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Gaza plan has strengthened Israel's position

Reader comment on item: Ariel Sharon's Folly

Submitted by Dan Harder, editor of Danish website Israel-Online.dk (Denmark), Apr 13, 2005 at 19:54

Dear Mr. Pipes,

Your analysis seems based on a view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as if it didn't matter what the outside world thinks. But even though Israel sometimes seems indifferent to European or American opinion, this is not the case. Israel depends on both.

Back when Sharon revealed the Gaza withdrawal plan, Israel was locked in a bitter war that seemed to go nowhere. At the same time the pro-Palestinian propaganda machine was running at full speed, especially here in Europe (many people here actually believed there was a massacre in Jenin).

Sharon was under pressure from all sides to do something - anything - to get out of the stalemate. The Geneva-initiative was popular, at least here in Europe, almost as much as the "Apatheid Wall" was unpopular. Pressure was mounting.

The withdrawal plan provided the necessary relief. Sharon's popularity in the West rose to new highs after the launch of the plan.

There is, of course, little doubt that many Arabs will see a withdrawal as a sign of Israeli weakness. That is a bit of a problem, but not much more than that. Israel is - after all - not weak at all, and can therefore afford such Arab misconception. Arab violence in itself is not Israel's greatest problem.

The real obstruction to further progress is the West's (particularly European) acceptance and support for the Palestinian violence. With a grand gesture of goodwill, such as a Gaza withdrawal, Israel will have shown the world that it still accepts the idea of "land for peace". Israel will have given land, and the pressure will be on the Palestinians to deliver.

But at what price, you may ask. Not a very high one. Palestinian violence will most likely continue in any case - at least to some extend - and Israel will have to continue defending itself for years to come. And, let's face it, Gaza is never going to end up in Israeli hands after a final peace deal anyway. So not much will be lost.

On the contrary, giving up Gaza, will allow Israel to hang on to the most precious parts of the West Bank, such as greater Jerusalem and some larger settlement blocks, while the American president will be able to claim some measure of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front.

It's plain to see that Israel won't be able to remain in all the territories forever. The current plan could be a first step towards solving the issue with the Palestinians, at a price which is acceptable to a majority of Israelis.

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