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Gaza vs. Lebanon

Reader comment on item: [The Gaza Withdrawal:] A Democracy Killing Itself

Submitted by Richard Williams (United States), Aug 16, 2005 at 15:43

I usually agree with most of Dr. Pipes' commentaries, but I differ on several points in this one equating the withdrawal from Gaza and the earlier pullout of the IDF from Lebanon.

1) It's true that the Bush Administration didn't press Sharon to withdraw, but I would ascribe the Administration's "coolness" toward the initial annoucement of the plan more to the fact that it was developed and announced unilaterally rather than as a component of either the Road Map or the so-called "peace process" with the Palestinians.

2) It's also true that Hizballah used the false claim that Sheba Farms was part of Lebanon to leave the door open for continuing "armed resistance" against Israel and has conducted a number of attacks against the IDF in that area. Also, the UN, which certified Israel's complete withdrawal from Lebanese territory, has failed either to prevent Hizballah and other terrorist groups from operating along the border and also has failed to persuade the GOL to deploy in sufficient numbers to impose law and order on the border. However, the Israeli-Lebanese border has, in general, been quieter since the May 2000 IDF withdrawal than at almost any time when Israel occupied the "Security Zone." Israel suffered more casualties, both civilian and military, when it was in the Zone than since the withdrawal.

While Hizballah has, as Dr. Pipes states, threatened to attack Israel with long-range rockets, it possessed those rockets and made similar threats while Israel was in Lebanon and the Security Zone didn't deter them any more or less than Israel's military power just over the border does today. While the more starry-eyed predictions of peace treaties with Syria and Lebanon and the disarming of Hizballah as a result of the withdrawal did not come true, neither did the more dire predictions of an increase in terrorist attacks across the border. Hizballah is collaborating to a greater degree with the Palestinian terrorist groups, with Iran's connivance and support, but that cannot be linked to the IDF withdrawal. What the withdrawal has done is cause both sides to impose certain limits on themselves which contribute to a diminishing of the general violence that occured when the IDF was in Lebanon. The bottom line purpose of the Security Zone was to contribute to Israel's security from terrorist attacks. An enemy will never be eliminated or defeated by a defensive measure such as the SZ. A realistic appraisal of Israel's security since May 2000 would be that it is no worse off without the Security Zone, and better in other respects (far fewer casualties, costs and troops required to secure the northern border).

3) While Hizballah did present the IDF withdrawal as a victory for "armed resistance" that was widely believed in the Arab world, and while that may have encouraged Palestinian resistance, Dr. Pipes knows better than anyone that Arabs are capable of promulgating and accepting the most fanciful interpretations of events if they fit their preconceived beliefs and opinions. That certainly was not the only factor in the beginning of the second Intifada, which has been largely ineffective in attaining Palestinian goals. In fact, the IDF and other security forces have succeeded in virtually shutting down Palestinian attacks inside Israel, which were rampant in the mid-1990s and at the beginning of the second Intifada.

I believe that Sharon made a strategic decision to divest Israel of territory that was a security and financial liability with no concomitant benefit, so as to make it easier to hold onto the territory in the West Bank that Sharon believes really IS crucial to the future of Israel. It is painful for the Israelis, but to accept the proposition that Israel must remain fixed in the security zone, the Gaza Strip or any other location long after they have ceased to serve their purposes is to allow the terrorists to dictate strategic policy.
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