Saturday, August 20, 2005

Mark this date. Israel and Palestinian perspectives.

Why is this day special? Because I never thought I'd live to see the day when I agreed with a column by GOP spokesmodel Charles Krauthammer, but it's finally happened. In his column, Settling In for a Long Wait, he points out that while the Israeli pullout from Gaza may look like a defeat for the Jews, it just may be the only viable, long term solution.

The Israeli abandonment of Gaza is a withdrawal of despair. Unlike the Oslo concessions of 1993, there is not even the pretense of getting anything in return from the Palestinians. Nonetheless, unilateralism is both correct and necessary. Israel has no peace partner -- Mahmoud Abbas has nothing to offer and has offered nothing -- and in the absence of a partner, there is only one logical policy: Rationalize your defensive lines and prepare for a long wait.

Gaza was simply a bridge too far: settlements too far-flung and small to justify the huge psychological and material cost of defending them. Pulling out of Gaza leaves behind the first truly independent Palestinian state -- uncontrolled and highly militant, but one from which Israel is fenced off.

Krauthammer points out, and I have to agree, that isolationism is probably the only solution, and I feel it would certainly help the United States to get the heck out of the region both physically and politically. (Which can only help our own situation with international terrorism.) But he also understands that a simple wall can't stop all forms of aggression from Hamas. What to do?

The first problem is that while the fences do prevent terrorist infiltration, they do nothing about rockets. For months Palestinians have been firing rockets from Gaza into towns within Israel proper. The attacks are momentarily in suspension, but with the enhanced ability to smuggle in weapons from Egypt, and with no Israeli patrols looking for them, the attacks will resume and get far worse.

What to do? Something Israel should have done long ago: active and relentless deterrence. Israel should announce that henceforth any rocket launched from Palestinian territory will immediately trigger a mechanically automatic response in which five Israeli rockets will be fired back. There will be no human intervention in the loop. Every Palestinian rocket landing in Israel will instantly trigger sensors and preset counter-launchers. Any Palestinian terrorist firing up a rocket will know that he is triggering six: one Palestinian and five Israeli.

Do you think the "automagic rocket response" sounds irrational? It's an easy knee-jerk reaction to have. But on further examination, it may be the only reliable one with any promise. And it's not like we haven't given Israel plenty of rockets to work with already.

Every President and chief presidential advisor that I can remember in my adult life, dating back to Nixon and Kissinger all the way up to Dubya and Condi today, seemed to think that if we just kept meddling in the affairs of Israel and the Palestinians long enough, it would all somehow work out. Some magical switch would turn on (or off) and the Israelis and their enemies would ride off happily into the sunset mounted on white ponies singing Kum Bay Ya together, as two flowering democracies bloomed side by side and trade flourished. I'd really like to be more professional about this, but I'm sorry... that's just retarded.

While many accuse me of being "anti-Israel" for advocating a U.S. policy of getting the hell out of that region, I'm no fan of the Palestinians either. When you're dealing with people like those in Hamas, Krauthammer is, I think, on the right track. You're not going to get peace in the form of love and flowers. The best you're going to get is a wall that actually keeps people out and stops the combatants from fighting. And as for Palestinian missiles? I hate to advocate violence as an answer, but seriously now - sometimes the only way to get through to people who live by the sword is with a bigger sword. Or maybe five of them. Israel doesn't need to "defeat" the Palestinians in battle after they are separated. They don't need to "win more land." They just need a solution that will convince Hamas to STOP SHOOTING. If you can accomplish that, you've come as close to a perfect solution as anything I can imagine.

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