Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sharon speaks

Given the substantial case against disengagement, can anything be said in Sharon's defense? If so, he should have said it himself last night, in his address to the nation. Relevant excerpts, with my comments:

The changing reality in this country, in this region, and in the world required another reassessment and changing of positions.

What exactly changed between January 2003, when Sharon was elected on a platform opposing any form of unilateral withdrawal, and his announcement of the disengagement plan in December of that year? He doesn't say, and I can't guess.

Gaza cannot be held onto forever. Over one million Palestinians live there, and they double their numbers with every generation. They live in incredibly cramped refugee camps, in poverty and squalor, in hotbeds of ever-increasing hatred, with no hope whatsoever on the horizon.

This is all more or less true, but it was equally true in January 2003 and it will be equally true in January 2015. If anything, the Palestinians want to bring hundreds of thousands of more disgruntled refugees into Gaza from Lebanon. The crisis in Gaza will continue to worsen with or without an Israeli presence, and Israelis will continue to suffer the consequences whether or not they live in Gaza.

It is out of strength and not weakness that we are taking this step.

This is a hard claim to support. True, Israel has decimated the leadership of Hamas, but disengagement comes too soon after the four-year terrorist onslaught to claim it isn't a victory for terrorism.

This plan is good for Israel in any future scenario.

Can anyone really foresee every future scenario? This sounds more like a boast than a substantive argument.

We are reducing the day-to-day friction and its victims on both sides. The Israel Defense Forces will redeploy on defensive lines behind the security fence. Those who continue to fight us will meet the full force of the IDF and the security forces.

Experience shows that successful anti-terror operations require ground operations. The further the army is from the ground, the poorer its intelligence, the less precise its operations, the greater the likelihood of civilian casualties with all that entails. Either Israel will continue to launch incursions into Gaza - in which case what has been gained? - or we will suffer the consequences of allowing major terror bases to develop in our backyard.

Day-to-day friction may be reduced, but at the expense of long-term threats.

Mark my words: It is a matter of time before Israeli forces are back in Gaza, on the ground."The full force of the IDF" cannot be deployed from behind a fence.

Now the Palestinians bear the burden of proof. They must fight terror organizations, dismantle its infrastructure and show sincere intentions of peace in order to sit with us at the negotiating table.

Haven't we heard this before? The Palestinians have had the same obligations since the start of Oslo, and have yet to fulfill them. Again, experience shows that Israel will face unrelenting pressure to negotiate with the Palestinians and offer concessions, regardless of whether or not they fight terror. Haven't we learned that by now?

The world awaits the Palestinian response - a hand offered in peace or continued terrorist fire. To a hand offered in peace, we will respond with an olive branch. But if they choose fire, we will respond with fire, more severe than ever.

That threat is not credible. Ehud Barak issued similar warnings upon pulling out of Lebanon, but Israel has never retaliated seriously against cross-border attacks since then. The cost is always too high.

The disengagement will allow us to look inward. Our national agenda will change. In our economic policy, we will be free to turn to closing the social gaps and engaging in a genuine struggle against poverty. We will advance education and increase the personal security of every citizen in the country.

Now Sharon lapses into empty political rhetoric. Ehud Barak sold this kind of drivel in 1999. Israel's security challenges will not evaporate overnight. Neither will the diplomatic pressures. Besides, despite the myths, Israel has always addressed its economic and social problems throughout the years, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

The rest of the speech is about internal divisions, and does not make the case for disengagement. I still feel the case has not adequately been made.

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