by the PA that only spit out excuses and little else.

That is what they say. I have read it too many times on their blogs and on Israel blogs. It is true they had a choice, but like other choices in life, sometimes you have to choose, knowing it may not be the right way, but unable to stand your present situation any longer.

Papa Ray
West Texas

The above hissed in response by: Papa Ray [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 5, 2006 2:37 PM

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