Saturday, February 26, 2005


Will Israel's Two Point Plan Lead To Peace?

Charles Krauthammer thinks so. On February 20th, the Israeli government decided to pull out of Gaza. Alone, this may have looked like a cowardly backing away from the terrorist tactics of the Palestinians. However, Israel also choose to complete the wall on the West Bank - a move Krauthammer thinks will eliminate the threat of Palestinian-type terrorism (car bomb, suicide bomber, etc.)

The fence decision makes clear that the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza is only part of a larger strategy, the first serious strategic idea Israel has had since its period of utter confusion and demoralization at the beginning of the 2000 intifada. The idea is this: Israel must (unilaterally, if necessary) rationalize its defensive lines -- in order to (1) protect its citizens, (2) permanently defuse the Palestinian terror threat and thus (3) open the door to a final peace.

Once Israel leaves Gaza, and once the rest of the West Bank fence is completed, the Israeli and Palestinian populations will be almost perfectly divided in their own territories as defined by this temporary frontier. The fence approved by the Cabinet last Sunday leaves perhaps 1 percent of Israelis on the wrong (Palestinian) side of the fence and perhaps 0.3 percent of Palestinians on the wrong (Israeli) side of the fence. (These figures, calculated by Middle East expert David Makovsky, exclude polyglot Jerusalem.)

Sure, there could be random terror attacks. But that is true of Spain and Indonesia and much of the world today. What changes with the Gaza withdrawal and the fence is that terrorism as a reliable weapon, a constant threat, a strategic asset, ceases to exist.

And once that terror option is removed, the Palestinians will in time be forced to the collective conclusion that the world has been awaiting for 57 years -- that they cannot drive the Jews into the sea and must therefore negotiate a compromise for a permanent peace.

That day may not come immediately. The beauty of the withdrawal/fence plan is that, in the interim, it creates a stable status quo with a minimal level of violence. In that interim, Israel can live in peace and the Palestinians can develop the institutions of their state and begin to contemplate a final end to the conflict.

Will the combination plan by the Isrealis work. If Krauthammer is correct, and Israel is able to feel safe from constant terror attacks while the Palestine state is able to get their political and foreign relation house in order, the move by Israel - lead by Sharon - will go down in history as one of the great diplomatic settlements of all time. However, if the plan takes too long to come to fruition and if the terror tactics by the Palestinians continue, Sharon and his party may fall and be replaced by a much more aggressive party. Time will tell if the move to give up Gaza will be the path to peace or the path to a final great war between Israel and Palestine.

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