Mitchell Bard 
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© Mitchell Bard 2016

Don’t Fear Arab “Victories”

One of the main objections you hear to Ariel Sharon’s plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip is that the Palestinians will claim that this is a victory for their strategy of terror. Who cares what the Palestinians say? If Israel made policy based on what the Palestinians said about it, the country would be paralyzed.

It is true that the Arab world universally interpreted Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon as a defeat for Israel and a victory for the tactics of Hizballah. The withdrawal did help provoke the current intifada, but this doesn’t mean the Lebanon decision was a mistake. On the contrary, it saved Israeli lives and all but eliminated one of Israel’s major border issues, and an ongoing cause of international criticism.

Gaza is similar to Lebanon in the sense that everyone – Israelis and Palestinians – knows that Israel will withdraw eventually. Israel has been trying to get rid of Gaza for decades. Ironically, it is the Palestinian terror that has kept Israel in Gaza, precisely because of the concern over repeating the Lebanon precedent and giving the Palestinians reason to believe they can bomb Israel out of Judea and Samaria as well.

The Palestinians understand, however, that Judea and Samaria are different. Israel has no claim to Lebanon or Gaza, but it does have a very strong political, religious, psychological and historical attachment to the West Bank. They may still harbor the illusion that the international community will force Israel to the 1949 armistice lines (though President Bush should have disabused them of this notion in his statement to Prime Minister Sharon), but they also understand Israel will not be terrorized into that kind of retreat.

When Israel withdraws from Gaza, and/or parts of the West Bank, it will hardly be a victory for the Palestinians. Two years ago, Israel might have been seen as retreating, but now Israel controls all the territory and is making a strategic redeployment based on its own security needs not the demands of terrorists. Militarily, Israel could annex the territories tomorrow, and the Palestinians know it. Let them declare victory, just as Arafat flashed the “V” sign as he was shipped off to Tunis from Lebanon. Israel will be more secure, and the Palestinians will be better off.

This paralysis over Palestinian fantasies has gone on too long. For years, people would say that Israel can’t make any territorial compromises and can’t live beside a Palestinian state because the Palestinians won’t be satisfied with the West Bank; they will not stop their terror campaign until they have liberated Haifa, Jaffa, and Jerusalem.

Again, who cares what Palestinians say or think? Israel is not about to let the Palestinians conquer Haifa, Jaffa, and Jerusalem.

Israel does not have to solve the “Palestinian problem.” Israel has to solve the “Israeli problem,” which is how to sustain a democratic Jewish state. Most people understand this can only be accomplished by withdrawing from Gaza and drawing the border so that it runs approximately along the 1949 armistice line with modifications to accommodate the major cities in the West Bank. This is the inevitable outcome of either negotiations or unilateral action, and the longer it is delayed, the more unnecessary blood is spilled.

Once Israel has revised its borders, the Palestinians will claim victory at the same time they scream about the continuing injustice of not getting everything they want. Let them do both. Israel will have a Jewish majority and a vibrant democracy. It will also have secure and defensible borders and will continue, as it has for 56 years, to use every resource to insure that the Palestinians do not achieve their goal of destroying Israel.